Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hongkong 1993: The City Tour, Ocean Park, etc...

The City Tour

Our harassed travel agent cum tour guide arrived early the next morning to pick us up for the "part of the package, shouldn't be missed" half day city tour.  There were just 6 of us (my aunt-nun has joined us by this time) and so our ride was the same van that we rode from the airport.  Our tour guide was named Eric and he was very informative and his Chinese English with a British accent was very entertaining.  He says pooh instead of poor and people turned to peepoh...heheh.  On our way to the cross harbor tunnel which we will be entering to go to Hongkong Island, he pointed out heritage places, shopping centers, hotels, schools as well as tenement houses which had clothes lines hanging out from window to window up to the top floors. But remember this was in 1993, so I don't know if this practice is still common in the Kowloon part of Hongkong.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hongkong 1993: Holiday Inn Golden Mile

We checked in at Holiday Inn Golden Mile at Kowloon and to my surprise, their front desk staff was not as fluent in English as I would have expected from people living in a British Colony or maybe because this was the night shift?  In fact for the next 5 days, I found it difficult to communicate with most of the locals I encountered, either they could not speak English very well or they refused to speak it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hongkong 1993: Lost and Found in Kai Tak Airport

Our group of 5 flew from Bacolod to Mactan International Airport in Cebu on November 10, 1993 to take the PAL flight PR 0302 bound for Kai Tak Airport (this airport closed in 1998) in Hongkong for a 5 day holiday.  We were not part of any tour group so that our travel agency gave us specific instructions on what to do and who to look for when we landed.  During that time, there were no cellphones, so that we had to rely on oral and written instructions which were simple enough I thought. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Remembering My Hongkong Trip c.1993

The very first time I went overseas was in November 10, 1993.  The place: Hongkong.  The company: my mom and brother, together with a distant aunt and her grand-daughter.  The purpose: primarily for pleasure but also to escort home our father's first cousin, a Good Shepherd nun who was ending her assignment there.  We took the CEBU-HK Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight going there and a Cathay Pacific (CX) flight coming back.  The rationale for taking 2 airlines was because my auntie-nun bought a one-way CX ticket for her trip home while we wanted to ride PAL. Well, I thought that's a good way to check out both least I can say later I have experienced them both.

Friday, March 23, 2012

El Nido Resorts, Palawan - A Trip of Many Firsts

In the summer of 2007 I was invited to be part of a group that went to El Nido Resorts. Back then I was blogging intermittently and was not yet on Facebook.  As I reviewed my travel pages here, I realized that I never wrote about my trip to this beautiful resort that was doubly memorable, because it was a trip of many firsts for me.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Boracay 2011

Boracay is totally changed since we visited in 2000. If at that time, the island already looked crowded, it has grown even bigger in terms of infrastructure and population, all in the name of progress.  The island's enchantment and purity in the 70's is all but gone. Once upon a time it was only people from Aklan who knew of its beautiful beach.  Of course, even the best kept secret does not stay a secret for long.  Eventually, the few settlers with land titles in the island decided to either develop, sell or lease their lands. Today, there are hundreds of resorts, both beach front or in-land, high end or budget type, varied restaurants, either local or franchised, coffee shops (yes, Starbucks is in Boracay), all kinds of bars, expensive boutiques ( I saw a Mango Outlet), and even food carts can be seen in Boracay.  I now call the place little Metro-Manila with a beachfront.  It is one big party place, THE PLACE to be seen not just in summer but at all times of the year.  If you're like me who likes privacy, peace and quiet for your vacation won't find it in Boracay.

retrieved from

There is one thing that has not changed's Boracay's beautiful beach and famous sunset. Thank God, it's still there inspite of the island's fast growing development.

But, although I personally believe that this progress should slow down and local officials be more prudent in allowing too much development, I have to admit that allowing the island's multi-faceted growth has also made it very accessible to the public, unlike other private island resorts which are so expensive, only the rich and famous can enjoy their beauty. 

At the very least, Boracay offers everyone in all levels of society the chance to experience paradise.

