Month: April 2013

ONE PIECE Premier Summer 2012 – Part 2

ONE PIECE Premier Summer 2012 – Part 2

Osaka, Japan – Summer 2012
One Piece Premier Summer
In the summer of 2012, Universal Studios Japan had a special summer event to tribute the popular Manga/Anime, ONE PIECE.  Universal Studios was transformed to be themed toward One Piece for the summer.  In honor of the event (and cause it’s more fun), many of the guests dressed up as characters from One Piece.  
They even held a live action ONE PIECE original show.  The Waterworld set was used for the show and it included voices from the anime.  Actors would act and lip sync to the anime voices.  The show was a lot of fun, especially if you’re a One Piece fan!

Videos of the show:

ONE PIECE Premier Summer 2012 – Part 1

ONE PIECE Premier Summer 2012 – Part 1

Osaka, Japan – Summer 2012
One Piece Premier Summer
In the summer of 2012, Universal Studios Japan had a special summer event to tribute the popular Manga/Anime, ONE PIECE.  Universal Studios was transformed to be themed toward One Piece for the summer.  In honor of the event (and cause it’s more fun), many of the guests dressed up as characters from One Piece.  

 Flash mobbed!

 I live in Los Angeles and have only eaten at Mel’s diner a life total of 3 times.  It’s “OK”

 This might look normal to people from the US, but everyone else uses “KPH”

 Who’s trying to evacuate during the ride?

 Almost gave in and bought a Spiderman dog costume.  Almost.

 Go here for happiness.

 Get #5, the Sanji!

 Boa Hancock

 Marine creeping up

 I did not get to go in to Sanji’s Pirate Restaurant.  You need reservations weeks in advance!

 Aokiji and associate

 Brook’s show.  He plays the piano and sings his trademark Bink’s Sake song.  The crowd happily sung along.

 Cotton Candy Chopper’s…err..Cotton Candy.

 These dragons were animatronic.  They moved and exhaled smoke.

 Eat a hot dog while looking like you’re smoking a cigar!


 In line for the “Jaws” ride.

Just so you know, this is Japan.  Everyone is speaking Japanese.  During the Jaws ride, an announcement was made while I was taking pictures.  I continued taking pictures and the announcement was made again and people started looking back at me.  I was then informed by my friend (in English) that no photography is allowed during the ride.

 People getting ready for the parade.  The parade included guests getting sprayed by water so I did not take my camera out to prevent any possible damage.

 Hello Kitty steam buns, just adorable enough to eat.  I think that’s what they were going for.

 Edward Newgate’s (White Beard) coat.  No damage on his back!

 Cooling down.  The humidity is fierce.


 This kid got caught staring at her butt.  Come on kid, be discrete and take pictures from a distance.  That’s way less creepy if no one knows.

 I thought this was to scare children who were acting up.  “If you don’t behave, I’m switching you for a more behaved child.”  Turns out I was wrong.  This is for when there are two parent who want to enjoy a ride if their kid can’t go.  One parent watches the child while the other goes on the ride.  Then they switch.  That’s a pretty nice park feature.

PART 2 – The One Piece Live Action Show!

Manila Madness – Last Day – Water, Hotels, Airports

Manila Madness – Last Day – Water, Hotels, Airports

Final Day
My last day in the Philippines so I spend my time at Hotel H2O/Manila Ocean Park activities.

There is a mini-mall in the main center of the hotel as well as a food court.  This is because the hotel is attached to Manila Ocean Park which made for a fun location…or so it would seem.

Mirror Maze
This was a lot of fun.  No one else was in the attractions as I arrived just as they opened.  One of the employees went in with us and took interesting pictures of us using mirror trickery.  The maze took a few minutes for me to get out as I ended up going in circles.  I assumed if I just walked along the walls I could find the escape.  This attraction is a little small, but definitely try this.

Shooting Gallery
This was a fairly modern shooting game that ran on computers and used HD projectors to a screen.  Each game was PHP70 and lasted about 5 minutes.

