Monday, January 22, 2018

Extended Christmas Vacation for the Family at Taal Vista Hotel of Tagaytay

Wazzup Pilipinas!

As we write this article, the buko pie and tarts we are currently enjoying as our dessert after a hearty lunch quickly reminds us of our Tagaytay experience.

My family and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our gracious hosts, Taal Vista Hotel, for our very memorable three days and two nights family staycation at their fabulous Lake wing.

Compared to the Mountain wing, our wing has an awesome view of the Taal Lake with its glorious mountains and volcanoes at the center. However, the other amenities like the pool, gym, spa and game room can be found at the Mountain wing since it was the original location when the hotel did not have a Lake wing yet, and was still called a lodge. When the lodge changed ownership, got renovated and expanded to provide more rooms, it was renamed as Taal Vista Hotel.

We were given two Premiere rooms, one for our three kids and another for my wife and I. The rooms have a few differences, but both have the same comfort and luxury. Our room just had a veranda where you could get out, take a sit and admire the epic view, and a bathtub where you could dip in warm water for hours - something so pleasurable to do in Tagaytay's cold weather.

At the center of both wings is the main lobby where just nearby is the Veranda buffet restaurant that offers a feast fit for a king but at a very reasonable price. There are just too many food choices that you could not possibly try them all in one seating.


Our first morning at Taal Vista Hotel started off with a view of the sunrise. I never fail to witness such natural wonder every time we are out of town, and the sunrise at Taal Vista is simply a marvelous sight to behold.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so we filled ourselves up real good. Though our first morning was an in-room dining where our food was brought to us in our room.

In--room dining options is where you could order from the room menu. This means we could have breafast, lunch or dinner in bed - a luxury that we all want so we could not miss our favorite show on TV or we want to remain snuggled with our loved one in bed, or when we're just too lazy to go down to the restaurants.

Our breakfast on the 3rd day was at the Veranda buffet restaurant where we splurged on plenty of viands, breads and pastries, bacon, "danggit", ham, eggs, pancakes and waffles, congee, champorado, different kinds of salads, "taho" and a lot more that's too many to mention.

Lunch time gets a lot more interesting with diners being entertained by a serenading trio allowing you to request songs, and several native or cultural dancers alternating in performing with the singers. Best part was the balancing act where a lady danced while balancing on her head several clay pots of different sizes. The performances go well with the pork belly litson, kare-kare, and other dishes. Desserts were equally numerous with plenty of "kakanin" and the all-time favorite "halo-halo" complete with all the well-loved ingredients including "ube halaya" and leche plan. Did I mention they have the seasonal "puto bumbong" and four flavors of ice cream?

We had breakfast after visiting the gym where we sweat it out for a few minutes, and the game room where my kids challenged me on the billiards. As expected, I would always lose as I am not really good in any kind of sport, table, board or even card games. Our only concern here is that the gym and game room is unattended by the hotel staff so we couldn't immediately ask for help in operating the gym equipment, and ask for extra darts at the game room.

If your appetite prefers ala carte, then you could dine at Taza Fresh Table restaurant, located just somewhere in between the Mountain wing and main lobby, where they also have an abundance of plated treats different from the dishes at Veranda. It's slightly more expensive here but for a good reason as the dishes here like the duck confit, lamb chops, Iloilo prawns, and many more, are heavenly. Kudos to the chef for top quality culinary creations.

Since it's Kyle's birthday, he had a special slice of cake to commemorate his special day. Our dinner at Taza Fresh Table was unanimously considered a much anticipated treat just like before when we were first visited the hotel. This is where you can find the high-end dishes conceptualized by their chef. For the holiday season, they had a special menu available so we ordered some of the dishes that were part of that menu.

But if you just want to chill out, check your emails or social media accounts, and have some light snacks and drinks, then hang around the Lobby Lounge. Weekend night time here is accentuated by heat from a real fireplace and music from a pianist. They even have some books you could read while drinking coffee.

Actually, you are limited in the food that you can order at the Lobby Lounge since they only allow mostly pasta, pizza, sandwiches and a few starters. But everything and a lot more can be found at the Veranda buffet restaurant.

Tagaytay is second to Baguio when it comes to the most preferred "cold weather" destination in the Philippines, but the former is the more convenient place to go for the people of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Taal Vista Hotel could also provide transportation service that's ready to pick you up from your home and take you to the hotel, and vice versa, so you could conveniently travel back and forth in a car or van with courteous drivers.

The hotel is also just beside the Sky Ranch where both young and adult alike can enjoy several amusement games and rides. Taal Vista and Sky Ranch are both owned by SM, as well as the Tagaytay Highlands which is another place worth visiting in Tagaytay.

It was a staycation so with exception of our Sky Ranch visit during our first night, we mostly spent our time at the hotel premises. By the way, they have an entrance to the Sky Ranch from the hotel through a gate situated at the far end of the Lake wing but it is only open until 6pm. You may have to walk back through the main entrance of the amusement park if you leave Sky Ranch at night. Aside from the Sky Eye, the Ultimate Viking, the Tower Drop, the Roller Coaster, a must visit attraction is the Zip Line. Plenty of chances to win stuff toys from the game stalls, and so many food stalls and restaurants to choose from.

Sunday offers a 10:30am mass so you won't have to leave the hotel to look for a church. Traveling around in Tagaytay is more convenient if you being your own car, otherwise you would need to ride or rent a tricycle or other vehicles as there are no taxis here. You may want to visit the few churches, the farms and zoos, the specialty and heritage restaurants, the museums, and the parks. However, there are times when the fog is too thick and causes zero visibility especially when it rains or late at night or very early in the morning.

Since the Christmas season is not yet over at Taal Vista Hotel, there were still plenty of holiday decors when we stayed there from January 5 to 7. They have several Christmas trees aside from the few lanterns at certain areas. The best Christmas tree is the one at the center grounds that changes colors continuously. During Saturday night, we saw a spectacular display of fireworks sometime around 7pm which lasted for a few minutes.

Something new for us was the "picture frame" photo ops area bundled with some placards that mostly have the hashtag of the hotel: #TaalVistaHotel. This is a new addition to their existing giant #TaalVistaHotel signage at the Lake wing. Both photo ops areas offer a background view of the Taal lake. There's also a Santa sled but it is probably there only during the Christmas season.

By the way, we did mention a pool located at the Mountain wing but my kids were not in the mood to go swimming, thus we spent most of our hours doing nothing but lie in bed, watch TV, eat meals, and browse the Internet with the hotel's free Wi-Fi Internet access.

Since my kids belong to the "Millennials" generation, they are more inclined with online and digital hobbies like playing games, watching livestreams, plus graphics, audio, animation, sound and video editing, among others. Their nights at the hotel were spent mostly on these stuff. Strangely, last year's staycation at the hotel still had a Playstation module option at the game room, but we never had the opportunity to play it since there wasn't anybody around to assist. Now, it was totally removed, but there were two boxes of Monopoly board games instead which my kids never touched too. The table hockey was not working anymore, and there were only two darts to play with at the dart board. The Business Center is apparently no longer in business. Lol!

I guess what keeps Taal Vista a preferred destination is the majestic view of the Taal Lake, matched by its luxurious accommodations and sumptuous meals. But it needs to improve in its other amenities to keep up with the preference of the younger generation. We are a bit surprised it never improved on its gym and game room to add value to its offerings. They must give their guests alternative choices to spend their day(s) at the hotel.

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