Monthly Archives: November 2012

4 days in Cebu

November 25, 2012

My last night in Iloilo, Jose asked me to visit his family. I was honored to meet his family. His daughter is 12 and talks like an American teen. She loves Korean Pop music..K-POP. And she is so computer literate. She wants a new Apple Iphone and knows the latest model.

Nice to be back here in Cebu, the second biggest city in the Philippines. The flight from Iloilo was in a small prop plane. My seat was next to a nice guy who sells mushroom vitamins.  He told me where I should visit next time I am on the island of Panay. It was Sunday morning so it was an easy cab ride to the Cebu Guesthouse.  My driver has 9 children and one wife..Can you imagine?

Cebu Guest House did not change much since my last visit… a livable place with mosquitos and a staff who were not trilled to be there. What luck, my roommates where 2 young men from Tokyo. They were here to study English. Yio and Jugee were so nice they immediately included me in their agenda.

We got a cab and went to a nice place to eat; these guys know how to order fish!! I had 4 kinds of fish, all cooked in a different way and for the first time I had raw tuna. Now I can see why people like it so much.

These guys were in Cebu to study English. They both had very good language skills but had trouble with R and L.  They have a great joy of life spirit. Nice to have friends, even for a short time. These guys took me for many taxi rides and I got to see parts of Cebu that I did not see last time.

image

My Tokyo friend

The Philippines is wonderful but there is a dark side. The cities have way too many street kids. They have nothing and beg for money.  On the corner near my hostel there is a gang of them. They follow you down the street. One kid, not older than 6, put his hand in my pocket. I yelled at him.  Sad to see these kids sleeping on the sidewalks.

image

These churches are all over this country

One unique thing about the Philippines, religion is everywhere. I am sitting at the departure hall of the Manila airport, there is a mass going on in this public area. On the boats, they start and end the day with prayers on the PA. Last night I was in my AC dorm room and I heard drums. I went outside to see what it was. It was a candlelite procession in the street with a thousand people, a large band, and a statue of Mary carried on men’s shoulders with flashing lights. They were going to the Church of San Nino…a long distance away, and it was still very hot out.

image

Redemptorist Church at Cebu

On my last night in Cebu the Japanese guys wanted to go to a fancy Oyster Bar.  We left the hostel with another dorm mate, Fabian from Munich. We had the address and the ride took a long time, the driver got lost and we stopped and asked people along the road where it was.  No luck… I wanted to give up but my Japanese friends would not give up. Meantime the taxi meter continued to run.

We finally found the place and it was worth it, we ordered the food and we each ate a little of each food.  Once again, Japanese people know how to order fish. So my dinner with the Japanese and German was memorable… hoping to get a picture…when I get it, I will add it. In the meantime, here is what the Manila departure hall looks like.

image

Manila Airport

Iloilo and Guimaras

The big boat got me to the City of Iloilo (E Low E Low). I got off the boat and walked past the cabs and started to walk towards town. Actually I had no idea where the town was. I was lucky to run into Jose the owner of a trike…a motorbike with a side car. I told him I was looking for a cheap place with WIFI. He took me to the Iloilo Grand Hotel.  This place looked way too expensive for me. It had doormen, a beautiful lobby and it had WIFI.  I got the room for $20/night. 24 hour WIFI cost $3…but worth staying connected.

image

My hotel

Once I checked in, Jose took me for a ride around town. There are many old Spanish buildings and churches here. He drove me around to see the historic sections, the new places with the big SM Malls and to the down and dirty parts where the street markets are and where the poor people live and work.

image

Jose, my Iloilo driver and guide

I immediately liked Jose and asked him to go with me to dinner.  He took me to San Pedro Pier.  This was an open air eating place, next to the sea with live music.

image

Las Vegas class performance

We shared a fish and some fresh oysters…and we each had some beer. 3 hours of music, nice food and drink and it cost $12.00… a good deal.