Related Post: Coming Back to Boracay

Friday, June 24, 2011

Coming Back to Boracay

The first time I went to Boracay was in the year 2000.  My cousins living in Davao (then) and Manila were all going to meet up there for the Holy Week and we (my mom, brother, son) decided to come along to celebrate my birthday there as well.  We stayed at Marzon's in station 3 while my cousins stayed at Tirol & Tirol in station 2.  It was a good thing that we did because the resort was only a few steps to the beach, it was clean with friendly and accommodating staff and above all quiet since it was far from the noise of bars playing loud music and party atmosphere in station 2.  We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days and although we enjoyed the beautiful beach, the company and the resort...fact is, Boracay is the worst place to be on Holy Week and so, I swore never to come back at this time of year.   Then come mom wanted to spend family time with the kids before summer vacation ends, as my nephew was going to Manila for college.  The initial plan was for all of us to bring him to Manila and spend a week there.  Of course, I knew it was going to be a logistical nightmare, not to mention a physically daunting one with 2 semi-handicapped people in tow, a 2 year old baby, 1 yaya, 1 house help, tons of suitcases and 3 teens/tween.  After a short discussion, it was decided that we all go to Boracay instead since the teens have never been there. And so, plans were made, revised and finalized with reservations and a deposit made at La Carmela de Boracay.  Sunday, May 29, 2011, we left for Iloilo via the 6 AM Supercat ferry and suprisingly, the trip was relatively okay, inspite of the not-so-good weather.  Upon arrival, we were met by our rented van and driver and after a drive-thru at Jollibee's, we were on our way.   What pleasantly surprised me was how tourist-friendly the towns of Iloilo province are...there are tourist assistance desks in town plazas as well as clean and well maintained restrooms.

We arrived in Caticlan jetty port at around 11:30 and after getting our tickets, I requested for wheelchairs for my mom and brother.  Getting on the ferry boat was a breeze since our group was the first to be allowed in.  Of course, the 10 minute trip to Cagban jetty port in Boracay became 40 minutes because of the low tide and rough waters.  Thankfully, my mom and brother were ably assisted by the ferry crew and staff of the port.  The hotel van was already waiting for us and after a short ride, we arrived at the hotel. 

next post: Boracay 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Postscript to Amanpulo

After experiencing Amanpulo, then what...

I have been to famous white beaches like Boracay and Panglao Island in Bohol and I have been to Miniloc Island of El Nido Resorts in Palawan as well as Apo Island in Negros Oriental, and honestly,  Pamalican Island's (home to Amanpulo) pristine white beach surrounding the island is not much different but, taking everything else into consideration, nothing else compares to what this breathtaking island has to offer.  For one, the island's owners and Amanresorts have seen to it the island's lush tropical surroundings, flora and fauna remained untouched.  I cannot say the same for the other famous beaches in the country. Whatever development made in the island was done in such a way that modern amenities built did not change its natural beauty nor cause destruction to nature. Our casita was surrounded by wild vegetation and we had a resident bayawak living in the rocks and trees but this did not in any way diminish the modern and upscale facilities and of course, superb service. In fact, I think it just added to the atmosphere of  exclusivity and leisure that the resort is known for.  It's like living close to the wild but knowing that civilization and comfort is just a step away.  The 2 nights and 3 days stay was really just a glimpse of what the island had to offer.  I was told that some guests stay for a month...lucky them! Being land bound and not too adventurous, Amanpulo is the ultimate place to stay for me when I want to get away from it all. I loved everything about it, especially the privacy, the peacefulness, the solitude along with all the comforts of modern life.  I even felt safe there inspite of my little fall and if not for the cost, I would go back in a heartbeat. For me, the ideal number of days to stay in the island is a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 7 days...I could not imagine staying longer, unless I relocate my life over there.  Actually, villas in Amanpulo are available for purchase and a few are actually privately owned and rented out during times when the owner do not use that is a thought ;-)

the beach view from casita 23

So what next? short stay in Amanpulo will always be my ultimate vacation in terms of location and service, but nothing beats spending leisure time in the company of family and loved ones and that's what I'll be doing next...a trip to the Island of Boracay with the kids before school opens in June. The island is crowded with many resorts from budget to 6-stars, as well as bars, shops, malls and even Starbucks!  If Amanpulo is for the likes of me...Boracay is for the kids.  The White Beach is still as pristine as Pamalican Island but the atmosphere is totally different, although once upon a time Boracay Island was like Pamalican Island.  I said not too long ago that Boracay today is like Manila with a beachfront...with the way this island is being indiscriminately developed, this beautiful beach may well go the way of Manila Bay.

