Adventures in Asia: Onwards to Manila

It took us four days to get from New Jersey to Manila – via Honolulu and Guam, but we made it! If a little late.

Having slept the entire way from Guam to Manila, I was awake and alert for our adventure in Manila. Sure, we finally made it to Asia, but since we had a three-day delay, we missed the first part of our trip and had to reorder things, so we only had one night in Manila, the next day we were headed to Malaysia where the real vacation began. You think this is tiring? Try living through it!

After clearing customs, we went to the information center where a lovely lady assisted us in getting to Clark. First, we had to take a fixed rate cab to the bus terminal where we needed to hop on a bus to Clark. Then, we had to take a tricycle to a car park where we took another cab to the airport. If you map out the distance between these two airports, it’s only about an hour and a half, but to traverse that we basically took all the different transportation options (except a jeepney).

Our bus conductor didn’t speak English well, so when we told him we needed to get off at Clark we were worried that we wouldn’t know where to disembark. However, when it was time to leave he came to our seats and indicated to the door, then he said, “tricycle” and we were stumped. I didn’t understand what he was telling us, and though Eve understood that he was saying “tricycle” she thought she misunderstood. Once we finally got that sorted we walked in the direction he pointed to the tricycles – a bike with a sidecar.  I got the sidecar, Eve got to ride behind our driver. She was asking him questions and he was very chatty, so that was entertaining. I had the job of making sure our luggage didn’t fall out of the car when we turned corners.

Once we were deposited at the car park, we took a fixed rate cab to the airport. I had read about haggling prices for cabs, but I would never work up the nerve to do it, and I hadn’t yet passed this piece of information on to Eve, so when we got in and I asked the driver what the cost would be, he quoted us a high price (by their standards) and Eve, who had asked our tricycle driver about the cost told our driver that we were told a lower price, so he lowered it to match that.

me: Did you know about the haggling?
eve: What haggling? I just asked the tricycle driver what the cost would be.

But, the story doesn’t end there. It’s night, our flight isn’t until the next day and the only reason we took a cab to the airport was to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. We also didn’t have a hotel reservation, so we asked a local about hotel recommendations. He asked me if I wanted a friend. I promptly pretended to misunderstand him. But, he still managed to give us some tips and get us into a cab, with many smiles.

Our new cab driver decided to take us through the scenic route of Clark. “This is where you come if you want to have fun.” he said, while showing us the red light district.

::shudder::

Welcome to Clark!

The next morning, I asked our hotel concierge about sim cards and where to buy them, she asked one of the workers to take me to get a one, this involved being on the back of a motorcycle.

As we snaked through the streets I saw people already up and about, and as we passed, many of them stopped to stare. “Surely this isn’t an oddity, a girl riding on the back of a motorcycle”, I thought, and it wasn’t. It was only then I realized the theme of our trip, we will be stared at, we will have to deal with it.

I got my card activated at the airport, a lady helped me with it and saw the background of my phone (I just want to say that I borrowed this phone from a friend and forgot all about the background), it was a picture of a man without a shirt. She smiled at me. I groaned internally, trying to tell her that it wasn’t mine. I’m quite certain she believed me. Or not.

Check-in at Clarke is strange. Security starts at the entrance of the airport. I had to check my bag because I had an umbrella and they don’t allow such things as carry-on! Then you have to pay terminal fees because that’s not included in your fare. Then we had to go through exit immigration to leave. It was one of those small planes, so we walked on the tarmac to get to it, oddly enough, they had umbrellas that you could use to get from the terminal to the plane.

We were on our plane to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, here we come!

And the Gold Medal Goes To …

Some of the memorable highlights of the opening ceremony!

The theatrics in the beginning… I especially loved the Maypole and the different scenes in the grass – picnics, rugby … and the transformation. It’s a shame that NBC didn’t do a good job showing the different scenes depicted in this display of historical Britain before the introduction of the industrial revolution. I mean, real sheep on the set? What’s not to love?

The forging of the rings. Definitely a fan of this! Flying rings of fire gets the gold for sure.

The world’s greatest nanny – Mary Poppins – coming to save the day! This tip of the hat to the NHS and to famous British children’s literature, a segment that started with J.K. Rowling reading from Peter Pan was fun to watch. Especially identifying the different villains. Of course, it’s not without it’s controversy as some  – who will not be named – seemed to believe that  it was a blatant political move. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, all I saw was some very lucky kids having a lot of fun at the Olympic opening and some hard working doctors and nurses honored for their work and Mary Poppins (my favourite nanny), a symbol of imagination. Also, some really awesome umbrellas that I kinda want.

The Queen and James Bond and some cute doggies. Oh that Queen, shocking the world with her sense of humour.

Mister Bean and Chariots of Fire. In true Mr. Bean style, this segment had me laughing at his hilarious facial expression and running scene.

The way the torch was lit!

What a way to light the torch! Why isn’t there more talk of the symbolism behind this? One torch lit by 200 and some tiny torches, burning brightly for the remainder of the games!

