Thursday, 31 January 2008

the 3 P's.....politicians, priests...poor

Those are the 3 P's that you should avoid here in the Philippines.

We all know that the Phils is a 3rd world country and it shows when you see how many people are in poverty.... real poverty... not like those that plead poverty in the UK.... there are many people here that struggle on a daily basis just to feed their families.

I have never heard of so many politicians being murdered as I see here, there was even an ex-mayor on trial for murder here in Makati this week, he has had 4 of his own family murdered in the past now he was being charged with murdering a political rival, he himself was shot dead in the city hall. The place was guarded with police on all entrances and in the hallways and offices, he had his own personal 6 guards watching over him and yet a gunman got past everyone and shot him dead !! He also managed to escape, he managed to get past security because he had a shirt on that said "police" on it !!!

Priests especially in Mindanao get kidnapped or murdered, a priest killer was released just this week.

The other job to avoid is a jounalist, pity that it didn't fit in with my P title, over 20 reporters have been murdered since 2000

Below is an extract which will give you some idea of how these killings are done.

Manila--Yesterday was a long, hard day. After hearing one story after another of murder and mayhem the mind reaches a shut down. It can take in no more.
The stories are told with simplicity and those telling them are disarmingly unassuming. A mother speaks of a son who wanted to make the world a better place, a spouse tells of a hard-working father whose "crime" was seeking better wages, a father recalls a daughter teaching poor women simple, legal rights under law, a sister tells of her brother clergyperson who taught people they are valuable in the embrace of God. Each has been gunned down in circumstances more than mere coincidence.

The victims are always clergy or laity working with the poor, human rights educators teaching people their legal rights, workers pressing for living wage, women teaching poor women their rights, indigenous people protesting the exploitation of native lands.

Sometimes murder is carried out by armed, masked men riding motorcycles. They ambush their victims and speed off, mostly at night. However, one assassination of a pastor was carried out in full daylight around noon on the street in front of his house.

Sometimes it's done by persons whom the victims contend are in the military. One father was an eyewitness to the murder of five fisher folk including his 18-year-old son by a military squadron from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Their crime was living and working in a area where terrorists have operated but they were not terrorists, they were poor, working people.

We met with high-level military commanders at the national military headquarters and they deny these charges.

There is a pattern to many of the executions. People told us military personnel appear in a village, ask for a particular individual and that individual disappears. Sometimes the body is found, sometimes not.

False charges are made against a person publicly. A poster might be pasted around saying the person is a wanted terrorist, subversive or communist. The individual receives a death threat in the form of a note slipped under the door, or a text message or receives a telephone call. One priest who works with poor folk got a written note accompanied with several bullets placed in the offering plate of his church during worship on Sunday morning.

Law and order is breaking down in parts of the Philippines. The government, if not complicit in these executions, has not shown commitment to investigate the murders and bring perpetrators to justice. Neither has the administration of President Gloria Magapagal-Arroyo halted the labeling of church workers and activists as enemies of the state. This has led to murder with impunity.

Even a bishop of the church has been told he is listed as a subversive. This is like painting a target on a person's back. It must be stopped. The President must intercede to prevent legitimate humanitarian and religious work among the poor of this country from being identified as disloyal and unsavory.

The fabric of Philippine society depends upon the protection of basic human rights, due process and rule of law. At the present time, the fabric is being torn dangerously. Good, innocent people are at risk. Lives have been lost and tragedy has been visited upon people who already live at great disadvantage and have limited options because of poverty.

A healthy democratic Philippines is at risk today. President Arroyo must exercise the leadership necessary to preserve the rights that will make the country strong and secure. She must stop the killing.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

back home

It's Wednesday evening and I am back home in my condo in Manila.

I left Davao at 9.40am and arrived in Manila at 11.20am, I was in my condo at exactly 12 noon.
I haven't done very much today, took my laundry to the shop and went for a meal at Kenny Rogers "Roasters" restaurant, I eat there a lot as they do a nice salad and lots of cooked vegetables. As I have put on more weight I am trying to eat healthier !!!