Some information:
  • Getting there: It is best to book through a reputable travel agency or if you want to DIY, call/email the resort for inquiries or reservations. They are very helpful.  The take off point is from Manila. You go to the Amanpulo lounge/terminal located at the A. Soriano Hangar where guests  take the approximately 2 hours ITI chartered flight to the resort.
  • Things to bring: Travel light since everything is more or less provided for except for sunblock.  Money of course, debit or credit cards, your laptop or ipad since they have wifi, cellphone (fair to good signal), beachwear, casual attire for dinner (unless you are there for a wedding), camera and video camera and medicines/first aid supplies (just in case).
  • Curious about the cost?  Anywhere between Php 70,000 to Php 80,000 PER PERSON (for group package) for a 3 day, 2 night stay and more for those planning to stay longer.  They also offer honeymoon packages and discounts during non-peak season. Please check and contact their website for details.

Related Posts:
Peaceful Island
The Road to Amanpulo 
Day 1
Day 2
Leaving Amanpulo

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Leaving Amanpulo

    My last day and I woke up late!  I took one look at the overcast sky and  knew that there will be no chance of swimming in the beach anymore.  We spent the rest of the morning packing our things and taking more pictures before lunch.  Our pizza themed lunch was initially scheduled at the picnic grove but due to the rain, venue was moved to the main clubhouse.  While there I checked out the library, boutique and swimming pool...bought some of the delicious smelling soap, the same one placed in our rooms, albeit a much bigger version.  These were 6x the cost of imported soaps but they smelled really heavenly and frankly, there was nothing cheaper to bring home as souvenir being sold in their boutiques!  There were nice keychains but no resort fact, the resort logo could only be found in a some caps, children's t-shirts (very small embroidery) and long sleeves rash guard swimwear.  I was told that Amanresorts which runs Amanpulo espouses simplicity and elegance. They do not make commercial use of their name.  The library was quiet and comfortable.  There was quite a large selection of reading materials from books to magazines.  I wanted to get a small coffee table book similar to that found in the casita but, there was none for sale.   The sun finally came out after lunch but by then we were all waiting for our plane ride back to Manila.  We left Amanpulo at 2:30 PM and this time, my view was better.  I was able to get a video of Taal Volcano and it's lake and approaching Manila, our plane was flying very low, that I imagined I could see my mom's ancestral home in Pasay.  I thought, what a great way end the weekend.

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Day 2 in Peaceful Island

    After an exciting and food-filled first day, we retired to our beautiful casitas for a good night's rest.  The blinds were drawn and the beds turned down, when we got there.  The bathroom had everything from delicious smelling soaps, shampoos, lotions and even insect repellant.  There was coffee, cold bottled water, WIFI, cable TV and mobilephones had good signals...hmmmm, what more can a working girl ask for?  We woke up Tuesday morning to some sunshine, got ready to go to breakfast and explore the island.  That was the plan...but as my luck goes, I had a minor accident yesterday afternoon, falling on my knees which I did not think was bad but unfortunately when morning came I found myself with a slightly swollen left knee causing limited mobility.  I really don't want to talk about it, it's enough to say that I could walk but not run.  Still, I did not want to miss out on all the planned activities, so I designated myself as motivator and driver, heheh.  The whole island can be covered within an hour by buggy or about an hour and a half to two hours, if you want to walk the beach surrounding it.  First stop was the West Villa Club which is available for use for parties and events but its private pool is not open to guests.  One of the most beautiful views of the island is at Gary's Nest, where they also have their small pier.  There was the Picnic grove which was actually next to our casita.  The Beach Club where we had our Spanish themed lunch is a relaxing place where one could lounge or sunbathe.  After lunch, we went back to our casita and because of my bum knee could not accompany my roomie as she was planning to explore the rest of the island nor could I join the group for snorkeling or instead, I just explored our beachfront, took some pictures...then siesta and a long warm bath before the luau dinner party in the evening.  

    view from Gary's Nest Photo by Paul Hechanova

    Photo courtesy of  Sheera Recto Malabanan

    The Luau party was a night of good food (there was a chef actually doing the cooking for the Asian Barbecue dinner), wine, laughter and music, including jamming from the group...all the hidden talents came out from singers to percussionists!  It was almost 11 PM and no one was leaving, but like all good things, the party has to end.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Amanpulo: A Vacation To Remember - Day 1

    We landed in Amanpulo at approximately 12:45 PM, May 9, 2011 and was warmly met by the resort's general managers, a husband and wife team, Nicholas and Christine Juett. There was a red carpet and leis placed on each guest, making me feel special the moment I got off the plane. Of course, I know that they do this for each arrival but still it was a nice touch. We were then shuttled to our individual golf carts (our mode of transportation for the duration of our stay) and our guide, Lyn took us for a short orientation tour around the main features of the private island resort before bringing us to our beach casita.  

