It was a good trip to the Philippines for the most part. In fact, other than starting and ending my vacation in Angeles City, it was quite lovely. I despise AC and the whole sexpat vibe. Just looking at the old decrepit “whore mongers” (a term they actually call themselves) made me shake my head in disgust. As much as I am down on how trivially I’m living my life, I am so glad that my future will not include being a lonely old man looking for love in all the wrong places.
Which is not to say I didn’t spend a goodly amount of my nighttime hours in the girly bars of Olongapo’s Barrio Baretto. It’s a way to pass the time and I enjoy treating the girls to something a little different from what they are used to. My style is to pass out chocolate (I’m told the bargirls call me “the candyman”), tip the dancers for their efforts, and pick out one or two deserving girls for a lady drink (an overpriced beverage from which they earn a commission) and a little conversation. It seems to make their night and I enjoy seeing them smile.
Of course, it’s one thing to get a little wild on vacation, but I can’t sustain that lifestyle long term once I retire. I expect I’ll visit the “regular” bars for darting events a couple times a week and perhaps limit my role as candyman to only one night. As the prophet has said, man does not live by bars alone.
I mentioned my doctor consult, but forgot to say what that appointment cost me. 400 pesos! Which translates to $8.00 at the current exchange rate. I didn’t do a lot of serious house hunting because I’m not yet sure when I will quit my job, and really I’ll need to be on the ground to make that decision. I did find one place right on the beach. Small one bedroom house, but a huge yard. Only 20,000 pesos a month ($400.00). Eh, when I looked inside though it was just too old and worn out for my first world tastes. Plenty of time to find the right place for me as I don’t intend to live poor in my old age.
Baretto is similar in size to Anjeong-ri, and I was remembered in some places from my previous visits and also made some new friends as well. It is nice to be greeted with “welcome Sir John” or “San Miguel Light, sir?” when I enter a bar or restaurant. I was walking down the main street one evening and a young woman came running up to me and said “John! Glad you are in town. We need a player for dart league tonight!” Heh. Makes me feel kinda at home.
A big difference to Anjeong-ri is the age demographic in Baretto. Hell, most nights I was the youngest fucker in the bar (and by some accounts at least the most handsome). I could get used to that!
Living and eating large caused my belly to bloat and this week’s weigh-in finds me back up to 225 pounds. I intend to work hard at reversing that trend.
Getting back to my current home was not much fun. My 0130 flight was delayed over an hour which made an already long day particularly hellish. I rode the AREX to Seoul Station, cabbed to my old office (where my car was parked) and then started the hour and a half drive to Pyeongtaek. Halfway there I ran out of gas. Well, not my car. Me. I was afraid I was about to fall asleep at the wheel, so I had to pull off the highway and take a power nap. That was enough to get me the rest of the way home.
And now it is on with my not so exciting country life. That won’t stop me for writing about it no doubt. Stay tuned!
The news I alluded to yesterday was that my long lost daughter (lost in the sense that I’ve not seen her for years) Avery and her partner Annie popped into the PI for a rendezvous.
A chip off the ol’ block. I’m not Avery’s birth father, but she was just a baby when I married her mother (that wold be wife #2 for you all keeping score at home) so I’m the only father she has ever known. Somehow she managed to overcome that handicap and is living a happy life. There is no greater success than that!
Avery and Annie. Quite the adventurers as they are six months into a journey that has taken them to Hawaii, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, and now the PI. Next up is Myanmar, and after that Korea is on the radar.
Annie has been blogging their exploits at Nomadic Vortex, go give it a read.
Well, we’ve seen and done the things that you can do in Baretto, and they seem to have enjoyed themselves. They even had a blast in the go-go bars which touched my drunken heart. They’ll be flying out to more adventure tomorrow on Palawan Island.and from there, who can say? The world is their oyster and they have youth on their side.
Jet ski fun day. It was a first for Loraine and she was crazy about it…
They are off!
They are back! Me? I stayed on the beach and drank some beers. I don’t do much, but what I do, I do well!
Yesterday was our banka boat adventure.
Annie felt like king of the world…
We stopped at a small island in the middle of the bay. I was channeling Magellan and claimed the land in the name of Spain. One of the locals said “I’m Lapu-Lapu” so I quickly retreated.
With the daughter and my bodyguard Loraine…
The lonely light house at the summit of our small isle.
I mentioned the outstanding food here at our resort, here’s a taste:
That’s not everything they serve here at Blue Rock, but you get the idea.
Yikes! Gotta check out of here now and catch the bus to Angeles City.
Well, provided adventure is broadly defined. I’ve basically just settled into a new routine in a new location. But I’m good with that.
Everyday starts with an outstanding Blue Rock breakfast followed by a walk on the beach…
Early afternoons feature a variety of events. I visited the hospital here for a consultation on my COPD and the availability of my meds. Doc says the warm and humid climate here will be good for my health and all but one of my current prescriptions are locally available. She also referred me to an internist who will be my primary care provider once I make the move.
Also took a couple of trips over to the old Navy base for some shopping. Happy that we were able to restock the larder at the Kings Fil-Am Home, a small orphanage I’ve adopted as my charity project. Truthfully, this is another example of my innate selfishness. Helping take care of these kids alleviates some of the guilt I feel about having to ignore much of the poverty that surrounds me.
I’m eating good though. Good but not always healthy. I’ve basically said to hell with the low carb diet this trip.
I haven’t said no to french toast or pancakes for breakfast either. And the other day at Sit N Bull, one of my favorite places to hang out, I had the prison plate special.
And of course, the evening entertainment involves hitting the bars for copious amounts of my favorite brew, SML.
The girls are friendly and seem to really enjoy the contents of my wallet my wit and humor.
And I usually end my night back at the Blue Rock Resort bar where I am well attended to…
…by my favorite bartender Izel. She’s a real sweetheart…
…more than willing to cater to all my cravings for sweet things. Like this apple pie a la mode.
And then I go to sleep, wake up, and repeat. Hey, it may not be paradise, but it’s close enough for me.
