Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Philippines Adventure: Committed to Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising #1

We have made it to the island of Palawan and the city of Puerta Princesa – a first class city. Well, in the Philippines, a first class city is one which has an average annual income of 400,000,000 pesos or more ($11,288,491.18 Cdn). An interesting way in which to define first class. Puerto Princesa has a population of 222,673 people. (Ed. note: I’m not sure if this is an accurate measurement or not, but if you divide the average annual income by the population, it works out to $50.69 Cdn each, annually.FYI Canada in 2006 was $53000. Just sayin….)

Truth in Advertising #2

They tell us that this is just one of many department store chains moving in to the Philippines

They tell us that this is just one of many Chinese department store chains moving in to the Philippines

Truth in Advertising #3

Nothing subtle about the drug trade in Puerta Princesa, apparently.

Nothing subtle about the drug trade in Puerta Princesa, apparently.

Truth in Advertising #4

At least they don't explicitly say she has to be attractive to look at.

At least they don’t explicitly say she has to be attractive to look at.

Truth in Advertising #5

We stayed at one of the finer hotels in Puerta Princesa – The Sunlight Guest House. It was quite unique, I must say. It took up the entire fourth floor of a five story shopping mall, with the fifth floor being devoted to a bar and roof garden. By the look of it, the mall was as successful as say, Westwood Mall in Coquitlam, without Superstore, The Brick, Greg or Gary.  Every room number starts with H – H25 was our room. I suppose H indicates it is part of the Hotel. Below is the floorpan. As you can see, 50% of the rooms don’t have an outside window, so they have a “patio” with a sliding glass door and with bright lights overhead. (See right photo below). They also have windows from the hallways looking in to their “patio”, so not a whole lot of privacy. (Ed. note: Whoops a mistake – the block of rooms on the left don’t have the patio as they have actual windows looking out over the water. Sorry. Too busy to go back into Photoshop and change it.)
“Sunlight” Guest House?

Sunlight Guest House

Sunlight Guest House

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Truth in Advertising #6

For when you need that dozen donuts delivered.

For when you need that dozen donuts delivered.

Truth in Advertising #7

There really should be a limit in what you have to state in your advertising, don’t you think? I mean, how long are these poor people going to be in business with this name?

How do they ever come up with these names?

How do they ever come up with these names?

We did have one interesting experience while in PP. On the way from the airport we rode with an American who claimed that he had a factory in the States which made the best piccolos and flutes in the world and a second one in China which made secondary level ones. He then pointed out a restaurant where he would be playing that night with a couple of other guys. After dinner we walked up there. Now walking in PP isn’t all that easy – no real sidewalks, lots of drivers etc. etc. we walk for about 45 minutes and are just about to go back when there it is – The Rusticana Restaurant and Bar. We go in and say that we just want to listen to the music and have a drink. The waiter just looks at us. The owner comes over and we say it again. He generously says there must have been a misunderstanding – there is no music and he’s likely to know since, after all, he is the owner. We have a refreshing Limoncello on ice, hop into a Tricycle named Romeo and Juliet and go back to the Sunlight Guest House, wondering if the guy even knows what a piccolo is.

Catching Up

When flying to and from Boracay they are quite strict about baggage weight. 10 kgs. checked baggage and 5 kgs. carry-on. We never did figure out why they want your weight too.

Do you get more check in baggage if you weigh 50kg/ Or less if you are 100kg?

Do you get more checked baggage if you weigh 50kg/? Or less if you are 100kg?

Now THIS is a burger! This was at Epic Restaurant in Boracay.

Good luck pal

Good luck pal

The Shoe Blog

These wouldn’t be easy anywhere – I have no idea how she manages to get around the streets of Puerta Princesa without breaking something.

Nicely Painted Toenails, Though

Nicely Painted Toenails, Though

The Philippines Adventure Leaves Boracay

Well here in are in Puerta Princesa edging ever more closer to the end of our marathon holiday – and let me tell you it seems like a marathon. We have had a couple of interesting adventures since last we talked. We finally got down to Puka Beach, the resort’s guests only beach. It was very different from White Beach. Very quiet, very steep drop off, very strong waves.

The colour of the water was amazing.

The colour of the water was amazing.

Very few people

Very few people but …

if you come from China to lay on the beach, make sure you cover up well - and we don't mean with sunscreen.

if you come from China to lay on the beach, make sure you cover up well – and we don’t mean with sunscreen.

20 seconds of pounding surf – but very few people.

It was almost impossible to stand up in the surf – and it would have been impossible to drown. You could get maybe 20 feet out – up to my chest – and the waves would just carry you back to shore. A lot of fun playing in the water. It started to rain about 2:00 so we went back to the room for a nap.

That evening we planned to go to D’Talipapa, (Ed. note: Choose food, haggle, have someone else cook.) but it was still pouring rain. Instead, we went to Aria – one of the best restaurants in Boracay and had two fabulous pizzas on the beach under umbrellas. It was quite neat – almost romantic except for the two little Taiwanese boys (ages 4 and 3) who thought it would be cool to throw a shovel of sand all over their table and ours. Luckily the pizza hadn’t arrived so all that happened was some landed in my wine glass. None got into Terry’s wine glass as she didn’t have one. What?! you say. Why not? you demand. Well let me explain.

Terry’s problem is that generally speaking she only drinks white wine, as you know. She has had very little success finding any decent white here in the Philippines. I figure, if we order the expensive stuff, I’m sure it will be good. It is $80 a bottle, but she is worth it. Terry says to the server “If I don’t like it, we’ll send it back”. He says “OK”. Guess what – she didn’t like it. It wasn’t off, she just thought that it caught at the back of her throat and she didn’t like it. Guess what. They took it back – no problem. Now I don’t know about experiences you have had in restaurants, but mine has been that it is hard enough to convince people to take back wine that is off  – never even tried sending it back because I didn’t like it.

I did make it up to them though. After flinging the sand, the little guys’ father had them come over and apologize. I gave them each a Canada pin and the server pinned them on for them. He looked at me so I gave him one too. His partner came over to the table looking forlorn, so he got one. Then the bartender, then 7 or 8 more servers, then our server came by and said that his two captains would like some too. As we are leaving we get a constant stream of “Thank you Mam Terry” “Thank you Sir Geoff” The other diners must have thought we were someone special – not just someone old.

Saturday morning, while I waited for Terry to come down for another scintillating breakfast buffet (Ed. note: We have come to the conclusion that any place which says “includes breakfast” means “includes minimally stocked breakfast buffet or minimally tasty breakfast buffet”), I handed out some awards to my fellow diners:

Title winners:

1. Winner of the “I can put my bare feet on the chair opposite to me in the dining room and wait for my wife to bring me my breakfast” title – The man across from me

2. Winner of the “I can yell louder than you” title – The woman with the loud, everyone else stop and look at us in an argument with a man who failed to yell loud enough voice

3. Winner of the “We can take more food from the buffet than anyone else here this morning and leave a lot of it on our plates” title – the 5 members of a family  (repeat winners from yesterday)

4. Winner of the “The coffee urn is 4 feet away from the table and so the Filipino busboy must get it for us” title – the 3 male and 3 female individuals who couldn’t serve themselves from the SELF-SERVE BUFFET

5. Winner of the “There is no more room on the plate for food and we still ate it all!” title – the 4 swarthy, husky fit twenty-somethings who must send shivers up a buffet owner’s back when they walk in.

6. Winner of the “Only pineapple today in the fruit section of the breakfast buffet” title – the Alta Vista resort.

(Ed. note: If I was writing in a less politically correct region i.e. no Terry to edit, I would have included the heritage of all of the winners, but that is offensive, I am told. However, I will say that the winners may have come from some of the following areas: the former USSR, Germany, India or Pakistan, China, some eastern European country, Andorra, or Lichtenstein)

Before we leave Boracay and move on to Palawan, a contest. First person to name all four songs correctly wins a prize purchased somewhere on our travels. Good luck!

Well, that’s just not going to work. I have put together a short video entitled “The Street of Boracay” which actually shows the two streets of Boracay – the driving street and the walking “street”. Unfortunately, after 20 minutes of trying to upload it here in Dos Palmas, only 1% has been completed. You do the math. As hard as this is to believe, I may have to wait until I get back to China to have a chance to spend less than a half-life getting it online. I will let you know. However, the contest still holds. First person to name the four songs wins big!

 

The Philippines Adventure – Boracay: Fun in the Sun

(Ed. note: I know I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I saw these two headlines in the Sun the other day:

B.C. delivers ‘fiscal hat trick’ with third consecutive balanced budget
B.C.’s soaring debt no cause for concern: expert

Does anyone see a contradiction?)

