A trip to tantalizing Tagaytay

Taal Lake, the dramatic setting of the famous Taal Volcano, is one of the most popular tourist spots in the Philippines, despite the fact that the volcano is still officially active. (Shutterstock)
Updated 05 April 2019

A trip to tantalizing Tagaytay

  • Taking in the natural wonders of the Philippines from the edge of a volcano

DUBAI: Just an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is a paradise on the rise: Tagaytay — a city built on the ridges of south Luzon that offers scenic views of a world-famous volcanic island.

The city overlooks the Taal Lake where the famous Taal Volcano is situated. Its postcard-worthy formation is a product of 33 violent historical eruptions, but it’s still one of the busiest tourist spots in the Philippines. The locals take maximum advantage of the location by hosting numerous viewing decks, allowing visitors to fully populate their Instagram pages.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the place; the warmth of the locals blends perfectly with the cool tropical breeze that greets visitors as soon as they arrive in Tagaytay — a literal breath of fresh air when you’re coming from the urban jungle. Its close proximity to the capital has made it a staple for weekend getaways, and a destination of choice for impulsive overnight trips. 

It pays to take the time to sample the city’s excellent local fare. (Shutterstock)

There’s no denying that Tagaytay’s reputation is built around its perfect location for the breathtaking scenery of Taal, but there’s more to this special city on the ridge than its panoramas.

There are numerous hotels around, and — naturally — the better view they have of the lake, the more expensive they get. The Taal Vista Hotel has one of the best spots on the ridge. Breakfast on the veranda is the perfect way to start a day of sightseeing.

Right next to the hotel is an amusement park called the Sky Ranch, where you could probably spend an entire day, should you wish. It has numerous restaurants, park rides, a zip line and the ‘Sky Eye’ ferris wheel, which stands 63 meters high, upping the Taal viewing experience a notch. 

But visitors don’t need to book a hotel room or ride the Sky Eye to enjoy the panoramic views of the neighboring volcano. A recreational space with built-in cottages and a spacious green courtyard is available at the Picnic Grove, located at the other end of the city. The 13-hectare venue also provides a number of family friendly activities — including zip lines, a cable car, and horseback riding. The eco-trail is particularly popular with tourists, getting them even closer to nature and Tagaytay’s lush greenery. 

Tagaytay is perched on the ridge overlooking Lake Taal. (Shutterstock)

Spanish colonization introduced Catholicism to the Philippines, and with it came countless marvelous cathedrals. Tagaytay has a few, but one always stands out for tourists — not because of its architecture, but because of the cloistered nuns based there. The nuns at the Pink Sisters Convent eschew the usual black-and-white attire, instead wearing the bright pink that has earned them their nickname. 

Perhaps the most interesting historical spot in the city is the People’s Park in the Sky — an urban park that is home to an unfinished mansion, originally intended to be the place where Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos would host then-US President Ronald Reagan on his 1983 visit, which was subsequently cancelled. The scaffolding is still in place, and now serves as a monument to the “greed, excess and arrogance” (Chicago Tribune, 1986) of the conjugal dictatorship that ruled the Philippines for over 20 years.

For some excess of your own, you can visit the Acienda Designer Outlet Mall. It has its own windmill — for reasons that aren’t immediately clear.

We can’t talk about Tagaytay and not mention its food. The popular Filipino dish bulalo is a local specialty; a light-colored stew made from beef shanks and marrow bones that are boiled for hours to really extract their flavor. Usually served with steamed jasmine rice, bulalo is perfect for Tagaytay’s chilly weather.

 The windswept city is a must for tourists who want to sample the natural wonders of the Philippine archipelago in the Pacific, deservedly lauded as one of the most beautiful places on earth. 

There are numerous places from which tourists can take in the stunning views. (Shutterstock)


Sounds of the summer: the best festivals to visit this season

Sziget festival. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019

Sounds of the summer: the best festivals to visit this season

DUBAI: From electronica in Morocco to rock in the Japanese mountains, here are six music festivals worth seeing this summer. 

Beiteddine Art Festival

WHEN: July 18-Aug 10

WHERE: Beiteddine, Lebanon

DETAILS: Few festivals have a better location than this Lebanese music, art and culture fest set among the Chouf Mountains in Beiteddine Palace, built over 200 years ago. Tens of thousands of people attend every year to witness an enthralling mix of classic and contemporary music, theater productions and art exhibitions, staggered over three weeks.

