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Monday, March 25, 2013

Carmen Sandiego Sightings: THE PHILIPPINES

By:  Brittany S

This has been my desktop photo for years.
On Feb 6, 2013, I "celebrated" my two-year anniversary of living in Korea by trying to force myself to stay awake so I can get over my jet lag a little more easily.  I went home for a little over a month and just returned.  While at the airport, I realized that it is time for me to get more pages added into my passport before I start to travel again, otherwise, I may not have a place for a stamp!  What a wonderful problem to have; I have truly been blessed over the past two years.  I have visited:  The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.  So I figured I would share my travel stories in a mini-profile series.

When I was younger, I loved the show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" and have always loved to travel.  Ever since my university days, my family and friends have known me to take impromptu trips places and started calling me Carmen Sandiego since none of them knew where I was most days.  It didn't help that I purchased a red trench coat.  So here are my Carmen Sandiego tales, starting with the Philippines.  Enjoy!


This is where we stayed.  Great location, service, and facility.

Heat exhaustion and one jumbo bed will do this to you.

WHEN:  July 2011, 3 days

WITH:  Two awesome people that I miss dearly!
My travel crew--the Power Rangers.

WHY:  Pfff!  Why not?!

HOW:  Cebupacificair.com

All jokes aside, apparently this is a big problem here.

I researched "Things to do in Manila" and found this to be extremely helpful in planning.


Even though we were only there 3 short days, we had a full itinerary!  We planned to and actually did:
dine at one of the famous restaurants.
pamper ourselves at a really nice spa.
shop til we dropped at the largest mall in Asia.
tour the historical ruins of Intramuros.
play in the water in some way.
try ice cream made with alcohol.
try a liquid nitrogen drink.
ride a Jeepney.

We planned to dine in a really famous restaurant but by the time we figured out where it was and realized it was super far away from everything else we chose to do, we passed.  Instead, we decided to eat at a restaurant across the street from our spa. It was REALLY cheap and A LOT of food! 

So good it'll bring out your inner "Animal Planet."

After we finished eating an entire bird, we moved over to Wensha Spa Center for our pampering.  I received an hour-long aromatherapy massage, a manicure and pedicure (in really comfortable chairs with personal TVs attached), and all the free shabu shabu I could eat for a little less than $100 USD.  A-MAZ-ING.  I was tempted to get another treatment simply because of the price but decided not to overdo it.  The service was excellent.  There were places to lounge and do other free spa things (like sauna, etc) but we had to move on.

From there we visited the Mall of Asia, the largest mall in Asia.  It was sooooooo big!  Can you believe the only thing I ended up buying from there was something to eat?!  I think if I actually lived there I would shop there often.  But given the fact that this was the first leg of a 3 country trip, I didn't want to just make unnecessary purchases.  So, I just walked around and saw what it had to offer.

"Mall of Asia"...my eyes lit up! SO MANY STORES!

It's not real love unless your outfits and bath towels match.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there was something about this place that I found uninviting.

Fashion can leave you hanging?

WARNING: This section contains a picture you may deem inappropriate.

There were some ummm...really interesting stores around town, too.

Yep...these are actual cakes you can order.

From there we toured Intramuros, a historical district with ancient ruins.
We took a tour in a horse drawn carriage that waited as we went inside each place.

We rode in one of these around a historical district.

San Augustin Church

Students leaving school.

MORAL: Sell enough chicken, come up on real estate.

Next we headed to Manila Ocean Park for the "Aquanaut Voyage."  
Little did we know there were other things to do there as well.

SOOO much fun here.  "So many ACTIVITIES!"

Giant Roach-mobile!? EWWWW...

Trick Eye Museum

We attended a brief orientation, were given wet suits, then went underwater with everything from fish to eels to rays.  It was pretty cool having all of them just swim by and even brush up against us.

Getting ready to have a 30lbs helmet dropped on my shoulders...

Underwater adventures!

We spent a bit more time here, eating pancakes and watching the sun set on the waterfront.
It was a perfect way to end an adventure filled day.

We also were able to track down "elfav," a place that is famous for making ice cream with alcohol in it.  You could try ice cream with anything from kahlua to vodka or tequila in it, just make sure you bring your ID! :-)  It was pretty tasty!

You can get carded here!  Alcoholic ice cream!

We still had other objectives on our list, but some of them we just couldn't do.  When we tried to find the nitrogen drink, the place was closed!  It was no longer in business.  That was completely out of the way and very difficult to find, and we still didn't get one.  Oh well.  You live and you learn while traveling.  While we were on our search we saw plenty of Jeepneys.  It wasn't until the last night of our trip that we started to figure out how to actually use one.  Better luck next time.  We stuck with the taxi.

I mean seriously, who wouldn't wanna pray the driver doesn't slam on brakes?

Overall, we all thoroughly enjoyed our trip and were able to do everything we wanted for about $300 each (not including plane tickets).  It was definitely worth the trip!

I didn't find out there was a light rail public transportation system until after we left.  We took taxis EVERYWHERE.  Perhaps for at least one of those places (like the airport) we could have used the light rail.

  • Map out all the places you are trying to go relative to where you will be staying.  Go to places/activities relatively in the same area as each other each day to cut down on taxi costs and commute time.
  • Try not to convert your money to too much of their currency.  Some places will not exchange pesos for anything so you will be stuck with them.
  • Make sure you save about $25USD worth of pesos for the airport!  You will need to pay a fee at the airport when you get ready to leave the Philippines.

Good times...

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