Yesterday I took a boat across to the Island of Guimaras, the mango capital of the Philippines.

image

The name seems familiar

I found a driver to take me up the mountain to visit the Trappist Monastery.  The church was beautiful and I got to visit the food factory, this is were they make mango jam and biscuits.

image

Trappist Guimaras Food Factory

My driver took me to the Mango Research Center where I learned way too much about growing the Mango. I bought 3 of them and gave one to Jose when I returned to Iloilo. After eating 2 of them I can now confirm that Guimaras has the most sweet mangoes in the world.

image

Jose also took me for a ride out to the country side, this is the best and most beautiful parts of the Philippines. I got to see my first cock fight, not very nice, but part of the Pinoy way of life.

image

Cock fighting in Panay

I also was invited into a home factory where they were making clay bbq pots. They dig the clay from the back yard, mix it with ash, form it on a spinning pottery wheel, bake it and dry it out in the sun. I always run into the most unique things when I travel.

image

Making clay bbq pots

Today I heard singing in the hotel. I found a ceremony where 120 new nurses where graduating. They all were singing the most beautiful songs. Their families were all there and so proud. I remembered all of the nurses who took care of the people I have loved and I was overcome by emotion, I had to leave the room…

image

A class of new nurses at Liolio

By the way, I have been telling people that I am a travel writer. I have made so many of these blog posts I am starting to believe I am.

Here is a picture of my real hotel in Liolio, one of the nicest places I have stayed in.

image

Iloilo Grand Hotel

Back to Pinoy

Nov 19, 2012

The flight from Tokyo was smooth and I got a veggie meal too. Flying into Manila we came in from the east so I got to see plenty of fishing from above. I got a taxi from the airport to the MRT Taft Station…. Thea warned me about coming into Manila at rush hour on Friday afternoon. The lines to buy a 14 pesos train ticket were long and unorganized. Once I got a ticket I had to stand in a line again to board the train.  Me, my luggage, and my backpack and the rush hour crowd.

image

Beautiful islands of the Philippines

I can not explain the situation of trying to push my way onto the train, it took several trains to pass fully loaded to finally get on board; actually the crowd behind me sorta pushed me onto the train.  10 stops and I somehow sqeezed my way off the train.  Down the stairs and into a side-car motorcycle for the short trip to my hostel.  Here is some bad news. The Strawberry Hometel went downhill since I stayed there last March. I guess a new owner has really made it go to hell.

NO WIFI AND NO ONE KNOWS WHEN IT WILL GET FIXED…… OH SH.T!!!!!!

I got a simcard so I could talk to Thea… She helped me book a long boat ride to one of the islands and some jet flights to Cebu, Manila and Coron on Palawan. Thanks to McDonalds I started to drink coffee again and get access to the web…  I still had a good time here. I got a very nice pedicure, a great haircut and an excellent massage.

image

I got great feet 😉

Today I took a taxi to the closest MRT station to go downtown to apply for a visa to Viet Nam… Although it was not rush hour I experienced the same crushing lines, waits and rides….I kept telling myself that this was an experience that was just part of my trip around the world….I am not bored at all but I am looking forward to seeing some more of the Philippines besides Manila.

It is hot here and plenty of people are on the streets, always sad to have kids asking for money. I have always been told not to give money on the street, it still hurts me to just keep walking.  Plenty of people are selling things on the street….here is a guy I saw today, not really interested in his products but he let me take his picture.

image

Street vendor in Quezon City

Glad to be back here, the people and beauty of this country is worth getting over those little things which are a PITA.

Trip to Iloilo 11/21/2012

On my last nite in Manila I had a very nice dinner with Thea, then we went up to a Japanese place to see her mom and sister. Here we are…

image

Beautiful ladies of the Philippines and me

Thea printed out my boat and flight tickets and her mom drove me back to my hostel.  I got up at 6 am, got a coffee at McDonalds, read my email (family drama which got me upset) .. 

Got a taxi, which Thea arranged for, and after a ride through the nitty-gritty of the Manila port area I passed through security and they told me I needed to get my blood pressure checked..