4D Ride
We selected “The Bermuda Triangle” since that was recommended as their best show.  As soon as this thing started, I found myself in immediate regret.  The ride seats were very run down/poorly made and the safety bar did NOT lock.  This was a concern as the chair violently moved in all directions during the virtual ride.  The movement of the chair did not seem to match up with the video either, it seemed a little random.  The 3D use the Blue and Red eyeglasses which gave me a headache.

Overall: Very dangerous and poor quality.  Do not ride.

After these attractions, it’s time for my friend to go to the airport.  We leave two hours before the flight in anticipation of Manila traffic.  I got a deal from the hotel taxi service to go to the airport and back to the hotel.  On the ride to the airport, the driver didn’t say anything to us.  On the solo return ride back from the airport, the driver offers gets pretty talkative.  He offers to drive me around town (for a fee of course) to see the sights, bars, and brothels.  In that order.  I politely decline, but the driver starts going into great detail about how the hostess bars work in the Philippines.  Just so I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, he offered to go with me to these hostess bars and brothels.  I didn’t make any agreement to go, and I’m pretty sure he expects me to pay for his hookers if I did accept.  A little information about the driver, he’s about 20 years older than me.  Not really the age demographic I hang out with normally, and I’m definitely not going to let this guy drive me to a shady part of town where no one will find me.  That’s just a red flag in “Don’t get killed on vacation 101 – An Introductory course.”  That is a fictional book I mentioned to express how bad an idea it would be to go anywhere with a stranger while carrying a lot of money for hookers.  Of course there’s a lot of traffic in the Philippines, so this conversation lasts for about an hour. Once we get back to the hotel, I still politely decline but he gives me his phone number in case I change my mind.  I did not.

 Hotel H2O – The hotel looks nice, but my experience was awful.

Hotel H2O Annoyances:
The room had a flashing light above the door.  It looks like it’s an emergency exit light.  It flashed every 20 seconds.

The air conditioner worked the first hour I was in the room, then spouted out heat for the next 2-3 hours.  It took several calls to the front desk to get it fixed.  At one point at night, the air conditioner turned itself on for a few minutes.  I got up to verify that the switch was in fact set to “OFF.”

Calling the reception for help proved to be a challenge itself.  Many calls went unanswered.  2 of my 10 calls were answered promptly, the other times no one picked up.

At one point, all the lights in the room decided to turn themselves off.  It took a few attempts to call for help before they were turned back on.

I spend a large chunk of my time watching television.  I always find the local television programming in other countries very interesting.  I watched anime dubbed in Tagalog and the local news.

Water Show
I think this occurred every other hour, there was a water show at the big stage of the park.  There is an admission to get in, but I viewed this show from the room.

Last morning
My flight is at 08:20 so I leave for the airport at 06:00.  We didn’t hit any traffic so we got there at 06:20.  I thought I was too early, but I was just on time.  As we get there, there is a line to get into the airport.  They scan your luggage and your personal belongings as you enter the airport.  To get into the airport, you must show them an airline ticket.  I had an e-ticket so I showed them an e-mail of the ticket from my phone and this was acceptable.  As I looked for my airline, I found it was the LONGEST line in the airport.  Self check-in kiosks are the best, unfortunately the Manila airport was not that advanced.  The airport looked like it hadn’t been updated since 1980. I finish checking in after an hour, and head towards the terminal.  

 MNL Airport

Line at check-in for my flight.  It’s very difficult to see, but there’s a counter for people to check in beyond all these people.

Bribing doesn’t work.  Oh well.  It was PHP550 for the departure tax so have that ready to go after you pass security. 

 Well, the elevator wasn’t voice activated.  I ended up using the stairs.

Luckily, I have a Priority Pass Airport Lounge card, so I got to stop into the Pagstop lounge for breakfast. The lounge isn’t very modern, but it’s nice.  It kind of reminds me of someone’s living room.  They have pretty good sandwiches and dim sum.


I make my way to the gate and see that this flight is going to be packed.  

The flight was pretty uneventful, but I was bored by the in-flight entertainment selection.  Since my flights to MNL were via JAL, that was about 16 hours of being on their plane with the exact same in-flight entertainment.  I already watched everything I would have found interesting.

