On the beach (final weekend)

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.

getting down…

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.

Thanks for coming along!

 

 

 

On the beach (day 6)

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!

Fun times!

On the beach (day 5)

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…

….and this…

…and 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!

Welcome aboard!

A fine afternoon crowd of patrons and crew…

Bay views…

…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.

As days go, it was a good one!

On the beach (Day 4)

Where I are.

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.

Banana that is.

And so ends another day in paradise.

On the beach (day 2 and 3)

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!

 

On the beach (day 1)

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…

Looking out….

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.

Roll on!

Time to move on to a new venue.

All packed out for a 10 day journey….

Three guesses as to where.

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.

See you on the other side!

A New Year in the Philippines

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 this….

….this…

…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.

 

Time for me to fly

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…

I’ve previously written about a writer I rather like, Steve Rosse.  Found this gem in one of his stories that kind of resonated.

“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.

See you in the PI!

 

Regarding Thailand

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...

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.

Oh my!

Oh my!

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...

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.

Stay tuned!

Almost like home

A fun night of darts at the New Cowboy dart bar.

A reunion of sorts with a couple former members of the Seoul International Dart League.  They played back in the 1990s, long before my arrival in 2005.

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.

It’s a cozy bar, featuring only one board.

I took 1st Place and was awarded this "trophy"...

I took 1st Place and was awarded this “trophy”…

Me and New Cowboy owner Miss Tia.  I was declared MVP of the tourney and got 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.

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...

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 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...

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".

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.

More to come…

The King and I

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!

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 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.

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!

UPDATE:  I guess it’s official.  No nightlife for 30 days.

 

 

Lola

So, I can cross Walking Street in Pattaya off my bucket list.

I came. I saw. I drank. I left.

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.

Oh my!

Oh my!

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.

“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!

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.

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...

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!

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.

 

Lost in Pattaya

Literally.

Hired a driver through my new friend Tia (who owns the New Cowboy dart bar) to transport me from Bangkok to Pattaya, about a 2 hour drive.  The driver spoke no English and arrived 30 minutes late, but no biggie.  We got to Pattaya with no problem, but then he couldn’t find my hotel.  Well, I’d written the address down in English, but apparently he didn’t read English so much.  Anyway, he actually stopped and asked for directions 5 or 6 times, but we eventually found our way to the Mareez Lodge.

Worst fucking hotel I can recall ever staying at.  I’d compare it to a Motel 6, but that’s probably not fair.  To Motel 6.  Actually, the room is better than the service, so there’s that. I chose this lodging because of it’s central location and based on the recommendation of Lunian, a nice Romanian guy I met at my hotel restaurant in Bangkok.  I guess our taste in lodging differs.  Anyway, for 20 bucks a night I can suck it up.  It’s not like I’m spending a lot of time in the room anyway.

Anyway, after checking in I figured I’d take a hike and reconnoiter the area.  I was walking pretty much randomly but came upon the infamous Walking Street.

Of course by day it's almost serene. I'll check it out in all its decadent glory tonight...

Of course by day it’s almost serene. I’ll check it out in all its decadent glory tonight…

A typical Walking Street venue.

Well, I guess that settles it.

Well, I guess that settles it.

So, I headed back to the hotel via Beach Road but then I totally lost my bearings.  Nothing looked familiar and given that all the street signs were written in a language that looks like scribbling to me, my English language hotel map on the back of a business card was useless.  In desperation (but not panic) I approached a motorcycle taxi driver and asked him if he knew where my hotel was.  Although he spoke no English he seemed to indicate in the affirmative and offered a ride for 40 baht.  I guess the last time I rode on the back of a motor scooter was in Phnom Penh.  I was drunk then but it was still a scary ride.  Totally sober like yesterdayfelt like I was living life on the edge.  Without a helmet to boot.  Well, we rode around for awhile and still nothing looked familiar.  And then he stopped and asked for directions.  Then took me to a place called the Marin, and I tried my best to explain that no, this is not where I’m going.  When he stopped for directions again I finally just gave up in frustration, paid him and started walking again.  I found a neighborhood I’d seen before, but still had no clue as to where my hotel might be.  So I asked another moto-taxi guy who consulted with another driver and he told me to walk 50 meters and turn right.  And sure enough, there it was!  I did manage 17,000 steps on my adventure.