Our first day on the #7 best beach in the world, we spent a good 4 hours, in the shade of some palms and under umbrellas, which provide only partial help as the sand is so white it’s reflection keeps the sun intense.  We took turns swimming, then had terrific pedicures from a woman who sanded and sanded our feet until silky smooth.  Only I got polish, in case you’re wondering.

Should have given her danger pay I jumped so much.

Should have given her danger pay he jumped so often. I think ticklish feet is a sign of a sensitive caring individual.

By the time we got home, Geoff was fiery red and broke out in heat rash which is really typical for him.  Today he was trying to track the rash and concluded that, not only did he have heat rash, he’s probably also allergic to chlorine, as the symptoms look very similar.   He’s in denial about having a sun burn though.

Creative employment

Creative self-employment

There are some creative people in the world. Last post we mentioned the typist on the street in Cebu. On the beach there are young kids – 10-12 who will build you a sand sign for a fee and then take your picture beside it. The one above says “Olga Luba 02-16-2015”. Others said “Boracay”, “Just Married” etc. One thing we noticed that although some people try to sell things on the beach, they aren’t aggressive or demanding, which is nice and makes it easier to buy from them.
We have often seen older (almost always white) men with younger (almost always Filipino) women here – sometimes with kids in tow. We make no judgement since they are both getting what they need from any arrangements they may have made. Terry has also commented in the past how some younger caucasian men could never hope to get a woman as attractive as they can here or in China or anywhere else in SE Asia. This guy, however, needs to be judged. He is a pig. As we are walking along behind him he asked the woman “What would you like for lunch? It’s up to you because you know I would like to go back to the room and cover you with ketchup and ….” I started talking to Terry so I wouldn’t have to listen to the rest. Trust me –  I wasn’t trying to listen but he was right in front of us and wasn’t shy about sharing his thoughts in public. Even the woman didn’t seem impressed as there was no reaction whatsoever from her.

You, sir, are a pig!

You, sir, are a pig!

Second day of diving, I took the PADI Discover Scuba course again and went out to a dive site with a group of more experienced divers and my teacher, who stayed with me the entire time.   Not as many fish as previously but a different range of colours and so many sea urchins, anemones and other creatures, including a sea snake. It was creepy in the snake sense but quite beautifully marked in definite black and white stripes wrapped around its body.  We took a speed boat to the dive site where the water was deeper and therefore colder.  By the time we came up, the two Malaysian women on the dive and I were shaking we were so cold.  It got me to thinking: Is scuba really for me?  The cold put me back to when I used to ski.

Certificate from Dive #2

Certificate from Dive #2

If you’ve ever snow skied, you know the drill.  First, dress warmly–not so warmly that you start to work up a sweat when you ski because then you’d be cold.  Instead, warm enough so you stay that way when skiing but freeze when you’re on the chair lift.  Make sure you have mitts, goggles, toque plus your long underwear and snowsuit, then put on the heavy snow boots, grab your skis and poles and trudge through the parking lot to the lift.  Having fun yet?  Scuba is similar.  Put on the wetsuit, add your flotation vest, weight belt, goggles, regulator and various tubes and gauges that hang off the vest and connect to the tank, flippers and then, the TANK.  Sadly, I am so far out of shape that I can’t stand up with the tank on my back and have to be helped up.  How embarrassing!  My instructor no doubt recognised that it might be a problem for me so thankfully brought my tank to the lesson site and later, to the boat.  I managed to push myself to the gunwale in order to do the James Bond back fall into the water, which was quite fun, and thought that I had redeemed myself somewhat, but then underwater, my instructor towed me around quite a bit to help me avoid the coral and animal life.  Meanwhile, one of the instructors was taking pictures of all of us and the things we were seeing.  It was a push to up-sell, largely because I asked if I could take pictures.  The answer was reasonable:  no, because I would be distracted from all the things I have to think of doing, like breathing, clearing my regulator and mask, equalising the pressure in my ears, and so on.

Still walking - but not carrying the tank.

Still walking – just not carrying the tank.

The Malaysian women were experienced divers and travelled with their own regulators and masks and possibly wet suits.  They told me that what we saw in Boracay was nothing compared to what exists in Borneo and Malaysia.  They topped the sale of their country by talking about the food in Penang, which is apparently out of this world, intensely flavoured and spiced.  We may have to visit before heading home.  Geoff’s heat rash should be cleared by then.

I took another chance and had my hair cut and coloured for a very low price, relatively speaking.  The cut is good but when I saw it in the mirror in the room, it was clear that the colour had not taken anywhere except on the top of my head.   There goes another hour of another day.  (Ed. note: Colour and cut – $45.88) Geoff had his cut in Cebu City for $1.79 and it turned out okay. Sigh. (Ed. note: After another visit guess what – colour still hasn’t taken. Sigh. Sigh.)

Apparently, Filipino shops go in for brightly coloured walls.

Apparently, Filipino shops go in for brightly coloured walls. (Ed. note: I look this way because Terry is sitting behind me and I can see her in the mirror shaking her head and looking like he is wreaking havoc on the back of my head. He wasn’t.)

Chinese New Year was last night.  We were told to expect lots of activities but actually there weren’t many.  Some lame fireworks (Hey, we live in China.  These fireworks didn’t even reach the standard of a store opening…or closing) and a dragon dance early in the afternoon.  There were a number of bars and clubs that created fenced seating on the beach and had a DJ come in.  We chose one of these places.  So explain this: as far as we could tell, the “DJ” played no discs.  He started at 9:00 or 9:30 and the music was predominantly a thumping unwavering beat.  After an hour of this, Geoff and I had run out of ironic comments to make to each other about the “music” when the DJ spoke over the beat:  “No music, no lyrics, no stress.”  Geoff described it as “techno crap” but I don’t know.  It seemed worse, just a really sad waste of possibilities.  If you know, respond to the blog, please.  Bruce? Anyone?  Is this the music the young generation are inspired by?  If so, how will they ever connect anything to the music of their times?  Is it all the same–or no music or lyrics?  Do I sound like our parents?

30 seconds of music from Chinese New Year

One rather crass bit of Boracay that we pass by every time we head to the beach is The Hobbit House bar and restaurant.  Their draw?  They claim to have “the world’s smallest waiters” and in fact, are staffed with dwarves or little people (not sure of the PC term here).  I am both embarrassed and hesitant to judge.  It is gainful employment.  What do I know of their lives?  But still, from western eyes, it doesn’t seem right.  Will not be going there.  They do have live entertainment every night, though, and their singers actually sing songs, which is refreshing.

Politically Correct? Does it really matter? After all, hobbits are small.

Politically Correct? Does it really matter? After all, real hobbits are small.

Tonight we are off to D-Talipapa for dinner. It has a wet market on the inside of the square and cooking services/restaurants around the outside. This is what you do. There are about 30 or so fish, meat and vegetable vendors. You haggle with them to get what you want at a price you are willing to pay. When you have what you want, you go to one of the cooking services and for a price of 100 or 200 pesos they cook it the way you want. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Very pretty - hopefully very tasty too

Very pretty – hopefully very tasty too

Very pretty - hopefully very tasty too

Also very pretty – and hopefully also very tasty too

It will have to go some to beat last night though. We went to Paupatri for dinner. The last TripAdvisor review really slammed it – 1/5 but the ones before all gave it 4 or 5. We would give it 5. We had some of the best food ever. At the entrance you remove your shoes and go barefoot. Terry mentioned that she was concerned about the washroom. I thought there might be slippers to put on but no. Terry’s verdict: As spotless as the rest of the restaurant.

Paupatri - Left - The entrance, Right - The restaurant

Paupatri – Left – The entrance, Right – The restaurant

Our Menu

Our Menu

The kitchen - fabulous fresh ingredients

The kitchen – fabulous fresh ingredients

Tacky Photo Time

This cost us 200 pesos - $6.00. We have paid far more for less tacky than this.

This cost us 200 pesos – $6.00. We have paid far more for less tacky than this.

The Shoe Blog

Not a great entry today, but hey most people (at least most most non-Japanese women) wear sandals to the beach.

This woman has no need for arch supports.

This woman has no need for arch supports.

Off to Puka Beach – home to all those puka necklaces you wore so many years ago.

(Ed. note: On a totally unrelated note – for those of you who did not see the SNL 40th anniversary show, PLEASE go on to youtube and find the Celebrity Jeopardy skit and watch for the guy who played Sean Connery – I thought I was going to wet myself laughing!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Philippines Adventure Round Two

(Ed. note: Before going any further: Philippines – spelled with “Ph”, one “l” and two “p”s, Filipino – “F”, one “l” and one “p” – WHY? Okay, rant is now done.)