NRT Layover
My 1.5 hour layover has been delayed another 2 hours.  I get bored so I go to find a place to eat.  I find a ramen place, as I’m in Japan gotta go with the local food, and sit down to eat.  This bowl of ramen was pretty damn awful.  Airports aren’t really known for having the best food, but it was still better than what I would have had on the airplane.  That’s the only standard you have to beat when eating at the airport.

My flight was a codeshare between JAL and AA.  JAL has a great on-time record and their service is amazing.  My AA flight was delayed and not that great.  I really wanted to get to work on time since I would have arrive in Los Angeles at 8:50am, I didn’t arrive to around 11am.

If you didn’t know, you can make a complaint about the airline at fault and get a credit when things happen like this.  I complained to AA and requested for either a $50 airline credit or 5000 miles.  I really wanted the miles, but they gave me a $50 credit.  That’s still pretty good for just waiting around for 2 hours.


Manila Madness – Day Seven – Food, Malls, Bars

Manila Madness – Day Seven – Food, Malls, Bars

Day 7 – Food, Malls, bars

We start the day with breakfast at 9 Spoons, the restaurant at the top floor of the Bayleaf Hotel. It’s about 06:30 so the place has just opened (The next day we went for breakfast at 09:00 and it was packed).

Great views from the Sky Deck

I’m hoping that this school wasn’t in use…

A very skinny horse.  We were planning on going for a carriage ride, but we saw the horses getting whipped very abusively.

Dude is chilling on a moving truck!

14 Canons – View from the hotel room

Taxi driver, take us to 168 Mall!

168 Mall is known for the value.  Meaning, everything is made of poor quality or an imitation of a respectable product.
TIP: Beware of guys in disguise!  There were a lot of very strange looking women there…something seemed off.  After hearing them speak and taking another look at them, many of the women working at 168 Mall were men.  Many.

168 Mall is actually composed of several other malls.  The mall connects to the neighboring buildings which also happen to be malls.  The amount of floors isn’t the same though.  The 1st and 2nd floor of the mall seemed to go on and on.  We tried to walk around the entire 2nd floor, but gave up after 30 minutes.  The further we went to explore the mall, the more complicated it became to get back to the original starting point. 

I better go get an autograph!

Best spaghetti in the Philippines is at Jollibee!

This is exactly how I want my kids to dress everyday!

Mall food courts always remind me of America

After shopping at 168 Mall, we headed back to the hotel. We picked up a taxi on the street during heavy traffic.  When I took a look at the driver’s dashboard the car was completely out of gas and had to be started every minute.  This caused me much anxiety, but it worked out since we made it back to the hotel okay.  I guess the gas gauge was just broken, but the car dying every minute was still nerve-wracking.

Then after taking a power nap, we headed to SM City Manila (another mall) in search of Shakey’s Pizza!

We had to try Shakey’s Pizza!  The entire week, every time we passed a Shakey’s there was a line out the door.  Which made me think Shakey’s was really good.  After dining there, it seemed about the same as what I could get in the States.

Hot sauce and ketchup.  I did not request this, but tried it because I thought it was a custom.

I politely declined membership after the waitress’s convincing sales pitch to join.

SPAM! For when you’re in a jam…I guess.

None of these items you can get in the States!  None!

Later that night, we go out for drinks to calm the nerves…also cause drinking is fun.

Skydeck – Rooftop bar at the Bayleaf Hotel

After leaving the hotel, it was time for a change of scenery so we headed to “The Harbour” for drinks.  As soon as all four of us got out of the car into the parking lot, we were greeted by 8 servers from different bars/clubs.  They were all strongly pushing for our business and there were many establishments to choose from.

Somehow, the group redirected all the servers to me as I looked liked the biggest tourist.
Friends: Which one should we pick?
Me: That one (I pointed to the bar far away from the ones the servers were pushing for – without any remorse)

There was an awkward silence between all of us and the servers.  As I begin walking, they continue pushing to get us into their establishments.  One guy just kept yelling at me “We have a couch!  We have a couch!”  That’s not really a deciding factor for me when selecting a place to go.