I wanted to book my trip to China ,Macau and Hong Kong for February, but it would be better if I went on the day that my visa expires which is March 12th, so when I returned I would get the automatic 21 day visa which then would take me through to the end of my time here in Manila.

Thinking about leaving really ties my stomach in knots, I dread returning to the UK but I know that it has to be.
I could retire tomorrow and I know that I would have enough income to live in somewhere like any of the places that I visited in Mindanao, but to live here in Makati I would need an income of about £1000 per month to live in the lifestyle that I am used to here.
Anyway I still have over 2 months to go here but I do feel the end is coming up fast, I will enjoy this time and ponder more seriously about my future.

Hope you all had a happy Wednesday.........

Tuesday, 29 January 2008 last day

Well today is my last day in Davao. I fly home in the morning (Wednesday).

I went to the Bureau of Immigration here in Davao, it was so much better than Manila, on the entrance door it said... beware of fixers... don't pay's that mayor again !!
I was directed to the counter, filled in the forms, paid my money then waited, the whole procedure was completed in less than 1 hour with no bribes.

The only thing is that I didn't get 2 months as I expected, the reason being that on my return from Vietnam I was given the automatic 21 day visa, I forgot that the procedure starts all over again and that 21 days counts against my expected 59 days visa.... therefore I was only awarded the extra 38 days which takes me upto March 12th. On or before that I date I have to renew for 1 more month and also get a Exit Clearance certificate, failure will mean that I will not be allowed to leave the Philippines...mmm... that sounds good but I don't think they will put me up in a nice condo in Makati !!

I had an enjoyable evening last night, I took the cashier of my hotel out for a meal with one of her friends, we went to this beautiful restaurant on the hills overlooking the whole of Davao, it's called Jacks ridge, the view of the lights of the city is really good and the food and company was even better.

As Filipinos LOVE karaoke (!!!!) we ended up going to this place where you have your own karaoke room so you can sing to your hearts content, they both thought that they could sing.. but the's choir comes to mind... I just had a beer and a snack, I put up with listening as best as I could before I brought the evening to a swift end at midnight.

We also visited the new " peoples park" which is really nice, the mayor "the assassin" has built this park for the people, really nice and is floodlit until it closes at 11 pm. It has waterfalls, bridges and nice walking places. So he is doing a good job, it's hard to say anything against him here as the people like him.

Whenever I travel in cabs here I always feel this firm cushion in between my shoulder blades, I just found out today what it really is...... it's the head rest !!... because they are smaller the position of the head rest is in my back !!

So I am having a restful day but going out somewhere later with my 2 friends.

My next post will be from my condo in Manila.

Enjoy your Tuesday

Monday, 28 January 2008


I'm staying in Davao until Wednesday 30th then I will fly home to Manila.

Not much going on here, tonight (Monday) I am going out with 2 friends to a restaurant and that is the highlight of my trip to Davao... so far anyway !!

My visa expires on February 3rd so I may try and extend here in davao, I may not have to pay the usual bribe that I have to pay in Manila to get my visa the same day.

I haven't heard from Anne and Mary since Thursday, Anne is probably busy with redoing her rooms, Mary is probably busy with the sunshine.

What's the weather like in the UK ?

Enjoy your Monday

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Sunday... Davao

Well as all over the world.. Sunday is a quiet day. I got a local map from reception and he showed me where the hotel is on it, I told him that I was going to walk to the downtown area, he said that you can't as it is too far, he said that it's about 5/6K.. no distance at all... anything that entails walking more than 5 mins here they just don't do.. a bike or a jeepney but no walking, I'm used to walking 4-6 hours on my walks so the 80 mins to here was nothing... hardly even broke sweat.
I'm finding it difficult to find anything of interest here in Davao, I even met a guy from Hungary and he was asking the same question, after I finish here I am going to visit the official Davao website to see if there is anything there.