HIGHLIGHTS: Iraqi singer and composer Kadim Al-Sahir; French actor and singer Gerard Depardieu interpreting the songs of legendary singer Barbara; Omar Rahbany, from the renowned Lebanese musical dynasty, with his Passport Chamber Ensemble; Moroccan star Abdou Cherif sings some of Abdel Halim Hafez’s best-known songs.

Fuji Rock Festival

WHEN: July 26-28

WHERE: Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata, Japan

DETAILS: Japan’s Fuji Rock hosts 16 different stages and a wildly varied mix of homegrown and international artists playing just about every genre you can think of. Now on its 23rd edition, the organizers overcame a disastrous first year at the base of Mount Fuji to establish the festival (in its ‘new’ location) as one of Asia’s most popular summer gatherings, regularly attracting 150,000 people.

HIGHLIGHTS: The Green Stage and White Stage host the biggest international names, including The Chemical Brothers, The Cure, Sia (pictured), Death Cab For Cutie, James Blake and Thom Yorke, alongside Japanese stars such as Ellegarden, Superfly, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation.

Sziget Festival

WHEN: Aug 7-13

WHERE: Budapest, Hungary

DETAILS: Huge music and culture festival in an idyllic setting on an island in the Danube that makes it easy to lose yourself in its self-contained unreal world. The weeklong festival has expanded from an underground student gathering in the early Nineties to become one of Europe’s most acclaimed festivals, reportedly attracting almost half-a-million visitors and staging over 1,000 performances annually.

HIGHLIGHTS: There’s such an overwhelming amount of music available that anyone attending is bound to find something they like. The biggest names this year include Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, Twenty One Pilots, Post Malone, Florence & The Machine, The National, and Martin Garrix, but there’s plenty of less-mainstream fare on offer too.

Woodstock 50

WHEN: Aug 16-18

WHERE: Watkins Glen, New York

DETAILS: The much-imitated, never-replicated OG of rock festivals marks its 50th anniversary this year, still billing itself as “3 days of Peace & Music,” just as it did when more than 400,000 people gathered in White Lake back in 1969. The original was a defining moment in Western popular culture, and although this year’s event is unlikely to have the same impact, it’s still one that music lovers from around the world are eagerly anticipating for its legacy as much as its lineup.

HIGHLIGHTS: The organizers have kept things pretty basic — no multiple stages here, just a long lineup of mainstage performers on each of the three nights, with classic-rock/folk acts such as Santana, David Crosby, Robert Plant and Canned Heat mingling with Miley Cyrus, Chance The Rapper, The Killers, Earl Sweatshirt and Jay-Z (pictured).

Oasis Festival

WHEN: Sept 13-15

WHERE: Marrakech, Morocco

DETAILS: Billing itself as an “intimate destination festival featuring today’s top underground electronic talent,” with the strapline “Dance Somewhere Different,” Marrakech’s Oasis Festival doesn’t go for the “something-for-everyone” vibe of so many summer festivals, instead concentrating its efforts to produce an unfailingly excellent celebration of electronic music in a stunning setting — a luxury resort near the Atlas Mountains. Ideal for dance-music lovers who don’t fancy the muddy grime and portaloos of your typical summer music festival.

HIGHLIGHTS: This year’s lineup includes experimental UK musician Four Tet, classically trained Swiss DJ-producer Sonja Moonear, Berlin-based DJ-producer Jayda G, and Italian-born duo Mind Against.

Rock in Rio

WHEN: Sept 27-Oct 6

WHERE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
DETAILS: Spread over two weekends in the Barra Olympic Park, Rock in Rio is one of the world’s largest music festivals. It’s travelled to Lisbon, Madrid and Las Vegas over the 34 years since its inception, but this year’s edition finds it back home in the Brazilian capital, and a major party is guaranteed.

HIGHLIGHTS: There are seven different ‘venues’ at this year’s festival, many of which are catering to local audiences with South American artists. ‘Palco Mundo’ is where the superstars play, and this year’s headliners include Drake, Foo Fighters (pictured), Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden, P!nk, and Muse.