Someone is hiding Taal Volcano

30 May
Not easy getting there with Manila traffic...

Not easy getting there with Manila traffic...

Have you ever heard of Taal Volcano, one of the 16 dangerously active volcanoes in the world? Well, I went down to see how dangerous this volcano situated in the middle of Taal lake really was. But I can’t really tell, because we could hardly see the monster in the thick mist. I guess the rainy season in the Philippines has started ;-(

Nevertheless, the outing to Tagaytay was a nice escape from the cars, concrete and congestion of Manila. Once we got to Tagaytay we were driving through pineapple and banana fields and stopped for a bit of fruit shopping on the way – deliciously fresh and sweet. I’ll never be able to eat the exotic fruits in Belgium anymore after these delicacies…

What's this? What?! Pineapple orchards! wow

What's this? What?! Pineapple orchards! wow

Getting to Taal volcano was a disaster, as Manila never stops to surprise commuters with traffic jams that are worse than all others before. When we finally got to Tagaytay, we were so hungry that we completely ignored the volcano, and went for a lovely lunch in Sonya’s Garden. Sonya’s a woman that divorced her ambassador husband to devote herself to gardening – and she added a guesthouse and restaurant to her lush exotic garden. The set lunch there consists of compose-your-own-salad (from the dozen or more little dishes) and different tapanades with ingredients stemming from her garden, with lovely ‘secret’ dressing. Followed by pasta with 4 or 5 different home-made sauces. And rounding of in style with rich chocolate cake and pinoy turron. An experience in itself.

Sonya's secret succulent salad dressing

Sonya's secret succulent salad dressing

Oh yeah, we almost forgot we came to see the volcano… But the rain and clouds were playing hide and seek with us, so at some stage we were desperate and thought we would have traveled several hours to see ‘white mist’. But just as we started complaining the fog lifted and there it was: the volcano in the volcano (as some call it – because it looks that the Taal volcane is situated in the crater of another one – forming a lake). We quickly took the traditional tourist pics, because the mist came back again as quickly as it disappeared…

This is pineapple...

This is pineapple...

It was nice to be out in the countryside (am I getting too old to be a city dweller??). The fields were green and the plants were many. We saw some fields with funny little spikey bushes, and I asked my host what they were: pineapple! I didn’t have a clue pineapples grew on bushes and not trees. The fields were lined with mango, jackfruit and banana trees too – but the bananas here are Asian size – smaller and thinner, but lots sweeter – just as I like them ;-)

It is incredible how many new fruits I already discovered on my Asia trip – you can’t believe the wonderful pearls of nature that we have to live without in Europe. So next time you go to the Chinese (or Asian) shop, try some of the following:

Sooooo many exotic fruits

Sooooo many exotic fruits

  • dragon fruit – pink and spikey outside, white with black seeds inside
  • jelly grass – this one I only tasted in drink format
  • milk fruit – cut in half and spoon out the milky soft pulp
  • jackfruit – big spikey fruit with yummy yellow pockets of fruit inside
  • soursop (or Atis?) – like eating marshmallows but sour and refreshing
  • sweetsop (or custard apple?)– fruit with a bubbly exterior but oh so soft n juicy inside
  • durian – the bigger smelly brother of the soursop, spikey like a jackfruit
  • mango – sold here either green (with salt and chilli) or sweet (or dried)
  • lychee – the juicy jelly like fruit around a stone – pink and bubbly outside
  • longan – similar to a lychee, but without bubbles on its skin
  • rambutan – same family as the ones before but erotically hairy
  • lanzone – philippino small patato like fruit with seed inside
  • kalimanci – a bit like limes, but smaller and more sour – so be warned
  • Fruits a gogo - sooo sweet

    Fruits a gogo - sooo sweet

    tamarind – date like texture spun around threads inside a bean like shell

  • guava – the apple like smaller fruit, a bit bitter with seeds inside
  • Vietnamese pear – maybe like the Japanese pears?
  • Apple-plum mix – no idea what the name is in English – it’s as small as a plum but tastes hard like an apple
  • Honeydew – I only tasted it in a fruit juice, mixed with starfruit – quite bland taste (not sure if it was the honeydew or starfruit)
  • Coconut – so yummy to drink – or to have its flesh in Buko pie(Pinoy speciality)
  • Papaya and watermelon – the traditional fruits for breakfast (maybe it was the season when I was traveling) – but 10 times more sweet than in Belgium
  • Mangosteen – funny aubergine outside, but fleshy and juicy inside
  • Sapodilla – a bit powdery but great for shakes, brown and hairy outside like a kiwi
Traffic traffic traffic...

Traffic traffic traffic...

And after tasting some of Eden’s juicy wonders, we went back to the world that Adam & Eve created out of paradise: a city like Manila. Getting back into the city was just as bad as getting out of it (and that on a Saturday, no rush hour). So we decided to get the more expensive and faster skyway – just to find ourselves in a 1km queue at the dead-slow toll boot to pay the fee for using the fast road…

  • Life is full of choices: between the regular traffic jam – or the queue for the fast road…
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