The weather here is definitely much hotter than in Manila but I seem to have become more tolerant of the heat since I moved here,I still have to find somewhere that has aircon to cool down for 20 mins on my long walks but overall I can cope with it.

If I don't find much to do here I may just return home to Manila and back to using my laptop.... which I miss very much..... my laptop is like my social friend I use it so much for info and communication with others.

Have a nice Sunday... enjoy your snow in the UK... here it's in the 80's.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Arrived in Davao...

I didn't sleep very well last night (Friday) so ended up catching the 7.30am bus (Saturday), everyone said that it takes between 5/6 hours, as usual that was wrong, it took exactly 7 hours and even then only because the driver drove like a man possessed. He was taking hairpin bends so fast that we were thrown side to side, we were driving round mountain ravines and I just had to close my eyes !! I thought to myself I really should say something to him but you don't feel as though you should, but if I was flying through the air over the side I would probably be saying to myself that I should have.... I didn't and managed to get here safely.

I had no hotel reservation, I had sent 2 requests to 1 hotel but as usual they don't bother to read them, I got a taxi and went there anyway, I got the room that I wanted which to be honest is better than I expected, it is a high class hotel but is a bit away from the downtown area. I went to the bar to eat and drink and am now downtown typing this.
As I have mentioned before Davao has a reputation here because of the mayor, he has his death squads (police officers) that assassinate criminals........ quite unbelievable... he even admits to it and no-one does anything about it. I was talking to the bar manager and he was saying to me that I have no worries here, I can walk around at any time and no-one will rob or harm you because of the mayors policies.

I am just going to type this, have a look around and then an early night watching TV.

Another weekend has come around........ !!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Still in Cagayan

Didn't post last night and this is the reason why.

I went to lunch with 2 friends at 1pm, ended up staying there until 10pm, we had lunch then dinner and just sat, chatted and drunk beer in between... went to my room.... laid down on my bed and was asleep before my head hit the pillow !! It was enjoyable though, I wasn't drunk just tired, the beer here is San Miguel which as about as potent as a milk shake !!

I am not leaving here until Saturday as there is some event taking place here Friday night which is supposed to be good.

A couple of members of my family are having problems posting comments. this is how to do it.

Click on comments to go to the "comments" page, type in your message, click the circle that says "anonymous" a green spot should appear then simply click on "publish". If you do that correctly the notice below should appear in bold type on the page,
Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author.

It will then come to my email address and I will then publish it on my blog.

Jan, you left your last message under the post "leaving Nha Trang" which was posted 2 weeks ago, it's best to publish any comments under that day's post. It would be nice to hear from all of you, and Yes it could be called "Anne and Mary's blog".

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Please.... do you have a cable for my......

I have been to EVERY computer store and expert in this city looking for a cable for my laptop.... no way.... I even found a Dell dealer and they couldn't get a replacement of any kind for 30 days... so that's it, no more looking... it's cafes until I get back to Manila !!
I even looked at buying a 2nd hand laptop but even then it wasn't wi fi enabled... so no luck there either.

I was having a coffee and loading my phone (loading = credit) when an American came over to talk to me with his Filipina girlfriend, he has lived here for 13 years so was a mine of information. He told me where to find the tourist office here to get a map, as it was on his way we walked together, his GF walked 5 yards in front... anyway it was a long way and it was VERY hot, we reached where he was meeting friends and we had another coffee while he gave me more info, the girl never spoke unless she was spoken to either by him or me !! She was very nice, apparantly her mother gave her up when she was 8 weeks old then her relatives started to beat her til she was old enough to leave and I believe this is where he stepped in.

A woman that cooks well, sews and makes clothes, never complains, walks ahead of you so you can talk to your friends, gets your coffee for you and doesn't speak unless she is spoken to.... and takes care of all your this the perfect woman !! In mens jokes yes she probably is.... but in reality it doesn't feel quite right if you know what I mean.......I've used that hated expression again.. ya no wot ah mean !!

Cagayan is so much cheaper than Manila, I bought 5 polo shirts for 47p each... you can almost afford to wear them once and throw them away...just amazing !!
Apparently I could live well here on 300 pounds per month.

