Thursday, January 28, 2010

Asia 360 -Taal Volcano

It's ironic that something so beautiful can also be so destructive.

This isn't exactly a revelation nor was this among the thoughts running in my head when I was taking pictures of Taal Volcano when friends and I went to Tagaytay City a few weeks ago. It was a breathtaking scenery and it was easy to forget the cataclysmal power that lay beneath the beauty.

From Manila, the Philippines' capital, we drove 50 km south to reach Tagaytay. This city is known primarily for giving the best view of the Taal Volcano. Its cool climate regularly attracts people from Manila who want to get away from the sweltering heat and the frenetic activity of the metropolitan if only for a day or two. Tagaytay City attracts a fair share of foreign tourists too.

We got our best shots of the complex volcano from the viewing deck just behind the lone Starbucks outlet in the city. Good thing the spot is accessible anytime of the day, even at dawn when all the restaurants have yet to open. There is no parking fee too. We took advantage of this and kept coming back until we decided we had taken enough pictures of Taal.

The volcano island is accessible, with certain limitations of course. If by chance you have not done your research prior to going there, it is easy enough to find your way if you take notice of the signs along the road including those held by local men, which say "Taal Boat Ride." These men serve as agents for boat owners and they usually have a motorcycle so they can ask you to follow them to the town of Talisay in Batangas City, just a few kilometers away. It's a 15-minute down ride, after which the boat ride to the island itself takes about 45 minutes. From where the boats dock, you have the option of going by foot, which takes about an hour, or by horse, which takes about 25 minutes to get to the viewing deck. There it's up close and personal.

Actually, we did not have the luxury of going to the volcano island during this particular visit. The photos of the crater lake I've posted here were taken at a prior visit two years ago but I've decided to include them anyway. I am quite certain it wouldn't be our last visit so I'll have more chances of taking better pictures in the future. And oh, as you might have guessed, we made it by relying on one of those men holding up those "Taal Boat Ride" signs — the trip to the crater was totally unplanned.

There are other good things about Tagaytay but I will save them for a later post.

Meanwhile, if you want more information on Taal Volcano, you know what to do.


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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Singapore 360 - Day 25: Marché At 313 Somerset

A few months ago I posted an entry on Marché Restaurant in Vivo City. It really has been one of my favorite places to dine since a friend took me to its original branch in Orchard Road back in 2005.

Last December, I heard from another friend that there was a new Marché in 313 Somerset as we made plans of treating to dinner one of our mutual friends who came here to participate in the Standard Chartered Marathon. Everything was set but when we came on the actual day to eat, we found out much to our dismay that there was a private function being held and the restaurant was closed to the public. We ended up dining in another of our favorites — Din Tai Fung.

This January, we didn't pass up the chance to visit Marché at 313 Somerset for the first time. We had a bit of trouble finding it because it was listed in the mall directory under B1. We searched the entire basement 1 but couldn't find it. Luckily we found the information counter on the ground level, which pointed us to the right direction.

At first glance, the place seemed a bit too small. But we soon realized that we weren't seeing the entire picture. Apparently, what we were looking at was just the bakery and the people who had gathered there were queuing to buy — if that's any indication of how good their breads and pastries are.

The restaurant is actually situated one level below, no wonder it was listed under B1! (I disagree however, because there is no entrance at this level.) The staircase leading to it was decorated to depict the typical Swiss farm life. The lamb sucking milk from its mother almost looked too real.

Pretty soon we concluded that the ambiance was really nice, way cooler than that of their Vivo City branch.

We ordered, among others, an entire pan of Paella and was a bit disappointed when the server told us we had to wait for 50 minutes. He said he didn't want to keep other customers who would order smaller portions from waiting too long. I thought it should have been done on a first come, first served basis. And yes, there were no pending orders that time. We came to a mutual agreement that he'll do his best to cut it down to 25 minutes.

We ended up waiting for an hour. Also, the guy ended up serving other customers in the midst of giving our orders. He looked like he could have used some help. Oh well, we didn't let that dampen our mood and had ordered enough other food to keep us calm until the paella was fully served. I remember we had fried chicken, oysters, mushroom, salad and rosti. I'm surprised we even had room left for coffee and desert!


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Monday, January 18, 2010

Singapore 360 - Day 24: Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

I've seen this Hindu temple a number of times before as I strolled along Tank Road. I finally had a chance to take a few photos when we had dinner at a nearby restaurant.

A quick visit to their website reveals that the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple or Chettiars' Temple is one of the oldest temples in Singapore and was built in 1859.

Not surprisingly, it's listed as a tourist attraction in the Singapore Tourism Board. I'm just not sure if tourists or non-Hindus are allowed to go in because I haven't tried.

If my memory doesn't betray, I remember that a few years ago while going around Little India and China Town, tourists were allowed to take photos up close if they were willing to pay. Oh well, you can see pictures of the temple in the Sri Thendayuthapani web site.


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