Saturday, August 25, 2012

NZ Travel 2012: Top 10 Highlights In New Plymouth, My New Love Destination!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

When I included New Plymouth in my places to visit during my dream destination tour of New Zealand, I know nothing of the place so I maintain a low expectation. Enough for me that I can meet my father's second cousin slash my childhood friend Jeck Icaro and his family (and possibly eat some Pinoy favorites!) and I will be happy. 
But  this small city located on the North Islands west coast in the Taranaki district has so much to offer and its proximity to both the sea (Tasman sea) and mountain (Mount Taranaki) has captured me instantly making it hard not to fall in love at first sight (ahem!)! 
I love New Plymouth - and  its picturesque, impressive landscape, preserved heritage,  stunningly beautiful scenery and a modern outlook. It is no surprise why this small and unassuming city bagged three major awards at the 2008 International Awards for Liveable Communities recognized by the United Nations and locally adjudged as "the best place in New Zealand to live, love, work and raise a family". 
With so much to see and do and having only two full days to go around, I had difficulty  visiting all the highlights although all are inside the city, within a few minutes drive of each other. I picked my Top 10 of the major points of interests and get consoled that I will definitely be back sometime soon to try the rest!

1 Pukekura Park

2 Brookland's Park - Zoo and Chimney  
3 Puki Ariki
4 Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
Officially opened on 5 June 2010, the 70-meter pedestrian and cycleway bridge across the Waiwhakaiho River called Te Rewa Rewa Bridge has "wowed" me with its spectacular shape and its all-white steel tube ribs reminiscent of a whale skeleton. This popular footbridge is part of the Coastal Walk Way designed to suit the coastal landscape  and can accommodate bikes, ambulance and other service vehicles.  I was further impressed when I learned that my childhood friend Jeck Icaro was part of the  consortium that designed and built this now - popular icon of New Plymouth and he was personally involved in the actual transport and installation of the bridge deck 15 feet above normal flow level to withstand both floods and lahars from volcanic eruptions
Coastal Walkway & Len Lye Wind Wand
Major Gardens (Pukeiti and Tupare)
7 Gables Colonial Hospital
Lake Mangamahoe
9 Richmond Cottage
10 Paritutu  Centenial Park

(to be continued...)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Photo Collage: Umbrella Shots and Our Spiritual Umbrella

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

During a sudden rain showers while in Tagaytay

Because it rains almost everyday here in the Philippines from June to November, I have lots of photos with umbrella.  

When it was raining cats and dogs during a wedding at the LDS Temple in Whiteplains, Quezon City
Looking at the photos now, I am reminded of those times I remained dry although it was raining pitchforks and hammer handles because the umbrella came in handy. I also recalled a number of times I got wet walking in and out of the rain without this protective gear either because I forgot to carry it or simply refused to put the umbrella up over my head due to laziness or slight inconvenience.
When it was drizzling at the LDS Temple in Whiteplains, Quezon City

When it was raining while touring Cagayan de Oro with friend's mom

Sudden drizzle when we alighted from Cebu Pacific at the Dipolog Airport 

Each family was given an Umbrella during the Lavarro Clan Reunion
Then I thought of a so-called spiritual rains - the trials, tribulations, persecutions, problems, the sadness that get us down, the onslaught of evil. Our Heavenly Father has provided us a spiritual umbrella as a weapon of protection so we don't get soaked by Satan's mighty storms of oppression and deceptions (Helaman 5:12). Through our daily scripture study, constant praying, regular church service attendance, consistent living the gospel and enduring to the end, we will gain the power to avoid Satan's rains of illusions and stay dry on the strait and narrow path of life. (2 Nephi 31: 20)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Travel Spotlight: Capturing Photo Stand Ins!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

During travels my attention is always drawn to Photo Stand Ins or those life-size faceless cut-outs where your face fits right into the opening in the cut-out and you become one of the characters in the photo. The kid - in - me love posing behind them and have my pictures taken with them regardless of the image whether male or female, king or queen, indigenous people or even animals. I guess the photo stand ins update my looks faster than headwares or hooded mufflers because in an instant, I could feel like a star, or a soldier or transform into a silly monkey or a sexy mermaid without any cost. 

