My Filipino Tour: Manila (again)

We had a two hour, basicly non-stop ride to the bus terminal in Manila. We drove right through the heart of Quezon City and Manila where I really able to view this large and populated city.

We got dropped off a few blocks from our accomodations for the evening, The Heritage Hotel. I had to lug my big ass suitcase down the sidewalk and up the over pass. It was a pain in the ass.

Upon arrival we were lucky they had a room ready. It was on noon. We had trouble deciding on how to spend the afternoon. I was very indecisive and not feeling well. And P didn't really care what we did. So we ended up back at the SM Mall of Asia for lunch at a Japanese Tempura restaurant. We walked around and then went back to the hotel.

A cople of hours later decided to go to the Global Beer Exchange. A neat little shop that serves and sells craft beers from the Philippines, which has a small but budding scene, and other craft from around the globe. It was a neat little place. I tried a local Fat Pauly's Pale Ale, a Hitachino from Japan, and grabbed a local brew to bring home.

With my beer craving content, we walked around and found a place to eat dinner. Another good meal consisting of sising. Then it was back to the hotel.
Early morning came and we jumped in a taxi. P wanted to come with me to the airport. I was dropped off at Terminal 2. We said our goodbyes and P left for the bus terminal. I breezed through security. Take note, there is a 550P exit fee to leave the country. About an hour later, I was on my full flight to Tokyo.

I had a five hour Layover in Japan. I walked away the terminal mindless for a couple of hours. Then waited. Eventually board the very packed plane for a twelve hour flight to Dallas. A very angry baby cried almost the entire trip. My headphones could not drown out the noise. Poor kid.

After landing in Dallas it took about an hour to get through Customs. Not bad really as I expected longer. I had a couple of hour layover so I grabbed food and a beer. Eventually boarded my plane for Fort Wayne. A couple of hours later we landed. I grabbed my luggage and drove home.

I was exhausted.

I was happy, for more than one reason, about my trip.

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My Filipino Tour: Angeles City

After a long eight hours of slow, stop and go travel on the bus we arrived in Angeles City around 10pm and in the middle of a huge festival. The Mint Hotel said the street in front of the hotel, a main city street, was closed off and they would send a driver. About an hour later he arrived and it took another hour to get back to the hotel. The traffic was insane.

While we waited P insisted I tried ballut, which is a hard boiled fertilized duck or chicken egg. I have seen it eaten on television shows before and new exactly what it was. For me it's a mental picture of little half formed fetus which gets me queasy. But I tried it. The egg is full of warm broth which is tasty and the egg itself is decent too. Luckily mine did not have any little bones or peak. I ate it. Not sure I would again.

 After getting checked into the room we wondered out in the crowd to check out the festival. It was a madhouse. Wall to wall people walking and sitting with drinks and food. Several sound stages were set up about half block, each playing different music. When you wasn't directly in front of a speaker the sounds all blurred together. We managed to find a seat and ordered grilled chicken intestines and hearts, hot dogs (which are huge favorite in the country), and a pitcher of the national beer San Miguel.

Around 4am I woke up and could still hear the music blasting. I peaked outside the window to find more than a few people still carrying on the party. About 7am, I woke up again and looked outside the window. Almost everything was torn down and the street was open once again. I was impressed.

P is from one of the suburbs of Angeles. She claimed there isn't many sites to see and not much to do in the city. I think she was right. We walked around to find a place to eat lunch and stumbled about "Walking Street". It's the area where where lots of strip clubs and bars which cater to bar girls (prostitutes) can be found. Even before noon people can be seen hustling, trying to get you inside the doors. I saw lots of old men, mainly Aussies, which very young Filipina girls.The majority of the city's tourism seems to be based off these bar girls. It's accepted and tolerated but not really discussed. And being white skinned and walking around with a Filipina woman, who for the record is close to my age, I felt a lot of strange looks upon me the entire time in the city. Maybe I just imagined it because the situation there is rather sad. It's a poor country overall. And lots of young women with little skills thinking the only way out is to get an older Westerner with money. Or just any older man with money to take them away.

We ate light and walked around some more. Did a little shopping at the grocery. Went back to the hotel to relax. Neither of us got much sleep due to the festival. That night we ate the Shanghai China restuarant across the street. Pretty good food. We had lumpia, crab-corn chowder, and pork adobo. Walking around the busy streets with full bellies, we both decided to call it an early night. Back to the hotel we went.

The next day, P needed to run home. I stayed at the hotel and chilled out. When she returned, we decided to go to the SM Clark Mall to waste time in the afternoon. So we hopped one of many colorful jeeepney's (an elongated jeep used for transportation) and took the short ride. 