    My roommate and I were assigned to Casita No. 23 and registration was a shoo-in...I just gave her my business card and signed the form.  After showing us the casita's features and amenities (including how to operate the cart), contact numbers and other instructions, we were left to our own devices. First on the agenda was to explore our casita.  It was lovely and looked exactly as it was featured in the website.  I have always dreamed of living in a beach front house with floor to ceiling glass windows and now I get my least for the next 3 days :)  and the bathroom?  wow! and now was not the time to feel guilty about the homeless...

    The last picture above is the view of the casita from the back...although it was just a few meters from the beach it was hidden by enough foliage, trees and bushes to allow you to keep your privacy.  Your beach is basically your own because while I was there, I only saw a family of three from a far distance.  It is so private that you can go skinny dipping and nobody would see you.  The only other living creature within sight that we saw was our very own resident "bayawak".

    The Road To Amanpulo

    I spent Sunday, May 8 preparing for my trip, although I still wasn't too sure I was making the right decision. I went to the 6:30 PM mass and I said to God...I put everything in your hands...and somehow, the hesitation greatly diminished.  When I got home, my mom told me that the typhoon was on it's way out (she was actually praying that the weather improves), which for me was a good sign.  But I slept late and woke up at 5 AM Monday, almost missing my 6:20 AM flight...not a good sign.  Surprisingly, the flight to Manila was good and although there were some rain showers, the weather seem to be cooperating...which again was a good sign (I was looking for signs everywhere)...but then again, no one came to meet me at the airport.  I tried to contact my friends and they said that a car was supposed to pick me up and bring me to where they the Soriano Hanger. And so I waited...and waited...and waited...until the assigned driver finally appeared almost 1 hour after I arrived. It seems that he was given vague instructions and was actually in the parking area waiting to be contacted. Oh well.  I got to the hanger on time though, and after checking in was happy to see my friends.  Some of those in our group were a bit wary when they saw our plane, the Dornier...but not me...this 19 seater twin engine plane and I are old friends :) since way back 2008 when I went to Miniloc Resort in El Nido.  At that time, I too got scared when I saw how small it was and I thought, I need to be sedated to ride that, but it proved to be one of the most enjoyable and safest flight I had ever experienced...and best of all, it cured me of my fear of window seats! We left Manila at 11:30 AM and once again, the Dornier did not was a smooth flight inspite of the poor weather.  Soon we were seeing some islands...was it Mindoro?  Or parts of Palawan? Unlike the 2008 trip, I was seated on the right side of the plane this time facing the cockpit and so I could not see us approaching Pamalican Island, the island paradise of Amanpulo, but a friend was kind enough to get a picture of the island for me as we approached it.  It's not so good but it is better than nothing :)

    Here is a way better picture  ;)

    Next: A Vacation To Remember

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    Road Trip...The Last Adventure for Summer 2010 - Lalimar

    Mornings at Lalimar is wake up to this...

    a view of serene water meeting the blue sky...

    My brother was up early, so he had breakfast with our driver-mechanic at the resto-bar by the pool. My mom, daughter and her nanny were having their breakfast at the cottage veranda and told me to order mine. I wanted bacon and eggs but was told "baconsilog" was not available so I opted for "longsilog" instead, also to be delivered to the cottage of course...I told you, they had great room service...although I think it's also because my mom is a big tipper :) The kids were still asleep so I decided to explore our surroundings while waiting for breakfast.

    Cottage 1 where we stayed
    the beautiful eternity pool

    As you can see from my amateur pictures (taken with a simple digital camera), that this is a beautiful place and I'm very happy that we came.  Although the beach was full of stones, pebbles and corals, they were not sharp but rather fact walking on them carelessly could result in slipping like what happened to my son...causing a huge tear in his board shorts (the reason for the needle and thread).  The best footwear are slippers or sandals with good soles or snorkel shoes.  After getting their bearings, the kids walked on until the water reached above their waist and I could see them snorkeling.  The water was crystal clear and schools of fish could be seen even close to the shore...

    We decided to have lunch before we left (check-out time 12 noon) and they offered an Italian menu.  I found out that they have an Italian chef who just started about 2 weeks before.  So we had 3 kinds of spaghetti and broccoli soup. They didn't have french bread (the oven will be delivered next week yet, said the chef) so we had to make do with the white bread we brought.  All in all, it was a satisfying meal and after saying our goodbyes to the staff, we were on our way home.