So I stuck close by my lodging last night.  Fortunately(?) there are multitudes of bars to choose from within a 3 block radius.  I chose several.  Dined on street food, although I didn’t go Thai–an egg burger and a chicken kabob.  Both were good, at least as far as my drunken palate was concerned.  There’s a massage place next to my hotel, so I popped in there on my way home.  As I perused the menu I was told they were offering a “two for one” special.  I asked, ‘what’s that?” and was advised four hands for the price of two.  I’m never one to refuse a bargain!  But truthfully, those extra hands were a bit distracting.  I’ll stick with one set in the future.

Got up this morning and took my dirty clothes to a laundry service.  Because it is hot and I sweat a lot, I normally have to change twice a day.  Rather than carry a big ass suitcase I generally just take advantage of getting them washed and folded for less than I hand out in tips to bargirls.  Then I went out in search of breakfast.  I took careful note this time of where I was and identified specific landmarks along the way to ensure I’d find my way back without incident.  And at Jolly’s hotel and restaurant I ordered up a ham, cheese, and mushroom omelette.

Biggest damn omelette I ever did see! And the coffee was excellent too.

Biggest damn omelette I ever did see! And the coffee was excellent too.

After consuming about 2/3s of that monster I commenced to walking.  Found my way back to Beach Road, which led me to Walking Street.  Then I walked down a long ass pier.  Here’s some of what I saw along the way:

The Queen of Thailand...

The Queen of Thailand…

The ocean.

The ocean.

A beach to the left of me...

A beach to the left of me…

And one on the right...

And one on the right…

A view from the pier...

A view from the pier…

And another...

And another…

You can see the sea...

You can see the sea…

Made my way back and although I didn’t leave any bread crumbs along the road, I feel confident now that I can manage to get home tonight without being lost.  Even when I’m drunk, and odds are good I will be.

After a nice long walk it is important to re=hydrate.  And so I did.

I've gotten to like the little beer bar across the street from my hotel. Friendly staff, although we mostly communicate with smiles.

I’ve gotten to like the little beer bar across the street from my hotel. Friendly staff, although we mostly communicate with smiles.

Kevin asks in the comments to my previous post if I’m going to be doing anything more interesting than drinking beer, such as riding an elephant.  Probably not.  When I travel alone I don’t usually go for the touristy stuff.  Mostly because it underscores the fact that I’m, well, traveling alone.  I’m content to just go walking about and taking in whatever I come across. Although I do prefer to avoid getting lost.  And the drinking helps me forget about being alone.  And as long as you are buying lady drinks you can pretend that you are not.

Stay tuned for a report on Walking Street at night.  God help me!

 

The adventure continues

Did some more walking around yesterday.  The mission: Find an ATM that has an English interface and replenish my dwindling supply of Thai baht.  Third try was magic.

Had a couple of brews and a nice massage.  Took a nap and headed out to Soi Cowboy to see the sights.  Oh boy.

Soi Cowboy street scene.  I won't be going back I expect.

Soi Cowboy street scene. I won’t be going back I expect.

I’m not a fan of the “go-go” bar scene in general.  Watching young women “dance” in bikinis is just plain ass boring.  I had a beer in a bar called Dollhouse and was shocked and a little disgusted when the girls removed the bikinis and danced totally nude.  I’m sorry, but leaving nothing to the imagination is just not sexy in my opinion.  One beer and I was out of there.

Back on the street I found a nice beer bar and had a very pleasant conversation with my waitress.  First Thai I’ve met that could speak reasonably good English.  I rewarded her with a couple of lady drinks which made her night.

