You're probably thinking that I got burnt from the flames fuming out of a hot air balloon. You thought wrong! My skin got burnt not because of the balloon blaze. But because of my exposure to the sun. I brought an umbrella. But the sun was just everywhere! The Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ), where the festival was held was an open space. So the only shelter that one could stay in were the Airplane Hangar and the food tents nearby. Both places were a bit distant from all the action. So Rubel and I just braved the lot with just an umbrella over our heads. But even that didn't protect us. It was actually raining a few days earlier. So I was really surprised when the sun showed up last Saturday (February 23), all mighty and proud.
MY FIRST EVER HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL
Some of my friends have asked how my experience was. Well, other than not putting on sunscreen (who knew it would be that hot at the field?!) and going home with sunburn all over my body, the whole thing was still an exciting one. There were some dull moments. But those were made up by the beautiful Hot Air Balloon Flights, the SUPER AWESOME Meynard Halili Aerobatic Show and the Breitling Jet Team Aerobatic Exhibition. The Paragliding and skydiving exhibitions were also fun to watch. But the first three mentioned were the best ones for me, in terms of being extraordinarily action packed.
The CFZ field was bare and had a lot of scattered straw-like plants all over. But the open space catered several tents that sold food, drinks, clothes, toys and more. I was particularly hooked with the food carts that sold snow cones and cotton candy, as these reminded me of my childhood days. I even went past this guy who was smoking an E-CIG that blew smoke that smelled of Cotton Candy.
FINALLY! ANOTHER PTB MEET-UP!
I also got the chance to meet fellow Pinoy Travel Bloggers during the event. I was able to meet Yaj and Roj for the first time, so I was quite ecstatic when I finally saw them face-to-face. So knowing that we had a very common interest (traveling of course), we clicked right away. Shared stories of our travels was definitely a refreshing start-up conversation.
TIPS FOR FIRST-TIMERS
The sun can get very fierce as the day progresses, and the lines could get long at the gates. But here's several tips that can help you get through your first Hot Air Balloon visit, especially if you're staying for just one day.
1) BRING SUNSCREEN! Re-apply as deemed necessary. Your skin will thank you for it!
2) BRING A TENT if you're staying at the fields the whole day. This could pose very handy should you decide to bring small children with you, or even pets.
3) BRING A MAT, if taking a tent is a hassle. Several spectators brought mats with them, while armored with their handy-dandy umbrellas.
4) PACK YOUR CHANGE OF CLOTHES as the sweltering sun can get you all sweaty and smelly soon after.
5) NO NEED TO BRING IN FOOD. There are several familiar food chains that you can buy from. The prices may be a little steep. But the common choices will surely be at your beck and call.
6) BRING YOUR OWN VEHICLE should you decide to explore outside CFZ, especially if you're not familiar with what public vehicles to ride.
TIPS WHEN COMMUTING FROM MANILA-CLARK-MANILA
We're QC residents. So having the TRINOMA-CLARK AIRPORT LOUNGE near us was a god-sent. We booked our bus tickets there a week before the event, so that we wouldn't have to go as chance passengers during the weekend rush.
Going to Clark via Philtranco bus was a smooth one, since we were dropped off at the CFZ during the morning. But when it was time to go home (we left the venue around 7PM), jeepneys were already full with passengers. Taxi's were very scarce too, so we had to ask around on how to go back to the airport (where the Manila-bound Philtranco bus will be). But since we were running out of time, we rode the jeep from CFZ to Bayanihan Terminal/Main Gate (PHP 7/per pax), then hopped into an airport cab soon after. Since there weren't any direct rides to the airport, we opted to take the airport taxi. It was pretty expensive, which was priced at PHP 350 per way.
Of course, if you have a lot of time in your hands, riding the jeep to the airport can still be an option. According to our cab driver, riding the jeep that will traverse Route 1 will drop off passengers near the airport gate. The walk towards the airport can probably take you more or else 10-15 minutes.
COMMUTING FROM CFZ TO SM CLARK
Rubel and I wanted to check out the Starbucks Store at SM Clark, so that I could buy a Pampanga Mug. So we left CFZ and walked towards the nearest jeep terminal, which was a 2-3 minute walk from the area. We rode the jeep that was bound for the Main gate, and only paid PHP7 each. We got to SM Clark in less than 10 minutes.
If I were to go to next year's Hot Air Balloon Fiesta again, I would definitely book a hotel near the events place. I'm usually after the comfort and of not rushing things whenever I travel, so booking a decent room in Clark could be a good move. I could also bring a vehicle, since Clark is just 1.5 hour drive away from Manila. That would certainly help us from getting lost around the city.
How about you? What was your first experience at the HABF like when you last visited?
Explore & Be Free!