    The way back home gave us a different perspective of the highway...driving up the mountains of San Carlos, we saw this...

    San Carlos City's version of the Chocolate hills

    and then this...


    It was a great way to end the summer of 2010 and we will definitely come back...maybe sooner than later.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Road Trip...The Last Adventure for Summer 2010 - Part 3

    The coastal view from Vallehermoso to La Libertad is breathtaking. I would love to have a home here where you wake up to the sea and sky becoming one. The road trip to Lalimar Resort took about an hour and it was easy to find since it is located right along the highway. The place looked clean and parking was spacious. There were a lot of people but I found out that these were just day guests. It was a very informal set-up...reception was also located at the bar where I found Leny who was in-charge of our reservation. I knew that check-in time was 2 PM but we arrived early a little past 1 PM and our room was still being readied but the staff was kind enough to allow us to stay in the porch while waiting. The room was very spacious, T&B was clean and there was hot and cold water. After a simple check-in procedure, we all settled in...and the kids went around to explore the place. I checked out the bar...and found that mineral water and sodas were expensive...a liter of Wilkens cost Php 55.00!!! I decided to go to town to buy water, soda and a sewing kit. La Libertad is a very rural if you are looking for a supermarket or at the very least, a grocery store...don't. There is a single level market with dry goods stores, a pharmacy and a cooperative store aside from the usual wet market and food stalls. I got 3 gallons of Wilkens at Php60.00 each and 3 liters of Coke and a liter of Sprite and Royal Tru-Orange...and of course, the thread and needles :) , as well as Php50.00 worth of ice in narrow plastic bags...mission accomplished! Now that I got the "essentials" out of the was time to have some fun. The kids decided to try the beach first while our baby Ella, went for a dip in the very enticing infinity pool with her yaya. I decided to join them and soon after the kids came over too. Since we were in the eastern side of the island, there was no sunset view here but, that's okay...the pool and the view from the Tanon Strait where you can see the island of Cebu was a treat in itself. We had dinner on the porch (they had room service!) and surprisingly the food was good and very affordable (so...only the drinks were expensive)...another great thing about our room was the fact that we were near the pool area where there was WIFI! After eating the kids went to the cabanas with their laptops and spent the rest of the evening on-line. They gave me exactly 5 minutes to check my e-mail. I was in bed by 10 PM but since Ella slept with me, I had a restless sleep. I think I woke up at around 2 AM to bring the air-conditioner down because earlier I gave up my blanket to the yaya who was feeling cold. I was not in the direct path of the AC, so I thought I wouldn't get cold. My mom, brother, Ella and her yaya Jackie were up and about by 6 AM....someone placed a blanket over me and I went back to sleep.

    Wednesday, June 09, 2010

    Road Trip...The Last Adventure for Summer 2010 - Part 2

    It was after the surgical mission organized by the Provincial Health Office in '97 or '98 in Calatrava town that the team decided to come back to Bacolod via the new Negros Translink Highway.  It was about 60% finished then, steep and dusty with some fantastic sceneries.  Today, more than 10 years after, it is a bustling highway and the scenery became even more beautiful. The waterfall which I first saw in the 90's is still there with it's viewing deck.  There are vendors now selling foodstuffs and restrooms! The air here is cold and if you plan to stay longer and explore, it would be practical to wear something  to keep you warmer or bring a jacket.

    But sadly, there is one thing that has not changed much...and that is, denuded hills. I still do not see new trees in the hills of San Carlos and Negros Oriental.  After some picture taking and a car-sickness mishap (all that zig-zags and curves took its toll), we arrived in San Carlos at around 10 AM.  San Carlos City has not changed much although they have a new City Hall, a park and a high end subdivision at the outskirts of the town proper.  There is a mall but it was basically empty except for some stalls, a few shops and the main department store.  It was also very warm so that we decided to have an early lunch in Jollibee (located in the mall)...then off to replenish some emergency supplies which was all used up due to that one car-sickness episode ;)  We went to look for a grocery store in downtown San Carlos but the only one we found was this popular general merchandise store that sold only cheap made in china goods...oh well. Finally, after getting the bare minimum of what I needed... muscles and legs no longer aching and niece no longer carsick...we were off to our destination...the Lalimar Resort in La Libertad!