Big news (comparatively speaking) coming up, but now the maid wants to clean the room. I’ll be back!
Don’t take my word for it, just ask the Department of Tourism.
And on with my story…
I had two options for getting to Subic inexpensively, the Southern Cross shuttle or Fly the Bus. The latter left later (9:30 versus 8:45) so I figured I;d catch a bit more sleep. Woke up at 8:00 which left me time for breakfast so I hoofed over to Kokomo’s. Breakfast was fine but the WiFi may as well have been non-existent. Ah well, deep breath and accept the Filipino way. Back to the my hotel, the Orchid Inn, to check out and wait for my ride.
And wait I did. At 9:45 I went back to the desk and they called the Fly the Bus folks who advised the driver would be there in ten minutes. Thirty minutes later I went back to the desk and the FtB dispatcher said “soon”. Ah well, deep breath and accept the Filipino way and all that. The van was packed tight when it arrived at 10:30 but I squeezed in for the uneventful ride to Barrio Baretto, in Olongopo City, in the province of Zambales, situated on the beautiful (mostly) Subic Bay.
My pre-booked lodging was at the Blue Rock Resort on Baloy Beach. Stayed here last time and was comfortable, so here I am again. When I walked into my room I was accosted by about 50 good sized flies. Called the front desk and they sent someone up with bug spray and she dispatched them rather quickly. Even wiped up a few of the carcasses. I unpacked my bags and went in to take a shower, only to see that the shower control knob had been sheared off, and based on the rust this wasn’t a recent event. No answer at reception this time, so I marched myself down to the lobby. I explained my dilemma, staying as true to my mantra as possible, but clearly peeved and a young maintenance guy came back with me to the room. He looked at the shower handle, shook his head, then looked over to where the water heater is hung. And pointed out that a new knob had been jury-rigged there underneath. Ah well, it worked, so I took a deep breath, thanked him, and accepted the Filipino way.
For those wondering why I was having to fend for myself, my personal assistant/caregiver was unavailable for this portion of my trip. She was busy attending her graduation upon earning certification as a massage therapist. I expect to reap the benefits of that investment in the days ahead…
I consoled myself with an icy cold SML…
…and enjoyed the view of the floating bar.
Out on the town for a few too many beers on Thursday night, but wound up safely home alone in my bed. The Blue Rock does have an impressive menu and they do a good job in the food preparation, so there’s that. I had a fine breakfast and a nice walk on the beach.
It’s rainy season, but so far I’ve missed the worst of it…
My bitching and moaning notwithstanding, I do recognize this is indeed a third world country. I need to suck it up and appreciate my blessings in life. It is infinitely worse for so very many others.
Your humble correspondent will be back soon with more of the story. Stay tuned!
Up early and off to Seoul on Wednesday morning. The 18 year old that brought me didn’t disappoint. I’m talking about my car of course.
She’s a good old gal…
Finished a successful meeting with the union president and then had the good fortune to secure a coveted “Space A” doctor appointment at the Army hospital. I mostly needed to get refills on all my meds, but also got three shots (pneumonia, tetanus, and one other one recommended after age 60 that I can’t remember at the moment. My arm hurt like a mother fucker for a couple of days afterwards though.
Caught the AREX at Seoul Station and arrived at Incheon International right around 6:00 p.m. My flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 9:30, but better early than late is how I roll.
I passed the time by walking around the terminal several times. At least it was air-conditioned, but the place was crawling with tourists…
My flight was delayed 30 minutes because of air traffic congestion, which put me on the ground at Clark Field in Angeles City just before one in the morning. Breezed through immigration and then got stalled at baggage claim. I don’t understand why, but the bags were coming out in batches of five or so at a time, which made for a frustrating delay. It was my first opportunity to practice my new mantra for successful living in the PI–take a deep breath, relax, and accept the Filipino way.
Got gouged for 500 pesos (ten dollars) for the short ride to my hotel, but I employed my mantra and stayed calm. Once checked in, it was 2 a.m. (three Seoul time) but I figured I’d grab a beer or two before getting some sleep. Wasn’t in the mood for a girly bar, so opted for the street side seating at Phillies and engaged in a little late-night people watching.
As I sat there it occurred to me that I have become more of an observer of life than I am a participant. And perhaps I’m projecting, but what I observe seems to be sadness and desperation. Or maybe dull resignation to the meaninglessness of everyday living. I certainly have felt that about the people I encounter on my walks through the boring little village of Anjeong-ri and the surrounding countryside. Sometimes it.just seems all so pointless, and yet folks continue plodding on with their routines day after empty day.
Now, there in the bar district of Angeles City in the early morning hours, those manifestations of hopelessness are only enhanced. As I started in on my second San Miguel Light beer I wondered what it was that makes people just keep pushing on the way they do. I guess it all comes down to you just don’t have any other choice but to make the best of life until that too has disappeared. That’s my plan at least.
So, I caught a few come on smiles from the ladyboys who frequent the area (which I did not reciprocate), watched the bargirls who hadn’t snagged a customer for the night and those that had as they made their way to home or hotel. And then one young woman stopped in front of where I was sitting and wordlessly pleaded with me to be with her that night. I know the look but I told her sorry, not interested. She then spoke and asked will you buy me a drink? I hesitated, then shrugged, and said sure, why not.
When she set down next to me I immediately asked her age (she looked even younger in good light) and she told me she had just turned 20. I asked her where she worked and she told me she was a masseuse. That normally translates to freelance prostitute. I again declined her this time verbal offer to give me a “massage”. We sat in silence as we drank, but she practically oozed sadness and desperation. I’m sorry for her situation of course, but these days it’s all I can do to save myself. And it was time for me to go to sleep. As I paid the tab, I asked her if she had eaten and she told me no. I handed her 200 pesos and left her sitting there alone.
More to come. And it is not all doom and gloom. I promise.
Time for an update. Although admittedly things are getting a little fuzzy.
