Well we have landed in Manila and have set up camp in our first ever backpackers hostel. Must admit I am pleasantly surprised. We are avoiding the dorm style accommodation and have an ensuited room to ourselves. Spent the first day sweating and drinking beer and the second was spent wandering the greenbelt shopping district in the comfort of air conditioning for the most part. Day 3 was spent planning our activities in the morning only to find that as we were leaving that the hostel had a free walking tour of old Manila which covered everything we had planned and more. So we jumped on their tour.

We rode in a Jeepney, a train and various other transport modes to get us to the old city, the fort and Intramuros. I had a Jeepney ride high on my list of things to do anyway. A winter in Canberra with low temperatures and low humidity saw me seriously struggling in a 30+ high humidity day in Philippines. I am happy to admit that I was sweating like a big girl at the Boxing Day sales.

I have a few additions for my beer blog that will eventually form another tab on the top of this but I thought that I may have a more rounded beer experience before putting things on line. I am trying to only drink local which so far is working well but as you may imagine there are some mixed quality by drinking only local beer. San Miguel is the local brew and is perfectly reasonable with the export quality (7/10) a touch better than the domestic quality (6.5/10). I had a few others that were less than great however while I would rate them at under 5/10 they were still drinkable but not ones to aim for. I guess the theory is that a beer will need to be 2 or 3 out of 10 before it is rendered not fit for human consumption. A fact that will no doubt fit with KAT’s experiences.

There are already a few little noteworthy quips. For those who know me well they are all food related.

1.  After taking advice from my nephew (fleebs) he claimed that the restaurant Jollibee  was his favourite when he and his mother lived in the Philippines. So we tried it. For those who do not know it Jollibee is a McDonalds style chain with a few odd twists. By way of example one of their value meals was a hotdog, a spaghetti bolognese, rice and a drink. Lesson learned – dont take the 15 year old advice of a person who was 5 on last visit.

2.  Whilst wandering the greenbelt shopping area we were in need of a cold drink.  We came across a place called Happy Lemon and asked what was nice. Jill took the safe option and had a mango smoothie style drink while I was a tad more adventurous and took the girl behind the counter’s recommendation of a rock salt and cheese drink which she swore would be very nice. Now many of you will already be laughing at the concept of a rock salt and cheese drink and in hindsight you would be right. If you can imagine a thin chocolate milkshake covered by about 2 inches of molten liquid cheesecake then that was my drink. I will not be having another.

3. Jill found that there was a Bubba Gump’s restaurant in Makati and she decided that I had to attend as I had never been there and that she had really enjoyed it when she visited in Hawaii. So we went. I hope the nostalgia of her return to Bubba gump and having a Lava Flow cocktail outweighed the greasy deep fried hell that was left in our stomachs at the end.

We are planning to head up to visit the live volcano (Taal) tomorrow a brave move considering that there was an earthquake today which killed 40% of the population in the south near Cebu an Bohol area. Surely that can’t end badly.

The trip to the volcano was entertaining to say the least. The drive from Makati out to Taal was fun but uneventful as was the boat ride over to the island. Upon landing we were met with the choice of walking (hiking) up the mountain or paying 500 pesos (about $12) to ride the rattiest looking horses on the planet to the top of the mountain. There was a group of 6 of us who had left the backpackers together. As poor sad backpackers money was an issue, as fat buggers the health of the poor horse was of greater concern. So we chose to hike the hill.

Under normal circumstances the hike is about an hour each way and it is a fair work out….however we picked a day when a monsoon hit the island. Around 10 minutes into the hike the heavens opened and remained open for the next 40 minutes. This had the net effect of turning our dirt path into a river of mud about 4 inches deep while we went up what at times was up to a 40 degree incline and the erosion grooves could not be seen underfoot.

Despite this we continued on, being passed by old Korean women on horses, because we were the only idiots who chose to hike the peak. Jill in her poncho me with nothing. About 25 minutes into the rain patch I had the revelation that my phone, wallet, passport and international drivers licence was in a pocket that had reached saturation point within the first 2 minutes of the monsoon start. We pointlessly paused under a tree to transfer the sodden items to under the poncho and boxed on to the top of the hill.

Upon arrival at the caldera of the volcano the rain miraculously stopped. We were met by the ubiquitous Filipino ladyboy holding a golf club asking if I would like to use the lake inside the volcano crater as my personal driving range. After an appropriate period of time admiring the active volcano (and catching our breath after some quite steep bits on the way up) we decided to head down. I was enthused to see that 2 other idiots chose to walk up as we were heading down. Other than that the rest of the people sat atop ratty nags.

And we returned to Manila. It was our last night in Makati and we had a 3am departure from the hostel to get our 7am flight to Beijing. We jumped a cab that had been negotiated by the hostel staff as using the meter and as soon as we drove off he asked “how much you pay last time”. NO… TURN ON THE METER was the reply. This went on for about 200 meters until I opened the door and got out while Jill stayed in the Cab until I had the bags safely removed. We got into the next cab who promptly turned on the meter and the rest was simple.

Taal Volcano eruptions

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), activity at Taal was reported in 2008, 2010, and 2011. However in January 2020, over 2000 volcanic tectonic earthquakes took place and as a result of these constant earthquakes, numerous fissures had opened and the main lake in the Caldera of Taal volcano had drained. Two other separate incidents took place at the volcano over the next two years causing toxic plumes to be emitted of 800 meters and 400 meters tall and ultimately killing 39 people.

The images above are not mine but were sourced online through google however are a great depiction of the before and after images are startling.

Travelling the world in a pre and post COVID state

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