Tag Archives: Philippines

Boracay

22 Jul

When I say I’m living in Manila, Filippinos tend to get really excited to know where else in the Philippines I’ve been to. One of the most popular and easily accessible being Boracay. My awesome coworkers decided we should all go together, as a couple members of the team had never been before either. We booked our tickets on Air Asia’s website and put three of the tickets on my credit card. Side note: when I saw the credit card charge it was only $131 USD…yes, for three people round trip. I mean jesus, I can barely fly myself from NY to Boston for less than $400 USD!

After finagling our work schedules, and literally pushing our one coworker out the door, we were off to NAIA Terminal 4. Turns out we were flying Zest Air, who is apparently a codeshare with Air Asia who we had booked through. Shockingly, there is a Seattle’s Best Coffee in this low cost carrier terminal, which has pretty darn good panini’s. I was so excited. Our flight landed in Kalibo and from there we needed to take a shuttle bus to the ferry dock in Caticlan, to Boracay. Originally, we were planning to stay overnight in Kalibo, since we would miss the last ferry. However, it was our lucky day. We landed on time and booked the bus and ferry at the airport. The bus took roughly an hour and a half to the dock at which we had to pay an environmental fee and a terminal fee and call a resort to book a one nights stay. We were booked into the Eco village even before we boarded the ferry, which took less than 15 minutes to get to the island. There is a much closer airport that does not require the bus ride, however the fares are typically more expensive.

Our transportation from the dock to Eco village consisted of 7 of us, and our luggage, piling on a tricycle. There were a couple questionable moments going up the hills and through some street flooding, but we made it in one piece with all seven luggage bags.

Boracay has become a very popular resort and party-going island, with restaurants and bars right on the white sand beach. Eco village is located north of white beach and tucked into the mountain. We spent the first half of the day at Puka beach, which was quiet and relaxing with coral sand. Going from Puka to strolling White beach in the afternoon with all its activity, was a different change of pace. One place off the beach I absolutely loved was Jonas fruit shake and snack bar. The banana chocolate peanut shake and the mocha rhum shakes, were fabulous. That night we had the best Italian food I’ve had since leaving NY. Restaurant Aria had great pastas and wood fired pizzas. But the night wouldn’t be complete without some beachside dancing at some of the popular beach bars.

The following day we set off on a relaxing sail around followed by watching multiple groups of Koreans wearing child’s swimmies, water jackets, and pearl necklaces in the water. (?) Don’t worry I definitely took photos. My coworker told me the swimmies are apparently a fashion trend, when I pointed out that the women using them were actually swimming and not just floating. Hmm. Certainly a bizarre fashion statement. Our final dinner was spent at the regency buffet, (my friends really like buffets). I’m usually not a huge buffet person except for the fact that this buffet had medium rare NY strip, garlic mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Sold. I had no idea how much I missed it. They also had three lovely ladies who, of course, sang cover songs new and old beautifully…damn them…and a fire show, that happened to have a lady boy flame thrower. To cap the evening, we had masseurs waiting for us at the hotel for the whopping price of 350P, $9 USD, and a bottle of wine. None of us wanted to leave.

Zest Air is a low cost carrier partnered with Air Asia. On Sunday evening one of my coworkers received an email that her was flight was cancelled and she was rebooked on a flight which was over an hour earlier. We thought it was suspicious that the other two reservation holders hadn’t received an email. Sure enough, in the spam folder, there were notifications, however some of our flights were rescheduled to over an hour later than originally scheduled. What happened to picking up a phone? Four of us left at 230am and the three of us intended on leaving around 7am. But, 7am turned into 8am after we finished with breakfast, and we ended up missing our flight. My first time ever. Fortunately, there are many flights to/from Manila, and we were able to get the next flight at no cost, but I was a little concerned since I booked with Zest for my flights the following weekend to Kuala Lumpur. Out of curiosity, I did a search on Air Asia and saw that the flight times were different then originally scheduled. Hmmm. I tweeted at both Air Asia and Zest, but only Air Asia responded and had me direct message my booking number. They then took 2 days to respond telling me to email them. Ugh! They finally sent me an updated itinerary the day before my flight. Moral of the story… You get what you pay for when flying budget airlines. The cheaper the ticket, the greater the risk.

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Binondo, Divisoria, and …Balut?