Now, I’m not saying my following this advice has created that fuzziness, but…
I’ll just slap up some pictures and hopefully things will get a little clearer. Not going to even attempt to stay chronological. Instead I’ll categorize. Sound like fun? Let’s roll!
Let’s start with the housing situation. Too soon to actually make a commitment, it was more about seeing what was out there and assessing the the viability of me wanting to live in a particular location. There is only one neighborhood on the old Navy base I’d like to call home, and whether anything might be available when I’m ready to move (and whether it is within my budget ($1000.00 a month max) remains to be seen.
Now, most of the expats or soon to be expats I’ve talked with this week are renting places for under $500, but I’ve not given up on finding something clean and nice with a view even if it comes with a premium price tag. Maybe I’m a dreamer.
One thing that is different here as compared to Seoul is there are no realtors specializing in rentals. It’s basically walking around and looking for vacancy signs.
Now, here’s a funny story for you. See the road behind the sign in the picture above. Well, that’s the National Highway that runs through Barrio Baretto. It can be a real bitch to cross. So, the other day right after taking that picture I made my dash for the other side. I looked to left and saw a gap sufficiently large to make it across. I looked to the right and observed a smaller gap, but doable if I hustled. So hustle I did. And half way across I came within inches of running into a motorcycle that must have been in my blind spot on the left. And meanwhile a second motorbike had to slam on his breaks to keep from hitting me. If dirty looks could kill I’d be a dead man. Anyway, lesson learned. My future plans do not include being a pedestrian statistic. The best advice I received in that regard was to wait and cross with the Filipinos. They have a knack for getting it done alive.
These apartments are on the far end of Baretto. 3 bedroom, 3 bath, split level. 33,000 pesos ($660) per month furnished. No view though, unless the neighbors leave their curtains open….
What I will likely do when I first make the move is go for a short term rental (30-60 days) while I look around some more. Living in a Nipa hut might be kind of fun….
On the medical scene, I had the opportunity to visit the local hospital.
It wasn’t me in need of care luckily. Rather, my personal assistant/caregiver was feeling poorly so she saw a doctor for meds. No appointment, got in an out in 20 minutes. Place was clean and relatively modern. Actually, it seems to get pretty good reviews from the expat community here. Nice emergency room should I get unlucky crossing the road.
Also located two other hospitals in Olongapo, one that even takes my insurance. On my to-do list is to make sure I’ve made arrangements for some form of pre-payment. They won’t treat you until you pay. And if they do treat you, you can’t leave until you do pay.
On the dart scene, I played in a second tourney on Thursday night and pulled out a victory there as well. 2 for 2, maybe I should quit while I’m ahead?
It was fun to be playing competitively once again.
Also got drafted to play in the league match on Friday with my new friends from Alley Cats bar. Thanks for having me!
And now for a change of scenery…
Brewed coffee to start the day…
Brew with a view…
A lonely banka boat…
What’s not to love?
Some of the food I’ve enjoyed this weekend…
A burger at DaBar…
Fish and chips at Midnight Rambler…
A fruit pate at Harley’s…
Ribs at Blue Rock…
Pork chops at Mango’s Resort…
I never saw such a patty…
I didn’t eat here but I though it was funny as hell regardless…
And I spent some time in the bars as well…
The weekly S.O.B. dance contest was hosted by Rum Jungle this week. Paid my admission and got drafted to be a judge. The girls all work hard and so I tried to be appropriately serious in my assessments of their efforts and results…
Arizona Bar had the the best overall performance.
Nice costumes to go with the moves…
The other competitors were entertaining…
No ifs, and, or…
…butts about it.
Going for it.
not everyone can be a winner…
…but you can always look good losing…
A new night, a new bar. This time for the “bar olympics.” And once again, I was asked to perform the duties of sitting in judgement.
The first event…
Hell, I don’t know. They all seemed to know their way around a “banana”.
The next event. Imagine my disappointment when I learned it was all about the skill in drinking a particular shot…
The shots in question…
And the last event of the night…
Much more enjoyable than the crappy photo would indicate….
And that was the highlights of the weekend in Baretto…
When you see the Southern Cross for the first time… I normally hire a private car but everyone was booked up for the trip to Manila today. This got us here in a roundabout way for half the price…
Got here in plenty of time to enjoy a pleasant stroll through Rizal park, named in honor of the Philippines national hero…
I was glad to discover that he had been executed in 1896. Well, not happy about the execution per se, just glad it was the Spanish who did the killing instead of us Yanks.
Crappy service at L.A. Cafe, so I relented and did Shakey’s pizza with Loraine for dinner…
Nope. When I’m done working I will be done with work. I really, really mean it this time!
Anyway, I fly out tomorrow. Overall, I’d rate this the best trip I’ve had to the PI. I’ll elaborate in a future post when I’ve had more time to digest what I’ve learned.
A pretty laid back day all in all. That’s actually pretty huge, because it demonstrates that I’m feeling very comfortable here. To the extent I questioned my ability to adapt to this environment and successfully establish a permanent life in the PI, I’m reassured it’s doable.
I’m liking my routine of an early breakfast followed by a beach walk.
This place is being built right on the beach. Probably not intended for someone of my modest means, but…
Later we walked into Baretto and had us some pampering…
Those feet aren’t gonna scrape themselves you know…
A tasty Monte Cristo sandwich for lunch at Arizona Resort. And yes, I’ve totally ditched low carb for the duration of this trip.
I picked up the darts for the first time this year and threw in a nice little tourney at Alley Cats bar.
I drew Ray, a solid darter for my doubles partner. A good turnout and some really good players, especially among the Filipinas.
In fact, we went mano a mano against two outstanding ladies in the finals. Took all we had to eventually prevail and take home first place money. Yeah, I was a little excited.
Got invited to play another tourney tonight, and I agreed to help out in league play on Friday. And another tourney Saturday. Looks like I’m coming out of retirement!
Day 5 is in the books and it was a good and productive one. Let’s go to the photographic evidence.