It’s the Philippines, so of course it’s hot.  I want a cold beer.  I ask the group of servers which place serves “San Miguel Sub-Zero.”  That is an ice cold beer which requires a special freezer.  It turns out the guy who said they had a couch also have San Miguel Sub-Zero.  So we go there which turns out to be a place called “Jazz Simple Ambiance,” or JSA.

This is not San Miguel Sub-Zero.  It is beer with ice around it.  The beer was still warm and was unacceptable to my Western demands.  We ended up ordering a 6 pack for the 4 of us.  I drank 2.5 of them so we could just get out of the place.  The music they were playing was obnoxiously loud, American rap music.  The DJ just kept repeating obscene lyrics that didn’t make any sense to the few people inside.  

Nothing about this place was “Jazz, Simple, Ambiance.”

FYI, I’m 28.  I’m not an elderly person who complains about the crazy music the you people are listening to these days…at least not yet.

As we left the bar, I tried to walk out with half a beer.  They tried to charge me PHP100 for leaving the bar with the beer.  I just gave it to them since that’s the cost of a cold beer anywhere else.

We successfully left Jazz Simple Ambiance and made it to this bar.
This bar was great!  Good music, but quiet enough so you can still have a conversation with your friends.

Leaving the bar, I took a picture of this sign.  I wanted to try eating at this place, but forgot the next day.

Manila Madness – Day Six – From Boracay to Manila

Manila Madness – Day Six – From Boracay to Manila

Day 6 – From Boracay to Manila

Tricycle taxi from Station 2 to Jetty Port 

We ended up on the smaller ferry on the way back.  It was a very rough ride.

TIP: When leaving the ferry, be sure to pick up your own bag, otherwise someone else will pick it up and carry it for you, for a price of course.  This happened to us cause someone got to our bags first, but they only charge PHP40 per bag.

Kalibo Airport Entrance. Of course there’s a long line of people. 
View in front of me

View behind me. A somewhat miserable mood for everyone, especially after just leaving an island paradise to get in line at the airport. 

That sign is probably up cause someone made a joke that wasn’t funny. 

The long line to get in was a security point where your luggage was checked.  Once inside, there were more lines of course.

TIP: After checking in for your flight, be sure to carry cash on you for the Kalibo airport departure tax! 

Kalibo airport is very small.  As you can see, there is no gate number.  Just go outside and get on a plane.
Our flight was delayed two hours.  Luckily we had chairs to sit on this time in the crowded terminal. 

Kalibo tarmac

Everyone really wants to get off this plane

Back in Manila


Bayleaf Hotel – Intramuros (Manila), Philippines

It took some time getting from the airport to our hotel in Intramuros.  I told the taxi driver to take us to Intramuros, to the “Bayleaf Hotel.”  He did not know where it was but started driving towards Intramuros.  I had a map with me, but the driver didn’t understand it.  It was from Google Maps.  I even had the list of turns printed out.  He stopped for directions and we eventually made it there.  When we arrived at the hotel, he saw the hotel sign and said, “Oh, BayLEAP hotel…”  The F’s and P’s are switched in the Philippines when using English.  I feel like someone made a mistake 100 years ago, but no one bothered correcting that person which is why we face these mistakes today.

The hotel is awesome!  While waiting for a cab, they had someone come out to play the piano for us!

We took a cab to Mall of Asia

Long line for a pastry store.  It must be really good, but I didn’t want to waste an hour in line.

One section of the store, just flip flops

Yeah!  Make the kids pay the same price since they enjoy the movie just as much as adults!

We catch a cab at the Mall of Asia to take us back to Intramuros.  Once again, the taxi driver didn’t know where to go but luckily I memorized the directions. 

TIP: Always look at a map to understand how to navigate to places.  If you don’t know where to go, look for landmarks.