1. Be an Aeta at Paradise Ranch in Clark Field Freeport Zone, Pampanga

2. A Butterfly at Paradise Ranch in Clark Field Freeport Zone, Pampanga

3. King and Queen in Macau

4. Cartoon Character at Mall of Asia (Philippines)

4. Easter Bunny at Paradise Ranch in Clark Field Freeport Zone, Pampanga

5. A Fruit Vendor at Paradise Ranch in Clark Field Freeport Zone, Pampanga

6. A Mermaid at Paradise Ranch in Clark Field Freeport Zone, Pampanga

7. A Tiger at Zoobic Safari in Subic Freeport Zone, Zambales

8. A Butterfly, Peacock, Eagle, etc at San Francisco Zoo (California, USA)

10. A Lion at Zoobic Safari in Subic Freeport Zone, Zambales

11. A Monkey at Zoobic Safari in Subic Freeport Zone, Zambales

12. A British Soldier  and Traveler in London, England

13. A Pet Lover at San Francisco Zoo (California, USA)

It never fails to give me a good laugh looking at my captured photo stand ins collection. Which one is a big hit for you?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Subic and Clark Freeport Zones For Adventures On A Cheap!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda
If you are from Manila like me and looking for adventures with only One Thousand Pesos (Php 1,000) to spare for your wanderlust, hit the road to either of the two former US Base facilities turned freeports and special economic zones - Subic Bay in Olongapo City, Zambales and Clark Field in Pampanga. With the extensive road networks, both destinations  are easy to reach and take only an approximate travel time of an hour or two from Manila aboard your private car via Subic-Clark expressway (SCTex) or by public transportation that regularly serviced these routes for a slightly longer commute.  Victory Liner (and Saulog Transit) air-conditioned buses provide passengers regular transport services to and from Olongapo City terminal with fare about P500 RT (Subic) and to and from Dau, Pampanga terminal with fare about P300 RT (Clark). Non-aircon buses are slightly cheaper. 

Although the two areas have their unique features, both are tourism havens with wide range of affordable activities in a generally cooler climate and top notch facilities offering adventure theme parks, water sports, and beach resorts.

Cheap Tip: Have at least 9 to 15 people on SUV or Van, split the cost of a full tank diesel among passengers, and it'll only cost you around P150 round trip for Subic and P100 for Clark

Subic Bay Freeport Zone.  With a total of 13,800.60 hectares and used to be the biggest US Naval facility for a century, Subic is now one of the most exciting tourist destinations. With its well-preserved environment, there are various eco-activities that one can enjoy for less than Php 500 at the Jungle Environmental Survival Training (JEST) Camp where ordinary people can learn survival techniques in addition to a fun-filled day!
Jungle Environmental Survival Training Camp (JEST)
Freeport Services Corporation Amusement Park
Bldg. H8211 Burgos Street corner Causeway
Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zambales, Philippines 2222

My Cheap Thrills: Take the Basic Training in Jungle Survival (Php 150) to learn how to build fire out of dried bamboo, cook food without utensils and other techniques of surviving life in the jungle, from our very own native Aetas who used to train U.S. Navy Seals, Special Forces and Army Rangers. For an additional Php 75 for 30 minutes (or Php 300 for 2/4/6 hours ) go Jungle Trekking into the world famous Subic Bay Forest escorted by instructors of JEST and be shown how to locate sources of potable water, set up traps using only naturally occurring materials, and much more.
For lunch, have your rice cooked in bamboo through "Luto sa Kawayan" and enjoy the delicious taste of natural food served in banana leaves and eaten without utensils - the "kamayan" way. 
My FREE Thrills:  Inside the JEST Camp, there is a Viewing Deck for a breathtaking, panoramic view of Subic, which in itself is enough reason to make a trip to JEST. There are also many more nature-oriented attractions that one can enjoy for free which include a - Mini-Zoo (to see native species found in Subic jungle), Insectariums (for a collection of various kinds of insects found in Subic and the rest of the country), Butterfly Garden - (a bountiful collection of live butterflies),  Spider World - (a marvelous collection of many species of live spiders from around the world), and Aviary (a colorful assortment of birds from the Philippines and other countries).
Alternative Cheap Thrills: (1) For true - blue adventurers, Subic Bay Freeport Zone also has various extreme adventures to satisfy your adrenaline rush. You may want to try the Canopy Slide (Php 300/per person) where you are slide among the trees and through the jungle while wearing harness or dare the Tension Traversing, High Ladder Climbing, and High Pole Jumping or Wall Climbing (Php 150) or play Airsoft Gun (Php 150/head/day) amidst the Subic rainforest.
(2) If you are into wild animals and want to have close encounters with them, Zoobic Safari is a popular offering at the Zone. The realistic safari is set on 25 hectares of pristine forested land where you can enjoy numerous different wild animals in their nature environment roaming and playing. For Php 495 (Zoobic Park, Rodent World, Serpentarium, Forbidden/Zoobic Cave, Tiger Safari Ride, Close Encounter, Savannah, Animal MuZOOeum, Aetas’ Trail, Hip-Hop-Bay-a – Walk, and Croco Loco Lagoon) for approximately 2 ½ hours. Other amenities can be enjoyed for a fee like Sky Safari Zipline (Php 199) and Girafz Ride Segway (Php 199).
(3) For theme park enthusiasts, there is an Ocean Adventure Park within the Zone where you can  experience an Ocean Adventure with dolphins, watch Sea Lion Show and the Whale Presentation in addition to visiting a fun-filled aquarium for Php 450 entrance fee.
(4)  For hikers, horse riders and runners, there is a wide variety of adventures in the deeply forested nature areas in and around Subic Bay. Take a trip to Baton Falls, Hidden Falls, El Kabayo Falls, Pamulaklakin Forest Trails, the Pamulaklakin River in the Binictican Heights and take a 45 to 60 minute trail hike to the top of Hill 394 (named for its elevation above sea level, 394 feet) located at the eastern part of the Ilanin Forest Park. This hill was used as a secret, hidden helicopter landing spot and now an observation spot where you can see over 50 species of birds and more than 150 species of vibrantly green trees and find panoramic views of lush forests and the Bataan and Zambales Mountains. If you have a car, drive atop for some restful camping or simply to experience a great picnic spot.

