Friday, June 16, 2006

Please indulge my obvious hangover from our latest trip:

Yes, the travel bug has bitten us again!

Since our ambitious 20-day vacation last April in Italy, France and Belgium left us financially poor (but rich in pictures!), we decided to visit nearby Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Subic started out as a Spanish naval port in 1884. The United States engaged the Spanish army in a battle in 1889 and took over Subic in 1990. Days after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese conquered Subic in 1942 but the United States reoccupied the base in 1945. Despite the declaration of Philippine independence in 1945, the United States continued using Subic as a military base until 1991. Shortly after the Americans left Subic, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) was created to develop the former military base into a self-sustaining commercial, industrial, financial, transshipment and tourism center.

It appears that SBMA has succeeded in achieving its goals.

Subic is now a Freeport Zone that offers a bundle of tempting incentives for entities that establish their businesses in the area. It also has a lot of attractions for people like us, who seems to have a travel leech stuck on our bums (or on our battered wallets.)

From Manila, going to Subic is a breeze – Subic is just a 2-hour drive over well-maintained roads. But going around Subic is a different matter. You have to make sure that you have a vehicle as public transportation to the attractions is not readily available (there are no trains and trams and you can hardly see any taxis.) But once you've solved the transportation problem, everything will be just fine.

For our vacation, we just wanted to go to 3 places: Ocean Adventure, Zoobic Safari and the Extreme Adventure Park. (However, Subic has other attractions. It has several public and private beaches, including a world-class resort. It also has a Jungle Environmental Survival Camp where you get to camp, visit a mini zoo, an insectarium and a butterfly garden, interact with aetas and gain a deeper understanding of forests. For the adults, Subic also has a casino that features live bands nightly. There are also lots of shopping places for the bargain-hunters.)

We went to Ocean Adventure and I have to admit that it really is a poor relative of Ocean Park in Hong Kong or the Seaworld in Singapore. The aquariums were not impressive and there were only a few shows. But, we still had so much fun watching the false killer whales frolic around the bay with their trainers. The sea lion show was also entertaining. Visitors may also swim with the killer whales and the dolphins for a price. We didn't choose this option as the next morning we headed to Zoobic Safari.

Zoobic Safari was a treat for us. It had a small serpentarium, a mini-zoo where you get to pet a goat, a miniature horse, a deer and other free roaming animals. It also has a Rodent World and a Honey Bee Farm. However, the most exciting part of the theme park is their Tiger Safari where you ride a Pinoy jeepney with metal grills, and see tigers as they roam around a huge fenced area and pounce at live chickens. In our case, we went early in the morning when the tigers were hungry. They got so excited seeing the live chickens! One of the tigers happily ate his chicken at the roof of our jeepney. Another tiger ate his meal while hanging on to the metal grill at the side of the jeepney. It was such a thrill that I ended up seating on my husband's lap. The fainthearted may choose to ride on a jeepney without live chickens. That way, they can watch the show without being too close to the action. After the Tiger Safari, the Savannah Ride was a bit anti-climactic. The ostriches, pigs and goats freely roaming around the Savannah area were a bit curious but there was no real action. However, our excitement level shot up to the stars again when we decided to have our pictures taken with a baby tiger. The cub was so adorable! He gamely posed on our laps for as long as we fed him his milk. His trainer told us that they would be offering tiger walks within the month. In this new attraction, visitors will be allowed to give a leashed tiger a walk around a park.

Since it was a bit warm at the Zoobic Safari, we decided to spend the afternoon shopping after having a delicious and filling lunch at Meatplus cafe (we love their steaks and their rhum cake). We were able to purchase lots of food (Belgian chocolates!) and Rey purchased a case of Tiger beer and his Sobraine cigarettes.

In the evening, we had dinner at one of the restaurants near the Boardwalk. The food was okay but we missed the great Japanese food that we had at Sakura the night before. After dinner, we took a tour at the Subic Diamond Casino. It was packed with customers but it didn't feel too crowded. It had a relaxed atmosphere as the Casino doesn't have a dress code. People were gambling in their beach outfits! There was also a live band performing at the bar area. Rey was a bit disappointed that we missed the fashion show of the Philippine FHM models the night before we went to the Casino. We didn't stay too long as we wanted to visit the Extreme Adventure Park before we left for Manila in the morning.

We were at the Extreme Adventure Park at 8:00 in the morning. We were first in line! The first thing we had to do was to cross a hanging bridge. And then we got strapped to a zip line that got us flying over a jungle. It was so exhilirating! It wasn't too scary as the straps felt secure. I didn't wobble as I slid down the metal cable. We just had a little difficulty trekking back to the car as we are, admittedly, physically phhhht instead of physically fit (it really was only a 5 to 10 minute hike.)

In any case, the hike primed us for the buffet breakfast at the Subic International Hotel. For P350 per person, it had a decent spread of breads, fruits and Filipino breakfast dishes. They also have an omelet station where I got a fluffy and tasty ham, onion and cheese omelet.

We spent the last few hours of our vacation at our room at the Subic International Hotel. The Delta room was spacious and looked so comfortable with its cream walls, brown wooden furniture and orange trimmings. We loved the 29-inch flat TV and the fact that they kept the air-conditioner on even while we're out of the room. It just felt so good to enter a cool room after spending hours under the Philippine sun. (Oh, and I so loved their sheets that I ordered a few sets from their supplier as soon as I got back to Manila.)

We felt a little bit sad checking out of the hotel room but we were comforted by the fact that if we decide to go back, Subic is just a hop and a skip away from Manila.

Abie - saving up for the next trip!


You may view our Subic pictures at:

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