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!

Sand to the beach (part 1)

I’d written in an earlier post about my plan to bring my new Korean girlfriend along for my weekend jaunt to the Philippines.  In the monger parlance I’m bringing sand to the beach.  The potential for disaster with this plan is evident, but the chance that this woman might just enjoy this aspect of my life made it worth the gamble.  Here’s how it is going so far.

Prepared for any contingency.  Monetarily at least...

Prepared for any contingency. Monetarily at least…

The first stage of the journey obviously was getting here.  Eun Oke was supposed to meet me at my house at 1700 which would give us plenty of time to make the airport for our 2100 flight.  I walked home from work so she could park her car in my garage (parking on the street in Seoul can be a bitch).   She calls at 5 and says “what time do I need to be there?”.  I told her now and asked her where she was.  “Home” (an hour away).  I told that’s not going to work, so she said I’ll take a cab to Incheon airport and we’ll meet there.  I was a little frustrated about this turn of events but nothing to be done but make my way to Seoul station and catch the airport railroad on my own.

Eun Oke arrived about 30 minutes before I did and to her credit she had worked her way through half of the longish check-in queue when I joined her.  And she was looking smokin’ hot in her cut-off jean shorts, so all was forgiven.

Who could stay mad at that?

Who could stay mad at that?

Our Asiana flight departed 15 minutes late and arrived at Clark a little after midnight.  We were seated at the back of a full flight, so of course we were at the end of the line for immigration.  It was here that the Eun Oke made an astute observation: out of the hundred or so folks in line (primarily Koreans) she counted only four other women.  “What’s up with that?” she asked.  “Probably here for the golf” I lied.

If getting there is half the fun I expect we will have a blast!

If getting there is half the fun I expect we will have a blast!

After clearing immigration, we made our way to baggage claim.  What a fiasco!  My bag came out early and hers came out last.  Apparently they only have one trailer to haul the bags from the plane to the terminal.  Or so it seemed.  Bags would come out in spurts, then stop for awhile, then start again.  During the hiatus, I could hear the tractor starting up to fetch another round of luggage.  I took this opportunity to remind Eun Oke that in the PI frustrations like this are best just laughed off.  So we did.

As bad as the wait for our bags was, getting through customs was infinitely worse.  Now, I’ve done my share of traveling over the years.  But in no airport I’ve been in anywhere in the world did customs search every fucking bag!  I don’t know if this is something new or if they were looking for something specific based on a tip.  When I made it to the front of the line they had me unzip my bag, gave it a cursory glance, and sent me on my way.  Didn’t even ask to look at the backpack I was wearing.  So it was an entirely pointless exercise.  Ah well, grin and bear it, right?

The driver arranged through the Orchid Inn was there waiting.  Now this is on me, but I *assumed* he worked for the hotel.  Nope.  I was preparing to give him a tip when we arrived at the hotel when he told me “that will be 450 pesos”.  I’m thinking what the fuck, I could have taken a cab for that price.  Eh, I’m committed to maintaining a “who cares” attitude this trip.  Paid him the 450 and checked into our just before 2:00 a.m.

Stay tuned for part 2.  Eun Oke’s first experience on Walking Street in beautiful downtown Angeles City.

The life of PI

Here’s a photo dump from last week’s Philippines adventure.

Let's go!

Let’s go!

My "cottage" at the Camp Holiday resort.

My “cottage” at the Camp Holiday resort.

What passes for a beach at Camp Holiday...

What passes for a beach at Camp Holiday… That’s the port of Davao City across the water…

A street scene in Samal..

A street scene in Samal..

Maria's business...

Maria’s business…

Hard at work..

Hard at work..

Lechon for Maria's birthday

Lechon for Maria’s birthday…

...and a cake of course...

…and a cake of course…

I got a pedicure and the local kids treated me like a zoo exhibit...

I got a pedicure and the local kids treated me like a zoo exhibit…

Hot day, cold beer, lunch on the way...

Hot day, cold beer, lunch on the way…

Letting me know I was not welcome...

Letting me know I was not welcome…

Maria on the beach...

Maria on the beach…

Me on the beach...

Me on the beach…

Low tide...

Low tide…

Palm tree and water...

Palm tree and water…

Climbed these steps to the waterfall. Not as many as Namsam, but a fair hike...

Climbed these steps to the waterfall. Not as many as Namsam, but a fair hike…

Was it it worth the walk?

Was it it worth the walk?

There was this...

There was this…

...and that...

…and that…

A river runs through it...

A river runs through it…

At dinner I gave our waiter a round of applause...