I started walking back to my neck of the woods.  Felt sorry for a couple of the beggars I saw on the street.  A young mother and her filthy child and a young girl of maybe 12 laying on the sidewalk with a cup in front of them and eyes that begged in a way words could never convey.  I handed out 100 baht notes like candy but it didn’t make me feel much better.

I passed by Nana Plaza and popped into Hooters for more beer and people watching.

The view from Hooters.  Much cheaper than partaking in the debauchery taking place across the street.

The view from Hooters. Much cheaper than partaking in the debauchery taking place across the street.

A beer and some chicken tenders and I was out of there.  Well, they screwed up my tab but we eventually got that sorted out.  Finished the night with the best massage I’ve had thus far.  Over tipped the masseuse, bet hey, it’s only money and it made her night.

At breakfast this morning the TV was blaring CNN “news” about the debate.  I asked the manager to turn it off and he graciously did so.  Then we had a very nice  non-political chat.  He’s originally from Romania and is also a fan of the low-carb lifestyle.  Heh, we are even Facebook friends now!  Anyway, he gave me some pointers on where to stay in Pattaya which was much appreciated.  I’ll be heading down there in an hour or so.

Well, at least in Pattaya I can look at the ocean instead of the dancing girls.

Life is grand.

Steppin’ out in Bangkok

22,000 steps yesterday checking out the lay of the land. First impressions:  Bangkok is no Seoul but it sure as hell ain’t Manila either (Manila being by far the worst place I ever did see).  Bangkok is a big-ass city but for the most part it appears that things work as intended.  Yeah, the traffic sucks but that is true in almost every major metropolis.  The infrastructure is decent, the streets are relatively clean,   I feel generally safer here than I do in the Philippines, and while there is evidence of some poverty it is not as up close and in your face as it is in the PI. There are beggars about but not nearly as numerous as I’m accustomed to seeing in my third world travels and they are certainly far less aggressive than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Part of the purpose of this trip was to ascertain if Thailand might be in play as a future retirement destination.  Thus far I can say that although I enjoy city life, I don’t see Bangkok feeling like home.  It’s no secret that I like to frequent the bar districts, but the types of bars that are in abundance here just don’t do it for me.  With a couple of exceptions the expat community doesn’t seem all that warm and welcoming.  And it was no surprise to discover that the language barrier here is huge.  What little English the locals I’ve met speak is barely understandable.  That’s just not the way I want to live in my adopted “hometown”.

Let’s go to the photos.

Wide streets, modern buildings...

Wide streets, modern buildings…

The public transit is above ground...

The public transit is above ground…

The drive on the "wrong" side which can be disconcerting and dangerous when you are drunk...

They drive on the “wrong” side which can be disconcerting and dangerous when you are drunk…

Korean culture is ever present it seems...

Korean culture is ever present it seems…

There's even a "Korea Town".

There’s even a “Korea Town”.

One more street scene...

One more street scene…

During my walkabout yesterday while waiting to cross the street I was vaping away.  A young expat warned me to be careful about vaping in public because it is illegal and the police might harass me about it.  Thailand actually is a police state, well, controlled by the military anyway.  There were cops stationed on just about every corner.  Most of them puffing away on cigarettes.  On what basis they would outlaw the relatively safer and less offensive vaping habit I cannot say.  It did make me a little more discreet and uncomfortable, but not enough to make me not vape while I walk.  Hey, it’s what I do.  Still, one more check mark in the negative column for Thailand.

Yesterday evening I went out to meet Johnny Witkowski at a dart bar called “The New Cowboy”.  While waiting for him to arrive I played a quick game with one of the bar girls.  She actually played pretty well, but not well enough to win.  The only other customer in the bar wanted to give me a go.  A guy from England here to play in a big dart tourney today.  I took him in cricket, and he returned the favor in 501.  So we played a rubber match during which I managed to eek a win.  He’s a more skilled player than I am, but sometimes skill doesn’t win out.  I quit while I was ahead.