I was still upset from the emails, the heat and the taxi ride and my pressure was high.  I was in a crowded room with a bunch of old people and kids.  I am thinking… They are not gonna let me on this boat…worse case scenario again…

After 10 minutes they checked it again and it was okay.. I got an upper bunk in a room with 22 people…everbody is playing their music and all the young staff are all smiles and everyone says.. ” hello sir”…

The very large ship, Michael the Archangel, was pulled out of the birth by a tug boat and we were on our way out of the Manila harbor.

image

Tug boat helping this giant move out

I soon as I got up in my bunk, actually feel asleep, although this young lady, in the next bunk, was crying most of the time.

image

Miss Healthy Lungs, 2012

Everyone is asking me if I am married…. This boat has over 1000 people on it and they are all Pinoy, I am the only non-Pinoy person on this boat…. I am certainly off the Lonely Planet beaten path.

These next two weeks should be very interesting…  Headed to Iloilo, the Mango capital of the world, Cebu to see the dancing prisoners of Youtube fame and Coron, in Palawan.

Goodbye Nippon

note…   I know that I repeat myself in some of these posts, not everything I touch turns to gold.

Well a month in Japan is enough to get some sense of this very different country. I picked some great places to visit and I met some excellent people there… my impressions of Japan include
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT JAPAN

Warm toilet seats with built in bidets, they clean you real good…a shock the first time, but they do a great job on you know where…

Great suits and shoes… “Salary men” and some power suit ladies are all over the place, corporate slaves toiling in very tall buildings wearing beautiful clothes…

Many nice little stores, eating and drinking places. This country is almost litter free and they are serious about re-cycling although it is hard to find trash containers in Japan…

Chain convenience stores all over the place, like 711s, Lawson’s Station, Family Marts, etc..

The ability to crowd massive amounts of people into cities with some kind of law and order…

The lack of police presence in the cities…

The people are gentle, not loud and seem to lead lives without too much drama (except on TV)…

There are some people still wearing traditional clothes..

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT JAPAN

People ride bikes on the sidewalks and bump into you…

It seems Japanese are too willing to follow rules…

This place is expensive.. shockingly so…

Way too much concrete in the cities…

Ugly power lines strung all over the place…

For some reason there are a large amount of Pachinko gaming places, people sitting in front of pinball/slot machines, filled with smoke and way, way too loud…they seem to be playing for ball bearings…???…

image

image

Loud and smokey

1 month there and I never saw a farm animal, no chickens, no horses, nothing…..

Japan does not have many foreign cars…does not seem fair considering the amount of Toyoto and Hondas we have.

My last couple of days in Tokyo were calm, I went out for a nice dinner with another UK guy and then took the subway to Shibuya, the place with the biggest street crossing, just a mass of people out to enjoy themselves. On the last day I went up to the Tokyo Tower, this is the one Godzilla knocked over.

image

Tokyo Tower

I am glad that I made Japan my first stop in this trip, I know that I have a better understanding of the people and there living situation.

Now on to a warmer country… the Phillipines.. the land where everybody can sing.

A month in Japan

Japan is a difficult place to be a tourist. First, and foremost, it is expensive. Many things are almost twice as much as the cost in the USA. Once I got over the shock of the costs I started buying what I wanted. I got to experience Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and beautiful Nagasaki. I met some incredible people in the hostels and was almost perfect with my diet.

image

Geisha in Nagasaki

I moved from city to city, but my most enjoyable stay was in Nagasaki. I met Ed, an Australian who worked in the Tokyo Embassy. He knew Japanese and that was helpful. We went out for some nice dinners, plenty of sushi and other mysterious foods. I had a paper eith Japanese writing which said…”I am a vegetarian and do not eat meat”. That usually worked for me.

Ed and I had some great political discussions. My hostel had good wifi and I followed every minute of the election on my Samsung Tab watching C-Span and folowing Twitter on my phone. I just assumed that the other guy would win.

image

this made me happy..

Although I am in Asia I am able to keep track of current events thanks to the web. I listen to podcasts on the busses and when I am trying to sleep. I have had one cup of coffee since I arrived in Japan. Just switched my addiction to tea.

image

lost animal shrine.