The mall was very busy. Then it occurred to me that malls in the Philippines are different. It's a place for family and friends to go spend time together. The bigger groceries, pharmacies, and hardware stores are at the mall so one needs to come here more often. Plus in a country with near 90 degree humid heat year round, it's a good place to get under the air conditioning and get cooled off. Little known fact - three of the largest malls in the world are located in this country.

We walked around talking and joking around. We decided to eat lunch at a buffet so I could try many different Filipino foods. Most of what I sampled was delicious. With full bellies once again, we walked around some more until we had had enough and caught a jeepney back to the hotel.

That night we ate late at a pizza place called Yellow Cab. It was decent, not spectacular pizza. Also had pistachio ice cream for dessert, which was very good.

The next morning I woke up with one last day before heading back to the US. We had breakfast and checked out of the Mint Hotel. Which is a decent hotel for a good price. It seems to be more of family oriented and business hotel than one where a good percentage of the clients are bringing in bar girls.

Off to the bus terminal we headed as P decided to join me on my last day Manila. Thankfully, this bus ride was under two hours.

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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My Filipino Tour: Vigan

After exiting the bus and getting to the hotel, My Vigan Home Hotel, we had a couple of hours to walk around the city of Vigan. We had traveled far enough south that the rain had stopped. it was hot and sunny. Vigan City is a tourist town with lots of Spanish infleunce remaining (especially in the architecture) and Catholic symbolism. The main spot where this can be seen is called Heritage Village.

Lots of little shops, eateries, and very neat looking, old buildings. Nuch historical wonderment can be found. The Spanish influence here reminded a lot of the US Southwest. Vigan is also known for empanadas, bibingka (a sweet pastery), and longinissa (a small breakfasst sausage). We stopped and ate each of these items on our walk around the area.

 Afte a few hours, we had a light dinner and retired for the evening. The hotel we stayed out is fairly famous. Apparantly it was on old church and it gets a lot Filipino celebrites. I thought the hotel was decent for decent price, but over all I was not too impressed. They do serve a good breakfast.

We had some time in the morning before check out  and decided to check out a couple of other spots. The first was the free zoo called Baluarte. A short trike drive and we were there.

The zoo was moderately busy. And they had a good amount of animals, though some appeared a little ragged and unhealthy. I guess that the nature of being a free to the public zoo. Not a bad place to spend time and I would recommed as there are a few animals I have never seen before.

 After a couple of hours we headed to the next destination called Hidden Garden. It's a really neat place. A free garden to tour with many different plants species available to purchase. There is an awesome bonsai tree section. Plus lots of other trees, a few caged birds and lizards, and a restaurant. I really enjoyed this place.

We headed back to hotel and gathered our belongings and made a trike trip to the bus terminal. Vigan turned out to be one of the best places visited on the trip and I am glad P made the suggestion. We both had a lot of fun here.

Now it wa time to catch the bus to Angeles City, which is P's hometown. This was another, long and slow bus ride. In total about 8 hours and it was mainly because of the constant stopping in all the small towns for passengers to get on and off. One must have patient for the Phillipine transit system.

It was late when we arrived in Angeles City. And in the middle of a huge celebration....

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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My Filipino Tour: Pagupud

The middle seats in the last row on a bus is not a comfortable place for sleeping.

P and myself drifted in and out of sleep waiting for different seats to become vacant. Towards the final hours of the trip two seats finally became available. We snagged the seats and slept until the we arrived in Pagupud.

The rain was coming down hard in the early hours of the morning. Luckily we found trike drivers at the bus stop. Trikes are small motorcycles with a side car for the passenger or two. A few miles down the dark and wet roads we pulled up to Tartaruga's Hotel & Yacht Club.

Tartaruga's Hotel
I emailed the owners the before to inform them of our early arrival. They said it wasn't a problem and our room would be ready. And much to my surprise they were awake and waiting. Just the first of many examples of the owner's great hospitality.

As the sun rose in the morning the rain kept falling from the sky. Laid around all day and relaxed due to rain pouring down. We went to get some breakfast as the hotel has an outdoor eating area where they cook the meals. Fresh and home grown ingredients, including the rice, are the theme. Plus, the ladies know how to cook. Their garlic rice is the best I have ever eaten. We ate often here over the next three days due to the rain and was never disappointed.

The resort is a family ran business. There are eight rooms in the main building and a couple of detached rooms as well. A back porch area, a small eating area inside, and as previously mentioned the larger outdoor eating area. The rooms are adequate in size, very clean, and extremely affordable. The entire staff is very friendly and eager to help.

The rain never let up on the first day. Constant through the night. We made the most of it by eating, relaxing, having drinks, and chatting a lot with the staff.