Had a nice visit with Johnny.  He’s on old Seoul guy and played in the dart league back in the 90’s, long before my time.  He gave me some tips on finding my way around, and had the bar owner make arrangements for transportation to Pattaya tomorrow.  A good guy who made me feel very welcome in a strange city.  Thanks for that!

It was raining when I left for the dart bar, so I hired a Tuk Tuk to take me there. I wound up getting took took. Charged me 200 baht and left me several blocks from my destination. I'm such a tourist sometimes. Lost one of my vaping sticks in the process to boot. I did manage to find my way to the bar, pretty much by accident.

It was raining when I left for the dart bar, so I hired a Tuk Tuk to take me there. I wound up getting took took. Charged me 200 baht and left me several blocks from my destination. I’m such a tourist sometimes. Lost one of my vaping sticks in the process to boot. I did manage to find my way to the bar, pretty much by accident.

Of course, when you visit a new country it is important to sample the local cuisine. Me? I had the lemon pepper wings at Hooters. Sue me.

Of course, when you visit a new country it is important to sample the local cuisine. Me? I had the lemon pepper wings at Hooters. Sue me.

The scene of the crime. I dropped WAY to much me in there last night. The morning after a drunken night feels the same wherever you are in the world.

The scene of the crime. I dropped WAY to much money in there last night. The morning after a drunken night feels the same wherever you are in the world.

This afternoon I had a couple of beers in a street side bar called Stumble Inn. Then I had a massage that really sucked. And not in the good way. Came out with three mosquito bites on my leg. The massage itself was good though.

This afternoon I had a couple of beers in a street side bar called Stumble Inn. Then I had a massage that really sucked. And not in the good way. Came out with three mosquito bites on my leg. The massage itself was good though.

Had lunch at the resto next to my hotel. I had fun watching the girls at the bar across the street getting ready for the work day. This poor gal apparently had a late night and was trying to catch some Zzzz before the customers arrived.

Had lunch at the resto next to my hotel. I had fun watching the girls at the bar across the street getting ready for the work day. This poor gal apparently had a late night and was trying to catch some Zzzz before the customers arrived.

Tonight I’m heading to another entertainment district, Soi Cowboy.  Going to try and be a bit more frugal this time.  Tomorrow at noon I’ll check out and head down to Pattaya.  I don’t think it’s going to be my cup of tea, but I figure I’ll see it once in this lifetime anyway. I’ll return to Bangkok on Thursday.  Playing in a darts tourney on Friday.  Then hooking up with a friend who’s flying in Saturday.  Then I’m outta here in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

More to come!

 

 

 

Greetings from the Land of Smiles

Bangkok to be precise.

I had it in my head for some reason that my flight was scheduled to depart at 1800.  Had a busy morning at work, and then we had a staff cookout to welcome the wonderful fall weather to Korea.

It was a nice day for a little team building. And eating!

It was a nice day for a little team building. And eating!

After lunch I had a brief meeting with my Deputy to discuss the “way ahead” during my absence and then I rushed off to Seoul Station to catch the airport railroad express train to Incheon.  On the way down the escalator to the platform I realized that in the rush of things I had forgotten to go by the credit union to grab some cash for my trip.  Damn, I hate when that happens!

Nothing to be done but go the ATM route.  I withdrew W500,000 then exchanged it for Thai Baht.  So I got screwed on the exchange by converting dollars from my bank account to Won (with the added expense of the ATM fee), and then again when I traded Won for Baht (dollars exchange at a higher rate).  And when my initial funds run dry I’ll be hitting ATMs here which is the worst possible way to obtain local currency.  Ah well, who says you can’t put a price on stupidity?

