Sunday, February 24, 2008

seorabeol grand leisure hotel

susie and i have very little requirements for the hotels or resorts that we stay in. for me, all i ask is a clean bathroom, and i'll be fine.

which explains why we were pretty okay with our night in seorabeol hotel, also known as grand leisure hotel.

had we been nitpickers, we would have complained about the fact that only one bedside lamp was working, and that the air-conditioner was dripping.

but we were more than happy to have a bed to sleep in after our tiring day in pinatubo. seorabeol hotel gave us a big enough bed, air-conditioning, cable TV, and a clean bathroom with hot water and a hair dryer.

but what we were extremely happy about in seorabeol hotel was breakfast. for P2,800.00, we got a room that's good enough, and buffet breakfast that served great morning food--corned beef, longganisa, french toast, scrambled eggs, garlic fried rice, and best of all, POTATOES!

more photos of seorabeol hotel here.

contact details
seorabeol hotel (grand leisure hotel)
address: Lot MC-9 Waterfront Road Subic Bay, Freeport Zone
tel. nos.: (047) 252-2765; (047) 252-2766
mobile no.: 09178361955; 09285022253
fax no.: (047)252-2764

spa treatments at pinatubo development corp.

aside from the pinatubo trek, i was really looking forward to getting a good kneading at the pinatubo spa town. everything i've read about it suggested that the treatments were great, and what better way to end a tiring trek than with spa treatments at the foot of the mountain?

let's start with the pinatubo spa facilities. the locker and shower areas were definitely below average. locker doors wouldn't close properly, the shower area looked filthy, and even the locks on the doors to the toilets wouldn't work. the clothes provided for guests to wear during pinatubo spa treatments were lousy--a huge white shirt and baggy khaki pants that reached three inches past my knee. ton ton massage outfits were definitely better.

the food was so-so. i expected to be served really healthy food, it being a spa after all. but everything we ate was greasy--chicken adobo, oily pancit, and fried vegetables. the only thing i enjoyed was the banana. if they weren't going to serve healthy food, they should have at least prepared it well. it was definitely not a meal fit for trekkers who just conquered pinatubo.

the only thing worth trying in this pinatubo spa is the volcanic ash spa treatment. here, you're buried in volcanic ash for i don't know how long (i fell asleep), with a furnace heating you from below. i didn't feel much heat, but being buried in ash was sure relaxing.

i had been looking forward to the mud bath, but had to beg off as the mud was freezing cold. after covering you in mud, you will have to sit in the mud tub, in the open, while the cold breeze was blowing you to a freezing death. if only they had a room where you could go and hide while the mud dried on you.

the pina-thai-tsu massage was only so-so. in some areas, it even hurt, and i am one who likes a good, hard massage. susie actually told me, after the whole sordid affair, that he was trying to keep from screaming. poor guy.

but what grated me so much was all the chattering that went on during our massage. we were massaged in an open pavilion, quite close to the road. i didn't mind the videoke-ing neighbors, nor the loud sounds of cars and trucks rumbling past, but i did mind that other therapists would just walk around the pavilion and even talked loudly while we were getting our rub-downs. i wasn't able to relax at all.

so, unless they change their quality of service, i am not recommending you go to this place. just get a massage from one of the places here in the city. i'll still be providing their contact info, should you want to book a direct pinatubo tour with them. just please, don't book spa treatments anymore.

more photos of the pinatubo spa here.

contact information
pinatubo development corporation
mobile no.: 09186611415 (mr. jhun); 09287813556 (ms. jovi); 09203410402
fax no.: (045) 6150454

the trek to mt. pinatubo

like i said earlier, i still find it hard to believe that i was up in mt. pinatubo a week ago. it has always been in my list of places to see, and as is usual in the lists that i make, they usually don't come true.

thank god this one did, though. and it didn't even give me much trouble! booking the tour was a breeze, and the only thing that was hard about this whole pinatubo trip was the actual trek.

we arrived at the pinatubo development corporation (PDC) at 930am, just as our seahorse itinerary indicated. when we got off the seahorse van, there were already a number of 4x4s parked on the side of the road. bernardine and elvie led us into the PDC spa, and let us rest for a bit. i changed into something more "climb-worthy," and then we were off to the mt. pinatubo skyway.

from PDC, the ride took an hour. it was a rocky drive, and it was so hard to take decent pictures while on the 4x4. so i asked our driver to pull over at one site so i can have some photos to take home. what i didn't know was that the 40-minute trek would give me more sites to take photos of.

after an hour of bouncing on the dusty road, the 4x4 parked at a clearing. from this point, we were to walk the rest of the way. there was a sign that said, "walking distance, 40 mins." i thought it was going to be pretty easy, because i was told it was an easy climb, but boy, was i ill-advised!

