Home again

And I learned some things along the way.

Plane landed wheels down at 1730 in Incheon.  A 747 and it appeared every seat was full.  I was relatively close to the front (row 37) so hustled on down to beat the crowd to the immigration queue.  Success!

Had to wait for my bag about 10 minutes, but I’m not one to complain.  Much.  Anyway, I was undecided about how best to get home.  I went out to the Airport Limo ticket stand and asked about the next bus to Pyeongtaek.  It left at 1900, and my watch said 5 minutes past 6.  Fuck that I said to myself (hopefully I didn’t say it out loud!).  So I made my way to the airport railroad.  I reckoned on taking the “all stops” line, figuring to get off at Yongsan station and catch the train home.  Well, once I was on board the AREX slow train I looked at the map and saw the fucker didn’t stop at Yongsan.  Every other goddamn burg along the way, but no Yongsan.

So, I got off at the stop prior to Seoul station and caught the subway over to Yongsan (2 stops).  I arrived at 19:30 and the Pyeongtaek train departed at 19:50.  So the timing was good.  In retrospect, I’d been better off taking the express AREX to Seoul station and cabbing or subway to Yongsan from there.  Might have saved me 30 minutes.  Not sure if there was an earlier train to Pyeongtaek, so maybe it didn’t matter.

Anyway, I got back home a few minutes after 9.  I probably beat the Airport Limo bus, but not by much.

Traveling is such a pain in the ass.  Can’t wait to do it again!

Bowed but not beaten!

And tomorrow I’ll blog about my new attitude.  Now it is off to bed.

Boracay adventure–finale

Kinda got settled into the drunken laid back beach lifestyle and couldn’t be fucked to post here.  In Manila now and will head out to the airport in an hour.  Let’s ketchup!

This is where I stayed. As mentioned previously, a bit inconvenient in that it is at the end of the beach with no road access. I guess you might call it a “boutique” hotel, small and older but not without its charms.

Probably the best thing going for it was the friendly staff. Everyone I encountered was smiling and helpful.

Now, getting up to the room could be a bit of challenge, especially on those nights when I had a bit too much to drink (that would be all of them). Narrow and twisting stairway from the lobby…

….leading to a second flight of stairs…

….and finally to the balcony in front of the room.

Sailboats on the beach….

I got a kick out of this dog. He held that plastic bottle in his mouth like it was the best chew toy ever. I’m really hoping to own a German Shepherd once I make the move.

Doggone.

A breakfast view…

A view of breakfast…

Speaking of food, it was generally a disappointment. Subic Bay has a lot more choices and higher quality preparation in my experience. This pulled pork sandwich was pretty nice though…

Unlike Subic, Boracay has a lot of franchise chain outlets. Hadn’t seen a Johnny Rockets since I left NOVA in 2005. Had to give it a try of course and the double meat burger I ordered was quite tasty.

Sunday was my last night in Boracay and so I spent it on the beach. Where else would I go?

Made it back to the airport with a minimum of trouble and in less than an hour.

The view from the very small terminal was quite pleasant.

Back in Manila and I needed to get some walking in. Hoofed it over to the Mall of Asia. Huge it is!

Christmas season is in full swing here. Crazy!

In a land of beautiful brown skinned people I was quite shocked to discover this outlet in the mall….turns out it is an inappropriately named restaurant.

After the mall I paid a visit to the EDSA entertainment complex. The entertainment being a group of several bars featuring dancing girls and overpriced drinks. This blonde didn’t have much to say, but she was friendlier than most of the gals I’ve met lately…

And now I’ll begin the journey back home.  But before I go I will share this nugget the daughter sent me:

Ha! She inherited her father’s sense of humor!

 

Boracay adventure Day 2

Take a deep breath, relax, and accept the Filipino way.  Repeat as necessary.

I said that a lot on the way to Boracay.

The one hour Cebu Pacific flight from Manila to Caticaylan airport went without a hitch. Getting from that small airport to Boracay requires transport to the ferry depot, a short ferry ride to Boracay island, and then transport to your hotel.  During the flight it was announced that Cebu Pacific was now offering a package that would take you from the airport direct to your hotel all for just 550 pesos ($11).  Well, that seemed like a good deal just for the convenience factor so I ponied up the money.