Arriving at Incheon I checked the flight information board and saw that my scheduled departure was 1830, exactly four hours from the moment I was standing there.  Except that the flight had been delayed until 1930.  I like to get to the airport with time to spare, but five hours is a bit much.  So I did my daily 15,000 steps by circumnavigating the terminal a few times, did some vaping in the smoking lounge, and got in the spirit of things by reading some tales from Thailand.

Good reading!

Good reading!

Boarded my flight a little after 1900.  It was my first time flying an Airbus 380, the world’s largest commercial airliner.  I was very pleased to discover that at least the way Asiana configures the cabin I had plenty of leg room.  The kind of leg room you pay extra for on a U.S. flag carrier.  And when the cabin door closed I was delighted to see that I was the only person sitting in my row of seats.  It was after 2130 before we were wheels up, and not long after that I was stretched out and soundly sleeping across three seats.  Quite comfortably in fact, and it made the flight go by like a dream.  Ahem.

We landed in Bangkok just before midnight local time (two hours earlier than Seoul).  The airport is modern and efficient and huge.  After a long hike I made it to immigration and got through the line in about 20 minutes with no issues.  Claimed my bag and went downstairs to catch a cab.

They have a pretty nice system in the cab queue.  All the cabs wait in numbered spaces in the parking area.  You get a ticket from a kiosk with the associated space number for your ride and then you just hook up with your cabbie.  I had a female driver who made me feel right at home by not speaking any English (and my Thai is non-existent at this point). I showed her the address of my hotel from my booking receipt and we were off.

It took about 40 minutes and two expressway tolls to reach my part of town (Nana). One thing I thought about during the ride is the feeling you get on your first visit to a new city.  I mean, it’s a little discomfiting to be completely clueless but also exciting to be experiencing something completely new and different.  That only happens once and I’m really embracing the moment.  Good stuff!

So my hotel is the iCheck Inn.  It is at the end of a narrow alley and my cabbie dropped me off on the main street.  I walked up the road hoping she had indeed left me at the right Soi (street), after after passing several beer bars and massage joints (and being enticed to come in by several lovely ladies) I made it to the entrance of my lodging.  It’s a 3 star venue, but is modern, clean and comfortable.  So far, so good.

By the time I completed check in (at the Check Inn, ha!) and got the room organized, it was after 2 a.m. (4 a.m. in Seoul).  That’s late for me in either country, but given my sound sleep on the flight I had enough energy to explore the neighborhood.  In my alley I found a place to enjoy a beer without being harassed by juicy girls.  I moved a bit further up the alley and had a beer at a bar featuring a live band.  Not my style of music (a Thai version of hip-hop) so it was one and out.  Walked a little up the main drag but everything was pretty much closed down for the night.  Except for the street walkers.  And I ignored their entreaties for company.

Returned to the room and had a very good morning’s sleep.  Up around 0900 and went downstairs for my free breakfast.

I've had better coffee, but never a better coffee mug. The breakfast was cooked to order, which I much prefer to buffet style.

I’ve had better coffee, but never a better coffee mug. The breakfast was cooked to order, which I much prefer to buffet style.

Here’s my “alley” by day.

It's a whole different look when the sun goes down.

It’s a whole different look when the sun goes down.

And the entrance to my comfortable boutique hotel.

And the entrance to my comfortable boutique hotel.

Time now to get on with the adventure.  I’m fixin’ to put on my walking shoes and explore the mean streets of Bangkok by day.  And reconnoiter where I might be spending the nighttime hours.  I’ve actually already hooked up on Facebook with the owner of a dart bar.  Back in the days before my time he played in the Seoul dart league.  Should be fun to meet up and share stories while chucking the arrows.

Stay tuned!

 

Sand to the beach (finale)

Back home from the Philippines.  A mostly good trip.  I’ll let the photos do the talking…

The breakfast view each morning...

The breakfast view each morning…

I was forced to cheat on my diet when I spotted a Monte Cristo sandwich on the menu.  Haven't seen one of those in over 20 years!

I was forced to cheat on my diet when I spotted a Monte Cristo sandwich on the menu. Haven’t seen one of those in over 20 years!