the first pinatubo challenge was the trek down a steep incline--both hard to climb up and hike down from. when hiking down from it, you risk slipping if you don't have the right footwear (or the right FOOT).

after hurdling this challenge, we were greeted by a group of aetas washing their clothes by a narrow stream. i took my time and took photos of the surroundings, which had various rock sizes scattered among it. i decided to check out the road ahead: yep, it was also full of rocks. thank god i wore my tribus.

our hike to the pinatubo crater took more than 40 minutes. we completed the trek in about an hour. we had to maneuver our way through streams, and figure out our paths through a maze of rocks, and i found it pretty exciting. i haven't embarked on a real adventure in a long time, and this was a definite shock to my unexercised body. still, i was pretty proud that i didn't stop in the middle of the trek to wheeze and plead for a break.

there was one point in that pinatubo hike where you will know that you're really close to the crater. you can feel the change in temperature from your last step to the next--one was incredibly warm, the other soothingly cool. i was getting weary at this point, but feeling that cool air really got me excited, giving me just enough adrenaline to finish the rest of the climb.

and what you see after that hard climb is worth all the sweat. i know that's been said a number of times, but it being an overused phrase doesn't make it less true. it's just that people will have no other way to say it, pinatubo really is a worthwhile climb.

you see the water in the crater, which is a beautiful shade of blue (my knowledge of colors only run the gamut of primary colors, so you just decide what particular shade it is), and it's bordered by mountains covered in a carpet of green. the mist adds a little mystery to the photos you take, making everything even more mysterious to people who've never been there.

after taking x number of photos of the pinatubo crater, our aeta guide told us that the way to the crater is through some man-made stairs. i was relieved to hear that, for i couldn't take any more climbing, but as it turned out, the descent was even more grueling than the hike. the stairs they made had gaps that are about three to four times bigger than stairs that i'm used to.

but after that, i was happy to be by the lake. we took out our purefoods corned beef pan de sals, and had a mini picnic by the crater. i tested the waters and found it to be freezing cold. but i wasn't going to pass up the chance to swim in a volcano crater!

we hung around the crater for about an hour or two, taking photos and just marveling at the fact that we were in the crater of pinatubo, who just recently exploded and made a huge impact on the world.

so back we went, this time really feeling the challenge of the stairs going up to the viewing deck. but the hike back from the pinatubo crater was much easier, and we even overtook a group that left 30 minutes ahead of us. i guess that's what corned beef pan de sal and some sulfur can do to you. :D

more photos of my pinatubo adventure here.

seahorse tours and souvenirs

i have always wanted to climb up mt. pinatubo, but didn't know how to go about it. i don't know where it is exactly, and i don't know how you go about arranging 4x4s to take you up the volcano. with my current health status (which is completely unhealthy), it never entered my mind to do the three-hour trek up the volcano.

thankfully, we modern folk have the internet to help us along. since the batanes trip was cancelled indefinitely, i decided to do the pinatubo adventure for my birthday instead.

susie and i found seahorse tours and souvenirs while trawling the net. based in subic, seahorse offers a number of tours for adventurers of all ages. even with such a messy website in need of a design and editing makeover (they misspelled excitement), we decided to sign up for the pinatubo spa and trek adventure, so we can get a good pampering after the tiring climb.

seahorse tours provides a request form on their site, where you can send inquiries on tours that you're interested in. i first tried to inquire through this form, but wasn't able to get a quick reply. so i gave their office a call, and was given all the information i needed. jhas, the seahorse tours agent, wasn't extraordinarily accommodating, but she was nice enough. she sent me the details of our tour, and provided me with the payment details.

in order to reserve a place in your chosen tour, seahorse requires that you pay half the cost of your tour by depositing in their banco de oro account. after that, you just need to fax them your deposit slip, and they'll send you a confirmation letter.

everything went pretty easy, which had me a bit worried. i got the confirmation letter weeks before our trip, and having things so easily within my reach really scares me a little at times. like they say, "if it's too good to be true, it probably is."

thankfully, everything went off without a hitch when we reached subic on the day of our tour. the people of seahorse were about 15 minutes late for the agreed pick-up time, but everything else went on schedule.

we were picked up at the seorabeol hotel (accommodations were also arranged by seahorse!) at 615am by two ladies. it's quite a treat to be driven by a lady who knows her way around a place that confuses me, and the delica that they used to drive us to the PDC spa town was pretty spacious and comfortable, that i slept the entire way to capas.

bernardine, if i remember correctly, was our lady chauffeur, and she was accompanied by elvie, who was to accompany us up the mountain, along with an aeta guide and the 4x4 driver. bernardine stayed behind at the spa, while we went off on our trekking adventure.