As is my wont, I started the day with a hearty breakfast and a stroll along the beach. Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen “shit on a shingle” on the menu. Had to explain to the waitress what the SOS stood for…
Hired a car and driver to tour the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (the old U.S. Navy base). Had no idea how huge it truly is. And wild. Saw trees full of huge bats…
…and lots of monkey’s along the roadside. Couldn’t get out for a better picture because the driver warned me they like to steal cameras…
Loraine enjoying one of the bay vistas…
Of course, the main purpose of the SBFZ visit was to scope out housing options there. In the Cubi district of the base, I found this little subdivision…
With houses like this…
None appeared vacant but these are under construction. Maybe they will be ready when I am.
There are some inconveniences associated with living on the far reaches of the base. For one, I’d need to buy a car. But honestly, if I could wake up every morning to views like this, I’d go for it in a heartbeat. We’ll see.
Yep, this is what I dreamed of…
Anyway, the other two housing areas on the base were not nearly as impressive. I could settle for one, but it is just typical subdivision living with the only view being the neighbors house. I’m not ready to settle at this point.
One other benefit about living on base is there are some nice dining options. We visited Texas Joe’s for lunch and enjoyed some real down home honest to goodness American barbecue.
All the waitresses were in cowboy hats, tight jeans, and boots. Yee Ha!
They don’t pull the pork, they chop it. The claim is that retains moistness better. I still prefer mine pulled, but this was quite delicious. Maybe the best damn baked beans I’ve had in quite some time…
After lunch we drove around some more, then headed to the Royal supermarket. It’s in the old commissary location and features many of the products us Yankees have come to know and love. Good to know I can find the ingredients I need for my crock pot and grilling adventures.
But this shopping excursion was not for me. We loaded up the cart for the kids at the Fil-Am orphanage. 50 kgs of rice, assorted canned meats, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, chocolate and cookies.
Our driver drove up the mountain and we dropped off the bounty. Still haven’t met any of the kids as there were still in school. Anyway, it feels good to provide a little help where it is needed.
Back at the Blue Rock resort I was ready to unwind with a few bottles of San Miguel Light beer. And what better way to enjoy them than at the famous Blue Rock floating bar.
Here we come!
A fine afternoon crowd of patrons and crew…
…and a look back at my lodging…
After a short nap, we hiked back into Barrio Baretto and grabbed some dinner at Sit-n-Bull. Then we headed over to the local dart bar, Alley Cats.
Got in some practice as I will be participating in the Wednesday dart tourney tonight. Haven’t thrown competitively since my “retirement” in December. Hell, the layoff may have actually improved my game. We’ll see.
Started the morning with a beach side stroll. The beach runs out at Blue Rock resort, so we popped in for breakfast.
Loraine went Filipino style…
…while I opted for a traditional ham, cheese, and mushroom omelette.
Beach side living does come with its rules though.
Rules? We don’t need your stinkin’ rules. Although as rules go, these ain’t bad.
Checked out of Treasure Island and moved up the road to the Blue Rock.
Featuring a much enhanced view from the room.
Once we were all settled in it was time to hit the road to Olongapo City.
We traveled via Jeepney, low on price, low on comfort. The most common form of mass transit in the PI.
In case you are wondering, this is what a Jeepney looks like…
We didn’t know exactly where to get dropped, so wound up away from the downtown area.
But got to explore the old city market which was interesting in a chaotic kind of way…
So, we hailed a trike and had him take us to SM Mall, the center of action in just about every Filipino city.
A trike ride is even more uncomfortable and dangerous than the Jeepney, but what are you gonna do?
Safely at the mall, my first stop was the bank, BDO (Banco de Oro), where I hoped to open up a foreigner bank account. No dice without an Alien Certificate of Registration card. Which I can’t get until I’ve been in country continuously for 59 days. I can deal with it, it will just be a pain in the ass for those first two months wiring myself money from the USA. Oh well.
Next stop was an eyeglasses store. Got a new exam, a new prescription, and a new pair of glasses on the way. Not really any cheaper than I would have paid in the States and probably more expensive than in Korea. Live and learn.
Left the mall and grabbed a taxi across town to visit an orphanage I’d found on the internet.
The Kings Fil-Am Home is small, currently serving just 9 children. I asked the Director what they needed and she said “rice”.
Let’s see if I can make their world a little better.
After another Jeepney ride back to Barretto, took a nap and headed out for dinner.
It was steak night at the Arizona resort, they were big and juicy.
And served up with a side or mariachi band music. Actually, these folks were pretty damn entertaining.
Stopped in the Alaska Club for a nightcap on the way home and got reacquainted with the owner, Jerry. I’d known him back in his Angeles City days. Hoofed it back to my lodging and decided it was time to split.
One of the objectives of this trip is to scope out some housing options. Another is to assess my general comfort level with the concept of living here full time. The weekend provided some progress and insights on both fronts. Let’s go to the pictures.
Why Olongapo? Why not!
Saturday afternoon we walked through the Alta Vista subdivision…
…saw quite a few houses that were infinitely livable…
;;;this one was my personal favorite. Not available as of now, but then again, neither am I. Not going to buy anything, but I’d go for a long term lease on the right place…
…I have no intention of going anywhere near this big. The cost of electricity in the PI is one of those things that exceeds prices back home. That and beef.
…but a smaller house with this view would make me a happy man indeed.
I noticed quite a few of these organic lawn mowers in the neighborhood.
All that walking worked up an appetite, so we meandered our way to one of my favorite little eateries, Sit-n-Bull. The quesadillas were good for me…
The highlight of the weekend was meeting up with John B., a vlogger I’ve been following on YouTube. John retired and moved to Subic going on two years ago now, so it was good to pick his brain and learn from his experiences. Also, a great guy and someone I’m sure I’ll get along with after I make the move.
John and his lovely girlfriend Anna.
Finished the evening with some dinner at Blue Rock Resort. Actually moving our lodging there today for the rest of the week.
My employee Loraine seems to be enjoying herself as well…
Started the day Sunday with this “American” breakfast at Johan’s Dive Resort….