I have booked one more night here in Cagayan so that I can have a better look around, I will have to get a bus to Davao which is quite a long trip, I will have a little bitty concern on this trip, I know an american guy that is well known in Mindanao for his blogging and magazine websites and he tells of roadblocks being set up on the roads by the bad guys, he said that he just drives through slowly and waves (but never stops) and has been ok, me being on a bus will be different, I think I probably have more chance of winning the lottery than being stopped by the baddies.....but..... 10 Philippine marines were captured on this island only last year and were all beheaded .......visibly gulps slowly !!
So Anne... the new car, kitchen and bathroom could be a possibility after all !! Sorry but I doubt it very much if you will get them... well I hope not anyway.......... now where did I put those anti-diarrhoea tablets ?
I best to take extra underwear for this trip.....;-)

Hope you are all having a good week

Monday, 21 January 2008

Cagayan de oro

Well after a tortuous journey I am here in Cagayan de oro, in a very nice hotel with a lovely cafe/lounge and wi fi, so you can sit there drinking coffee with food or just have a beer while you are online............ of course I can't as I left my mains cable in Manila !! And NO I can't get a spare anywhere either here or Ozamiz, I even asked the hotel if they would loan me a laptop but no they have no spares. So her I am in a cafe again.

I don't enjoy the cafes as much as I do just being online on my own laptop, I can sip my coffee have a look around and do some typing... very nice. In the cafe I am stuck in this little cubicle with the meter running....not conjusive to a realaxing and interesting post !!

I left my hotel this morning at 8.55am to catch the bus to here at 9.30am, I got on the bus at 9.10am and it left straight much for schedules ! This bus had no aircon... I managed to get the last window seat left to get some air. We then drove 10 mins to the port to get the ferry, we all had to get out, people were closing the windows but leaving their luggage so I obviously copied them except I always take my laptop with me... I guess they closed the windows to stop hands stealing things through them.
Sometimes the beaucracy of the Phils is bewildering... we queued up to pay the 20pesos ferry fee then you queue again to pay the 3p terminal fee before you are allowed aboard, why not just charge the coach company 23pesos for each person, that would cut out the need for queueing.
I knew beforehand that the port is another pick up point which would mean more people on the bus, so before we reached the other side I got on the bus to reclaim my seat, luckily I did leave a bag on my seat as the bus was full !!! I had to squeeze into my tiny seat with 2 bags... I must explain something here.... at home on coaches we have 4 seats per row split by the isle, on this bus there were 5 seats per row...the coaches are no bigger it's just that the seats are smaller for filipinos... more bodies = more money. But my body took up a seat and a half, I was at the window and these 2 filipinos were on the other 2 seats, I had one bag between my legs and the laptop bag in front of my chest... I couldn't even get my hand in my pocket to pay the conductor thats how much I was squashed. at the same time I am trying to breath through the window as it was so hot and stuffy. I had to stand up holding my bags to get to my pocket to pay him his 175pesos.
Some people that rejoined the bus after the ferry didn't get their seats back as someone else boarded at the port and nicked them, no matter how much they complained to the guys in their seats they just cocked a deaf 'un.

We reach Iligan after about 2 hours, everyone gets off but leaves there bags.. now what does this mean.... after a lot of confusion I find out that the bus stops here for an hour.... why !!! After talking to a few people... not many spoke any decent english... and my Visayan is non existant... Visayan is the dialect spoken in this part of Mindanao.... I then find out that there is an air conditioned bus leaving in 5 mins to Cagayan..... so I traipse off in search, sure enough there is a brand new bus waiting there.... ooohh thank you so much.. it cost me another 150 pesos but was worth it. This bus not only has air con but I have 2 seats to myself and it is also playing a movie !! Spoiled only by a guy getting on about 15 mins before the end giving us a bible reading in preparation for a request for a donation... now I am into helping any Christian group to raise funds but there is a time and place... !! This is obviously what he does on every bus that enters the town as the driver specifically stopped for him and he didn't pay....I suppose the good side is that visitors get spiritualy uplifted in Cagayan de oro.... or is their pockets !!