Day two came and there was still light rain falling. We decided to brave it and go look around Pagupud. We flagged down a trike and took the short ride. There is not much in the town of Pagupud. One can find a good size market and a few shops for clothing, meat and vegetable, and other items needed (lots of flip flips and sunglasses). There is a small bus depot, a community center, some houses, a government building, a couple bars, and that is about it.

The site of freshly butchered animals left out in the open while as a person waves flies away is an image which will stick in my brain a long time.
After a few hours of walking around and a bit of shopping, we headed back to Tartaruga's for lunch. The sun started to come out in the afternoon. We took the opportunity to walk down to Saud Beach, which was the reason we came here. After a small fee to enter we walked the long, wet, beach.

Saud Beach

Saud Beach
Gorgeous white sands and blue ocean and blue ocean (actually the China Sea) can be found. The beach is uncrowded. On this day we only saw a handful of other people. It's not busy at all and you can carve a chunk of sand all you own. Or one of the many cabanas under the coconut trees if shelter from the sun is what one desires. There is even a look out building for a scenic picnic. Loads of seashells are everywhere, and make for inexpensive souvenirs, and tiny crabs scampering about the sand. Also a long line of vendors selling souvenirs.

We waded through the water. It was cold at first but quickly got used to it after I submerged. The waves were crashing and fast and the undertow was strong. I did not go out far as it could have easily swept me out to see on this day. There is beautiful coastline as far as the eye could see.

Saud Beach

Saud Beach
 After a couple of hours the sun disappeared and the rains came once again. We headed back to the hotel and relaxed the rest of the evening.

We woke up optimistic on day three. We wanted to go to the other side of the bay to walk the famous Bangui Windmills. Unfortunately the rain had other ideas. So once again we missed out on site seeing in the area, with the exception of another quick beach trip, and hung out at the hotel relaxing, chatting with the staff, eating, watching television, and drinking. There is not much else to do around here when the rain is falling hard. We found out from the staff that it is always rainy late November in Pagupud.

Today was Thanksgiving and I celebrated with a delicious Filipono meal.

pancit canton

We had one more day scheduled here but when we awoke, the rain was still falling. After breakfast we decided to call it good and get on a bus to Vigan. So we said our goodbye to the staff and thanked them. We grabbed a trike and headed to the bus terminal. We jumped on a bus to Ilagos where we could make a connection to Vigan. This was a long, slow, and at scary ride. Because it's a bus route there were constant stops. Not to mention the narrow roads full of walkers, scooters, trikes, cars, and oncoming traffic.

Three hours later we arrived and got on a connecting bus. This was a little faster since there wasn't as many stops. Another four hours and we arrived in historic Vigan with plenty of light left in the afternoon to explore.

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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My Filipino Tour: The Flight and Manilla

My job often takes me all across the US but because of one excuse or another over the years, I have never went outside its borders. One thing I promised myself in 2013 was to to travel abroad. Somewhere. Anywhere. There was plans of a trip to Mexico City with a friend, but that fell through at the last minute for reasons I wont discuss here. Suddenly I was left to decide where to go and only four months left to fulfill my ambition.

Like many who want to travel I have a list of places which interest me. I started narrowing the list and checking prices. In the end the destination of choice ended up being the Philippines.

Why the Philippines? Well, I have always had a fascination with Southeast Asia and the country was high on my list. Most people speak English so getting around would be easier. And the big plus was knowing a person who lives there and wanted to travel with me. I booked the ticket for late November.

The traveling to get there is brutal. Looking at your flight itinerary and seeing twenty-three hours can be depressing. It's a long time on a plane. My flight was Fort Wayne to Chicago with a short layover. Then Chicago to Tokyo, a 12 hour flight, with a very short layover. I nearly missed my connection. Then a five hour flight to Manila. Total time in airports was close to 25 hours. I was lucky however in that the long flight to Tokyo was only about half full. There was plenty of room to stretch out . You also get well feed (albeit airline food) and the drinks comes rapidly with free alcohol. Plusthere are plenty of new release movies to catch up on and I did just that in between naps.

After landing in Manila  I actually breezed through entry and customs and money exchange. It took maybe 45 minutes total. I thought it would be longer. Then I went to look my for arranged shuttle to the hotel. As walked out of Terminal 2 to the pick up zone I entered a wall of craziness not excepted. Wall to wall people all searching for their rides or waiting for cabs or shuttles. I have never experienced an airport this chaotic and I have been to every major airport in the US. I could not find my ride who was suppose to be waiting with a sign at the exit point. A gentlemen who works for the airport helped me locate my driver. Apparently I walked right by the driver as he recognized me but in the masses I did not see him at all. By the time he got the car around and we left the airport, it was about an hour later. A short fifteen minute ride and I was at the Nicholas Airport Hotel my stay for the evening.