A typical lunch.  T-bone for Eun Oke, smoked pork for me... Everything was well prepared, service was friendly and efficient...

A typical lunch. T-bone for Eun Oke, smoked pork for me… Everything was well prepared, service was friendly and efficient…

And it was hard to beat the specials!

And it was hard to beat the specials!

The night life was a lot of fun too.  Eun Oke made friends everywhere she went.  She was very kind and generous with the bar girls.  I was impressed and I guess they were too…

Two of her favorites were Wennie and Cherry.  It was Wennie's 27th birthday so we bought her a cake.  She cried when she saw it...

Two of her favorites were Wennie and Cherry. It was Wennie’s 27th birthday so we bought her a cake. She cried when she saw it…

It was a happy birthday for a hard working working girl...

It was a happy birthday for a hard working working girl…

Eun Oke got into the spirit of things by joining the girls on stage for a dance...

Eun Oke got into the spirit of things by joining the girls on stage for a dance…

Eun Oke also gave Cherry and Wennie the dresses they are wearing in this photo.  She loved making the girls smile...

Eun Oke also gave Cherry and Wennie the dresses they are wearing in this photo. She loved making the girls smile…

A new night, a new city (Angeles) and new friends...

A new night, a new city (Angeles) and new friends…

And when "Gangnam Style" was played Eun Oke did what any self-respecting Korean would do...she got up and danced....

And when “Gangnam Style” was played Eun Oke did what any self-respecting Korean would do…she got up and danced….

...on stage!

…on stage!

It was fun while it lasted.

 

Sand to the beach (part 3)

Day 2 of our long weekend in the Philippines.

The pool side bar at Orchid Inn.

The pool side bar at Orchid Inn.

Eun Oke slept in so I enjoyed a pleasant breakfast poolside at the Orchid Inn.  This is where I stayed on my cherry trip to the PI ten years ago, so it was nice to sit with my old memories.

And the pool. Lots of fun memories here...

And the pool. Lots of fun memories here…

I had arranged a 2:00 p.m. checkout so once Eun Oke roused from her slumber I walked her over to Norma’s to exchange some dollars for pesos.  Then we sat street side at Kokomo’s where the girlfriend ate lasagna and I drank beer.  Also arranged for a car to take us to Subic through Kokomo’s.  Poor bastard got a ticket on the way though.  Either speeding or an illegal pass (or both).  He was in a foul mood afterwards of course.

The infamous Walking Street in Angeles City is not as scary by day...

The infamous Walking Street in Angeles City is not as scary by day…

Enjoying the food and passersby at Kokomo's...

Enjoying the food and passersby at Kokomo’s…

We checked into our room at Arizona a little after 3:00 p.m.  Nice spacious room (#28 for those in the know) with a fair view of the bay.  10% discount thanks to Gavin and Philippines Addicts (a web forum I’m a member of).  After getting settled in and changing clothes we popped downstairs to check out Score Bar.

The view of Subic Bay from our balcony...

The view of Subic Bay from our balcony…

The view of Eun Oke all decked out for a Friday night on the town...

The view of Eun Oke all decked out for a Friday night on the town…

Five years since my last visit and the place had been remodeled.  Sat down where the bar used to be and ordered us a couple of SML’s.  And then the same thing that had happened the previous night occurred again—Eun Oke was surrounded by the curious Score bargirls.  She actually seemed to enjoy being treated like a rock star (or in her case, a K-Pop star).  And soon enough she had bought her entourage a round of lady drinks.  I told her she should save money by handing out autographs instead of drinks!  Anyway, I think seeing a Korean female in the bars is unusual and I was surprised at how pervasive Korean “culture” is amongst Filipinas.  They were all talking about their favorite Korean drama stars and singers.

Miss Popularity in Score Bar.

Miss Popularity in Score Bar.