At dinner I gave our waiter a round of applause…

Great minds think alike...

Great minds think alike…

Visited a resort that was much nicer than the one I stayed in...

Visited a resort that was much nicer than the one I stayed in…

lots more expensive though..

lots more expensive though…

The obligatory water lily photo...

The obligatory water lily photo…

A beer with a view...

A beer with a view…

Chillin' at Camp Holiday...

Chillin’ at Camp Holiday…

Here's a little eye candy for you ladies...

Here’s a little eye candy for you ladies…

Next up was the bat cave...

Next up was the bat cave…

No batman though...

No batman though…

or robins either...

or robins either…

 

but there was a carabao..

but there was a carabao..

So, having seen all the sights on Samal, we moved on to Davao where the Philippine Eagle Center is a must see tourist attraction...

So, having seen all the sights on Samal, we moved on to Davao where the Philippine Eagle Center is a must see tourist attraction…

I came...

I came…

...I saw. And then I left.

…I saw. And then I left.

Next up, the infamous Japanese tunnel...built with slave labor by Filipino P.O.W.s in WWII...

Next up, the infamous Japanese tunnel…built with slave labor by Filipino P.O.W.s in WWII…

Apparently it was an underground garrison that went on for some 7 kms...

Apparently it was an underground garrison that went on for some 7 kms…

The commander in his office counting tribute from the locals...

The commander in his office counting tribute from the locals…

Hey guys, MacArthur says will return...

Hey guys, MacArthur says he will return…

Tyranny is nothing to brag about. Just sayin'...

Tyranny is nothing to brag about. Just sayin’…

And then we did the crocodile farm...

And then we did the crocodile farm…

What a crock...

What a crock…

Me having an identity crisis...

Me having an identity crisis…

hungry goldfish...

hungry goldfish…

When we got hungry we ate here...

When we got hungry we ate here…

Hey, give me that! I saw it first!

Hey, give me that! I saw it first!

Nothing left to do now but reminisce...

Nothing left to do now but reminisce…

That’s all folks!

Damn it to hell

Or as my father used to say “that just frosts my balls”.

Philippine Air was supposed to send a car to take me to the airport this morning. Apparently they sent it yesterday.  Philippine Air:  Putting the “in” in competence.  In front as it were.

I was perturbed by this turn of events but fortunately I had kept some pesos in my wallet for contingencies such as this.  Caught a cab at the hotel taxi stand, loaded my bag in the trunk, told the driver to take me to the international terminal at NAIA and we were off. Before we were out of the parking lot I noticed the driver had not set the meter (something I have learned to always check).  When I called him on it he said it is 500 pesos to airport. And I snapped, saying (well, yelling technically) “bullshit!  it doesn’t fucking cost anywhere near that much!”  Then instead of turning on the meter like I had asked, he had the audacity to want to negotiate a price for the trip.  I screamed “stop the fucking cab, you’re not taking me anywhere”.  He said okay, okay, I’ll turn on the meter.  I’m like “bull fucking shit, stop the goddamn cab and give me my bag!” I’m yelling at the top of my voice by now, and for those who have not heard it, that’s really scary loud.  My kids never feared spankings as much as they did my “big voice”.  I’m sure all the other drivers in the taxi queue heard every word of it.  Anyway, the driver popped the trunk, I grabbed my bag and stomped back to the hotel doorman.  Who didn’t seem to give a shit, simply asking me if I’d like another cab.  Yes, thank you.

I could see the other taxi drivers gathered around probably discussing who was going to get stuck with driving the insane ‘Kano to the airport.  In short order a cab pulled up (not the first one in the queue I noticed) and when I hopped in he had the meter on and ready to roll.  Clearly he got the memo. After an uneventful ride we pulled into the airport and the meter totaled 126 pesos.   Having given all my small bills to the homeless I handed the driver a 500 peso note and told him just give me 300 change.  He said he didn’t have any change.  Mother Fucker!

Well, I wasn’t going to let him back door me into the 500p fare I had refused the first driver. So I told him to wait while I went for change.  Which was easier said than done.  I couldn’t get into the airport until I had gone through two layers of security (boarding pass check then bag x-ray).  I went through the first and realized that my plan was flawed.  Saw a semi-officious looking dude and asked if he could change a 500.  He could and did.  There was no exit from where I had entered, but the change guy said something to the guard and I was able to go out the in door.  Gave the driver his fare and a too generous trip and was on my way again.