This view was included at no extra charge.
Then we hiked out to another subdivision for a look see…
The houses in Santa Monica subdivision are older than what we have seen so far, but they are still serviceable.
And sometimes colorful. I seem to recall this neighborhood experiences flooding issues during rainy season. I’ll need to confirm that of course, but it is an important consideration in any housing decision.
No bay view from Santa Monica homes, but I could get used to looking at the mountains too…
Speaking of the bay, we enjoyed watching the water from our lunchtime perch at Lava on the Beach restaurant.
In other news…
More walking around and exploring the area, met up again with John and Anna and another new friend, Joe, for a pleasant afternoon. Last night I went on a quest for finding a dart bar.
Success! I got invited to join the league and they have never even seen me throw! I’ll come out Wednesday for the Alley Cats bar tourney and see what they think after seeing me in action.
Today we will take a Jeepney into Olongapo proper for a look around the city. Stay tuned!
Up bright and early and out of the house at 0430. First cab that came by was vacant and gladly agreed to carry me out to Incheon. Nice guy, he even asked me to check and make sure I had brought my passport.
Got checked in with plenty of time to spare, so got some steps in by hiking around the terminal. Boarded up on a packed 777 and then waited for 30 minutes past departure time for some connecting passengers. Arrived in Manila about 1 hour late.
Driver I hired was there waiting and we made our way through the always horrible Manila traffic. He took me a back way to avoid the worst of it, and apologized for exposing me to the squatter shacks along side the road. I’d seen them before, but it is always shocking to see just what real poverty looks like. Always good to be reminded that whatever my first world problems may be, I’m completely blessed beyond the wildest imaginings of these poor folks.
Arrived at my hotel, the Treasure Island Resort, on Baloy Beach in Olongapo a little after 4:00 p.m. The room is quite a disappointment, but the pool /bar area almost makes up for it. Quaffed a few brews and enjoyed a well-prepared club sandwich. Then retired to the room for a short nap.
My intention had been to attend the S.O.B. dance contest at Rum Jungle bar, but alas, by the time I arrived it was nearly over. So, I walked around Barrio Baretto and popped into a couple of bars for liquid refreshment. As always, the go-go joints with scantily clad sad looking females shuffling around on stage left me feeling sorry and depressed.
Headed back to my hotel where I enjoyed a banana split washed down with a cold San Miguel Light beer. Then to the room for a really good night’s sleep.
Woke up early and Treasure Island was not serving breakfast yet. Walked down the road to the Blue Rock resort featuring 24 hours service. Sat at a bay side table and enjoyed some coffee and french toast.
Walked to the end of Balay Beach road, then circled back on the beach with my feet in the water. I’m such a hippie!
Off to a good start I’d say. Here’s the photographic evidence.
Quaffing my first brew of the trip…
The best thing coming out of France is the toast!
Breakfast with a view…
On the beach. Let’s walk this bitch!
View to the left…
And the beach walk leading back to the hotel.
Not looking too far into the future, but I guess I know what I will be eating come April.
I actually hate black noodles, so I’m doubly fucked…
Anyway, I’m feeling good and looking forward to the rest of this adventure. Stay tuned.
Not going back, going forward. I really, REALLY, mean it this time!
The view on my walk to the Army hospital. Kinda got a Stonehenge vibe going, don’t you think?
Lungs are clear and I’m feeling the best I have in three months. Really liked the doctor who saw me. He actually sat down with me and we spent 30 minutes talking about where I go from here (health wise). Now, Dr. Yoo may be hilarious, but damn, he wasted a lot of my time. This Army Captain treating me did more in one visit than I’ve accomplished in multiple trips to Soonchunhwang.
Bottom line. Lungs are clear now and I intend to keep them that way. There is no reversing COPD, but you can slow the progress. That is what I intend to do.
Off to bed now. 0755 flight tomorrow which means waking up at 0400. I’m primed. Optimistic. Confident.
Other than being sick a lot of the time, the trip to Puerto Galera was enjoyable. Here’s the story in pictures.
Woke up early Thursday morning to find some snow on the ground. Took a cab to Incheon and caught my plane. We left and arrived on time. Good job Korean Air!
Met my tour guide Loraine at the Manila airport. She had secured us transportation to Batangas (about 2 1/2 hours away on the toll road) where we caught the ferry to Puerto Galera.
The “ferry” was this banka boat, capacity 110 brave souls.
Every seat was full for the 1.5 hour trip across the water to PG. Seas were relatively calm which is good, because I’m prone to sea sickness…
Looking forward towards arrival at Puerto Galera…
And there it is!
Can’t remember the name of the town we docked in, but it looked like this. It wasn’t White Beach which was where we were going. To get there we had to take a van ride of 30 minutes or so.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we were booked at the Tribal Hills Mountain Resort. The shuttle van met us in White Beach and drove us straight up the mountain (literally). Checked in and proceeded to our room where we saw the sign stating there would be no power from 1:00 – 5:00 while the generator underwent maintenance. With no air con we took advantage of the huge deck outside our corner room.
the deck was larger than our the room, I do believe…
…and afforded views like this…
…and of course, this.
The resort featured a restaurant with fantastic views and average food, a pool with a bar that closed at midnight except when it closed earlier, like the night we went down at 11:00.
The pool area at night.
The resort rented 4 wheelers, had an archery range, and a guided hike up to some mountain falls. We partook in none of the above, although I really did want to take the falls trek. Lungs and leg convinced me otherwise. The WiFi was spotty at best, but we made do. Mostly missed it on those sleepless nights I mentioned in yesterday’s post.
So instead I hired one of the hotel vehicles to drive us into Sabang, a comparatively large town best known for its diving resorts. 1000 pesos round trip (about 20 bucks). Saw lots of downed trees and storm damage along the way. There is only one road into and out of Sabang, and like most other roads I saw in Puerto Galera, it was quite narrow. Our expert driver managed it quite well however.