Of course, there were some huh moments, like the cover of Come Together, was it just me, or did they sound a little low energy? And, Hey Jude, I mean,  I love The Beatles and great for Paul McCartney for singing at the ceremony, but, I am sure there were many more songs that he could have sung than Hey Jude. And please don’t say it’s for the sing-along value, a lot of people in the world know many more songs and if they wanted people to sing along they just had to put the words up somewhere. I mean .. they have the entire stadium lit, it’s not impossible!

Overall it was enjoyable. Different. Unique. A great display of history. And of course, it was also fun to watch it while having a running commentary on Facebook with a few friends. My status because Olympic size, totaling 1006 comments. Not bad for seven or so people.

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Images from Reuters

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

Take a walk down 7th Street and find Big Gay Ice Cream Shop between 1st Ave. and Avenue A. Continuing our Saturday outing, my friends and I stopped by this shop for some desert. There are a lot of interesting concoctions to try – Vanilla Ice Cream with Toasted Curried Coconut might not sound appetizing, but you wouldn’t know for sure until you’ve tried it!

I’m not usually an ice cream fan, but once I saw this unicorn, I was sold! Surely a store with a unicorn mural will have the most out of this world ice cream? I was not disappointed. I got the American Globs – Vanilla Ice Cream, Pretzels, Sea Salt and Chocolate Chips, and it was delicious. I loved the vanilla flavour, it was clean and smooth and everything vanilla soft serve should be.

Delicious!

Lobster Rolls at Luke’s

After creating our own fragrances, some friends and I continued our East Village adventure with a late lunch at Luke’s Lobster, a tiny little store on 7th Street, between 2nd and 1st. You can get the regular Lobster Roll with a pickle on the side, potato chips and a drink, or you can get some creative combos that include things like shrimp rolls and crab rolls.

We were lucky to get in ahead of the rush, by the time we were finished there was a line, almost out the door. The demand  for these delicious lobster rolls is not without reason, each bit was filled with yummy, buttery goodness on a warm, toasted bread – no soggy roll here!  Luke’s Lobster probably has the best lobster roll that I’ve tasted to date and it’s in the East Village so it’s easy to get to!

The Fragrance Shop

Down in the East Village of Manhattan, on 4th Street (between 2nd and Bowery) stands a little shop called The Fragrance Shop. What’s special about this little store is the fact that you can create your own signature scent and make your own perfume, scented oils, lotion, bubble bath, bath oils, anything scent/perfume related.

Some friends and I took a trip there this past weekend to create our own scents. The owner, Lolita, was very helpful and has a knack for blending different fragrances to create a unique and lovely scent. She told us to chose four fragrances that we wanted to use and then added a few of her own suggestions, mixing it together and letting us test it out on our arms to see whether we liked the way it smelled. If we did, she would re-create it in a bottle of our choice that we could purchase. If we wanted, we could also get it as a perfume, a lotion, or any of the former mentioned forms.

  

You could also get decorative bottles to hold your oils and perfumes, I fell in love with the purple bottle with the tassel and decided to buy it, I thought it would go wonderfully with the scent I created – a whimsical, flowery smell with a lavender base.

For my scent, I chose the Ambrosia, Hibiscus Passion, Heavenly and Pink Jasmin while Lolita added Lavender. After mixing everything together she made a flowery, yet subtle scent, the kind of scent that I love. I got to name my scent, so I decided to call it Fleur du Ciel, or Flowers of Heaven, inspired by the Ambrosia and the Heavenly scent.

It was very exciting to have my own fragrant oil on hand, and the great thing is, when I run out I can always go back for more as she writes down the ingredients and the quantities and keeps it for the next time we might need it. Another thing that was interesting was the fact that no one else can go in and ask for my scent, not unless I give them permission. It makes it feel exclusive to just me.

It was a wonderful experience and my friends and I had a great time mixing our own unique scents. I’m definitely going to go back for some more!

TEN Favourite Doctor Who Episodes

“Don’t worry, I’m The Doctor.”

It’s not a secret, I’m a Doctor Who fan. I initially started watching because it was streaming on Netflix and a lot of folks on my twitter feed were talking about it. Originally, it was a little on the corny side (it still is at times) but, I can’t deny that it has gotten under my skin. The show is creative genius and I absolutely love the Doctor! I’ve narrowed down the long list of episodes to my top ten favourites. If you want an idea of the show, watch these. Did I mention that it’s streaming on Netflix1?

Tooth and Claw

The Story: The Doctor and Rose end up meeting Queen Victoria on the Scottish moors. They all take refuge at Torchwood Estate, unaware that it has been taken over by some monks and … wait for it … a werewolf! The monks plan on infecting the queen and creating an “Empire of the Wolf”.

Why I love it:

  • The scene in the library, “You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have – arm yourselves!”
  • The brave lady of the house who refuses to cower at the threat in her home. The head-strong Queen Victoria. The beginning of Torchwood.
  • “We are not amused.” (»)

The Girl in the Fire Place

The Story: The TARDIS lands on a spaceship that seems abandoned. However, the spaceship seems to be stalking a certain young girl, Reinette, through her fireplace. The girl turns out to be Madame de Pompadour and the aliens – humanoid forms that seem to be made up of gears – want her brain.