While waiting in line to check my bag I did something somehow that resulted in a feeling like I imagine getting stabbed in the ribs would feel like.  At first I thought, shit I’m having a heart attack, but since it’s the right side I guessing I pulled a muscle.  Still hurts when I move an hour later.  Should make for a pleasant flight.

And now I am stuck in the worst international terminal I have ever visited.  No restaurants or bars and no where to vape.  Free internet though which permitted me to share this rant.

You’re welcome.

Beggars can’t be choosers

Wrapping up my visit in the not-so-lovely capital city of Manila.

Yesterday afternoon I had some time to kill so allowed myself to be enticed into getting a massage at one of the joints in the mall adjacent to my hotel.  The already cheap one hour full body massage was on special for only 180 pesos ($3.83).  The masseuse asked if I preferred hard, medium, or soft.  I went medium and damn when she was cranking on my back and shoulders it was f’n painful.  Of course, male pride wouldn’t allow me to scream in agony so I just lay there gritting my teeth while my torturer said “you have lots of tension”.  Anyway, it was mostly good and I feel no aftereffects this morning.

Last night I cabbed over to Makati, the upscale area of Manila.  There’s a strip of bars on Burgos Street I’d read about over the years so I wanted to give them a try.  Well, I made it to four of them anyway before reaching my self-imposed limit on alcohol consumption. The bars that I saw were all of the “girly” type which I don’t particularly like.  The girls get a commission on overpriced “lady drinks” and some of them will outright harass you until you relent and purchase one for them. At my first stop “Shampoo”, I’d taken like two swigs of my beer and the mamasan started in on me to buy drinks for the girls.  Told her I’d think about it once I’d finished my beer.  She kept on and I finally lost my temper telling her “do you think I’m stupid?  Do you think I don’t know how this works?  I’ll buy a lady drink if and when I’m ready.  So leave me the fuck alone”. .I wasn’t so popular after that and I left.

The next bar was called “Bottoms”.  I was happy they had an actual bar in the bar.  When you sit alone at a table it is like an open invitation to be besieged by thirsty bar girls.  Usually you will be left alone at the bar.  Sometimes anyway.  Not at Bottoms.  Girl stood on my left and another stood on my right (apparently they are not allowed to actually sit at the bar).  They weren’t pushy on the drinks though and we engaged in some friendly banter.  I eventually rewarded their good behavior with a lady drink for each of them.

Moving on, I stopped in “Dimples”.  It also had a bar so I plopped myself down.  A couple of gals approached but I channeled Greta Garbo and told them “I want to drink alone”.  Surprisingly they actually respected my wishes and I wasn’t bothered again for the duration of my stay.  In addition to the drink beggars I also dislike the music played in the girly bars. It’s normally loud techno-pop dance crap which grates on my nerves pretty quickly.  Yeah, I know.  Kids and their music these days said the old codger.  To Dimples’ credit they had a nice mix of tunes played at a reasonable volume.  Even a few country songs!  I had a nice time there but there was still one more place I wanted to see before I ran out of time (and money).

I had read about Crazy Horse on some of the Philippines forums I frequent and I wanted to see if it was as good as everyone was saying.  It is. It had a large stage chock full of very attractive young women who could actually dance.  They did choreographed performances every bit as good as those you see in K-Pop girl band videos.  And best of all I did not get approached or pestered even once for a lady drink.  That’s how it should be, a great selection of girls willing to keep you company if company is what you want, but you have to make the first move.  I really enjoyed just sitting there watching the gals dance and chatting with the other customers a bit.  When I was ready to depart I walked to the stage and gave my favorite dancer a 100 peso tip for her efforts.  Yeah, I’m a cheap Charlie but she seem appreciative of the compliment at least.

Caught a cab back to the hotel with no problem (they’ve got that much on Itaewon at least).  Driver got lost on the way and was asking the drunk man in the back seat (me) for directions.  I just shrugged and said I don’t know, it’s by a mall.  He stopped and asked a trike driver which I guess worked because I did sleep in the right hotel last night.

This morning I enjoyed my last free breakfast and walked to the convenience store for some Coke Zero.  It was locked up tight, not real surprising I guess for a Sunday morning in a Catholic country.  Across the street in front of the also closed mall was a group of homeless folks laying about on the sidewalk. Most of them were young children. A depressing sight that I don’t expect I’ll ever get used to, and frankly, I’d hate myself if I did get used to it.