On our walk in Manila from the hotel to the Mall of Asia, we passed the Philippines Senate buildings. Outside were three shuttle buses – I assume for senator use. Now, what I don’t understand is first, how, if the Philippines are so corrupt as literally everyone we talk to here says, they get their senators to use these and second, could we get our senators out of their limos, private planes etc and into these.

"Oh yes, we'll take the bus..."

“Oh yes, we’ll take the bus…”

When flying to Boracay from Cebu they limit you to 10 kgs. of checked and 5 kgs. of carry-on luggage. We decided to buy a third suitcase and leave some stuff that we wouldn’t need at the Manila hotel and pick it up when we came back. So off we went to the Mall of the Asias (Ed. note: Only mall we have ever been to where you put your shopping bags, purses etc. through a scanner and get patted down by an armed security guard – just like the airport.) We get into the department store luggage department and are almost assaulted by sales people. Each section has 4 or 5 young men hawking their product – Voyager, Delsey, American Tourister etc. See the 2 teal bags just behind the guy in the foreground? His section is that wide and goes maybe 20 feet out from the wall to the aisle. They just come at you the whole time it takes you to walk the 5 foot width and then totally let you go. When you stop, the guys in that section are all over you though. They throw the bags down, step and/or jump on them to demonstrate the durability. It is really quite a show.

Buy mine, buy mine, buy mine

Buy mine, buy mine, buy mine

Terry saw this guy in the ocean from our hotel room. He has some kind of homemade raft – made out of filled buoyant sacks and a yellow bucket. He would dive down looking for something and throw it into the bucket. Don’t know what. I do know there is no way you would get me into that water, letting alone eating something out of it, if that was what he was doing.

Just what he was after we don't know.

Just what he was after we don’t know.

Getting to Cebu from Manila is only a one hour trip – but this woman was asleep before the flight even left the gate!

Looks really comfortable...

Looks REALLY comfortable…

This is a different plane – but same airline.

Air Asia - nothing but the finest vinyl seating - and check out those comfortable arm rests.

Air Asia – nothing but the finest vinyl seating – and check out those comfortable arm rests. On the other hand…

they do have cute flight attendants - both personalities and looks.

they do have cute flight attendants – both personalities and looks.

We saw this a couple of times. You can’t really tell, but this is just a piece of paper or cardboard with the license number printed on it with the words “Lost Plate” underneath them. Good luck.

Try this at home and let me know how it works out for you.

Try this at home and let me know how it works out for you.

Being the flexible travellers we are, we changed out plans while in Cebu and extended our stay on Boracay, eliminating a trip to Bacalod. To do this, I spent three hours on the phone trying to make the change. It wasn’t possible to do online because I had to cancel one trip and use the money in my travel bank to purchase the new flight. It was unbelievable. I summarize:

Please cancel our flight from Boracay to Bacolod and Bacalod to Manila and then book us from Boracay to Manila.

First, I tried to do it on Skype. Bad connections led to frequent disconnects and little understanding. This took almost an hour. I know you don’t believe me but I am telling the honest to God truth. Then it was on to the hotel phone. The total cost of this change will be $32.00 since I am using my travel bank. THEN she comes back and says that my bank has rejected my transaction. There goes hour two. Now we have had a couple of instances where the Visa Fraud squad has gotten involved, but I specifically called them to tell them where we were going so that this didn’t happen. Was I irate? Does Terry like white wine? I get the guy from TD Visa on the phone and rip him a new one without letting him breathe. Then he says, “Mr. Watt I see that transaction and it has been approved. The problem must be at their end.”.Oh dear – now I am forced to ap …apol…apologize. I call the airline back and go through the whole thing again because once a reservation is denied it kicks out all the data input – birthdates, passport numbers, address etc. (Ed. note: Try getting a Filipino to understand Coquitlam) – this time the guy tells me that it is possible I am not using the same email address with them that I have with the bank and if so, when we submit the request it will be rejected – not by the bank but by their system. Who knew there were clairvoyants working for Cebu Air because that is exactly what happened after hour three. Then he tells me that the only way to do it is to go to an organic office (bricks and mortar) and do it live and in person. Off we go to the organic Cebu office – we walk in and get number 53 – they are serving number 37. We finally have a lovely young woman help us – no not the one below. With her I thought I was back in China. The first time #53 came up on the screen it said her and off I went. Then the display was retracted back to #52 and I stood there for 5 minutes waiting. She never once looked up in all that time. It was like – “I don’t see you so you don’t exist.” a very very common Chinese thing.

Hello? Hello? Hello?

Hello? Hello? Hello?

While we were waiting, we watched these two reading something on the right hand guys phone. No, they weren’t together. When he moved his phone and looked around, the guy on the left just adjusted his sitting position so he could continue reading it.

Mind if I read your book?

Mind if I read your book?

Saw this man on the sidewalk in Cebu City. Set up his typewriter and was doing all sorts of jobs for people. Very creative. Not everyone has a computer.

Willing to work

Willing to work

It is amazing how many people you will see on a bus, a tricycle, a motorcycle, a scooter and walking etc.

There are over 14 people on this vehicle.

There are over 14 people on this vehicle.

For all you people out there who castigate religion…

See - the church does some good.

See – the church does some good.

As Terry mentioned last time, you are consistently struck with the poverty in the Philippines. The number of the adults and kids you see on the streets at any time of day is amazing. We have been on the road at 5 to get to an airport or a ferry and it is unsettling to see groups of 3 or 4 10 or 11 year olds wandering – clearly they have been up all night – maybe homeless, maybe just no reason to go home. The photo below is the outside of the Carbon Market. It is a huge vegetable/fruit/meat market just like we have seen in many cities in Southeast Asia. What makes this one different is that they live above their stall. After a while you feel very guilty taking photos of their situation. They always smile or say hi, but I wonder how much they resent us. When we came back to the hotel last night, there were a group pf about 6 hotel employees waiting at the main gate to catch the public bus home. I saw a couple of them looking at the minivan they run as a shuttle for guests. Their look was very sullen – almost angry. It must be so hard to work for the pittance they make and continue to smile and say “Can I help you Sir-Madam”. I have never been known for having a strong social conscience, but…

The poverty can really get to you after awhile

The poverty can really get to you after awhile

They are renovating, refurbishing, redecorating the Chinese Society building in Cebu. It is surrounded with all the normal construction protection. I wonder if Mr. Gokongwei and Mr. Gotianun are heavily backing the project or are being shamed into doing something for their fellow citizens. It is right next door to the Carbon Market.

k

k

We were told that it is mostly very safe to walk in Cebu. We saw guards everywhere though – at the banks and pawnshops they have machine gun looking guns and almost all retail outlets have some official looking person with a gun at the door. These were some of the more blatant “I can’t believe it” ones.

Left - A Grocery Store; Middle - Mr. Donut; Right - Starbucks - STARBUCKS for God's sake

Yellow Circle – Handgun in holster. Left – A Grocery Store; Middle – Mr. Donut – MR. DONUT for God’s sake ;
Right – Starbucks

The Shoe Blog

These are sparkly camouflage. She couldn't have been 5 feet tall without them.

These are sparkly camouflage. She couldn’t have been 5 feet tall without them.

 

 

The Philippines Adventure Begins

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Manila, tired and hungry.  We headed to our hotel, noted the armed guards with under-the-car mirrors and dogs checking vehicles at the gate, then headed into the lobby to discover it was Prom Night.  The place was packed with dressed-to-the-nines kids, age 15-17, we were told.  The noise level was decibel high and Geoff immediately became focused on photo-bombing, leaving me to holler at the clerk during check-in.  Lucky us paid for an upgrade to the 10th floor and missed the pranks on the lower levels, including grads repeatedly opening the “No exit” doors to enjoy the screaming warning.  All in good fun but not sorry we missed it.  The food was great and we only strayed from the hotel to walk to the Mall of Asia and back.  As planned, we spent only two nights in Manila.

Get ready world, here comes the next generation!

Get ready world, here comes the next very well turned out generation!

The first thing that hits you in this country is the poverty; that and unrelenting dust and buildings in various states of repair.  (Ed. note: It is also the 2nd, 3rd and 4th thing that hits you.) Such was our impression driving the short distance from the airport to our hotel which was not all the way downtown but on the ocean relatively close to the airport. We flew to Cebu where it was worse.  The traffic simply didn’t move, the roads were in bad shape and everywhere it seemed that the people lived  in crowded, dilapidated housing.  Lots of salvaged rusting corrugated iron for fences, walls and roofs, not unlike Cambodia.