After 10 minutes of driving, the driver makes an illegal turn and we are pulled over by a police officer.  We were stuck in the vehicle as the cop proceeded to extort a bribe from the driver which went on for 15 minutes.  The driver gave the cop 50 pesos and we continued on our way. The taxi meter was running during the duration of the bribe negotiations. Once we got to Intramuros, I was able to guide the taxi to the hotel. The ride came out to PHP160 and I gave the driver PHP200 and left him the change as tip. I’m just glad we got back to the hotel safe with no other problems.
Manila Madness – Day Five – Things to do in Boracay

Manila Madness – Day Five – Things to do in Boracay

Day 5 – Boracay, Philippines

 Hobbit House – A bar where the servers are hobbits (little people, still human – no magic)
 Frosted Flakes are just called “Frosties.”
Weird, but at least they’re still GR-R-REAT!

Bacon and cheese pancakes!?
TIP: Always confirm that the ice you get is filtered when traveling.  This ice was filtered, but it was so hot the ice melted immediately.

Peanut butter and chocolate pancake on the left
Cheese pancake on the right

These patches emit an odor that wards off insects.

These definitely worked. No bug bites as long as I had these on!

 Booked my 3 activities through the guys at Diamond Watersports

White beach sand
Clear water
Chinese New Year celebration 

TIP: Don’t eat a bunch of pancakes then ride in a boat/para-sailing if you’re prone to motion sickness

Zip line! 


Just enjoy the cool breeze and the warm sand!

Manila Madness – Day Four – Part 2 – Boracay at last!

Manila Madness – Day Four – Part 2 – Boracay at last!

Day 4 – Part 2 – Boracay, Philippines

Station 2 – D*Mall – 17:00

After getting dropped off at D*Mall in station 2, we begin our seach for the hotel, GemTalk Suites.  After several minutes of walking we find a jewelry store called “GemTalk” which is pretty close.  I take a quick look at it, and assume that GemTalk suites must be very close.  After more wandering around, I just decide to ask someone for directions.  Two guys came up to us trying to sell activity packages to us, but I change the subject by just asking for directions since I just really want to rest after all the transit.  This is our conversation:

(I will spell word out phonetically)

Me: Do you know where “Jem” Talk (GemTalk) Suites is?

Them: Jam talk?

Me: “Jem” Talk Suites?
Them: Jerm Talk?
Me: *I then show them my reservation with the hotel name and address*
Them: Oh. “Ge-hm” Talk Suites.  It’s right over there (Points to Jewelry store)

So, turns out the hotel is attached to a Jewelry store.  I have to go into the Jewelry store to check-in.  After I check-in, the guys that wanted to sell us beach activities follow us to our room (Not by our request).  They try to push sales on us, I tell them we’ll go see them later when we’re ready, but the guy takes a seat in the small room with us to explain the pricing for the activities.  I let him finish explaining his sales pitch so he can leave, which he eventually does.  And I agree to find him after getting settled in.

I don’t like pushy sales people so at this point I wasn’t really on planning to buy anything from him.

After settling in, we set out to grab dinner.  After walking around D*Mall, we decide to get BBQ.

This was way too much food, but it was soooo good.  I took the remainder of the food back to the hotel and placed it in the fridge.  We decide just to chill out at the hotel and watch TV before exploring the beach.

After about 30 minutes, there’s a knock at the door.  It’s the two guys again trying to sell us activities.  We agree to go Para Sailing, Ziplining, and Zorbing the next day.  The guys ask for a down payment on the activities and I’m immediately skeptical.  I told them I’d rather pay for the activities before I do them tomorrow.  I was concerned that after giving them money, they would just disappear.  One of the guys resolve this by giving me his ID with contact information.  As far as the downpayment goes, we probably gave him about $100USD.  The total for the 3 activities was about $180USD. That’s $90USD per person.

We decide to trust them and they leave.

Time to check out the beach!  It’s amazing!  The weather is pleasantly warm and the sand is so fine that you don’t really sink in it was you walk along the beach.

 TV on a tree!

Ship made of meat! 

