More Wanderings – Plans for February 2013

I haven’t been updating my travel calendar of late, mainly because my travel plans haven’t been  firmed up.  I’m contemplating between two destinations in February 2012 – at this point, I’m happy to take this to a vote.  Which event would you like to hear or see more about?

Hot air balloons at Clark Airfield (photo from Hot Air Balloon Festival

08 – 10 February 2013

Now in its 18th year, the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta began as a drive to boost the local economy after the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in 1991.  It is the biggest aviation sports event in the country, hosting 60,000 visitors from around the world.

Watch the balloons take flight at daybreak, then try your luck at getting a balloon ride at $200 a pop.  Less expensive pursuits include watching aerobatics such as skydiving, remote-control airplane exhibitions and ultra-light fly-bys. For the kids and kids-at-heart, kite-making and kite-flying is also on the agenda.

While you’re in the area, take an extra day to climb the now-famous Mt Pinatubo.  The trip starts with a 4×4 Jeep ride across a breath taking lahar landscape.  Then don your trekking shoes for a two-hour easy climb. The final stretch may get you huffing and puffing, but you will be rewarded with stunning views of the crater lake.  Take a dip – the teal waters are completely safe to swim in.  On the way back, a pit stop at Pinatubo Spa Town can help relieve those tired muscles.

Clark / Angeles City is three hours from Manila by land.  Cebu Pacific Air and Tiger Airways flies direct from Singapore to Clark daily.

Floral Float at Panagbenga (photo from Panagbenga Flower Festival

15 – 17 February 2013

panagbenga (n.) – a native Kankanay word that translates to ‘season of blossoming’

Welcome to the summer capital of the Philippines – Baguio, the City of Pines.  The Panagbenga Flower Festival literally gives the city a chance to bloom.  Located within the Benguet plateau, Baguio’s cool climate allows the growth of perennials not often seen in tropical Philippines.

The festival features a procession of floral floats down Session Road, Baguio’s main thoroughfare.  Festivities are staged throughout the city and in other locations, such as Camp John Hay (a former American army camp) and Burnham Park (named after city planner Daniel Burnham).  

If you’re up for a bit of adventure, the mountains of Sagada are just a few hours away.  Explore caves and waterfalls, and catch a glimpse of the hanging coffins on the mountainside – a burial method that is still practiced to this day.  Trek along paddy fields and visit native Ifugao mountain tribes, whose way of life have remained largely unchanged for centuries.  And if we’re lucky, we might chance upon a tribal festival – nobody really knows when it happens until a few days before!

Baguio is four hours from Clark / Angeles by land, and seven hours from Manila.

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