I got checked in and received a complimentary room upgrade. Nice. It was about thirty minutes before midnight so I headed to the rooftop bar. Unfortunately it was closed. It was supposed to be open. So I headed back to the room to decompress and shower and eventually fall asleep.
Nichols Airport Hotel
The next morning I went down for breakfast. Had a strong Filipino coffee which was great. After a couple of cups the energy surged through me. Too bad that I couldn't find anything good the rest of the trip. Had eggs and toscino (a sweet marinated pork), and rice. All was very tasty. I arranged for a shuttle to take me to the Victory Liner Bus Terminal in Pasay area, where my friend would be arriving. Overall, Nichols had excellent  service staff, with great food, is close to the airport, and all for decent price. Only internet is downstairs though.

I was dropped off at the bus terminal and waited about fifteen minutes before P arrived. This was actually the first time meeting her in person. I met her from a travel website where we got to exchanging message which lead to becoming friends on Facebook which has lead to us talking very regularly. In fact while I was trimming down places to go and told her Philippines was on the list she said "come here and I will join you". That was basically the determining factor.

I had a room booked at the Hotel H20 which is part of a local attraction called Manilla Ocean Park, which is an aquarium type zoo with marine life. A short cab ride later and we arrived at the park. I assumed the hotel was adjacent to this park but instead the hotel lies right in the middle of the attraction.One has to walk through the main entrance of the park to get to the main building where most of the attractions are found. Here the elevators can be found which lead to the hotel on the upper floors. It's a little inconvenient from where you get dropped off.

Hotel H20
I booked an aquarium room which as an wall sized aquarium as part of the wall. How many times will you get that in a hotel room? Not many and it was very cool. I could watch fish swim around for around for hours. The room was adequate size with a large bathroom and free wi-fi access. I would call it an upscale resort and the price reflects it as this was the most expensive place I stayed while in the Philippines. However by US prices, the rate for this room compares to standard hotel like a Hampton Inn. So there is a lot of bang for the buck, so to speak.

The resort has many different eating establishments in it. So we chose one had lunch. We split a dish called congee rice soup, which reminded me more of a rice porridge because it was thick and full of meat and vegetables, and fried squid. Both were good.

We had all afternoon with time to burn, so we bought package tickets to the park which allowed us into four of the attractions. The first was the Oceanarium which turned out to be one of the better aquariums I have been to. They specialize is marine life for the region so I saw a lot of creatures which I had not seen before. There is also a very neat shark and sting ray exhibit here. We spent about 90 minutes touring the attraction.

Ocean Park Manila - Oceanarium
Ocean Park Manila - Shark Exhibit
Jellies Exhibit

Next up was the Jellies Exhibit. It was a space with hundreds of  different jellyfish species. You can watch those things swim through the water. I enjoyed this attraction too as it was very tranquil and beautiful.

We chose the Marine Life Habitat which is basically a sea lion show. We walked in about five minutes after it started. About ten minutes later the show with the sea lions doing minimum interactions with an audience member was finished. Lame. As was the display where the live.

The last attraction we show was Music Fountain Show Revolution. It is an LED light and water spraying show to close out the night. Lots of music and dancers, which was kind of corny, but projecting images on water spray is absolutely awesome. It lasted longer than expected, close to twenty-five minutes.

After the show we wanted to go away from the park for dinner but it was pouring down rain and didn't feel like getting wet. So we picked another of the eateries inside the resort, Gerry's Grill. This time we ordered pork sisig and tinamook and washed it down with San Miguel beer. All items were delicious. With a full belly it was time retire for the evening.

The next day we lounged around for awhile in the morning and opted to head over to the huge SM Mall of Asia. I was surprised to see so many American food chains (McDonald's, KFC, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donut, Krispy Kreme). Also sprinkled in were plenty of Filipino food chains (Max's House That Chicken Built, Greenwhich Pizza & Pasta, Chow King, Shakey's Pizza, Mang lnasal, and Jollibee) plus lots of other restaurants. The usual kind of shops and movie theaters also had residence here.We walked around for a few hours enjoying the air conditioning, ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant called Super Bowl of China, and shopped at the grocery store. Needed some supplies for the trip up North.

I noticed a lot of Christmas decorations up and it was only late November. A little early by most American standards. Come to find out, in case you did not know, the Philippines starts celebrating the holiday in late September. But unlike the US the celebration is more about being with family and appreciation of faith, it is a highly Catholic culture, instead of consumer spending which is how feel America has become. The whole scene is refreshing to witness.

Then it was back to the hotel to pack and do all the necessary things to exit the hotel. A couple hours later we caught a cab to a bus terminal for the over night ride to our next destination, Pagupud. We squeezed onto a bus pulling out of the terminal and was forced to sit in the last two seats in the middle of the last row.

This was going to be a long night.

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Please feel free to share the link but contact me for any other uses or publication. Thanks.