23 May

The April version of hemispheres magazine on united airways featured three perfect days in Manila. One of the places recommended is Lord Stow’s Bakery, which I first discovered in Hong Kong. They make great egg tarts, so of course I had to go. Fortunately, a coworker that’s staying here is adventurous as well and with the help of a local friend we took the MRT and LRT to Binondo, the worlds oldest china town. After our egg tart fix we walked around china town and made our way to the markets of divisoria. When I tell the people at the office that I went here they all think I’m crazy. It reminds me of the markets in India and Hong Kong. We walked around to buy souvenirs, I bought a new umbrella and by some miracle I found two dresses that fit! I say by some miracle because a) the clothes tend to run smaller and while I am short I’ve got nothing on some of the people here, b) the clothes run skinny, and these hips don’t lie, c) there are not always fitting rooms so its more a “hold it up and see” and d) they like this concept of “free size” or “one size” thus implying that it fits most Filipinas. So you can imagine my excitement when I found a store in divisoria that had a dressing room and free size dresses for people with hips. And then something awesome happened… I saw someone with a Cotton On bag. Which might have you thinking, “what in the world is cotton on and why is it awesome.” I first discovered cotton on in Australia and bought many a clothes there due to the fact they are reasonably priced and timeless, almost like American Apparel with flare. The second time i found Cotton On was in Hong Kong, and by some act of god I stumbled upon one in the Galleria Mall in Dallas Texas. Every time I find a Cotton On i have shopping success without regretting the hit to my wallet. The local I was with was kind enough to indulge me by hunting down the location and we were led to the new Chinatown mall where I promptly ran around the store with glee.

After that we were pretty shopped out and quickly made our way back to the LRT via tricycle. A tricycle here is basically a bike or motorcycle with a covered side carriage. It’s a little scary because its low to the ground and weaving in and out of traffic, but once you get over the initial shock it’s loads of fun!

Our evening plans consisted of a roof top pool party with some other coworkers that are here temporarily as we’ll but managed to find condos. On our way home from pool partying it up, our local friend remembered that I want to try balut. When you Wikipedia balut you may want to gag, but to me it just tasted like hard boiled egg and a hard plasticky shell, and I think it was worth the potential street cred I might now possess.

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Red Hot South East Asian Summer

18 May

How do you prepare to live in a foreign country for three months? I had a paranoid feeling that I was forgetting to do something or bring something or let someone know I was going to be away. And before I knew it, literally it happened in about 2 weeks… The adventure of a lifetime has begun! The morning of my flight I was frantically last minute packing and tidying up the apartment before James drove me to JFK. Thanks to a handy travel scale, courtesy of mom, both of my bags were underweight. Airline baggage fees have become outrageous and I’ve been in line behind many people who had to repack bags or pay ridiculous overage fees. Luckily credit card companies have gotten smart and now offer free bags in their annual fee. Since there is no delta sky lounge in Terminal 4, I bought a bunch of “I Love NY” gear to give to new friends I anticipate meeting along the way, and headed to the gate. Some of my last minute errands included calling my credit card companies, my cell phone carrier, my parents and my grandma. And of course taking pics of my delta lay flat bed on the upper deck to Tokyo Narita. The two inter-continental Delta flights were very comfortable and my gluten free meal request was honored and delicious. I kept the same seat on both flights and didn’t need to recheck my luggage in Tokyo. Upon landing in Manila, I went through customs and made my way to the Shangri-La lounge area on the opposite side of the pick up/drop off lane. There, coincidentally, was my coworker from Chicago and two other coworkers that have been here for at least 3 weeks and were nice enough to come to the airport to meet us on a Saturday night. After getting checked in it was time to try and sleep before our first day of work. Everyone at the office is extremely nice and the service at the hotel is impeccable. The buffet breakfast is outstanding and similar to what I experienced in India. It’s attached to a mall which is a very popular hang out spot in Manila. The mall of Asia here is actually the third largest mall in the world.

I was asked before I came here whether or not I liked Filipino food. Of course the person that asked me this did so with a scowl on his face, therefore indicating that he did not like the food. I had no idea what he meant until I came here and realized how sweet most of the food is. “Sweet beef” you ask? How can this be? I have no idea, but it surprisingly really good, especially for breakfast. American restaurants are incredibly popular here. Apparently when IHOP opened there was a 4 hour line for the first couple weeks. However one thing that is definitely not the same is Dunkin Doughnuts. While I am not a fan of their coffee I decided to get one with my coworker anyway. We were walking around apartment hunting for me which is no small task in 93 F degrees with over 100% humidity. The regular iced coffee was so bad it was undrinkable. It was literally like drinking sugar with some coffee flavored water in it. We took a couple sips out and quickly ditched it. I guess we’re sticking to Starbucks.

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