There are thousands of these little buses. They are all privately owned but are granted a license to serve a particular route. They also have a devotion to the church with many having paintings of Mary on them as well as quotations from the Bible. I think they are are quite common in developing countries.

Love the one in the middle - two buses had to pull in and gas up during their route - full of people.

Love the one in the middle – two buses had to pull in and gas up during their route – full of people.

We learned from a guide that the government does not provide universal education, that only people with money can afford to send their children to school. On Bohol, another island nearby, our guide guessed that 75% of the population  could not afford to send their kids to school.  Bohol, however, was much less crowded and cleaner, with a slower, more pleasant way of life.  Our guide earned 250 pesos a day, the equivalent to $7.03 (it is possible he was angling for a tip but still).

We saw farmers harvesting rice by hand, lifting laden baskets over their shoulders, then squelching through the mud and across the street to deposit it near the thresher that separates the grain from the chaff.  All along the roadside were tarps covered with unhulled rice drying in the sun.  The farmers  help each other during planting and during harvest as their plots are small, passed down through the family and divided many times, like was done in the seigneurial system in Quebec.

Look closely at the middle photo. That is the very sharp  weapon he uses to cut the rice plants stuck in the middle of his waistband. I don't know how much those baskets weigh, but imagine you could easily fall...

Look closely at the bottom photo. That is the very sharp weapon he uses to cut the rice plants stuck in the middle of his waistband. I don’t know how much those baskets weigh, but imagine you could easily fall…

In Cebu, I went scuba diving for the first time.  It was marvellous and my teacher was  positive and supportive.  It is a little terrifying when you first go below the surface but he was very patient and gave me as much time and encouragement as I needed to feel quite comfortable and competent. We went for a “fun dive” which means we went no deeper than about 20′.  I’m going to go several more times before we leave, but not ready to become certified.

We are only going to accredited, certified diving schools. Doing lots of reference checks, Ken.

We are only going to accredited, certified diving schools. Doing lots of reference checks, Ken. (Ed. note: Besides, why should I be the only one with a  death defying experience!)

If you go to Cebu City (which I don’t recommend you do), you could do worse than stay at the funky Henry Hotel.  Some mad interior designer/artist in the style of Peter Max has painted every room and even some furniture in a unique way and the staff are young and hip and a lot of fun.

Terry in a Bug on the second floor and in an Alice in Wonderland chair in the restaurant,

Revived Terry in a Bug on the second floor and in an Alice in Wonderland chair in the restaurant,

On one hand they have this very cool Smiling Man greeting you in the lobby, on the other hand there are no outlets in the room capable of accommodating the kettle for tea/coffee so out in the hall you go.

On one hand they have this very cool Smiling Man greeting a tired Terry in the lobby, on the other hand there are no outlets in the room capable of accommodating the kettle for tea/coffee so out in the hall you go.

Down-side is the food–poor at best.  I adopted my friend Barb’s method for getting a substantial breakfast with slim pickings:  I ordered one fried egg, slapped it between a piece of toast with some crisp bacon and jam and voila, a breakfast sandwich.  The good news is that there are a few good restaurant choices in the little complex near the hotel.  We had amazing Italian food, of all things. Even though they didn’t really have a table for us, we asked if we could sit at the smoker’s table outside, which was just fine.  Some of the best pizza ever, directly out of the roaring pizza oven near our seats (yes, it was hot and no, the smokers did not impinge on our space).  The other downside of the hotel was really the traffic, which was just impossible and made it much more inviting to eat where we were.

That's the VERY hot pizza oven ten feet behind Terry.

That’s the VERY hot pizza oven ten feet behind Terry.

So, after 4 days, we flew to Boracay (12 degrees north of the equator–Singapore was 1 degree north), a place that has come highly recommended by my son Joe and our friend Greg Corry.  We had booked a place called Palm Breeze, which has a deluxe location with great views of the beach and ocean. So, for the first time on this trip, our flight gets us in to Caticlan and the short drives and boat connections gets us to our hotel before noon.  Yay!  No wasted day.  We can be down on the beach in no time.  At check-in we are told that we have been given a free luxury up-grade to the place above the main complex.  Okay, sounds good.  First, 3 flights of stairs–Geoff still struggles a bit (Ed. note: A LOT !!) with stairs.  No one to help us so we tote our bags almost to the top when our host notices that Geoff is gasping.  Then she calls to a young man who mysteriously appears to help, however half-heartedly.  It turns out to be a complete house with numerous bedrooms, a living room, a family room, a huge kitchen, even a suspended punching bag on the deck.  We can use the whole house, we are told.  Our room is huge, too big really, as is the whole place.  We wander around a little. In the kitchen, there is a strainer in the sink with lots of cooking remains.  On the counter is a plate of leftover rice with a fly cover on it.  In fact, there is a rice cooker, warm, in progress!  What the heck is going on here?  The young man I mentioned?  He also is staying here!  Bizarre.  We are up for adventure but not remotely interested in sharing house with a strange man.  Off I go to find the hostess and remind her that we have been confirmed for the Jasmine Suite, which we want, and not the house, which we do NOT want.  She says a lot of things and confirms that they don’t have a regular room for us (it’s been double booked).  When I go back to tell Geoff, there is yet another young man getting lunch in the kitchen and gives me a friendly wave.  Just how many people are living here?  I don’t want to know!  Geoff does a search and finds that we can get into another place, which we book, then head to the office for a refund.  She gives it willing, knowing full-well the situation is ridiculous. (Ed. note: Want irony? Look it up in the dictionary and see a picture of Geoff on stairs! Remember that one of the reasons we moved was because of the 3 flights of stairs? Well here we have 4 1/2 flights.)

So, we’ve moved, we’ve had a stroll of the beach, eaten a great lunch of fish tacos and cold beer, found out how we secure sun chairs and umbrellas, sussed out the best dive shop, bought some wine for the room and are now relaxing around the infinity pool, away from the crowd.   The sand is incredibly white and the water warm.  Lots of people, mainly young people, but we like young people.  Life is good!

Terry's first San Miguel in Boracay. They serve it with a napkin wrapped around the top - very hygienic. The view from our lunch table looking through the palms at the world famous White Beach.

Terry’s first San Miguel in Boracay. They serve it with a napkin wrapped around the top – very hygienic. The view from our lunch table looking through the palms at the world famous White Beach.

Ignore the construction area in front of us - we are overlooking the ocean and...

Ignore the construction area in front of us – we are overlooking the ocean and…

the very empty golf course.

the very empty golf course.

Another lasting impression of Filipinos–they to seem love pap music.  We’ve heard covers of every schmaltzy love song ever written in the 60s and 70s–Tie a Yellow Ribbon twice already!  Every cab driver plays the same station, and every song is about how much the singer is going to cherish their love every day, etc, etc.  Lots of Canadian content though–Bryan Adams “Everything I Do,” Ann Murray singing a fairly risque song about waiting for her lover to touch her (really, Ann!), Celine with the most ‘recent’ tunes, plus cover cover cover of The Carpenters, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka. We thought for a moment that we were really hearing Tracy Chapman but no.  We’ll let you know when we hear a current tune.  Looking forward to the live entertainment down on the strip tomorrow night but we hope it’s not what we’ve heard so far.

The Shoe Blog

Yes indeed, these wedgies are the best shoes for sand. Apparently Japanese women think so since this one represents many, many of them. Although this sand looks firm, it usually isn't.

Yes indeed, these wedgies are the best shoes for sand. Apparently Japanese women think so since this one represents many, many of them. Although this sand looks firm, it usually isn’t.

Cleaning Up Singapore

We did not have too many “adventures” in Singapore. We resisted buying a handmade rug to have shipped home, bought some cloth for Judy in China to make some shirts out of for us, visited the Gardens By the Bay twice, were disappointed with the hotel, and met our first billionaire – yes billionaire.

We started our day on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Hotel – the one that looks like it has a boat on top of it. We were at the prow.

Nice glasses of wine and

Nice glasses of wine and…

Nice view too

Nice view too. Just a small sampling of the many many ships in the harbour.

Singapore makes its money from tourism, banking and being a huge container port. Highest individual tax rate is 25%. You can get cheap medical treatment or expensive medical treatment; you can find cheap accommodation or find expensive accommodation; you can get cheap meals or get expensive meals.

Over the past couple of years whenever we have come across people from Singapore and asked them what there is to see or do, they have been very hard-pressed to come up with anything. Don’t know why. The Gardens by the Bay complex – 101 hectares – is pretty impressive. Lots of outdoor greenery plus two large conservatories. One has plants and flowers from all of the regions of the world, and a larger one has vegetation from all the different elevations in a tropical climate.

