Archive for the 'travel' Category

Drug Testing ala Pinoy

Philippines driving license is easy to get, provided you pass the drug testing exam in flying colours. D was trying to get his driving license and we were directed to this center. First he thought he could pay some money to get everything done. Apparently that can’t be done.

Small centers like this are swarming around the Department of Transport. But isn’t it a weird regulation? Anybody can stop taking drugs for a week or so, take the test, get the license and go back to drugging. That just doesn’t make any sense.

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Another Wet Day

It is now officially flooding. The rain has not stopped since Feb 11th. The humidity is almost 100 percent. The laundry is suffering and I no longer have clean clothes. I think everybody has enough of my whining about the weather.

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The office provided the staff rubber boots last night. Those are D’s. I doubt they have size as small as mine so I guess I will just have to swim my way home.

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No plane has landed for five days in a row now. They would try to fly from Manila, but none has managed to land so far. The pilots would circle above the airport and then fly back to Manila. They said it is because of the visibility problem caused by the rain and fog, also by the length of the runway makes it almost impossible to land the plane in this weather.

It does make me appreciate the hot weather in Medan. Nowhere is like home, isn’t it.

Anyway, they said the weather should be clearing up by the end of the week. Yay!

Butanding – the Whale Shark

The only internationally renowned tourism attraction in this part of the Philippines is the Whale Shark watching (or Butanding for locals, in Bicol). Donsol – a seaside town – one hour drive away from Legazpi City. The whale sharks can be seen in the bordering seas, is the largest number of recorded sightings of whale sharks anywhere in the world. This largest fish can be seen around February to March each year. Swimming with whale sharks was featured in Time Magazine as the “Best Animal Encounter in Asia” in 2004.

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Our shark encounter adventure was last weekend. We drove to one of the many resorts, next to Donsol Tourism Office for tourists. We were required to register personal information and stated which of the attraction we were going to do. Butanding interaction or Butanding sightseeing. We teamed up with other couples – so the whole experience cost about USD 130 for a boat, a guide and some crews. Excluding the rental of snorkeling equipment such as mask, snorkle and fins

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Donsol Tourism Office

About 6 boats set out to the sea, each boat has one spotter who stands at the top of the sail searching for the shark. It is as big as a house, so very easy to be sighted. He said he was only looking for a moving shadow on the sea. When one spotter see one, all the boats will close in and swimmers will jump off the boat and start swimming towards the shark. 

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the glimpse of the Shark that I saw – once only

As a coward as I am, and also no snorkeling and flipper handling experience whatsoever, I freaked quite a number of times and the guide had to stay by me most of the time. I only saw the shark once, when the guide pulled me under the water and made me see one who swam right beneath us. It was gigantic. Thankfully, they are plankton-eating fish. There was like more than 20 dives only in 3 hours’ time. Very busy. At the end of the trip, I was one of the crew of the boat, helping people got on to the boat. D had seen more than 5 sharks, and the other Australian couple actually dived and swam alongside the sharks.

There were boats with Asian tourists (Japanese and Taiwanese, I presumed). The passengers looked as scared as I was, stayed put in the boat with life jackets on. Never once got off the boat. They were just observers. When the western tourists like my husband and his friends were jumping on and off the boats like maniacs chasing the sharks here and there. That was too funny!   

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D in the water – first from left – false alarm and the neighbouring boat full of divers

 So tips for other wild-life fanatics before going on the trip :

Learn to snorkle properly. Wear decent swimwear. Bikinis are not cool. Lots of sun block. Bring some snack and water on board. Bring water resistant camera (we bought one of those disposable ones – not yet developed) . Rental equipments are quite dodgy, if possible bring your own. 

It will so worth it.  

Legazpi City – Rain and Volcano

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I am now in Legazpi City, the capital of Albay province, at the southern tip of Luzon, Philippines. I have been here for 10 days now and ready to tell tales.

The city is a very small one, with population less than 200,000. The main livelihood is agriculture in coconut and rice. Not much, really. It is overshadowed by hills and volcano – the Mayon. The language is Bicol. It is a city that attracts natural disaster, I would say. Not only the worst kind of typhoon hits once a year around November and December, but the volcano is an active one. It has given out its worst hit – hot black sand and boulders, killed many and destroyed a lot more just two years ago.

