Blow the Manila dust off your shoulders

Updated 2013-11-05 07:46

Manila, from my experience, is the toughest. Head out to the provincial areas and you will find fresh air and natural beauty. But it all depends what floats your boat. 

If you are after convience, services, western eateries, shopping and nightlife then stay in Manila.
If you want to experience the "real" Philippines then get as far from Manila as you can.

I have to (literally as a need) get out of Manila at least once every 1-2 months. Otherwise I go insane. My favorite places so far are Tagaytay and Bagiuo. (NOTE - its pronunnced as Ta-guy-tie NOT Ta-gay-tay lol)
Tagaytay is the most convient option for a weekend away or day trip. Its basically an old volcano blown out leaving rolling hills and greener than green fertile land. It has become a "tourist area" and isnt the same quiet place it once was, but compared to Manila its more than a dream.
Its only a 2 hour drive from Manila (traffic dictating) Do your very best to avoid driving back to Manila on a Sunday afternoon / evening - last time it took me 4hrs.

First thing, as you drive into Tagaytay you will start to see on the sides of the roads tin sheds with amazing hand-crafted wooden furniture. Totally unique, followed by plant vendors and dozens of fruit & veg stalls. Save these for on your way back out. You will also start to see guys on the sides of the road holding handrawn signs about boat rides to the Volcano and accomodation in the area. I myself personally avoid these. They are all competing to have you go with them and while sometimes it can be a good deal, you can also (most likely) end up in accomodation with leaky roofs and faulty electricty or a small rickety boat completly overloaded.

As you drive through Tagaytay your head will be constantly turned to the left taking in the beautiful views. There are lots of restaruants and coffee shops overlooking this and certainly the best place to stop and stretch your legs.

I like Bag of Beans. To-die-for-coffee and really nice food. I love the simple rustic feel to the place too. A bit further upon the main road, but just the locals and they will direct you.

Lots of things to do - boat ride to the Volcano, trekking, horseriding. They have a park with zip-lining etc.
You really must visit Sonya's Garden -( ) for lunch or dinner. A beautiful fresh organic buffett inside a nursery-turned-restaraunt, beautifully decorated and surrounded by gardens and gardens with little paths leading here and there. They also offer accomodation though Ive never stayed.

Some other must-try's, places I've liked to stay is Nuture Day-spa (also offers accomodation) and the Taal-Vista Hotel. Both a little pricer but worth it.
Take a look at The People's Park in the Sky: Im not 100% but I think this place was meant to be a mansion for Marcos (former President) however it was stopped halfway and then just left. It is a quick Jeepney ride up the hill and then you are walking through the shell of a mansion but it offers great views. They have a few little vendors in there selling local handcrafts and food - save your money for the markets in town (better variety and price)
I love shopping at the markets in town - so cheap compared to Manila and you can find some good stuff.

Ladies - in the market area (across from the local department store) I found a beauty supplies shop where you can buy all the best stuff for dirt cheap. I bought a 1 litre kertain/protien building shampoo & conditioner for only 150php each. They also have all the salon hair dying products (30php per tube) It doesnt have a name, its just a little shop on the right as you walk into the markets.

I like buying at Ukay- ukay shops (secondhand clothes) and they have alot there. There is one place just opposite the main roundabout (right hand side) that is massive, factory size.

I would give the Casino a miss.. kind of disapointing. They have just started building a fun park but its not fully open yet - and its crazy expensive. But Tagaytay is best enjoyed in chill mode anyway.
I'm sure there are heaps of places I haven't discovered yet...

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