The journey took just under 5 hours, everyone says that it is 3 or 4 hours... Filipinos and time are contradictions in all forms !!
Sometimes they will say if I ask about journey times.. it could be just something local, they will say oh it's about an hour then I walk there in 5 mins... or the opposite it's about 20 mins then it turns out to be 3 hours !! No rhyme or reason !!

Got to the hotel easily enough, nice room etc, just a shame no laptop.

I still have a lot to say about Ozamiz with photos and video but can't do that until I can use my laptop.

Hope you are having a good week

Sunday, 20 January 2008

still in Ozamiz

Well it's Sunday here and I have extended my stay in Ozamiz until Monday. I was originally planning to travel to Ozamiz then south to Davao, then north to Cagayan de oro then fly home to Manila. This isn't really possible, as the only way to get to Daveo is by bus which goes through Cagayan de oro anyway. So my change of plan is now to fly home from Davao.

I have a lot more to post about Ozamiz but will do it when and if I get to Cagayan de oro, hopefully if I get into a good hotel I will have internet in the room.
Oops I forgot I have no chaging cable for my laptop !!!!!

I may have to just use cafes until I either get a cable or just get home to Manila.

Hope your weekend went well

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Ozamiz city, Mindanao Sat 19th Jan

Hi All. sorry but it is very difficult to get online in this "city", there is only 1 internet cafe with 6 computers about 15 years old and there is always a queue to use them. I got here 1st thing this morning to get online, the keyboard is so old that they have little cut out letters stuck to the keys so you can see the letters. They are also so slow, there is obviously a market for another internet cafe here but at 15p per hour there's not much profit.

Well I arrived here ok, very strange landing of the plane, just a runway cut out of the land, as we were taxing to the "terminal" there were little old ladies opening their doors to look at us.... yes their homes backed onto the runway !! The 'terminal" was so small and it only took about 20 steps before you were in the car park !!

The hotel is very rundown, even though I have a "suite" it would still find it difficult to get a rating of 1 star, musty damp smell all the time which is weird in this heat. It will do.

Yesterday I visited the family that i am helping, I had the roof repaired to stop the rain coming in and will be helping them with other things too. I took some video and photos and will post them when I can.

I forgot to bring the power lead for my laptop so will be difficult to do much until I buy another or get back to Manila.

I will end here as using this keyboard and computer is tortuous. at least you know that I am still alive, I have a lot more to say about Ozamiz but will do it when I get a modern computer to use.

Hope you enjoy yet another weekend !!!!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Mindanao bound........

A very quiet day today, had to do the usual chores that we all do, paid bills at bank, picked up laundry that sort of stuff..... boring !!

Anyway I have to get to sleep early for my flight tomorrow, everyone that I speak to says .... be careful... don't do this, don't go there, etc, etc.

I am flying into Ozamiz city for my first stop, I am sponsoring a family there and they want to meet me...they may kidnap me and sell me as a sex slave....OMG !! Whadya think?? Is there any chance !! :-)

The hotel has no internet so will have to try and find a cafe, if you don't hear from me after a week then you know that I have been sold !!
Anne you know my account details at the A&L, there's enough cash in there to have a really big party.... for months !! Buy yourselves all a new car each and remember me.

Ozamiz is the furthest west that I am heading, I have no real plans, I'll just move around until I get bored, I'll probably stay for at least a week. Must visit Davao and maybe Cagayan de oro. Would like to go to Zamboanga but that would be pushing my luck a little bit.

Thanks Gary, I received your Xmas card today and your photo, how can you have a 10 year old child !!!!! in my mind you are still that curly haired teenager that I used to know!! They are 2 beautiful children, just as well that the fathers looks don't come through until the 2nd generation. ;-)) I believe hair is at a premium these days in Ajax... is that right!!
Just look at my videos and you will have loads of material to get one back on me !!