I learned a long time ago that it is a fool’s errand to give money to a beggar on the street.  As soon as you do you will be besieged by fifty others.  It can also be dangerous as I’ve heard of do-gooders being surrounded and having their pockets emptied by the prying fingers of these hungry waifs.  So, I just don’t do it.  I always feel like a prick when I tell a filthy child “no” when the say “I’m hungry”.  After a few days I actually get depressed.  Which is one of the things I’m going to have to factor into my decision on whether the PI is a viable re-retirement option for me.  One thing I’d consider doing is sponsoring an orphanage with a monthly stipend of some sort.  Maybe that would assuage the guilt I feel when I can’t (or won’t) respond to beggars.

Anyway, I looked in my wallet and I still had some small bills amounting to 160 pesos. I walked across the street and handed them to the oldest woman in the group whom I assumed was the grandma.  I didn’t technically break my “no beggars” rule because they hadn’t asked, I just offered.  Ah well, as I walked away five or six young boys followed me asking me to give them money too.  I told them that’s all I have but they persisted in their efforts.  I kept moving so as not to be surrounded and finally let loose.  “No goddamn it,I told you that’s it.  No more!” I used my big voice which put them back on the heels a bit and I made a beeline to the security of my hotel.

All packed up and waiting for my ride to the airport and the completion of my journey back to the first world.

Living dangerously

Stuck close to the hotel last night.  I checked out the mall and then walked the perimeter of the hotel grounds hoping to find a bar something of interest.  I saw lots of homeless folks sleeping on the sidewalks and the beggars were more annoying than the mosquitoes. Given that I was alone and in unfamiliar surroundings I opted for some canned San Miquel Lights from the local convenience store and drank in my room.

Up early this morning.  Got my internet fix then headed downstairs for my free breakfast. Decided to test my luck on the mean streets of Manila.  I stuck to the main streets, primarily Roxas Blvd.  Which took me past scenic Manila Bay.

I'd been warned to be careful using my phone on the street. Apparently there is an epidemic of snatch and run thefts. Hence this is the only picture I snapped today...

I’d been warned to be careful using my phone on the street. Apparently there is an epidemic of snatch and run thefts. Hence this is the only picture I snapped today…

I walked from the Century Park Hotel in Malate as far as the EDSA complex in Pasay City and back again.  Stopped twice at Jollibee for a large Coke Zero and not so coincidentally two piss breaks.

Not a bad mornings work considering I didn't have the proper footwear and my heel was screaming with every step...

Not a bad mornings work considering I didn’t have the proper footwear and my heel was screaming with every step…

I’ll probably cab back to EDSA tonight to check out some of the bars I saw there.

I surrender. Socks with sandals it is. I feel like such a heel.

I surrender. Socks with sandals it is. I feel like such a heel.

Wish me luck!

That didn’t go as planned

My flight out of the facist republic of Davao (no smoking/vaping area anywhere on airport property!) left 20 minutes late which was worrisome because I only had a one hour layover in Manila.  We arrived 45 minutes before my connection was scheduled to depart. Then waited 10 minutes for the jet occupying our gate to get the hell out of our way.

It seemed to take forever to deplane, but once in the terminal I hightailed it to the transfer desk.  They said I could still make my flight, just exit the terminal, turn right, take the elevator to the 3rd floor, go through security and immigration, then on to my gate.  Alright then.

Well, they had one guy doing immigration and several people ahead of me in line.  Once that was done I was dismayed to discover that gate 11 was at the opposite side of the terminal.  I hoofed it over to the gate as fast as my screaming heel would allow and was relieved to see a line of passengers still boarding.  Until I saw it was a flight for Busan.  WTF?

I asked the gate agent where the Seoul flight was and she said it had already closed.  Apparently I missed last call by one frickin’ minute.  She said don’t worry, we’ll re-book you on another flight.  I asked what about my luggage?  She told me it hadn’t made the flight either.

So, a helpful agent walked me back to where I had started and a couple of other Philippine Air folks went to work on getting me rebooked.  I declined a flight out at 0100 on Sunday morning, so it will be a Sunday afternoon departure for me.  To their credit, Philippine Air is paying for my hotel and meals during this extended layover.

Now, what to do with my weekend in Manila?  I have an empty wallet and a suitcase full of dirty clothes.  There is a mall behind the hotel though so I reckon I’ll wander over and find an ATM and a couple of shirts.  Maybe a bar as well.

I’m a little concerned because immigration stamped me out of the country and no one has stamped me back in.  I’ll guess I’ll worry about those ramifications on Sunday…

In search of Samgyeopsal

I had promised Maria a samgyeopsal dinner for her birthday.  Once upon a time she had lived in Korea for ten years and she was jonesing for a taste of “home”.  I did a quick Google search and found this restaurant which had gotten good reviews:

From Davao, not Heaven. Located outside the SM Mall a couple kms from the hotel...