Clark Freeport Zone. Branded as “Asia’s Most Affordable Gateway” because of its duty-free shops and budget airline flights that depart from the Diosdado Macapagal Airport, Clark is also a popular tourist destination with lots to offer for nature lovers and adventure seekers with its  majestic hills, greenery, clean air, incredible foliage and warm people.

My Cheap Thrills: Take a day trip to Paradise Ranch Nature and Conservation Park , an environmental project geared on protecting the environment and saving wildlife located in the sub-zone of Clark, called the Sacobia Valley, across the bridge, just outside the Clark Expo gate. Overlooking the Sacobia River, Mt. Pinatubo, Mt. Arayat and other mountains and majestic sceneries, the ranch boasts of a large campsite and amenities like the Vista Montana Pool, Zoocobia Fun Zoo (a family-oriented fun zone and animal encounter featuring Birds of Paradise, Garden Maze, Barn and Kids World), Butterfly Kingdom, Animal Sanctuary (with huge ostriches, beautiful peacocks, horses) and a Lake
Avail of their very affordable Day Tour Packages of your choice: (P250/pax Packages -Ranch Tour with EITHER a Free Swimming at Vista Montana Pool, Free Zip Line, Theme Park or  Zoocobia Fun Zoo/  P350/pax Package - Ranch Tour with Free Swimming and Theme Park/ P450/pax Package - Ranch Tour,  Zoocobia Fun Zoo, Swimming,  and Theme Park.

For Lunch avail of their Eat All You Can Buffet for P200/pax
My CS Friend Guest Chel in Clark
My FREE Thrills:  Once in Clark, there abound fun activities at no cost like taking a leisurely walk on the lush green grass and tree-layered old Fort Stotsenberg Parade Grounds with its many markers and monuments or have a picnic at the Bicentennial Park, along Jose Abad Santos Ave, Parade Grounds Park, close to CDC Offices and Clark Picnic Grounds, or visit several duty-free stores all situated in one place along Claro M. Recto Highway in the Freeport to find deals on imported items you’re looking for at stores like, Pure Gold, Value City, Arjan, Parksons amongst others. 
Alternative Cheap Thrills: For educational trip with swimming (1) Visit the Clark Museum (Php 30), a repository of artifacts and other materials located on the Eastern edge of the historic Parade Grounds to understand Clark’s evolution of Clark from a mere grazing area for horses, with heavy-focus on its military past to its current status as a business and leisure hub. Then take a walk around Nayong Pilipino-Clark (Php 30), a six hectare theme park which showcases scale-replicas of various Philippine historic and cultural locations like the Banaue Rice Terraces, Kalinga Houses, Barasoain Church, Kapampangan village among others. The facility also includes an outdoor amphitheater, indoor theater, museum, lodging cottages, meditation garden and function room. Wrap up at the Fontana Water Park which features a world-class Wave Pool, Three Giant Aqua Thrill Slides, lagoons, water-ways and swimming pools to cool-off you and your family on a hot day for Php 375 weekday rate or Php 475 on weekends.

(2) For the sporty types, enjoy go-kart racing (Php 150 -5 minutes/ Php 300 - 15minutes) at the Swiss Go Kart facility in C.M. Recto Avenue next to Oriental Duty Free Store and t
hen proceed to El Kabayo Riding Stables where you can rent horses for an all –day joy ride for Php 700 (or just a 20 minute- ride (Php 150)/ 15-minute calesa ride (Php 200) /or 45-minutes forest trail ride (Php 300). Then dine at their American-style, old west restaurant for lunch or dinner.

With spectacular scenery, wildlife and activities, Subic and Clark are indeed great places to visit with only P1,000 budget and satisfy your cravings for adventures – on a cheap!

Source: Clark Subic Marketing

This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for August 2012 with the theme "Where Would You Travel Given A P1,000 Budget?"  hosted by Pinay Thrill Seeker of Love Conquers AllLove Conquers AllCheck out the previous blog carnival topics in Estan Cabigas' Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival.

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