Flower 1

Flower 1

Flower 2

Flower 2

Carnivore Flower 3

Carnivore – Flower 3

The elevation tower of plants was pretty cool. It had different climactic conditions as you climbed – getting cooler with the elevation. It also had a 6 story waterfall.

Looking up at the Planted Elevation Tower  - and looking back down as well

Looking up at the Planted Elevation Tower – and looking back down as well

This is the year of the ram, or goat or sheep depending on who you ask. There were several of these types of wooden sculptures throughout the buildings.

This is the year of the ram, or goat or sheep depending on who you ask. There were several of these types of wooden sculptures throughout the buildings.

There was also a very cool wooden dragon.

There was also a very cool wooden dragon.

We take photos the old fashioned way - of each other. No stupid tourist selfies for us!

We take photos the old fashioned way – of each other. No stupid tourist selfies for us!

Sunday we started off with a western style breakfast. As I said in a Facebook post “The creamiest scramble eggs ever, the sweetest roasted cherry tomatoes ever, the most flavourful fried mushrooms ever, the most incredible sausage ever, the most perfectly toasted brioche ever and the finest latte this side of anywhere!” Now my personal dietician was across the table, so how bad could this have been for me?

From there it was off to an unusual museum – The Red Dot Museum. (Ed. note: They seem to use the term museum for gallery here.) The museum” pieces are not artifacts, but rather winners of global design contests for new or improved products. The range was fascinating.

Compression Hiking Socks

Compression Hiking Socks – do you have yours yet?

The Picus - a piping tool for bakers

The Picus – a piping tool for bakers

A power wine aerator for those too thirsty to wait or double pour.

A power wine aerator for those too thirsty to wait or double pour.

Ski Boots - no comment

Ski Boots – no comment

A new and improved vacuum cleaner for "the little woman in your life" - no it didn't really say that.

A new and improved vacuum cleaner for “the little woman in your life” – no it didn’t really say that.

A Smart Waffle Iron. It did several things which I don't remember, but I do remember "an enlarged overflow channel to catch AND cook excess batter"

A Smart Waffle Iron. It did several things which I don’t remember (Ed. note: Not smart enough, I guess), but I do remember “an enlarged overflow channel to catch AND cook excess batter”

Who doesn't need a patio umbrella with built in lights?

Who doesn’t need a patio umbrella with built in lights? Brilliant!

All in all, it was a very interesting, albeit unusual, place.

Next time you get to Singapore you may want to find this shop. It is three stories – each one progressively larger than the one below. It is crammed with stuff – no themes and anywhere there was a space to put something the owner put something. Reminded me of someone’s garage…

And proud of it

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure

They are preparing for February 18 and Chinese New Year

Year of the Ovis Aries

Year of the Ovis Aries

a

If one was suspicious, one might wonder about the individual who made and placed these lanterns. The two on the left look suspicious to me. On the right the gold coins bring good fortune.

Meet Tom Kaplan

Tom Kaplan

Tom Kaplan

Sunday evening we went to Blue Ginger for dinner. We had a wonderful time for three reasons. First, the food was fabulous. Second was Tom Kaplan. A group of five came in and were in discussion about where to sit with a couple of them wanting to go upstairs and a couple to sit next to us. I said to one of them “The sooner you sit, the sooner you can get to drinking” “I like your style” he says and sits down the rest following. (Ed. note:It’s a small world aside: “Where are you all from?” “U.S. and Canada” “Where in Canada?” “Vancouver” “Where in Vancouver?” “Port Moody – Just off Forest Parkway”)  They said something to him and he replied that he and I were bonding. Then he looks at my shirt, which is funky large cat thing and says that he loves my shirt. He says that he is THE big cat guy.  Told him he would have to pay me $100. He had it out in a flash – but since I had nothing to wear home, I told him I would send it to him and got his card. Now, remember, I know nothing else when I made this commitment. I get home and look him up. He is worth – sit down – 1.3 billion US dollars and heads something called Panthera which is a charity to save big cats. He and his wife, over the past 5 years, have donated a total of $75 million to the cause. I am going to send the shirt and give him three options. 1. Look at a post about spreading kindness and carry it on, 2. Donate $50 to his favourite charity, if he has one, 3 Buy me a glass of single malt scotch if our paths ever cross again. I am playing dumb (easily done) about knowing who he is.

THE SHIRT

THE SHIRT

At the Singapore Airport was this piece of art (Ed. note: You may need to give it time to load and I suggest you go to full screen for the best effect. There is only background noise. Terry could have stood and watched it for hours!)

 

The Shoe Blog

Love the stilettos

The Third Reason for Sunday evening’s enjoyment..

 

 

 

And on to Singapore

The list keeps growing of major world cities I never expected to see – Shanghai, Beijing, Jiaxing, Kuala Lumpur – and now Singapore. Coming in from the airport, you are immediately struck by the buildings and the cleanliness. Both are very impressive. Unusual shapes and styles. I freely admit that I don’t get to downtown Vancouver very often, but I doubt they would rival Singapore. Even a government building was cool with multi-coloured window frames. (Ed. note: Sadly, no photo of that one. I do have several photos which I will put out in a separate posting.) 

To get from KL to Singapore we travelled to KL’s second airport – it cost 1.3 billion dollars and was built specifically to handle low cost airlines. It is very nice and has lots of food choices – as opposed to most Chinese airports which are very nice but have minimal food options. This is great if you have time to spend. It also has visual teaching aids.

I'm surprised we haven't seen this in China

I’m surprised we haven’t seen this in China

We did a fair amount of research on Singaporean food and it all said that Kaya toast is the one to have. I don’t think we did quite enough homework – maybe just got the name. Kaya toast is toasted bread filled with butter and kaya, a jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk and pandan leaves. The dish flavours is enhanced when it is matched with half-boiled eggs (Ed. note: If they were to be half-boiled, I think ours were slightly underdone), and hot tea or black coffee.

Kofa Toast - a Singaporean breakfast staple

Kaya Toast – a Singaporean breakfast staple. The coffee was fabulous and we soldiered on through the eggs, thinking of you ,Ria with every single, runny bite!

We have seen line-ups like this in different places. This shop – Lim Chee Guan is sandwiched between two others which sell exactly the same thing. Sliced Pork or Pork Floss. But Lim must do a really good job since they are the only ones who had a line-up no matter when you want. They weren’t far from our hotel (Ed. note: which I managed to book right on the edge of Chinatown) so we went by frequently.

You want pork - or pork?

You want pork – or pork? The sliced pork is pounded thin like pemmican or jerky.

Speaking of Chinatown, we were looking to buy some wine and asked the receptionist in a lovely spa where that would be. She said that would be at the grocery store in Shinatown (as in ssshhh) Mall out a block away. Turns out the mall is Chinatown Mall – just as it sounds.

No, I don't care how much you pay me. Somethings just don't belong in porridge!

No, I don’t care how much you pay me. Somethings just don’t belong in porridge!

I know you have all heard of the strict Singapore laws, but I tell you. When we were flying in and about to land, they come on and list all the weapons which are illegal to have in Singapore – knives, nunchucks, handcuffs, pepper spray etc etc. Then there is a pause and she comes on to say “If you are caught smuggling in illegal drugs, the penalty is mandatory death.” Now we knew that, but when those words come at you, it is still a shock.

This sign was at the back of the building which housed the “Ministry of Conventions and Centres”

Must be quite the government convention centre

Must be quite the government convention centre

The transit system around Singapore is good – subways and els. It might drive our good friends at “home” crazy though. The actually STAY in line until everyone has gotten off and THEN get on. They also get up for older people to give them their seat. This is quite unusual since the population of 5.5 million people is 75% Chinese.

There were twenty or so lines just like this.

There were twenty or so lines just like this.

Now I Don’t Know…

much about art, but I know what I like. We went to the Singapore Art Museum. It was interesting and really did make me think about the concept of art. These are some examples.

This artist “illustrated” the Eskimo (Ed. note: Their word not mine) in which the wolf comes across this knife which has a little meat on it and starts to lick the knife, cutting his tongue and then dying as he drinks his own blood. The white is a field of bicarbonate of soda.

Based on an Eskimo legend.

Based on an Eskimo legend. – Art?

This is a mass of hair – human and animal. It represents the changes women have undergone over the years –

An illustration of how times have changed for women

…I just have no idea how. – Art?

Now, there was also Performance Art. This was a 6:28 video. The heart is frozen milk and the artist is the guy underneath. Every five seconds the video switches from the heart to him and as the milk melts, it drips on to his face – landing just above his upper lip. We saw the first couple and that was about it for us. Apparently his face becomes quite a mess. As with all art, the meaning is open to the observer. My meaning is that one has to be a little off to put a some kind of weird dental device in one’s mouth as a frozen milk heart drips onto one’s face.