From Davao, not Heaven. Located outside the SM Mall a couple kms from the hotel…

The restaurant featured this large marquee out front touting the benefits of the Korean diet…

...who you calling fat?

…who you calling fat?

Anyway, we noticed from outside that the tables appeared to have the table-top grills installed.  Alas, after ordering we were told the samgyeopsal is prepared in the kitchen. That’s just not kosher.

Nothing to be done but try and make the best of it. Here's my attempt at creating a little Pinoy-Hanguk fusion.

Nothing to be done but try and make the best of it. Here’s my attempt at creating a little Pinoy-Hanguk fusion.

Ah well, we made the best of it. After dinner we had a traditional Filipino summertime (isn’t it always summertime here?) treat.

Halo Halo. A mixture of fruits and shit. Not exactly a smoothie, but close enough...

Halo Halo. A mixture of fruits and shit. Not exactly a smoothie, but close enough…

So, here in the tropics I wear sandals.  My feet are in open revolt…

...not to mention revolting. Painful it is. Went to the local Watson's drug store and purchased a variety of creams and ointments. Maria says I should wear socks. Fuck that, I'm not wearing socks with sandals. Just ain't gonna happen.

…not to mention revolting. Painful it is. Went to the local Watson’s drug store and purchased a variety of creams and ointments. Maria says I should wear socks. Fuck that, I’m not wearing socks with sandals. Just ain’t gonna happen.

Yesterday we hired a car and driver for the day (3500 pesos, around $70) and hit all the hot tourist spots in the Davao area.  That would be the Philippine Eagle, a WWII Japanese tunnel, and a crocodile farm.  I’ll include photos this weekend when I do my full-fledged trip report.

Anyway, on the way back to the hotel from our excursions, we noticed a Korean restaurant right across the street from our hotel.  Turns out it is the original Manna restaurant.  So we thought we’d try our luck again last night.  When we walked in we saw some diners grilling their meat on the table (shuddup!) so we decided to do samgyeopsal as nature intended.  After ordering I had a bad feeling, so I had Maria ask our server if the meat would be prepared on the table.  He said “no”, so we pointed to the other diners and were then accommodated.  I guess table cooking is by request only.

The samgyeopsal came in nice thick slices and seemed to have all 3 layers from which its name derives...

The samgyeopsal came in nice thick slices and seemed to have all 3 layers from which its name derives…

Cooking it up with some kimchi...

Cooking it up with some kimchi…

About damn time!

About damn time!

Speaking of kimchi, did you know it is the cure for everything?  So says the Manna menu:

..Alas, it doesn't work on cracked heels...

..Alas, it doesn’t work on cracked heels…

My return flight departs Davao at 11:40 and returns me to Seoul via Manila at 7:35.  See you there!

 

 

 

 

Greetings from the Philippines

Davao City to be precise.

Checked into a hotel that offers wifi in the room so I was pretty damned excited.  I have had a technician up to the room twice so far today to get it working.  Thought I’d better post while the posting is good.

The view from the room...

The view from the room…

President-elect Duterte was there to greet me when I checked in this morning...

President-elect Duterte was there to greet me when I checked in this morning…

Speaking of President Duterte, Davao City is his hometown and he’s been the mayor here for quite some time.  Davao is known as the safest city in the PI and that is largely due to Duterte’s being strong on crime.  By strong I mean that it is said he was not above using hit squads extra-judicial methods to rid the city of undesirables.  Some other things he’s done include closing the bars at ungodly early hours and making Davao City smoke-free.  I really dislike nanny-state shit like that but the people in this area are crazy about him.

I got a taste of the police state this morning.  I was minding my own business and enjoying a little vaping time when I was accosted by a law enforcement officer.  He told me sternly that I couldn’t smoke there.  I responded as I always do in such situations “I’m not smoking, I’m vaping.”  He seemed unimpressed and took me away…

;;;here. What a pain in the ass. I've since learned that Davao City's smoking ordinance does in fact specifically include vaping. Bastards!

…here. What a pain in the ass. I’ve since learned that Davao City’s smoking ordinance does in fact specifically include vaping. Bastards!

Anyway, this is clearly a city in which I could never live.  Still, I’ve got a full day to kill here tomorrow so I’ll have to find a discreet way to skirt the law.  I’ve already designated my hotel room a designated vaping zone.

Tonight it is samgyapsol for Maria’s birthday dinner.

Look for a full trip report with tons of photos when I return home to Korea this weekend.