Once we arrived, the tour guide recommended a steak house she was familiar with. Once again, the views were much better than the food. I had a fish fillet that was so salty it was inedible. But the mango split we shared for dessert was outstanding.
Loraine the tour guide sets up my phone with a local sim card. It gave me a usable phone number, but I was more interested in the data network for internet. It even worked some of the time!
Beer was cold, which is how I like it!
From our dining perch, the view to the right…
…the view straight ahead…
…and the view to the left.
After lunch I treated Loraine to getting her hair treated. Turns out it was a three hour long process, which gave me time to wander around a bit. More than enough time, because there just ain’t that much to see there. Luckily for me, I’m easily entertained…
Found me a beachside bar featuring cold SML beer and enjoyed the view and watching the passerby…
Lots of dive boats coming in and going out…
And a walkable beach if you were so inclined. I was not.
By the time Loraine’s hair was finished, I was half(?) drunk and hungry. There was a Korean restaurant across the street from the salon so I figured we’d give it a go.
It’s hard to go wrong with samgyapsal, even though I had to cook it myself.
Sabang has a smallish nightlife entertainment scene. We sampled three bars, all of the go-go variety which I pretty much disdain. One drink and out in each of them. One difference from the bars in Angeles City and Subic I’ve visited is that the gals danced one at a time, rather than as a group. I didn’t see the value in that, but what do I know.
Called our driver for the return trip to Lost Hills and he got us there in due course (about a 45 minute drive). Once back in our room I had another bout with my bronchitis issues. Feeling trapped in the room, figured I could be just as miserable at the poolside bar. Which was already closed, more than an hour prior to the posted closing time. Oh well, sat out there anyway. Suggested to the tour guide that we check out one day early and celebrate New Year’s Eve in Manila. There was really nothing left to see in Puerto Galera and I had a desire to be closer to reasonable medical care should my condition continue to worsen.
After breakfast the next morning we caught the banka boat ferry back to Batangas. Upon arrival had several touts offer to drive us back to Manila at a discounted rate of 2500 pesos, including tolls. Although that was a bargain price, I was uneasy about riding in an unlicensed “taxi”, weighing the odds of robbery or some other scam unworthy of the savings. Took a comfortable bus ride instead for 1/3 that price.
I had previously booked a room for January 1 at the Red Planet Hotel in Aseana Center. It’s near the airport, the Mall of Asia, and a couple of casinos. Just prior to checking out of Tribal Hills I went online to Agoda.com to add the 31st to my Red Planet booking. When we arrived at Red Planet there was a long line for check-in, and the clerks didn’t seem particularly competent. When I finally got to the counter and provided my ID the clerk couldn’t find my booking for the 31st. I explained that I had just made it that morning and didn’t have anything other than the email confirmation, which I pulled up and showed her.
She said “sir, this booking is for the Red Planet in Makati”. Damn, I hate when that happens. So, we had to “grab” a taxi across town. (Grab taxi is the Philippines version of Uber apparently. I like it.) On the way to our hotel I noticed an oddly familiar neighborhood–the P. Burgos street nightlife district! I had visited there on my previous Manila adventure back in June. Our hotel turned out to be within easy walking distance, so at least the location of our New Year’s Eve activities was taken care of. I like when that happens!
Got settled in the room then took a cab to the Greenbelt shopping district that the tour guide had suggested as a good place for dinner. She had a Filipino dish, I went with the chicken-on-a-stick (although it had a fancier name (and price) on the menu.). When it was time to head back to our neck of the woods we had a helluva time getting a taxi. All the queues were long and the cabs few and far between. I’m not known for my patience and it was shortly exhausted. I said fuck this, let’s walk away from this area where there is less competition for cabs. Loraine told me later she was surprised how I was brazenly walking down dicey streets with no apparent fear of being robbed. I wasn’t brave, just clueless. Regardless, my plan was not working as there didn’t appear to be any cabs to be found here either. (If I lived in Manila I would definitely get the Grab app on my phone).
In frustration, I walked over to the doorman at a small hotel and offered him 100 pesos if he could fetch me a cab. His efforts standing in the street were no more successful than mine. He asked Loraine in Tagalog where we were going and how much we were willing to pay to get there. After consulting with me, we said 300 pesos (six bucks, about double the taxi fare). He had a friend nearby, and after some discussion he agreed to drive us to our hotel for that price. Problem solved–money talks, we didn’t walk!
Rested up and cleaned up then headed out to Burgos for a night of bar hopping. Surprisingly, many of the bars were lacking the usually ubiquitous numbers of bar girls. Apparently many go home to the provinces for the holidays. No problem as I wasn’t in the market for that anyway. We had a pretty good time bar hopping until the clock was ready to strike 12.
My first kiss of the new year!
After another rough night and little sleep because of my health issue, we decided to make a visit to the Mall of Asia. Loraine had a hankering for pizza, and Shakey’s is the place for pizza in the PI. Which was surprising, because when I was a kid growing up in Southern California, Shakey’s was the big thing! I still remember their commercial jingle:
I’ve been to Mall of America, and this one seems bigger to me…it’s HUGE!
We serve fun at Shakey’s. Also pizza!
A nice little amusement park behind the mall…
Which is situated on Manila Bay…
Later that evening we hit a casino but I wasn’t impressed or in the mood. Did hit an 800 peso slot win, with only a 1000 peso investment!
Then we took a cab to the Ermita area of Manila and visited the famous L.A. Cafe. It’s a notorious hang out for freelance hookers, but also a fun, albeit smoky, bar. Glad I got to experience it.
Next morning it was up and out to the airport. And the rest as they say is history. Except for the being sick part, it was a good time.
Almost anyway. Depart Incheon International at 0755, which means I’ll depart the villa around 0430. Gonna play it safe and take a taxi to the airport.
Destination: Puerto Galera, Republic of the Philippines. From Manila I’ll cab or bus (depending on how much time I have and how much the cab driver wants to rape me) to Batangas. There I will catch the ferry to PG, about a one hour trip. Bringing along a barf bag in case the seas are rough.