Not what one call riveting entertainment

Not what one call riveting entertainment but Art?

We keep telling the kids that you cannot just take someone else’s work, change a few of the words and then publish it as your own.  On the left is the Jean-Baptiste Greuze, La Dame de charité (1775), on the right is The Charity Lady, by Wong Hoy Cheong (200?). To be fair, he did note that it is taken from the original and just modern Chinese characters have been inserted (Terry’s ed note:  the new one on the right was a photograph; the left, an oil painting). But isn’t there a whole world of ideas ou t there without using an old one? Of course he did a movie as well – Doghole, which is an examination of the treatment Malay prisoners of war received from the Japanese during WWII – but that’s  been done too, I think (Terry’s ed note:   New interpretations and many themes recur in literature and art. Not too unusual, I don’t think).

Plagiarism - or Art?

Plagiarism – or Art?

What is this you ask. Good question. This piece is approximately 2″ by 2″. It is a black background and on the front is –

Dust, yes dust...

Dust, yes dust… It was removed from some painting which was over 100 years old and designed to show how we are connected to the past. Art?

I have no idea how many of these brass balls there were, but lots. They were in a perfect sphere about 8 feet across. It was interesting, though, that from a particular angle it appeared to have sharp corners.

Now this is art!

Now this is art!

We mentioned on FaceBook that we had been to the Gardens by the Bay on our first night. These are huge metal trees – about 8 stoies high. with a walkway between there of them. There are somewhere in the 9 to 10 range. Anyway, while having a drink we get to talking to the people next to us.

The trees at dusk

The trees at dusk

Every night at 7:45 and 8:45 there is a 12 minute light and music show. It is about 8:30. They tell us that they saw the 7:45 show and we must see the 8:45 show. AND we must lay on our backs and look up. It was, according to one of them, “the most spectacular thing I have ever seen.” You know where this is going, don’t you. To be fair, they did say that they came from a small town outside of Perth, but they had been to London last year. Anyway,

View looking up

View looking up. Throw in some lame music and this is what you get for 12 minutes. Lights changing colours, moving up and down the branches blah, blah, blah. (Ed. note: If you are really interested – and bored out of your mind, let me know and I’ll send you the video of the entire thing!)

The trees from afar.

The trees and the marina Bay Hotel in the background. Cool shot of the lights, too.

The trees and the marina Bay Hotel in the background. Cool shot of the lights, too.

This is the decoration outside our room – 1003 – at the Dorsett Hotel. I have no idea why they chose this.

Why?

Why?

The Shoe Blog

I continue to make every effort to get shots of only shoes which have actually been bought, but this place was too much to pass up. The entire shop was in sparkles and sequins. How could one ever find what one wanted without being blinded?

High enough?

High enough?

 

Birds of a Feather

Day 3 in KL was dedicated to headlines you aren’t likely to see anytime soon in The Vancouver Sun – or Province but make the New Strait’s Times, The Malay Craft Village, Central Market (Ed. note: aka KL’s City of Crap), The Bird Park, Petronas Towers and The Fight!

Headlines You Aren’t Likely To See Anytime Soon In The Vancouver Sun – or Province But Make The New Strait’s Times

That would be 1 600 000 people joining the PM...

That would be 1 600 000 people joining the PM…

This story started with the telling of a 5 year old boy who fell to his death from the 8th floor balcony after the maid left him alone to go shopping. If that wasn't an accident, what was it?

This story started with the telling of a 5 year old boy who fell to his death from the 8th floor balcony after the maid left him alone to go shopping. If that wasn’t an accident, what was it?

Yep, THAT'S the way to respond to a bomb threat - with an overwhelming display of military force.

Yep, THAT’S the way to respond to a bomb threat – with an overwhelming display of military force.

I guess non-stepchildren are immune - or on their own!

I guess non-stepchildren are immune – or on their own!

And the best one of all:

Can you just see the BCTF on this one! LOL

Can you just see the BCTF on this one! LOL

After a terrible breakfast at Starbucks, we were off to the highly touted Perbadanan Kemajuan Kraftangan Malaysia or Craft Market. There are twenty to thirty small buildings which are home to artisans and artists. It was interesting to see and chat with almost all of them. Terry “had the opportunity” to spend about 20 minutes listening to one man talk about his speciality – carving noses. Ask her when we get home about it. She was fascinated – and also learned that she has a Scottish nose – which came as a surprise to her since her ancestors are from Poland or Romania. You should be able to tell how exciting the place was by all the photos we have of it.

From there it was off to the Central Market which has been there since 1868. I wonder if it sold the same type of tourist junk then as they do now. Having said that, I did manage to find a tailor who was selling some really nice things – I think I will order one more to be made and delivered to me. (Ed. note: When the  best we can do is a photo of shirts I bought, you have to know it wasn’t very good.)

shirts

In Kuala Lumpur they make a big deal of only taking metered taxis and they say right on them that it is a metered taxi – no haggling. So it was a little surprising when we said to the cabbie that we wanted to go to the bird park and he said 15 Ringits – we say – “meter” and he replies that he won’t be able to get a fare back. We finally succumb and agree. Once we get there, there are tons of cabbies waiting for fares. Ripped off again.

The bird park is the World’s Largest Free-flight Walk-in Aviary, home to 3000 birds of more than 200 species and loads and loads of bird … stuff. It was quite interesting, though. I couldn’t begin to tell you what most of these are and I am very disappointed that I have yet to learn how to automatically play music with photos but, ZZ Top’s “Legs” and The Who’s “Who Are You” would have fit in perfectly for a couple of these.

Top - Everywhere these three went it was a line.  Bottom: The Rhinoceros Horn-Bill

Top – Everywhere these three went it was a line. Bottom: The Rhinoceros Horn-Bill

Who remembers Tom Peacock?

Sadly, the magnificence of the very nosy peacock's mating dance usually showed their feathers quite beaten up when they did open up.

Sadly, the magnificence of the VERY noisy peacock’s mating dance usually showed their feathers quite beaten up when they did open up.

Whooo Are You?

Bottom left: I stood waiting for probably 10 minutes waiting for this guy to look straight back at me. I swear, he has the Watt eyebrows

Bottom left: I stood waiting for probably 10 minutes waiting for this guy to look straight back at me. I swear, he has the Watt eyebrows

Our fine colourful  feathered friends

Some of our very colourful fine feathered friends

Some of our very colourful fine feathered friends

ZZ Top’s “Legs”

Lower left - there was an English man who literally ran down the path to get a photo of the Scarlet Ibis. I don't know where he thought it was going to go. Top Right - his knees go both ways.

Lower left – there was an English man who literally ran down the path to get a photo of the Scarlet Ibis. I don’t know where he thought it was going to go.
Top Right – his knees go both ways.

This guy was missing the point. He was taking a photo of his friend while holding the "Selfie Extension". Ah well, it takes all kinds.

This guy was missing the point. He was taking a photo of his friend  (his feet showing just to the left) while holding the “Selfie Extension”. Ah well, it takes all kinds.

And speaking of it takes all kinds – tacky photo time.

We both were waiting for a souvenir of the parrots visit to be left with us - luckily this was the only one.

We both were waiting for a souvenir of the parrots visit to be left with us – luckily this was the only one.

Then it was back into one of the metered cabs where we paid a flat fee (???) to go to the Petronas Twin Towers, now the tallest twin towers in the world at 1242 feet to the roof and 1230 feet to the 88th floor. (Ed. note: The cab driver keep telling us that you have to line up first thing in the morning to get a ticket. At 4:40 we bought a ticket for the 5:00 show.) Did anyone else see Entrapment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones? We walked across the same skybridge they did, which was only 41 floors up before going to the top. They are clearly security conscious and move you through in military like precision. No bags, 15 colour coded viewers at a time, lots of security guards, line-up, wait, move, line-up, wait, move etc. When they call your colour, do what they tell you.

I guess this falls into The Guess Who's "I Can See For Miles" (Ed. note: One of the best ever songs - and the joke is not on you!)

I guess this falls into The Guess Who’s “I Can See For Miles” (Ed. note: One of the best ever songs – and the joke is not on you!)

 

It is difficult to get perspective but there are large earth moving vehicles down there, somewhere.

It is difficult to get perspective but there are large earth moving vehicles down there in the construction area just above the roof with the red beams on it, somewhere.

They look really cool at night - like they are melting. Sadly we didn't have the right camera.

They look really cool at night – like they are melting. Sadly we didn’t have the right camera.