    Tuesday, June 08, 2010

    Road Trip...The Last Adventure for Summer 2010 - Part 1

    For the longest time I have been wanting to take a road trip to Northern Negros via the Translink Highway that run from Salvador Benedicto town to San Carlos City.  The first time I passed through here was in the mid 90's when it was still being completed...the view was fantastic but on the roadsides were basically just nipa huts and road workers.  I remember we were a convoy of ambulances and we would wave at the people and they would wave back, especially the children.  I actually felt like some minor celebrity...heehee.  And so last June 5, 2010, a day after my brother's birthday, we decided to take that road trip.

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    Postscript to Singapore

    After posting my travel photos to Facebook and this blog, I got a lot of comments re: how nice Singapore is, how orderly and efficient, how modern, how disciplined, etc.  Basically, I agree with all comments except that somehow beneath all that orderliness, efficiency and modernism lies a restless it dissatisfaction? defiance? cynicism? boredom?...I can't quite pinpoint it, but somehow the impression I get is that people are not really happy with their lives and that life is not quite satisfying as it seems.  Even our tour guide who seemed up all the time, seemed to me as trying very hard to show his enthusiasm.  One would think that in a country where the per capita income is very high having a highly developed market-based economy, life would be very satisfactory and happier, but it seems not, since you rarely see people smiling and looking happy or friendly in Singapore.  Almost everyone looked very business like (not to mention tired) and in a hurry, that I felt like they were all trying to sell me something...and when I do buy, I get a half smile...haha.  Still, I do  not think it is a city I want to retire in.  I got the same feeling in Kuala Lumpur, though in a lesser degree.  Well, I guess living in a competitive society does that to people.  Melaka (Malacca) however was different...there they smiled and responded to us...very much like what we would do to visitors in Manila, although the sales people in the mall were also very business-like, unlike in the Philippines where they would actually start a conversation with you.  But I think, this is because in Malaysia, they have some difficulty communicating in English.  In Singapore, English was not a problem but their pronounciation was hard to understand.  I was also mistaken for Indonesian in the cruise and had some people approach me talking in their language...which was a new experience for me.  In the Philippines, I am often labeled as mestiza but to others, I am obviously Malay :)

    So yes, Singapore is a first-world Asian country but its society is far from perfect. Life there is fast, stressful and I think there is a lot of pressure to make money in that country.  Everything is expensive and my estimate is...if you earn less than SG$1,000.00 (net) a's a hard life and your housing will probably be an HDB flat.  As I was browsing in the shops, restaurants, I'd say that for a comfortable but not luxurious single life, one must at least earn a net income (less taxes/housing) of at least SG$2,500.00 a month.  If you want to factor in regular shopping, a social life, daily lattes...then one must earn more than SG$4,000.00.  But hey, this is all based on my perception and may not necessarily be correct. They have high taxes so I presume that healthcare and education must be free or cheap because they are subsidized.  We Filipinos always look to other countries and wonder why we are lagging behind...why we cannot have the kind of economy they have...the answer if we are to see Singapore and Malaysia as examples is strong taxes, discipline, political will.  The question to answer for us...are we willing to pay 20-30% tax on our gross incomes?  A higher salary scale means even higher taxes...Right now in the Philippines, we pay 4 -20% taxes on our gross income. Many people who do not pay taxes fall under 3 categories - either because of very low income, they have very low salary scale, or they just under declare their income. One main reason for those in the last category is that government is corrupt, so why pay?...but isn't cheating a form of corruption too?  This is like the case of which comes first...the chicken or the egg.  Who does the right thing first? Government or the people?  Is there no cheating and corruption in Singapore and Malaysia...of course there is something that is as old as Adam...a corrupt-free society is a fairy tale.  But it can be minimized, controlled, if not totally eliminated.  The other reality is without money government cannot function effectively, efficiently and equitably. Singapore can afford to give a lot of benefits and services to the people, tax incentives to tourists, government subsidies to business, health and education because they have the money to do so. Thus, if we expect our government to do the same....we must pay the right taxes.  It is as simple as that.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    2010 Summer Adventure - Port Klang-Day 3 and Singapore-Day 4

    Port Klang is about an hour ride from Kuala Lumpur (I know I said that before)...I spent the whole trip thinking about "my bell" was a quiet ride to the port and even the scenery was sparse.  In fact I saw several unoccupied and empty townhouses, business establishments on the way.  The Star Cruises Terminal Port is located at Pulau Indah which is located next to the cargo terminals of Westport and is quite impressive but there were very few people around except for some parked taxis waiting for passengers who want to go around.  Still thinking about the bell...I saw one in a souvenir shop but it cost RM 25...okay, so I am obsessing about it but I am not that obsessed!

