Volcanoes – More Fun in the Philippines – Part 1 – Taal

Ever since I first saw Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak and Tommy Lee Jones in Volcano, back in the 90’s, I’ve always had a thing for volcanoes. There’s something incredibly badass about them…

With ten days back in the Philippines over Chinese New Year, we decided to live one of my schoolboy fantasies, and visit a volcano (Completely normal by the way, what kind of self respecting former geography student doesn’t think that volcanoes are pretty much the coolest thing ever?!). It soon dawned on us that in ten days we could visit not one, but three, yes THREE volcanoes. I was going to volcano heaven.

First off on our list was Taal volcano, 60km south of Manila. Taal was the warm up for the bigger and better stuff that would come later. A pre-season friendly of sorts.


Apparently one of the deadliest volcanoes of the 20th century, Taal was a disappointment. It was really, really, like, pathetically small, and a tad underwhelming. I found it hard to believe this wee baby has killed hundreds, possibly thousands over the last century. Quite clearly mankind isn’t the only ‘thing’ (I use ‘thing’ because frankly, I have no idea how else to compare man and volcano in the same sentence) to be afflicted by ‘Little Man Syndrome’.

For me, Taal was like a volcanic Michael Owen. Short and physically unimposing, but incredibly potent on its day. Sadly, we weren’t seeing Michael Owen at his best, we were seeing Michael Owen at the tail end of his career, during his Manchester United days; expensive, over-rated and living off his past glories. That was Taal all over for me. Having said that, it’s probably for the best, for if Taal was Michael Owen at his best when we’d visited, we probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near it!

Amelia described our day at Taal as “Our s*ittest tourist experience”. It wasn’t a reflection on Taal, it was more of a condemnation of the way in which our Taal experience had been tarnished by the ‘naffness’ of the commercialisation on the island.

Karl Pilkington would have had a field day at Taal. We got on a boat, walked up a small hill, saw a lake, and got soaked on the boat ride back. The saving grace was the plastic sheet we hid behind to protect ourselves from the onslaught of the waves. We haven’t even mentioned the mass of Korean and Chinese tour groups on horseback, stampeding up and down, and the ensuing dust storm each group created. Now don’t get us wrong, we like Korean and Chinese people very much, but our hearts sink without fail whenever we come across groups of them on holiday elsewhere in Asia.

So that was Taal. Over-priced, over-rated, and just not that great. But we kind of knew that anyway…

Hopefully the next two volcanoes will be better!



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