So we land and deplane onto waiting buses.  Not unusual for small airports with no jet ways.  What I had never experienced before was having the bus exit the airport, drive through some small villages, and arriving at a small terminal 15 minutes later.  Well, I call it a terminal, it just seemed to be a room for bag claim.  Anyway, retrieved my luggage and walked outside where I was besieged by touts offering transportation.  I said no, I’ve already bought a ride from Cebu Pacific.  It took me awhile to figure out that Southwestern Tours was the contractor for this service.  Someone eventually pointed to a waiting van across the street.  The van driver told me I had to go this nearby window to get my ticket.  The ticket I got on the plane was just a voucher for the real ticket.  And so began the ordeal.

I was only second in line, but damn, you wouldn’t believe the paperwork.  I had to fill out a form, then receipts were printed, taxes (a 75 peso “environment” tax) collected, and so on.  I was then handed a stack of paper to carry with me and directed to board the van with about 20 other travelers.   We drove through some fairly heavy traffic for such a small village, but arrived at the ferry in due course.  Where we stood in line to go through security, including x-rays of the baggage.  Then we stood in another line where some of the paper I had been issued was collected.  We were then directed to the line for the ferry entrance, where more paper was taken from my stack.  There were lots of ferries to choose from, but I eventually found the Southwestern Tours boat.  I boarded and waited.  And waited.

Once we were full-up we made the quick trip (maybe 10 minutes) across the water and finally arrived at Boracay island.  Where we waited some more for a van to take us to our hotel.  I guess we had ten people in our van, and of course my hotel was the last one on the list.  Worse than that, it was just shy of total gridlock the entire way.  Who knew there could be so much traffic on such a small island?

Two hours later (no shit, two hours from the airport to my hotel, a total distance that couldn’t be more than 15 kms or so) I arrived.  Sort of.  My hotel is at the far end of the beach and the road doesn’t go that far.  Seriously, it was a two block walk through the sand to get to the hotel.

I repeated my mantra like a Catholic praying to Mary for most of the ride.  Welcome to the Philippines!

So, that was the bad part.  So far, Boracay has been pretty nice otherwise.  Just some quick geography before we go to the pictures.  Boracay is divided into three stations. The ferry arrives at Station 3, most of the tourist resorts are in Station 2, and my hotel is at the far end of Station 1.  At first I was distressed at being so far from the “action” but after witnessing that action, I’m very pleased to be on the relatively quiet end of the island.

The ferry port, Station 3 Boracay island.

The view from my hotel..the Aritista. Not bad, eh?

The beach at Station 3 Boracay. My hotel is at the end of the beach…

The Station 3 water view…

The Spider House. Had dinner here the first night. Interesting set of stairs to get up there and really cool ambiance and views. Food was mediocre and the service was worse than terrible.

Sunset on the water…

And the harvest moon…

The water is crystal clear here. Puts Subic to shame in that regard.

Took a goodly long walk yesterday (22,000 steps all told). Most of it was on the beach, but this was part of the trail as well. Would not walk it at night or after drinking though…

Who says there are no virgins in the Philippines?

Lots of beachside bars like this…

Beautiful places, smiling faces…

I’ve only tried muff diving…

Station 2 beach scene. Now you can see why I’m glad to be in Station 1. I’d say 85% of the tourists here are Korean and Chinese.

Lots of Hanguel signage and Korean food. And to a lesser degree, Chinese as well. Clearly catering to their tourist base.

Lots of diving places back in Station 3.

This is the National Highway that runs the length of the island. The only highway apparently. Very narrow two lane. And as I mentioned, it often results in gridlock. I walked back to the hotel this way and it was not pleasant. I’ll stick to the beach from here on out.
This is also why I’m unlikely to ever return here. Lots of new hotels under construction but no work on the supporting infrastructure. What is bad now is only going to get worse.

Last night I helped my tour guide/caregiver Loraine celebrate her 50th birthday…

A restaurant I will NOT be trying. What next, a building named Trump?

And that pretty much captures the highlights of Day 2.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Boracay adventure Day 1

Greetings from the Philippines!

Getting here was half the fun.  Well, less than that.

The bus I rode from Anjeong-ri. It arrived 10 minutes late and not at the stop I had been advised to catch it. Actually, after waiting awhile I decided to go catch a cab to Pyeongtaek. While heading to the taxi stand I found the correct bus stop. Lucky me!

It was a little disconcerting being the only passenger for the first part of the trip.  We were taking narrow backroads through rice paddies and I’m thinking it’s gonna be a long ride to Incheon.  As you can see, the bus I rode indicated it made stops in Songtan and Osan before going to the airport.  Nope.  We stopped at a bus terminal in Ansung and picked up a handful of passengers.  Drove past some random roadside stops where no one was waiting, stopped at another bus terminal in Suwon (I think), more backroads, then a highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic for awhile.  All told, it took just over three hours to make the airport.  Interesting ride but one I have no intention of ever taking again.