I enjoyed the bus rides here. The ride up the coast from Nagasaki to the big city of Fukuoka was spectacular. I spent 2 nites in Fuk City and flew back to Tokyo. The cost was only 60 bucks, much cheaper than the long bus rides and the fast trains. On my last day in Fuktown, I took a subway as far to the west of the city as it went and walked back to the hostel, a distance of 10 miles. I was so proud of my capability in doing this, must have been due to all that marching back at CBA.

I am trying to keep my blog going. Friday I will be in Manila and a much warmer and cheaper place.

How do you pronounce Fukuoka?

I left Hiroshima by bus and rode to the most southern island of Japan. The capitol is Fukouka, a very large seaport. I walked to the hostel and found out that I only had a bed for one night. I made a quick decision to head out to Nagasaki the next day and booked a hostel for 4 nights. When I got to Nagasaki I took the tram to the hostel, walked over a stone bridge and checked in. I knew immediately that I was gonna stay here for a while.

image

Spectacles Bridge

This is a much smaller port city with a great deal of Euro influence. There are trees here and many of these arched bridges. The hostel gave me a discount card and I get half off all of the tourist things. I found a grocery store and bought some cheap fish which was already cooked. The best food I have had in Japan so far.

image

Nagasaki trams

The trams take you all over town and only cost $1.50. My first day was rainy so I went to the Dutch De Jima island which for 200 years was the site where all Japanese imports and exports went through. A very historic place which I basically stumbled into.  Most of my best experiences happen just by chance. The next day I started to walk and ended up at the A-Bomb Museum. This one was smaller than Hiroshima’s but very effective in telling the human story.

In my effort to do at least one thing each day, I visited Glover Park in the south of the city. I took an elevator to the top and walked down the hill. This was an interesting place, full of old English colonial homes and gardens. It has a good view of the city and port.

image

The Port of Nagasaki

You can see the mountain on the left in this picture; it has a gondola to the top and I took it. I got to see the sun go down over the city. I am resting here, eating well and doing tourist type things. Today I went up to a shrine near ground zero and saw a one legged temple gate, one leg was blown down by the 1945 blast. There are 2 old camphor trees there which were nearly destroyed but have continued to live.
image

Some random thoughts about Japan:

-it is very expensive here
-I have not seen a farm animal since I got here
-they like Ferris Wheels, plenty of them here
-the school kids have the best uniforms in the world
-the streets and sidewalks are litter-free
-never seen so many vending machines.

I have one more week left in Japan…

I always get a laugh when I sing… “domo ariggato Mr. Roboto”.

Hiroshima

After a week in a great hostel, and seeing plenty of temples in Kyoto, I bought a $50 bus ticket to Hiroshima. The train/bus station in Kyoto was massive and I had a tough time finding the Hiroshima buses.  I eventually found the bus and had a nice ride…

On the bus I watched a great movie, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on my Samsung Tab.  I got off at he Hiroshima Station which turned out to be just the train station. The bus station was a long way away so I got a taxi to the hostel. $16 down the drain!!!!

image

My hostel wifi works in my room but I can not make it work in the lounge where everyone hangs out. We have people from Oz, Germany, France, USA, Luxenberg (a first for me) Canada, and Portugal.  The first day I walked around with Dominic from Quebec. He has been learning Japanese and this is his first time in Japan. We went to the Peace Park and there were many school children visiting the site. At a memorial to the children killed in the “A-Bomb” attack. It is very moving to see the kids, all in uniform, singing beautiful songs, some playing recorders.

We walked around the famous building with the dome, which survived the blast, and then visited the Hiroshima Castle, this was always a military city with a deep water port. The real castle was flattened by the atomic explosion. There is a very good museum in the castle. I convinced Dominic to put on a costume and I took this picture…,
image

My French Canadian friend does not look very threatening..right?

The next day we were joined by another friend, Taro, from the UK, and took a long trolley ride to the port, and a short ferry ride to the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. It was a great day. There are deer walking around and one ate my map. I went to the top of the mountain on 2 gondolas. I walked down the mountain and it was very difficult and steep. We had a nice dinner on the island which tasted great.

image

An interview by students in English…they got a kick out of my last name..

Tomorrow I am off to Fukuoka on the south island…off to the Phillipines in 2 weeks….