    This was our last night on the boat, and so we had dinner at one of their more formal restaurants.  The boat left the port for the trip back to Singapore at about 8:30 PM.  After dinner, some of the group went to watch a show and enjoyed the other amenities on the ship.  I on the other hand was too tired to socialize and decided it would be more practical to get my things ready for the disembarkation the next day.  It's a good thing too because I woke up late the next day and breakfast was way past 9 AM and we had to put our things out by 10 AM for collection by the staff, otherwise you will just have to huff and puff carrying your baggage out of the ship personally.  We checked out by 11 AM and took this time in going around to check out the different ship amenities...and there was quite a few!  But since we took a day trip, we really were not able to enjoy what the ship has to offer...maybe next time...if there is a next time :)

    There was a pool/slide, gym, spa, library in Deck 12 and even a conference/seminar room.  I also learned that 75% of the ship's staff are Filipinos and in fact I met 2 each at the spa and restaurants. They had a 10 month contract and get to go home for 2 months in a year, that is if they renew their contract.  We were told to wait at The Lido for final instructions for disembarkation.  As we were approaching Singapore, I was thinking that in spite of the tight schedule, I am grateful for this trip and the break it gave me from work, so thank you for this unexpected birthday know who you are :)   Arriving in Singapore, we just had enough time for a quick lunch, last minute shopping at the harbor mall, and then the half an hour trip to Changi Airport.  Checking in was a bit slow because the staff opened at 5:30 PM but everything went smoothly after that. The airport is also one big mall...but I only had $7 left from my tax rebate and bought a luggage tag with it.  Oh and as a final experience...I got lost.  I took the wrong turn to go to my gate and literally walked up to the end but there was no E22...asking around (not panicking yet because I still had enough time)...they told me to go back and turn left (I was at the right side) back I feet literally hurting.  Once I got there, I saw everyone coming towards seems that the gate was changed to E4...and I had to go back to where I came from...whaatttt???  Oh well, all that walking made me discover that there was free internet around, so I was able to log in and check my mail after 3 days. AND there was a foot massage machine there which gave your foot and leg an experience you will never forget...honestly... that was probably the best experience I had in this trip ;)  really!

    We arrived back in Manila, Friday, April 23, at 11:15 PM.  We checked into Richmond Hotel in Ortigas but by the time we got to our room it was almost 1 AM and I thought, we should just have stayed in the airport since we were checking out at 7 AM the next day anyway.  So as an ending to this adventure, I just want to say that I enjoyed the whole experience and hopefully I will be able to visit Singapore and Malaysia again someday but this time on my own time and see all the things I want to see...the malls excluded =))

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    2010 Summer Adventure - Melaka & Kuala Lampur, Day 3, Part 2

    After a very sumptuous lunch at Hotel Equatorial, we proceeded to ride the bus that would take us to Kuala Lumpur.  It was a very short visit to Melaka/Malacca and because we basically just moved around the Bandar Hilir area, I'm sure there is more to the whole city than just the Dutch Square, St. Paul's Hill and Chinese temples.  I would like to visit again one day and take in more sights and explore the whole city. We left Malacca at about 1 PM passing through the more modern part of the city until we got to the North-South Expressway....Kuala Lumpur, here we come! It was a 2 hour drive and as soon as we got to the expressway, our guide allowed us to nod off to lalaland ☺☺☺.  After dozing off for a half hour or more, I started to be more aware of our surroundings and there was one thing I noticed...emergency phones every 2 kilometers or so, and there were motorcycle lanes! The landscape was also mostly palm trees, plantations probably...I was trying to look for rubber trees but can't find any or maybe I just don't recognize the difference between a palm and a rubber tree (^-^). 

    Palm or Rubber Trees (?)

    We had a pit stop and let me warn you if you plan to visit Malaysia....most cubicles in public toilets have the squat type while there is usually only one or two cubicles with a flush type.  The malls' restrooms are clean, however the ratio of squat type to flush type is still 3:1.  It made me think...people here must have a thing about squatting.  Okay, hold that thought!   We continued on our way to KL and first stop was....of course, the famous Petronas Tower.