Videos of the fire show:

Manila Madness – Day Four – Part 1 – Getting to Boracay, Philippines

Manila Madness – Day Four – Part 1 – Getting to Boracay, Philippines

McDonald’s Boracay

Day 4 – Part 1 – Getting to Boracay from Manila

A little research goes a long way – Getting the Best Deal

From Manila, there are two main paths that can be taken.  You can fly directly from Manila to Caticlan (Boracay), although the lowest price for a round trip direct flight per person that I was able to find was going for $200USD in February 2013.  
Then another option came up when I searched for “Include nearby airports.”  The price dropped in half.  From here, I started searching on the websites of domestic airlines within the Philippines.  I found a round trip direct flight from Manila to Kalibo for $50USD on airphilexpress.  The duration of the flight is one hour.  From there, it would take about two hours of transit between Kalibo to Boracay via van, ferry, and tricycle taxi.  This seemed like a much more cost efficient way of traveling while also being a little more adventurous.

After some online research, I found that you can pre-book the services from Kalibo to Boracay for PHP600+.  After even more research I found out it was even cheaper if you just showed up at the airport in Kalibo and booked something as you arrived in the airport terminal. At the terminal, they had a van transportation service from the Kalibo airport to Boracay for PHP250. For a little more we could have taken the luxury bus, more room but it was slower than the van.

From MNL to KLO (Kalibo)

After checking out of the St Giles in Makati, we head to the airport. In the anticipation of heavy traffic,

we decided to head to the Manila Airport 3 hours before our flight.  From Makati, the taxi ride would be about PHP200-300 with the meter.  When we entered the taxi driver decided to pre-negotiate the price for PHP250 all the way to Terminal 2.  That would be $6.25USD, so I didn’t mind at all.  

The taxi driver was driving with the emergency brake on

We arrive at the airport without running into any traffic.  A porter greets us with a SmartCart for our luggage.  We continue towards Terminal 2 to find out that we were at the wrong terminal.  Luckily it was still early, so there was plenty of time to make it to Terminal 3.  The porter takes us to a deserted “Passenger Inter-Terminal Transit” stations, runs us through a mini-security checkpoint, checks our ticket/passport, and then we get on the shuttle.  

The shuttle is a large airport passenger type bus that shuttles people from the terminal to the plane.  We were the only passengers on the shuttle, which makes it look like I’m the only one whoever makes this mistake of arriving at the wrong terminal.  

For some reason, this sign was in Korean

The shuttle ride was great!  It was about 20 minutes of riding through the outside of the plane runway paths.  Lots of great views.  I would gladly make this mistake again just for the ride.  The shuttle is also air-conditioned so it’s a good way to stay cool and fill time before your flight.  

Beware the long line of Cebu Pacific!
Picture taken from empty line at airphilexpress

We arrive at the back of the terminal and are escorted through the ground level employee zone where luggage is being transferred and all sorts of airline business goes on.  This was also very exciting.  After a 5-minute walk, we arrive at an elevator and go up to the terminal floor.  We are escorted passed security and then to the front of the airphilexpress check in counter.  We check-in with no problems and have an hour to kill until boarding time.


After walking around the airport for a while, we decide to grab a massage.  It was PHP400 ($10USD) for a 30-minute massage.  I don’t normally get massages, and this one turned out to be a little painful.  It was a legit massage situation, and I ended up getting some dude with sharp elbows.  After the 30-minutes of trying not to cry, we proceed to the boarding gate.  The gate was located a level below the main terminal.  The main terminal looked fairly modern and nice with not too many people.  

Gate – “Welcome to the Philippines!  Your flight has been delayed”

As soon as we descended to the lower level, it was like a completely different place.  The quality of the area fell dramatically and the temperature was much higher.  The gate was excessively crowded and seating was very scarce.  People were sitting along the walls, on the floor, and anywhere there was a little breathing room.  What could cause this kind of disaster?  Flight delays.  “Welcome to the Philippines!  Your flight has been delayed.”  With a boarding time of 11:40, delays were announced in English through a very inaudible speaker system, boarding didn’t really begin until 12:40. We weren’t able to get on the plane until 13:00.  

View to my left

View to my right

Once on the plane, I was able to try and relax a little.  The flight was about 70% full so there was good amount of seating space among the passengers.  After getting on at 13:00, we waited on the plane (with the plane door open) until 14:00 where flight attendants appears, closed the door, and we began to takeoff.  There were no announcements and the flight crew was missing during this hour of purgatory.  After we started flying, the captain made an announcement and apologized for the wait which was due to “heavy runway congestion” at Kalibo.