Still, I had three hours more to kill before my flight was scheduled to depart.  That’s fine, I much prefer being early than late.  I had checked in via the internet, so there was no waiting when I dropped my bag.  Sailed through security and immigration.  The terminal was packed with holiday travelers, which kind of surprised me.  I figured most folks would have departed earlier in the week.  Ah well, it made it a pain in the ass to get my walking in, but I managed.

Plane boarded 30 minutes late.  Apparently they didn’t have enough ground crew scheduled on Chuesok to get the job done.  Almost all the flights seemed to be getting out late for that reason.  Despite departing late, we arrived in Manila right on time. Good job Korean Air!

Well, our Boeing 777 was fully loaded and I was near the back of the plane, so…

…this is what I encountered at immigration. Must have been more than our flight arriving at the same time. 45 minutes to get through, but I expected it would be much worse than that.

Baggage claim was a bit of a fiasco.  Because everyone was stuck at immigration, the belt was jammed with bags and golf clubs to the extent that new bags could not exit the conveyor belt until passengers retrieved bags to make room.  Alas, my bag was not one of those already on the belt.  15 more minutes and I was able to walk through customs without an issue.

Met my tour guide/caregiver and she suggested we catch a “grab” cab (similar to Uber) because the airport taxis wanted 600 pesos for the short ride to the airport hotel.  So, we went to find a Grab and that fucker wanted 500 pesos for the two mile trip.  A legit metered taxi might be all of 200 pesos.  It was late and I was tired, and really the difference amounts to 6 bucks, so why argue.  I hate being ripped off, but when in the Philippines…

Hotel was clean and comfortable and convenient, except for the internet password which is like a VIN number for an automobile.

So, that makes three times so far I’ve used my mantra “deep breath, relax, and accept the Filipino way.”

Quick walk around the poverty stricken neighborhood after breakfast.  Lots of destitute people eking out a living, filthy homeless children sleeping on the streets, desperation filling the air, but that is the life here.

Oddly enough, I’m already feeling much better.  Not sure if I’m just in vacation mode or if being out of Anjeong-ri has helped clear my mind of self-pity.  Certainly being reminded of just how fucking lucky I am may be part of it.  And here’s the thing–I can make a difference here.  I’m ready to get started.

Flying on to Boracay in a couple of hours.  More to follow.

Expecting to fly

Happy Chuesok to those of you who celebrate Korean holidays.

If everything goes according to plan I’ll be on an airplane to the Philippines tonight. Getting to Incheon from Pyeongtaek ain’t nearly as convenient as it is from Seoul. Basically my options are to take a cab or city bus to Pyeongtaek station, grab the train to Yongsan station, then transfer to the slow airport train (or cab or subway to Seoul station to catch the express).  Alternatively, I can catch the airport bus here in Anjeong-ri and ride it on in to Incheon.  I’m going with the bus.

I don’t arrive in Manila until 11:00 p.m., so I will overnight there and then catch an afternoon plane to Boracay island.  First time I’ve every visited there.  From what I read it is pretty much a touristy beach area.  Considering my difficulty in securing a hotel room I’m assuming it is a popular spot for Koreans on this long holiday period.  I should feel right at home.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling of late.  I’m hoping this vacation will help me get my head on straight so I can man up and stop being such a pathetic whiner.  You know, that whole changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes thing.

Stay tuned.

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been.
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again.
If it suddenly ended tomorrow,
I could somehow adjust to the fall.
Good times and riches and son of a bitches,
I’ve seen more than I can recall

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
Nothing remains quite the same.
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands,
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane

Back home in the south…

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!

Welcome to the Philippines

Or in the vernacular of the locals, Mabuhay!

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.

More later…

The adventure continues

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.

Featuring meatloaf…

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!

I’m a judgmental SOB

Or at least I was Friday night.  Yes, once again I was drafted to serve as a judge at the weekly Sons of Baccus dance contest.

The lineup of competitors.

Your humble judge and his faithful assistant.

Bring it on girls!

It was a tough call, but here’s how I saw it. The other judges must have agreed because that was the final result.

Just another day in paradise.

 

It’s more fun in the Philippines

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!

 

Observations

Well, here it is Sunday already.  Let’s catch up.

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.

 

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.