And now, we present

The Fight!

When we went to Taman Negara on Tuesday, on the way back our guide took us back through an area called Kampung Baru which was an area that served Malay styled street food. Our taxi driver had no idea where it was, although it is quite well known and neither did his friend whom he called. (Ed. note: We walked back to the hotel after dinner – that’s how far it wasn’t!) After going twice as far as he needed to, he finally located it. We had seen a really good looking seafood place the night before, but alas it was closed on our night. We decided to try Masmerah.

I think either: 1. They didn't  plan out how much space they had for TomYam Seafood or 2. They didn't have enough rope or 3. They don't know how to spell.

I think either: 1. They didn’t plan out how much space they had for TomYam Seafood or 2. They didn’t have enough rope or 3. They don’t know how to spell.

The waiter who finally brought us menus, maybe didn’t work too much or was new. He spoke English, but couldn’t seem to find where the Vegetables on the menu were. It was in Malay, we couldn’t be expected to find it. Since it was a Muslim restaurant (remember that), there was no alcohol/beer served. However, when we finally got the food, it was very very good. (Ed. note: A first. We have eaten in many, many street food cafes throughout Southeast Asia both at lunch and dinner. This was the the first time we actually saw not just one, but two large rats scurry by about 8-10 feet away.. One disappeared down a drain and the other under a parked truck. Like any good coward, I immediately put my feet up on the table base.)

Anyway, at the table next to us were these two young women. Terry’s hypothesis is this. They don’t like each other but their boyfriends do. They got all dressed up for a big night out but instead the boyfriends decided to send them out for take out to a place where rats scurry by. In the twenty to twenty-five minutes they waited for their take out order to show up, this was the ONLY time they looked at each other. Friends? Not much.

My hypothesis – I don’t care what happened, I’m just glad it did. I took a few photos of them and luckily got these three to combine into a triptych. It looks more like a married couple fighting than two women out for the evening, don’t you think? What I wouldn’t have given to be able to follow along with them for the next few hours.

Love Love LOVE this one!!

Love Love LOVE this one!! (Ed. note: No, the second one didn’t turn into a Muslim woman – she is just leaning back)

Now remember that I said this was a Muslim Restaurant? Well the one in the front, when she stood up, had a slit up the back of her skirt which stopped a good centimeter short of her butt. Thus, she had to carry that big purse behind her to cover up the exposed thighs. Sad, but true.

 The Shoe Blog

It isn't so much the shoes, as it is the fact that the entire time that right foot kept tapping the ground - and I don't think it was to scare away any rats!

It isn’t so much the shoes, as it is the fact that the entire time that right foot kept tapping the ground – and I don’t think it was to scare away any rats!

 

Taman Negara, Malaysian National Park

(Ed. note: Before turning this over to Terry for her thoughts, I have a little quiz for you: What is this?)

See the answer after you read the blog.

See the answer after you read the blog.

Day two in Kuala Lumpur had us up at 4:45 to meet our guide and start the long drive to Taman Negera, about 4 hours north east of KL (KL is what the city is commonly named).  Our driver, Jack, was a lot of fun and full of information.  The sun doesn’t come up till after 7:00am so he had lots of stories for us before we could see the scenery, ‘full of nature.’  The first was about the Hindu festival, Thaipusan, taking place at the near-by Battu Caves. During the days of British colonisation, the British understood that the best way of ensuring this massive cave (big enough to hold a football game inside with a 3 storey ceiling) was preserved forever was to make it into a religious shrine.  All the hills around the cave have since been levelled and planted, so I guess they knew what they were doing.  Now, once a year, believers who want to improve their lot, protect a loved one or pay penance for some misdeeds take part in the colourful 13km parade to the caves by pulling wagons by ropes on hooks pierced through their skin, then crawling the 500+ steps to the shrine.

Looks like fun to me...

Looks like fun to me…

Look it up.  Some 1.6 million people made the trip to KL to take part or look on.  Weird, as Jack said.  So we didn’t go there.

Once the sun came up, we saw that much of Malaysia is planted in palm trees, used for palm oil, the worst of all oils (I believe) and used in lots of fast foods and snacks (Ed. note: I do believe there are hundreds of millions of them in Malaysia).  These plants are massive, with some fronds 10-15 feet long.  We learned that they take 7 years to become fruitful, then produce flowers all year round for up to 35 years.  We witnessed vast swaths of hideous landscape where palms had been clear-cut, having reached the 35 year point, but upon more careful examination, we could see that new palms were already planted next to the rotting stumps of the old palms, which are used to fertilise the soil.  So it was an eco-friendly environment, even while producing an unhealthy product.

One of the clearcuts we saw.

One of the clearcuts we saw.

Half way to the park, we stopped at a roadside cafe and joined the locals for breakfast–Nasi Lemak for me and the same, with a side of tripe (are you kidding me?!) for Geoff (Ed. note: Fantastic! And it certainly beat breakfast the next day at Starbucks!).  Nasi Lemak is rice cooked in coconut milk, with a fried egg on top, sambal sauce with dried anchovies and peanuts on the side.  YUM! Then off to Negara for what turned out to be a long, hard nature walk through a protected environment.

This past December, heavy rains raised the river 78 meters, a record high, and much of the area across from the park was still sand-covered and messy.  The eco-resort was still closed while they restored rooms and services but the trails are mostly open for trekkers.  Trekkers, you say?  Who knew? Not us, but away we went with our new guide on the other side of the river and he took us on our way.

The o

This is taken from the opposite side of the river (Duh!). Where the red line ends is where this plaque was. In December, the river was another 4 metres higher. The river is still high. How long did it take to get that high, you ask. LESS THAN TEN HOURS! It was the combination of very heavy rains and a very high tide which didn’t allow the river to empty into the ocean a few hundred kilometres away. The entire town was pretty much under water on this side.

I had asked Jack what we could expect to see.  He talked about animals–sometimes large cats–leopards, jaguars, maybe wild boar, monkeys, cobras, other poisonous snakes. He had seen several wild elephants on the highways during his 20 years of traversing the country while guiding, and perhaps we would see one. Very dangerous, he said. When we asked our trek guide, Lee, the same question, he told us we would likely see no animals. “They can smell you for miles and are a long way out of this area, into the mountains.” Close to the lodge, we caught sight of a group of Rhinoceros Hornbills but it was really tough to get a picture. A few monkeys played in the treetops but mostly we had to be content with smaller critters, including the biggest ants we had ever seen–giant timber ants that were as long as the area from knuckle to nail and nasty, as well as some smaller varieties.

Left: Giant Timber Ants. Right: Regular Ants. Right: The leaf is called a sandpaper plant because it is brought, just like sandpaper. Women use it as an emory board to do their nails - really. Men use it as a fine finishing sa

Left: Giant Timber Ants. Right: Regular Ants. These are the same magnification.
Right: The leaf is called a sandpaper plant because it is rough, just like sandpaper. Women use it as an emory board to do their nails – really. Men use it as a fine finishing sandpaper.

This guy – a gliding lizard – was so excited. In the red rectangle was the “ant highway”. Hundreds of ants were climbing from the bottom of the tree up to the top. He just sat there, in the sun, picking them off for lunch as they went passed. Apparently, ants don’t communicate well with each other.

"I've died and gone to heaven!"

“I’ve died and gone to heaven!”

Actually, I felt comfortable in this jungle as it reminded me of home, where every square inch of soil is home to hundreds of ants. One snake crossed our path but it was smaller than a standard garter snake. I told Lee I had seen a viper and he laughed. I got really lucky, though, with an extremely rare close encounter with a flying squirrel. We took a canopy walk on a rope and wood pathway suspended high above the jungle floor–why do I do these things? I hate heights! As I came to one of several platforms, I saw that a large rodent was sitting on the top of the railing. I thought for sure it would leave once I alighted but no, so I had time to take out my camera and get several shots.

Rocky the Gliding Squirrel

Rocky the Gliding Squirrel

Geoff came up in a moment and disagreed that it could be a squirrel–way too big. However, if you think about magnifying our common squirrels about 4 or 5 times, it started to look more and more like one. When I showed the guides my pictures, it turned out to be my very own Rocky! Definitely a highlight for me.

Now the trek. We climbed somewhere between 900 and 1000 steps, real steps, actual staircases. We did the same thing in Guilin in 2012 but the steps were so low, the climb was more like walking. This was a climb! Initially, the guide was a bit worried about Geoff, since I explained about his heart attack and how he sometimes gets breathless if he moves too fast. Geoff was determined, however, and just took his time and made it without incident. If he hadn’t been in cardio rehab for 3 months, 3 times a week, doing ridiculous numbers of sit-ups, leg raises, etc, I wouldn’t have agreed to it, but he is in good shape. We had no idea how much climbing we had done until yesterday when we got out of bed the next day. Yikes!