Please do not use a pager, radio, walkie talkie, mobile phone, PDA, CD player, Original GameBoy, Original video Camera, or Calculator during the flight.
They could at least update the “do not use” devices…Really? A calculator?

Anyway, the flight continues with no problems and we arrive at Kalbo after an hour.  FYI, the night before my flight I checked the flight status which did not mention any of this.  We disembark from the plane and walk from the runway to the terminal (about 10 minutes).  It was a very small airport.

Van From Kalibo Airport to the Kalibo Seaport
At the KLO Arrivals terminal, there are several kiosks that advertise transportation between Kalibo and Boracay.  After inquiring with several of these, I find the best price at PHP250 for shuttle and ferry service.  From there, it would be an independent tricycle taxi to the hotel at PHP20 (they said).  There were slightly more expensive options, the only difference in the price was the land vehicle used.  Since I paid for the cheapest one, I got to the ferry station in a small cramped van.  For another PHP100 or so, you could take a luxury bus.  It looked a lot nicer, but it moved a lot slower.  Transit between the airport to the ferry station took about 70 minutes.  There was some road construction going on which caused the drive to be more delayed than it should have been.

 We had to stop for gas.  That’s the gas station security guard hanging out with a shotgun.

Ferry (Jetty) Kalibo to Caticlan
After getting dropped off by the van at the seaport.and having a ferry ticket that I’d be good to go and directly board the ferry.  That was a hopeful belief.  Once dropped off, you need to get in line to pay the “Terminal Fee” PHP100 and then move to another window to pay the “Environmental Fee” PHP150.  I forgot the actual price, but it was no more than that.  Basically, I had to purchase these two passes at two different windows, then return the passes to two different windows after walking down a short hallway.  They could cut out all the lines and windows if they sold one ticket with all the necessary charges on it, but that would be too convenient.  The place was crowded since lines were backed up due to the inefficient system of getting tickets.  There were several types of ferries that transported people between the islands.  I normally get motion sickness on water based vehicles, so to prevent this I purchased “Psibands” before the trip.  They actually worked.  They are acupuncture based wristbands that prevent motion sickness without the use of medication.  I prefer this since motion sickness medicine gets me drowsy and drinking alcohol with medication makes me sick.  The ferry ride took about 30 minutes.

Two Ferries, we rode the one on the right

Smaller, but faster ferry
Karaoke was available on board.

Jetty Port to Station 2
Once at the port, we picked up our bags and tried to hail a tricycle taxi.  It’s a PHP100 ride from the port to Station 2 (our destination).  I don’t mind the price, I just don’t like the false advertising.  But once we hit solid ground, I was happy.

Day 4 continued on next entry

Manila Madness – Day Two – Makati Bars/Red Light District

Manila Madness – Day Two – Makati Bars/Red Light District

Day 2
In the morning, I ask reception if there is a nearby convenience store and they direct me to a 7-Eleven right around the corner.  As soon I walk outside, I’m hit with the humidity of the Philippines and immediately notice the street smells like urine.  As I proceed to the store, I see a child peeing into a storm drain.  That explains that.  I have made no real plans in the Philippines and have no idea what to do.  I plan parts of my vacations like this just so I don’t have an agenda to adhere to since I like getting real recommendations from the locals.  

I spend part of the day trying to get a pre-paid data SIM card so I can at least have a map of where I’m going.  After two malls, no luck.  The taxi rides between my hotel and the mall were about $1.50-$3.00USD.

 Oppa Gangnam Style…

A trend I noticed at every mall I entered (there are a lot), there are armed security guards checking people for weapons before you enter.  I guess something must have happened in the past.  While shopping at any of the stores within the mall, the employees follow you as you browse the store.  And I don’t mean discretely, I mean right up in your personal space but with no eye contact.  Really, they are an inch away from you!  I was really uncomfortable with it at the first store that this happened, because I thought – they thought I was a thief.  When I noticed this happened more at other stores and with other people, then I realized it’s part of their loss prevention practices.

Adobo Republic
This seems like a VERY racist logo.

