Vail travel: Tale of two Philippine hotels |

Vail travel: Tale of two Philippine hotels

Luc Pols
Vail, CO Colorado
Luc Pols/Special to the Vail Daily

Since I have seen, but not yet visited, any of the caves in this country, I took the time to go to the Hoyop Hoyopan (“Blowing Wind”) cave near Legaspi. It was cute but nothing really special.

What was more interesting, were the Cagsawa ruins, not so much because of the old remnants and the old belfry, but more so because of the spectacular setting against one of the most photographed volcanoes in the Philippines – Mount Mayon. Magnificent views.

But boy, do I hate karaoke. It turned out to be the most prevalent and popular form entertainment and it is atrocious – mainly because 95 percent of the people partaking in this pastime can’t hold a tune. It not only blasts you out of restaurants/bars, but if you’re unlucky, the guest in the room next to you at the hotel has his or her own karaoke set and blasts the umpteen watts at every ungodly time of the day, including four a.m. I don’t wish this on anybody.

Pawn shop rates

A couple of more observations. First of all, the almost overbearing security in this country. At every shopping center, big and small, you are frisked and/or have to go through a metal detector. At virtually every – and I mean every – store, there was a guard with a three-foot long gun at the read. At the banks they normally had at least three guards, all armed with these same huge guns.

Then the houses – and I don’t mean the shacks in the country. Once again virtually all had bars on the windows. It was a bit frightening and it didn’t give one that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Another phenomenon is the pawn shops – they were everywhere, from the smallest village to the larger cities, and they charge quite a bit. The rates are up to 5 percent per month, which comes out to sixty percent per year. The 19 percent rate the credit card companies charge in the U.S. seems like a steal.

Tale of two hotels

Next came another long travel day. While the bus was pretty comfortable, eight hours was still a long haul, because the bus only averaged about 25 miles per hour.

Another two hours on the hard bench of a jeepney brought me at last to Pagsanjan. I discovered that the hotel I’d been trying to reach for two days is out of business and after checking out two absolutely horrible hotels, I settled in a resort on the river.

It had started to pour, hopefully increasing the flow in the main attractions – the rapids and the waterfall. However, at breakfast I’m was told that there was now too much water for the boats to go over the rapids to the falls and I wait – in vain.

In the meantime, I explored the town and the pool, but the next day the rapids were navigable again and it was a beautiful trip through the rapids to the falls.

On to the Taal volcano. Upon arriving in Tagaytay, I let myself be talked into a “resort” at the lake. I took a tricycle down and it turned out to be a dive.

I opted for the “best” place in town, the Villa Khristalene and it was almost equally as bad. For $50 a night, more than I paid in Manila, there was no hot water and no toilet seat (which wasn’t a big deal because the toilet wasn’t working anyway).

When I pointed these deficiencies out to the management, they more or less laughed it off. It was the worst hotel of the trip, as well as the most expensive.

One night was enough, even though the views over the volcano are great. I moved back up to Tagaytay and stayed at the Taal Vista Hotel – by contrast the best hotel I’ve stayed in on this trip.

The people, for a change, wee very helpful and friendly, especially the bellman/concierge Jason Herrera. If you ever come here, stay in this place and ask for the guy. He’ll find answers to all your questions.

It almost restored my faith in the Philippine people, but more about that in the “wrap up” two weeks from now.

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