The site was not worth the climb - but I know my cardiologist will be proud of me.

The view of Mount Taman was not worth the climb – but I know my cardiologist will be proud of me.

(Ed. note: It is beyond me how Terry could have minimized perhaps the most daring thing she has ever done. We knew there was a canopy walk involved in the day – just had no idea what it would actually be like.

160 feet above the ground. Terry was a brave but NOT a happy camper! She has this thing about heights you know and this thing, although safe, was not all that steady. Luckily half of it was under repair so only 5 sections of about 50 metres each were open.

160 feet above the ground. Terry was a brave but NOT a happy camper! She has this thing about heights you know and this thing, although safe, was not all that steady. Luckily half of it was under repair so only 5 sections of about 50 metres each were open.

If you need another use for a 50 foot ladder, jus build a canopy walkway and use it to get party down.

If you need another use for a 50 foot ladder, just build a canopy walkway and use it to get part way down.

Look down - or don't

Look down – or don’t

Also part of this trip was a ride up the river to an ethnic village (I’ve lost count of how many of these we’ve been to) and this was in some ways better–not much commercialisation, no tacky photo opps, but we were allowed to take pictures and watch a demonstration. Lee explained their way of life as nomads, as people who don’t want to be told what to do or how to live.

This man had been a friend of Lee's since they were kids. He made fire in less than a minute. Very cool.

This man had been a friend of Lee’s since they were kids. He made fire in less than a minute. Very cool. I have the video – maybe I will post it later.

This is an honest to God blowpipe that they use for hunting. They put the entire black "ball" in their mouths to get enough pressure to blow the dart - anywhere up to 50 metres.

This is an honest to God blowpipe that they use for hunting. They put the entire black “ball” in their mouths to get enough pressure to blow the dart – anywhere up to 50 metres.

Not a bad shot.

Not a bad shot. The dart sticking into Minnie’s ear usually has some poison on it which paralyzes the quarry and causes them to fall down. The friend of Lee’s made this dart as we watched – less than five minutes from start to finish. I now own it – without the poison.

The local Malays consider it a great success that they have convinced them to wear clothes and to use money, and are happy to move very slowly forward. Only some of their children attend school. I found the whole thing somewhat depressing. The huts, the sand and grit everywhere, lack of facilities and running water, everyone smoking, fires smoking…but there it was. Geoff added a small amount to the local economy and we headed home.

One home.

Bilek Camp – Home One

Bilek Camp - Home Two

Bilek Camp – Home Two

The Shoe Blog – uh no.

The building at the top is for swallows to nest in. The farmers build concrete shells, the swallows then build their nests on the walls inside out of twigs, feathers and saliva.  After the eggs hatch and they all fly away, the farmers go in, remove the nests, wash them to get rid of the twigs and feathers and then sell the remaining glue/saliva to the Chinese for birds nest soup. Honest. We saw between 8 and 10 of these throughout the day.

Oh Those Crazy Russians…

(Ed. note: A last photo of Jiaxing before we embark on our travels around Southeast Asia. This is the newest sign at the train station advertising a new apartment complex development.

I think this may mean - oh forget it, I have no idea!

I think this may mean – oh forget it, I have no idea!

Well here we are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after our Malaysia Air flight arrived with no scares – just half an hour late as usual with flights out of Shanghai. The only issue was after we landed and finally got through customs, we discovered that the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was a good hour. We left home at Feb. 1 @ 8:45 am and got to bed on Feb. 2 @ 12:15 am – 15 1/2 hours for a flight that was airborne for 5 hours 45 minutes. Who ever said travelling was glamorous?

Now I may need a place to live when we get home, but if you want to see how tired we were, this was just after we got off the plane and BEFORE we went through customs, picked up our luggage and took the taxi into town.

Not sure, but she may be thinking that if I actually take the picture let alone publish it, I may be a dead man. Thoughts?

Not sure, but Terry may be thinking that if I actually take the picture let alone publish it, I may be a dead man. Thoughts?

Compare Terry to this poor guy today downtown.

He was gone! Now I like a firm bed as much as the next person, but really?

He was gone! Now I like a firm bed as much as the next person, but really?

We are fortunate to be staying at the Shangri-La (Ed. note: Not as expensive as you think.) When we got married, Terry carried a bouquet of calla lilies, which is what I thought these were. They are the centrepiece in the lobby. When we came back to the hotel, however, Terry read the little sign below them. They are actually Madonna Lilies and are – sit down – on the endangered plant list.

Now I know I'm not the sharpest know in the drawer, but if they are endangered should you really have a display of them like this?

Now I know I’m not the sharpest know in the drawer, but if they are endangered should you really have a display of them like this?

We had a traditional Malaysian breakfast – Banana Roti. It was very good – and very hot.

He was making one after the other of these.

He was making one after the other of these.

Then it was off to the 2 1/2 hour Hopon-Hopoff Bus Tour around Kuala Lumpur. We had a 20 minute wait, however so we thought what the hell – banana roti and a latte – might as well start the drinking at  11:00am. As we waited for the bus we popped into Healy Mac’s for a cold one – and man were they cold!

Paddy - the server - a Tipperary Bangladeshi. See the guy in the fuchsia oval? We'll come back to him later.

Paddy – the server – a Tipperary Bangladeshi. See the guy in the fuchsia oval? We’ll come back to him later.

It is a great bar. I can’t imagine what it would be like at might. Maybe we’ll find out.

The bus tour was somewhat disappointing. There were 23 stops – we got off at one. You think we have had enough of China? No way, Yang Fong. The one we visited was Chinatown.

Same old crap, different prices.

Same old crap, different prices.

As we waited for the bus to get going we spotted this building. Must have been a misunderstanding.

You want a ladder where?

You want a ladder where?

This marks the spot in Independence Square where, at midnight on August 31st, 1957 the Union Jack came down, ending British rule and the Malaysian flag went up.

The fifth tallest free standing flag pole in the world.

The fifth tallest free standing flag pole in the world.

I think Terry took this picture expecting me to be more prominent. LOL. No, really it was the tree but the guy at the bottom  to the left of the lamp is fixing my sandal – it is better than when it was made!

Look closely - my arm is just showing.

Look closely – my arm is just showing.

And now back to Healy Mac’s for a nice cold one before a swim and dinner! Well, it didn’t turn out quite that way. Remember the 11:00am photo and the guy (Ed. note: Turns out to be another obnoxious Russian – or as Paddy said – “No culture”) in the fuchsia oval? At 4:30 he is still there and has been joined by a couple of others and a woman. They are all pissed – breaking glasses, spilling beer, almost sliding off their stools, getting up 3 or 4 times to hug each other. At one point the guy in the blue had an unlit cigarette in his mouth – backwards. I so wanted him to light the filter. Quite the scene. Paddy (remember Paddy the Irish Bangladeshi?) said that these guys and most of the Russians in KL are into “Black money” – drugs and prostitution. I asked if they ever cut them off as they would in Canada. Nope – not unless they bothered other customers. Terry moved so she couldn’t see them – concerned that they might do something. I don’t think they were capable of doing  anything.

Я люблю тебя человека of "I Love You, Man"

Я люблю тебя человека or “I Love You, Man”

Paddy is the consummate schmoozer. We had had two sleeves each along with salt and pepper calamari (sadly, no pepper as people used to complain about the pepper – go figure), spicy anchovies and the best chicken wings we have ever had, anywhere, and were about ready to go when he brought us one more sleeve each. He told us how good the food was, so Terry asked to see a menu. Instead, he brought a piece of Bread pudding with ice cream and enough whip cream to choke a horse – all on the house. I am proud to say neither of us had any whip cream!

Tomorrow we are up at 4:50 for a 3.5 hour drive to Taman Negara Malaysian National Park for:

Morning Session
  1. Breakfast at Jerantut local restaurant or at Taman Negara Floating Restaurant
  2. Meet and Greet Nature Guide
  3. Registration in Wildlife Department
  4. Jungle Trekking
  5. Canopy Walk
Afternoon Session
  1. Lunch at Floating Restaurant
  2. Preparing for rapid shooting
  3. Rapid Shooting
  4. Meet Batek tribe aboriginal people
  5. Preparing travel to Kuala Lumpur

We are told in no uncertain terms to bring a complete change of clothes including underwear as we will get “drench.” – their word, not mine.

The Shoe Blog

On the subway in Shanghai. I thought these would be good painters’ shoes. What do you think Mal?

Very colourful!

Very colourful!