It is a pretty little city with a lot of greenery – I suspect the earth is very fertile because of the mineral traces from the volcanic ashes. From the first glance of the map, I was thrilled that because it is a coastal town, there must be beautiful beaches in the bay area. Yeah it’s not. The whole area is barricaded by sea wall. The resorts build small stairs for tourists who wants to take a dip or a swim. But it’s not really beach vacation I had in mind.

The city has not stopped raining since I got here. It has been raining for 8 days straight. I have not seen sun and clear sky. Nobody has seen the tip of the volcano for weeks. I got the photo posted here from one of the staff in the office. It is difficult to catch the volcano in clear day, so I am quite pessimistic if I could get one.

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the mayon

What would one do in a small city like Legazpi … That question will be answered in my posts tomorrow and many days to come …

Holiday of February 2008

Finally, my leave request has been approved by the management. I will have one month holiday to visit D in Philippine.

O N E M O N T H!

It just sounds too good to be true. So to make it official as quickly as possible, I will book my flight ASAP.

I can’t wait to go and start my life as ‘wife-posing-as-temporary-expat’ in the Philippines. It will be fun as I try to perform my wifely duty. Stay home and wait for the husband. But … Yay!!

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Will I be visiting this?

bargaining idiot

I surfed sites on traveling to Shanghai yesterday because my parents and family are going for Christmas holiday. Virtual tourist gives some information on shopping in Shanghai. It’s interesting to read other tourists’ experiences.

One lady said that she wanted to buy a set of hairpin, the seller asked for RMB 140 (around USD 14), and she walked away with only paying RMB 4. And then one other tourist said that she was bargaining for an Armani jacket which was RMB 14,000 and paid RMB 900 at the end. Isn’t that ridiculous?

Last year in Madras (aka Chennai), I went shopping by myself at a souvenir shop in the mall. I really liked a wall hanging with golden thread embroidery and sequined. Very beautiful. The shop owner asked for USD 400. An idiot as I was, I didn’t actually think it was expensive. I wasn’t really thinking of buying. So I asked for USD 80, just for the fun of it. The seller was very pushy and I didn’t want to increase my price. After 15 minutes arguing, suddenly he shouted “Sold!” I couldn’t describe how shocked and speechless I was. On my way back to the hotel, I couldn’t stop swearing at myself for being such an idiot. I bet it doesn’t worth more than USD 20!

So, rule of thumb

  • Bargain for at least 80% off the opening price at all times! If you got the nerve, go for 10% of the asking price. It’s amazing what my mother can get away with by doing that. I am actually scared of going shopping with her. She got some nerve!
  • I shouldn’t shop at tourists’ spots. I am an easy target. They can actually smell me.

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sequined & embroidered wall hanging from madras

me, my finger and a mercedes

This is a story of a girl, a finger and a car.

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Exactly 15 months ago, I went on a business trip to Singapore with my mother. At night we were invited to dinner by her cousin. They came to pick us up in an S Class Mercedes. When I was getting off the car, I didn’t want to slam it too hard because it was such a fancy car, so I closed it slowly. As stupid as it sound, my left hand pointy finger got caught! The car door has some kind of suction feature, even I didn’t slam it, as soon as it was closed, the door was sucked into place, with part of my nail still in between. Then without shouting, I pulled my finger out. It hurt a bit, so I wasn’t too worried. The parking place was pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything.

When we got to the restaurant, I noticed that my finger felt warm. When I looked down, my blood was everywhere, dripping from my fingernail. It turned out that when I pulled my finger out of the door, I also pulled my nail. So it was half way off and bled like hell!

I excused myself and told them I was going to look for a pharmacy to get a band-aid. At the pharmacy, they said I should go to a hospital. Then I got on a taxi, headed to the Singapore General Hospital, ER section. They put me in a waiting room with two other people. They also had funny and weird accidents. We chatted and laughed the whole night. One guy was kicked on the head during football match because he was bending down to tie shoe lace and also bled. One Indian girl got broken toes because her sister slammed a suitcase on her feet. And then myself with my fancy accident. We were the cheeriest lot in the whole hospital!

They made us waited for 4 hours. My accident happened at 8pm. When finally I got into surgery room, it’s almost 1am and the blood had dried out.

I was assigned to a young hand surgeon. He performed the surgery on my finger, took out the nail and stitched the wound so nicely. It is such a cool hospital with cool young doctors. It wasn’t expensive at all. But of course the waiting was a bit too much.

The nail grew back great four months after, just as he promised. Then I was given a Mercedes on the same month. Cool huh. What a coincidence!

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Next year I am planning to slam my hand on a different car. Any idea what kind of car? 🙂