I’m flying on Korean Air at least, having learned my lessons the hard way about “low cost” airlines. I’ll pay extra for comfort and service.
Bag is packed. Once I finish this post, I’ll pack the laptop.
Gonna be a weekend millionaire. Yep, that is an actual 100 dollar bill!
In unrelated news (well, the Japanese did attack the Philippines on the same day as Pearl Harbor, so…) I discovered evidence that it would have been impossible for the Japan to attack Hawaii. Hey, I found it on the internet, it must be true!
What else? Well, always the procrastinator but I did manage to beat the 31 December deadline for filing my medical claims with Blue Cross.
It’s not been the healthiest of years for me. Wore out my scanner last night, but got it done…
“You take a risk giving your heart to anybody. But every time your heart gets stomped on, you pick it up, brush it off, and start looking for somebody else to give it to. You know the risk and you accept it, gladly, because the payoff is worth it. And any love that qualifies itself, any ‘I love her but I don’t trust her’ love, isn’t really love. If you’re not risking everything you have, it’s not love. Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer chances.” –Steve Rosse
I’m not sure I agree, but I appreciate the sentiment.
And I really enjoyed this story, Call It What It Is. It’s a quick read. Tell me if the main character sounds like anyone you might know…
Alarm set for 0400, reckon I ought to get this shut down so I can get some shut eye.
Looking back on my first sojourn to Thailand I thought I’d share my impressions.
I found the Thai people to be friendly and pleasant overall. They generally carry themselves with an air of dignity and pride. For example, even the beggars were gracious and never harassing. The would sit demurely on the sidewalk with a cup in front of them, never asking but always thanking you for whatever pittance you provided. Similarly, the street touts and vendors would show you their wares, and if you declined their offering they would simply walk away. That was a nice change from being continuously hassled as in the norm in the Philippines. I make it the first point here because dealing with third world poverty and desperation really wears me down. And while I of course felt sympathy for the unfortunates, I appreciated the fact that it was not constantly in my face. I mean, you do what you can, but you can’t help everyone. When I ask to not be bothered I appreciate those wishes being respected. That was almost always the case in Thailand.
I found Thai women to be quite attractive and they carry themselves with a certain grace that is quite appealing. Regular readers know that there is something about the style and manner of Korean women that really trips my triggers, but I’ll say that Thai women come in at a close second on my (mental) listing of the relative beauty of Asian women.
I rather enjoyed Bangkok and its vibrant streets. I mostly walked everywhere I went and never felt uncomfortable in doing so. There is of course a well-established night life catering to whatever your particular tastes might be. As I’ve written before, I’m not into the whole “go-go” bar scene with nearly naked (or in some cases totally naked) gals shuffling around on a stage. Not criticizing those who enjoy that kind of thing, but it leaves me cold. Luckily, the streets are also full of beer bar type establishments which I much prefer. I find it quite entertaining to sit at an outside table and just watch the world go by. Yeah, pathetic as it may be.
My impression of Bangkok was that it is relatively clean and modern. To be sure, it’s not up to Seoul standards but it is also nothing like that disgrace of a city called Manila. Infrastructure was mostly good and I found it pretty easy to get around.
Wide streets, modern buildings…
Would I consider living there? Probably not. I’d return for a visit but it just didn’t feel like a place I could call home. Can’t put my finger on why exactly, just so big and alien I’d feel disconnected and estranged somehow. Granted, I was only there six days so maybe I’d get more comfortable in time. I did meet a couple of expats and enjoyed their company so that was good.
What can I say about Pattaya? It’s a huge tourist destination. Reminded me a little of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, except with prostitute bars. There were some nice scenic areas along the waterfront and many high-rise condominiums. Lots of expats around, so I guess I could fit in. But here’s the thing, sitting in the beer bars watching the people pass by made me consider whether I’d ever really want to fit in with that crowd. Not being critical, but I’m honestly not a whore monger. And that seems to be the main attraction for guys in my demographic.
What I found especially shocking was the number of old farts I’d see trolling the streets. Now, I’m no spring chicken obviously, but these guys looked like refugees from a nursing home. Old as dirt, shuffling along with canes and walkers. I’m like “I don’t want to wind up that!” On the other hand, I assume they’ve found what makes them happy in life, something I’ve not managed to accomplish as yet.
I could certainly do worse than Pattaya…
Anyway, while I could make do in Pattaya I suppose, I’m hoping to do better than making do when I re-retire next year.
There are two more places I want to see in Thailand before I make any final decisions—Phuket and Chaing Mai. Heard good things about both, and from what I’ve heard Chaing Mai might be more my speed.
One big issue for me with Thailand is the language barrier. Yes, I could learn some of the language, just like I’ve done in Korea. But ordering up beer and asking for the restroom is a long way from having a meaningful and satisfying conversation with the locals I’d live amongst. And I think my inability to speak Korean with my Korean wife was a large factor in the failure of that marriage. I definitely do not want to make that mistake again!
In a future post I will do a little comparison of the places that are on my short list of potential retirement destinations.
A reunion of sorts with a couple former members of the Seoul International Dart League, Johnny and W.C. They played back in the 1990s, long before my arrival in 2005.
It’s a cozy bar, featuring only one board.
I took 1st Place and was awarded this “trophy”…
Me and New Cowboy owner Miss Tia. I was declared MVP of the tourney and received the honor of wearing the famous MVP cap. Truth be told, I didn’t play well at all. I’m sure they were just being nice to their guest.
Reckon I’ll have to redeem my “Tia Ticket” before I catch my flight home late tonight…
Other random shit from my wanderings on the streets of Bangkok…
At least they admit it. This explains why vaping is illegal here I reckon…
At least he admits it. There are worse things than being a man ho I suppose…
It seems wherever I am in the world I’m never far from “home”.
I’ll be wrapping things up here today with a visit from my friend Tom. He’s flying in this afternoon. Last time I saw him we happened to be in Phnom Penh at the same time.