Why I love it:

  • Steampunk! The aliens in this episode are reminiscent of clockwork machines.
  • The dresses! The masquerade!
  • Plucky Reinette! (»)

Love & Monsters

The Story: Elton Pope is a fan of the Doctor and this episode is told via his video blog. He met a group of people who had all seen The Doctor and they became quick friends. They are all hanging out, having a great time until Victor Kennedy shows up. Throw in a body sucking alien, some funny chase sequences and you have a memorable episode.

Why I love it:

  • To be honest, I loved this one because the feel of the episode was a bit like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
  • “The truth is, the world is so much stranger than that, so much darker and so much madder … and so much better” (»)

Blink

The Story: The Doctor isn’t featured a lot in this one, but what is featured are the Weeping Angels, an alien race that look like stone angel statues that move only when they aren’t being watched. Not a problem, as long as you don’t blink.

Why I love it:

  • I’ll never be able to look at angel statues the same way again.
  • The creation of the instruction video. I love alternate time lines.(»)

Voyage of the Damned

The Story: Imagine if the Titanic was a space ship that took alien creatures to orbit earth and observe our ways?

Why I love it: 

  • Space ship Titanic
  • Loved the companion on this episode, too bad she wasn’t on more! (»)

The Unicorn and The Wasp

The Story: Take the Doctor, Donna Noble (one of my favourite companions), add Agatha Christie, an alien bug and a jewel thief called The Unicorn and you get a fantastic literary episode.

Why I love it:

  • A murder mystery dinner party.
  • “I’m British, I carry on.”
  • “Yeah but think about it. There’s a murder, a mystery, and Agatha Christie.” Enough said! (»)

Silence in the Library

The Story: This is the first of a two-part story. The Doctor gets a distress call to a planet that looks like a giant library. The place seemed desserted and we soon learn that River Song made the call for the Doctor. So much happens in this episode – the shadow monster, meeting River Song, the library’s connected to the imagination of a little girl. A complex intertwining of alternate universes proceeds.

Why I love it:

  • Stay out of the shadows!
  • Giant library with everything ever written inside. (»)

Amy’s Choice

The Story: Amy, the Doctor and Rory are trapped in a two universes where Amy gets to decide which world is real and which is a dream. If they die in the dream they will wake up in the real universe.

Why I love it: 

  • The first episode that really sold me on Amy and Rory being companions of the Doctor.
  • It’s a bit of a tear jerker, and definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. (»)

The Pandorica Opens

The Story: Based on Pandora’s  Box, the Pandorica is believed to hold the  worse prisoners of the universe. This begins a two part story that concludes in The Big Bang – which I particularly loved. This also completes the cracks in the universe arc which I thought was fascinating.

Why I love it:

  • Closure to the cracks in the universe
  • The last centurion! (»)

The Impossible Astronaut

The Story: The Doctor invites his companions to witness his death. It sounds like I’m spoiling it, but to be quite honest this episode made the entire sixth series pretty much amazing. The finale and how it tied into this episode was genius. I’ll leave it at that.

Why I love it: 

  • Sets you up to get your mind blown at the series finale.
  • Makes you want to view the entire series when you reach the finale. (»)

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1 The top ten from the first six series (starting with the ninth doctor)
notes: images taken from bbc.co.uk/doctorwho and screen shots from episodes

Adventures in Asia – But First, Guam

The first part of my vacation in Asia can be found here. This part (still not in Asia) is all about Guam. 

Oh Guam, with a population of almost 160K1, no wonder you didn’t want us to leave!

First Day in Guam

We arrived in Guam and heard Eve’s name over the loud speaker. Running from our gate to the Manila flight we found that there was only ONE spot left, what did we want to do? Since we didn’t want to separate, we decided to spend the day in Guam and try our luck the next evening. We rented a car and hotel package at the airport, and asked the nice woman at the counter for directions.

Me: How do we get to the hotel?
Her: When you see the Home Depot, make a left.
Me: And how will we know it’s the right road?
Her: There’s only one Home Depot, you can’t miss it.

Yes, not only does Guam have 1/12 the population of Queens, New York, it also has only one Home Depot, one Kmart and one mall with one movie theater2 and they use these landmarks to give you directions.

Flights to Manila ran late night to early morning, so the next morning Eve and I decided to take an auto-tour in our rental around Guam to see the island before trying the airport. We got a map and hit the road in our rental. There aren’t many roads in Guam, but we took a road that lead us around the southern half. It took about three hours, including stopping at some lookout points and beach areas. We manage to find a yummy Jamaican Grill called Yo Mon nearby and spent some time surfing the internet at an Internet Cafe in the Micronesia Mall.

We got to the airport and waited for the flights, again, we didn’t make it on so we came up with a plan, try one more night as stand-by, but buy confirmed tickets for the following night. We rented a car and another room, Guam had us in its clutches for one more day. Continue reading