By night, I meet up with my friend from the states who is going to school in the Philippines for school.  He and his girlfriend meet me in the restaurant attached to the hotel and we begin our drinking adventure.

We go to many, many bars. Just doing 1 drink per bar then checking out another place.  We go to strip bars, midget vs. stripper bars, and regular non-stripper bars.  Everything just kept turning out to be the red light district somehow.

This bar was actually really sad.  I walked in and walked right out.  There were strippers and midgets in a boxing ring fighting each other and I thought, “This is their job…”  I went in with curiosity but left with a little depression (no little pun intended).

We even passed by a Korean church (it was next to a strip bar). I didn’t really feel compelled to go to church after what I’ve seen this night, but it’s good to know I have the option.

After a night of adventuring, we call it a night around 04:00 since we have to pick up a friend at the airport the next morning.  Plus, 6 hours of drinking is a lot.  I’m not as young as I used to be.

Manila Madness – Day Three – Makati Bars

Manila Madness – Day Three – Makati Bars

Day 3
As soon as I wake up, I start drinking as much water as possible.  The day before, I made a trip to 7-Eleven and stocked up on large bottled water.  If you’re planning on going out drinking, pre-planning your water the next day is necessary.  That’s how the pro’s do it.  I check out of Tune Hotel and walk across the street to St. Giles Hotel where I’ll be staying for one night.  Luckily, they accommodate me with early check-in, but I have to come back in an hour while they clean the room.  I kill an hour at the local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and a rooftop bar.

It’s always Adventure Time on vacation.

After I check in, my friend picks me up and we head off to the airport.  Sooo much traffic.

Driving in the Philippines is really all hope.  You just gotta hope no one hits you.

 All heart from this guy.  It looks like we’re in a parking lot, but this is the highway.  This guy really wanted to get into the far left lane.

Very cryptic.

After an hour (the distance between the hotel and airport is 5.5 miles) we arrive in the airport parking lot.  There is a strange sign that just says “No” that I had to take a picture of.

We see a bunch of people exiting the airport but we don’t see our friend.  After about 15 minutes she finds us.  She always finds me in a crowd of Asian people with no problems (I’m also generically Asian), while I have problems telling Asian people apart.  I grew up with too much diversity so my attention to detail wasn’t as necessary as someone who had been living in Asia.

From here, our group proceeds to the Mall of Asia.  They say it’s one of the biggest malls (if not the biggest) in Asia.  The parking lot was the size of a football field.  When we got there, we went directly to the top floor to avoid searching for parking.  It was very empty when we arrived.  Even though it was empty, my friend parked his car diagonally.  

I thought he did that just for fun, but realized that it was necessary when we returned to the car 2 hours later.

The mall is pretty damn big.  When I was there, it happened to be around Chinese New Year so there were a lot of Chinese New Year related displays and live performances.  From what I could tell, the mall has several different sections.  There is the inner mall – air conditioned  (which was my favorite), an outdoor mall (just no air conditioning) that surrounded the inner mall, beyond that there was a Mall of Asia Concert venue, and beyond that was the oceanside mall strip which was situated along the coast.

 If you see a sign that says “BANGUS,” how are you not going to take a picture?

I might just have to take a trip to Mall of America to compare notes.  But I heard MoA has a roller coaster so that sounds like an automatic win.

After the mall, we head for a tour of the city.  My local friend takes us from the slums and squatters area (no pics as I didn’t want to exploit them) to the richest part of the city, 

 Just a really rad looking jeepney

Fort Bonifacio.  The distance between the poorest places and the richest places is not very far.  Fort Bonifacio was definitely the nicest looking place I saw in the Philippines.  It was better than most of the places I’ve seen in Los Angeles.

“HEROES” is a hobby store and cafe.  As soon as we found out they didn’t serve beer, there was a simultaneous “Awwww,” from our group.  We then immediately left.

After our tour, we take a breather and head back to St Giles hotel in Makati where I’m staying.  We check out the rooftop view and it’s amazing!  We also get to catch some of the fireworks in celebration for Chinese New Year.

We then proceed to drinking in another part of town for a few hours then call it a night. I didn’t really document the rest of this night properly so I’ll leave it at that.