The King of Thailand died yesterday. As an American I’ve never been keen on the monarchy concept. But by all accounts, Bhumibol Adulyadej was revered by the Thai people and he seemed to have a genuine concern for the well-being of his citizens.
I’m wearing black today in respect for the mourning of the Thai people. The King is dead! Long live the King!
Things seem pretty much business as usual here in Bangkok, with one notable exception. Last night I walked over to see what was happening at Nana Plaza. It was dark. That’s huge! Got back to my Soi and all seemed normal. Until the police showed up. In brown shirts. Whereupon they ordered all the bars to close down immediately. That certainly put a damper on my usual routine. Not sure how long this restriction on alcohol consumption is going to last, I’ve heard rumors of 30 days. I’m supposed to compete in a dart tournament tonight, we’ll see if that is still happening.
Last night’s dining extravaganza:
I don’t always travel to Thailand, but when I do I eat Mexican food.
I guess it is apparent that I’m taking a bit of a holiday from the low-carb lifestyle as well. I’ll get back on the program when I return home on Sunday. At least I’m maintaining my walking rhythm.
In other news, I foolishly failed to pack a sufficient quantity of vaping juice to get me through the week. I realized this on Tuesday. Went online to see if there were any retailers in the area only to discover that not only does no one sell vape supplies, they are illegal to even possess. Well, I had heard that on the street and now I’m glad they didn’t search my carry on bag when I arrived at customs. I brought 10 vaping pens and 90 ML of oil with me. I’ve since lost one of my pens and consumed 80 ML of juice.
Anyway, I was trying to decide what to do. Cut back on consumption, go full on and deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms when I’d exhausted my supply of oil, or heaven forbid, buy a pack of cigarettes. As I contemplated these options while walking the streets of Bangkok yesterday afternoon I happened upon a street vendor selling vaping supplies. It was a bit of kismet because I normally don’t even look at the crap being sold on the street.
I’m a little worried about the quality of the ingredients, but it is a load off my mind knowing I’ll be able to feed my addiction.
Now it’s time to head out and burn some of those carbs I’ve been consuming. See you on the other side!
So, I can cross Walking Street in Pattaya off my bucket list.
I came. I saw. I drank. I left.
Walking Street is a bar district on speed. I sampled just a few of them. More of the same really, just more of it. How many gals can you watch dancing in a bikini (or less) before it gets old. My tolerance seems to be approximately one beer.
Actually, this is low season. And a Tuesday night. The ratio of bargirls to customers was probably 5-1 in the joints I visited. Even the street was relatively empty. I’ve been reading online that the bars are really struggling. The Chinese are visiting by the busload, but they are just looky-loos, didn’t see any of them partaking of the nightlife–just photographs from the street.
As regular readers know, I much prefer sitting at a street side table with a cold beer and watching the people go by. I was pretty surprised to see western men with their American-sized gals checking out the night life. I can only imagine what was going through their heads (him: I could have this instead of that!, her: oh these poor exploited women, these bars must be closed forever!). Ah, but who knows?
Which reminds me of the time I was sitting at a bar and these two largish women were talking in what sounded like a Scottish accent. Being friendly, I asked “are you ladies from Scotland?”. I got a dirty look and a snide “no, Wales”. I politely responded, “sorry, are you whales from Scotland?. Bada bing!
There was something on walking street to cater to every demographic. Russian bars, Indian nightclubs, and of course the infamous “ladyboy” clubs. Being both open minded and curious, I ventured into one called Katoeys are Us. I sat down and ordered up a beer. I got big smiles and waves from all the dancers on stage. There was one “gal” across the room who challenged me to a stare fight. Or so it seemed. I lost so called her over for a drink. She was quite lovely actually and had a beautiful smile to compliment her overly large and obviously fake breasts. Given our lack of a common language and my nervousness as she started rubbing my thigh, that’s as far as the conversation went. I downed my beer and headed back out to the relative safety of Walking Street.
In my haste to escape I realized that I had failed to empty my bladder. I *almost* made it to another bar’s restroom, but did experience some leakage before I could relieve myself. I was embarrassed by a fairly obvious wet spot on my blue jeans so I began to make my way home. I took the Beach Road route figuring it would be less crowded and dark enough to hide my shame. Was surprised at the number of free lance prostitutes I encountered there. Some were quite attractive but I’m even less interested in street hookers than I am of the gals who ply their trade from the go-go bars. I quickly crossed the road and discreetly sat at an outside table at Hooters where I enjoyed watching them ply their trade over a beer and chicken wings.
Yesterday I took a nice long walk (24,000 steps) and worked up a good sweat. Decided to stick close to home for my nighttime activities. So many bars, so little time!
“Fcuk Inn. Liquor in the front. Poker in the rear”. Gotta give ’em props on the creativity, but I never actually went inside to partake of either.
I did have a couple of beers at a street side bar and enjoyed watching the katoey’s in a bar across the road work hard at trying to entice passerby to come inside for a unique experience.
Good luck with that!
I had heard that you really couldn’t tell the difference. Taller than normal, lots of makeup, fake tits are all tell-tale signs. Still, many are quite attractive and I have no issues with folks who go for that kind of thing. Me? I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body. I only like women.
In my wanderings, I came across another creatively named bar:
I’m no Donald Trump but I grabbed a beer here anyway…
Turns out the name of the bar was intended to be ironic. Or so it appeared. Actually, I quite enjoyed chatting with Gee. She was kind enough to let me use some mosquito repellent for my legs, I reciprocated with a drink for her. It was nice to have a decent conversation in English, although we confined ourselves to topics like travel and the relative merits of vaping versus smoking. Definitely a girl with something extra!
Today I’m heading back to Bangkok to finish out my holiday in Thailand. Later I’ll post my impressions and observations of Pattaya overall. The community, not the bars. Promise!
Well, I’m not the world’s most physical guy, but when she held me tight she nearly broke my spine, oh my Lola.
Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand why she walked like a woman but talked like a man, oh my Lola.