after the trek, we had our spa treatments, which finished quite late, so we got to our hotel an hour late. but everything went smoothly as far as our arrangement with seahorse tours were concerned.

i'm thinking of booking another tour with them, this time for the bratty sister and myself. :)

contact details
seahorse tours and souvenirs
address: times square cinema complex, subic bay freeport zone
tel. no.: (047) 2525617
mobile no.: 0917-5789482
fax no.: (02) 8572133


i was up in mt. pinatubo!

can't believe a week has passed since i trekked up mt. pinatubo. i had been looking forward to it since last month, and now it's over.

it was quite an experience being in the crater of a volcano that had massive effects on the country and the world. pretty hard to believe that something that has caused a lot of devastation just a few years back is now a site of marvelous greenery and magnificent views. the rocky terrain, the color of the water in the lake--incredible, really.

our mt. pinatubo trek was arranged by a subic-based travel agency--seahorse tours. they had a spa and trek day package, which included a shuttle from subic to capas, 4x4 ride up to mt. pinatubo, guided trek the rest of the way, lunch at the spa, and spa treatments.

so for the next posts, you'll be reading about my mt. pinatubo adventure--seahorse tours service, PDC spa town at pinatubo, the trek up mt. pinatubo, and seorabeol grand leisure hotel in subic, where we decided to stay the night after the exhausting adventure.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

cebu pacific fouls up again

during the last piso fare craze, susie and i were able to purchase cheap tickets to puerto princesa. we were pretty excited about the trip, and have already figured out our itinerary, until we received bad news today:

CEBU PACIFIC would like to inform you that your flt 5J640 for PPSMNL ETD 1615H on MAR 10,2008 is cancelled. For inquiries or rebooking,pls call 02-7020888

it's definitely not a good way to start the day, but what can i do? so i dialled the cebu pacific hotline, waited for 15 minutes, realized it's going to take longer, hung up, and took a shower.

after that, i tried calling again, and it took 15 minutes before i got hold of an agent. i was informed that cebu pacific is taking out the 415pm flight from their timetable, and the only flight left that day was the 1015am flight.

to cebu pacific, it was just a matter of taking out a flight schedule. to me, it meant saying goodbye to our city tour, because we had allotted our other days to see the subterranean river park, honda bay, and other attractions. a 1015am flight meant we were basically just staying there for two days, instead of almost 3 days. while i'm sure seeing the subterranean river park would be memorable, it's a total waste of time and money if we don't get to see the city.

and what made the situation worse was the way the cebu pacific travel agent, MC, handled the whole thing. when i asked him to just rebook me for the 10am flight, he had the gall to tell me, in a threatening tone, "okay, i'll rebook this flight for 10am, but next time you change it again, you will pay for rebooking charges."

*deep breath*

was it
my fault that you cancelled the flight? i was fine about my original flight until you told me i had to change it. i never wanted to change it, but you gave me no choice, and you're making me sound like i'm being inconsiderate for rebooking my flight.

if he just found a better way to say it, i wouldn't be seething this much. i think i hated the way he handled my call more than i'm hating the fact that i'll be leaving at 1015am instead of at 415pm.

but going back to the cebu pacific foul-up, i don't understand why they have to cancel flights that are already sold. if the route or the schedule wasn't profitably viable, then they shouldn't have offered it in the first place. but since they have, they could have at least just pushed through with the flights that have been sold, and gradually "phased out" that specific schedule.

now, i'm inclined to think that they only offered that flight schedule to make the route more attractive to buyers. now that they have my money, they have no problems changing the schedule.

but what makes this situation even sadder is that i know i won't stop taking cebu pacific flights. they're the only reasonable choice budget-wise. i live to travel, and if it means being inconvenienced like this, i have no choice but to swallow it all.

all i can do is hope that cebu pacific will one day wake up and start thinking about the quality of their service. never mind that your flight attendants can't speak proper english, never mind that i don't have much legroom on the plane. just please, get me to my destination at my preferred time.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

can you believe it's february?

my birthday month is here! can't believe january just whizzed past. and february is always a quick wink of a month, too, so that means i really have to pay attention if i want to enjoy my 26th. :)

got some trips lined up for this month, to make things special on my birthday. don't want to spoil the surprise, so you're just going to have to wait and see where i'll be off to for my birthday.

one of my resolutions was to minimize the costly mini-trips for the year so i can save up for my europe trip next year. :) to compensate for the lack of travels, i've decided to buy a copy of josefina p. manahan's streetbound: manila on foot, which details 22 walking tours of the manila of our affections. i hope it'll tide me over until my planned trips later in the year.