    Since we arrived in the afternoon and for lack of time, we no longer entered the premises, besides I have had my fill of high-end malls and buildings in Singapore.  So it was just several minutes of picture-taking and walking under the beating heat of the sun when the cool air of the bus air-conditioning beckoned to me.  Oh, and did I forget to mention in my previous post that several members of my group missed the tender boat from the ship to Malacca port?  Uh..huh...about 8 of them, although I think 4 purposely stayed behind because they have been to Malaysia before.  Anyway, 2 of them decided to follow us to KL after the ship docked at Port Klang which is about an hour away by taxi. So, just as we were finishing our photo shoot at Petronas, the 2 girls arrived and so, all is well that ends well.  Next stop, another mall of course...but thank heavens, it's more like the Araneta Center/Greenhills kind with very affordable goods.  I bought a bag for me (loved it!) and a wallet for my mom at a Vincci store.  BTW, there are Vincci stores in Manila too.  Then it was time to go and tired, sleepy and poorer me went up the bus to wait for the rest.  As we were moving out of KL, Gerry who was sitting on the next seat in front of me started opening his buys...and horrors!  I saw something he bought which I forgot to get....a Malaysian dinner bell souvenir! When I asked him how much he got for it...he said RM 10...what??? I still had RM 20 with me as I was about to board the bus and decided to buy batteries because I did not want to bring home any ringgits...sob, can I forget something that is a tradition in my home?  You see, every time someone travels, whether family or friend, the one thing I ask for is for them to get me a dinner or small bell...My bell collection is now more than 20 pieces and to think that I am the one can I forget something like that??? duh....can I hit myself now???  I started to rationalize by saying that I forgot because I was tired and sleepy...and that I already had 2 bells from Singapore...that I forgot that this time I was in Malaysia...nahhhhh...I should go and drown myself in one of those squat toilets, that's what I should do.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    2010 Summer Adventure - Melaka, Malaysia, Day 3, Part 1

    First day of the cruise, I was up by 5:30 AM, ready by 6:20, breakfast by 6:30 and waiting at The Lido by 7:00 AM for our shore excursion to Melaka and Kuala Lampur.  This was a technical stop for the ship and we will be transferring to a tender boat which will bring us to the Melaka port since the shallow waters there will not allow the ship to dock.  Entering the boat, I had this deja vu feeling...I think because it was like a harbor pilot's boat and something similar to what my maternal grandfather would use when he meets and goes up the international ships he would guide in entering the Manila port.  The short trip took less than an hour and this was what greeted us...and quite friendlier faces complete with a good morning greeting from immigration and the coast guard.

    Melaka was recognized in 2008 by UNESCO as a world heritage city. We were first brought to this place, "Dutch Square", with its Town Hall, Clock Tower and Church. We then went up St.Paul's Hill, a daunting task for someone like me with weak knees and who is afraid of heights.  The fact that I was able to walk up, then down the steps is a small miracle for me.

    The church ruins had a solemn air and I'm glad I made the climb because this was the place where the great Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier was placed after his incorrupt body was taken in February 1553 from Shangchuan Island in China where he was first buried. He was temporarily buried in St. Paul's church on 22 March, 1553. An open grave in the church now marks the place.

    On 11 December 1553, Xavier's body was shipped to Goa. The body is now in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, where it was placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket on 2 December, 1637.

    Here are more heritage sites and museums (?) below the hill.

    What exactly is a House of Enduring Beauty?

    Their Rickshaw= Our Trisikad

    From there, we went to a chinese temple but I did not go down the bus anymore because I've been to enough Chinese temples to realize that once you've seen've seen them all. The old Melaka itself is a small fact the bus kept going around in circles because to get to other places you have to keep on passing the Dutch Square.  But from what I understand, Melaka City is quite a big place.  I hope I can come back someday to explore it more, as well as the neighboring Penang, which some people tell me remind them of many old places of the Philippines, especially Silay, my town.

    A tour in any place will never be complete without some shopping involved.  We were brought to a mall much like our smaller provincial malls called the Pahlawan.  I asked what the word meant in Malay and I was told...hero or warrior.  I wonder if we have the same meaning for the Province of Palawan here.

    After the short shopping, we had a very very very good lunch at The Equatorial. It must be good hotel because while we were having lunch, their provincial governor arrived with his entourage. I would recommend it to everyone and anyone who plans to visit Melaka...most especially for its great food!

    Next stop.....Kuala Lumpur!

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