Knowing I wasn’t going to permit a second round of drinks I suggested we check out other venues.  Walking up the road I saw a nail salon, noticed my overgrown toenails, and popped in for a pedicure.  The GF didn’t want the foot work but she was talked into a back massage.

Next up was the SOB (Sons of Baccus, and no, I’m not sure why it’s called that) at Hot Zone.  This event features a dance competition from the dancers at various bars.  The girls go all out with costumes and choreographed dance routines. Eun Oke seemed to really enjoy the show and we both agreed the pole dancer after the show was incredible.  I did pretty well in the raffle drawing as well, at least well enough to make the P1100 (per couple) entry fee a relative bargain.

The joint was jam packed with revelers...

The joint was jam packed with revelers…

Here’s a video of the pole dancer.

Walked back to the Arizona, and not ready to call it a night just yet dropped in for another visit to Score Bar.  Most of Eun Oke’s new friends were still there and invited themselves to join us.  I had already impressed upon her the need to end the practice of buying mass LDs, advising that she pick one or two girls to drink and engage with.  Of course, when there are 10 or 12 gals surrounding your table with puppy dog eyes thirsting for a drink it’s tough to pick two and disappoint the rest.  I came up with the bright idea of giving Eun Oke her first ever body shot experience.  She didn’t freak out at all.   So, I bought her another round from two girls this time.  Eun Oke got into the spirit of things and insisted I join in with body shots of my own.  It was fun while it lasted, but I decided we’d best bail before things got completely out of hand (and pocket).  It was the right call, because the tab exhausted the last of my pocket money.  More in the room safe, but I try to not spend more than I bring out for the night (5-6,000 pesos).

And let’s just say the night’s festivities put the GF in a happy mood.  So day 2 ended sweetly.

Sand to the beach (part 2)

After dropping off our bags I took Eun Oke  for a quick tour of Walking Street in Angeles City.  It was late of course, but she was still amazed.  I gave her a quick lesson in how to ignore the touts and street vendors.  And then it was time for me to introduce her to her first girly bar.  I chose Voodoo because it was small and maybe not too overwhelming.  Not surprisingly, the lineup of girls at that late hour was not impressive, they were all overweight and lacking in the pretty qualities.  Our waitress was very friendly and engaged  Eun Oke is some conversation.  When the waitress left for our next round of drinks Eun Oke commented that she was surprised how friendly people are in the PI.  And then without prompting from me, she offered a drink to the waitress.  She accepted, and then gave us each a free drink!  That was a nice touch.

We then moved down the street to a larger venue, Dollhouse.  I was shocked at just how obese these gals on stage were.  Eun Oke commented that fat and t-backs are not a good combination.  There was a group of Korean men upstairs making it rain (throwing money on the stage) which of course set the dancers off in a mad money grabbing scramble.  Eun Oke was not impressed and shared my view that it seemed demeaning to the girls. I did point out that they were working for a living, and money is money no matter how it is earned.  Still, my preference is to reward with generous lady drinks one-on-one.  To each his own I suppose.

We decided to walk on up the road and popped into Angel Witch.  We sat down at a table near the stage and I noticed we were the only customers at this late hour.  About the time our drinks arrived there was a rotation of dancers.  And to my surprise the girls coming off the stage immediately surrounded our table.  That’s never happened to me before!

I guess it still hasn’t, because I wasn’t the attraction.  Apparently they had never seen a Korean woman in the bar before and they treated Eun Oke like a movie star.  They besieged her with questions, rubbed her arms and shoulders, and made her feel special indeed.  I think she loved the attention because again, unprompted by me, she ordered a lady drink for all ten of them!  Yeah, waste of money perhaps but they were all having a good time and you really can’t put a price tag on that kind of fun.

 

1sep3.jpg

The happy dancers at Angel Witch

We then returned to our room, relieved some tension, and fell into a happy sleep.  I reckoned the trip to be off to a better than hoped for start, so I was very pleased indeed.  Next up—day 2 in Subic.  Stay tuned!