Y'all have a great week, I will try and post every day as usual......... I can see Anne thinking..... new car each... 10 of us.... I could have that new kitchen and bathroom and a new car.......lose 1 brother, I've still got 4 others....mmmm... sounds like a fair deal !!! Only jesting Anne.... only jesting !

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Is it me...............

Well I've booked my flight to Mindanao... the place where everyone says.... ohh don't go there, the Muslim terrorists will kidnap and behead you as they have done in the past. OK they have but there are lots of people living there and I won't be the only foreigner so I will take my chances.... of which I am obviously very confident about or I wouldn't do it... I'm no mug and I'm certainly not brave.

Anyway this afternoon while I was waiting to pick up my ticket I decided to take in a movie. I don't know why I bother as I always regret it each time and this was no different.

I enter the cinema.... I sit on the extreme right hand side block facing the screen, most Filipinos seem to like to sit in the middle and the further that I am away from them the better, as I don't have to get upset with them talking and using their cell phones.
Anyway I'm sitting there when I hear talking from behind me about 6 rows back, a young couple so I give them the head turn round look and they stop which is unusual. About 15 mins in to the movie it's all going well, only about 12/15 people in a cinema that holds between 300/400....I'm enjoying it but then of course it had to change.

Who walks into a movie after missing the first 15 mins, I don't understand that.

I'm sitting there when this young (25) attractive young girl walks in and walks into my row and says "excuse me".... I could have picked any row you want...... then she just plonks herself down in the seat right next to me and says "is it ok to sit here"... I'm so flabbergasted that I just said "yes ok".
Obviously my mind now finds it difficult to concentrate on the movie, why did she do that... is it some way of accosting me for money, is she going to touch me or something... I really don't know... your mind keeps making stupid guesses, is she the girl that was sitting behind me with her boyfriend is this her way of getting back at me.... is she a private detective and is using me so that she can watch someone... is it a guy dressed as a woman.... why oh why did she have to sit here !! Should I move !!

I sit there and try to just be as normal as I can and watch the movie, what should I do if she touches me.... who said..... lay back and think of England. She was squirming all over the place during the scary bits and was practically on my lap when she nearly jumped out of her skin at one part. Anyway I settled down and I thought to myself I will just ask her at the end of the movie, I can't really speak to her now as I had just complained to the couple behind to keep quiet.

I'm watching the movie, it now only has about 30 mins to go, a family come in and sit in the row to my left, 2 adults with two 4/5 year old children, how stupid, the kids aren't going to watch an adults movie and of course they were crying and running around the rows... and would you believe it the mum then played hide and seek with them...... honest this is all so true.. she went down 3 or 4 rows and hid until the kids found her.... so selfish and distracting....could it get any worse..... yes it could and did !!!

Only about 15 mins to go of the film... why would anyone come in at these late times during films... it can't be to watch the movie as you have missed most of it, this young couple then sit down right in front of me..... someones having a laugh aren't they, this cinema holds over 300 people.... so why is everyone that comes in sits next to me ?
If I was in the UK I would be looking out for Jeremy Beadle.

These 2 then proceed to get their cell phones out and start texting, the bright light of the phone lights up like a belisha beacon in a darkened cinema, not only that but they start to have a conversation too... not in a whisper but as if they were sitting in a cafe drinking coffee............. I can't take any more... " excuse me I am trying to listen to this movie " that was very polite of me as I was actually thinking other words in my mind.... they both looked round at me as if I was some sort of looney but they did stop for a while. I knew it couldn't last as the young man would have to show his girl that he is not going to be told by a foreigner, he has to save face ( which is sooooo important here ) so with a few mins to go he started talking again but at that point I didn't care and was just glad of the small respite that I had.

So there I am, with a strange girl sitting next to me, a couple in front txting and talking and finally a mother playing hide and seek with her 2 kids !!!!! and you wonder why I am a cantankerous old git !!

The movie ends and I ask the girl next to me " why did you sit here when you had the whole cinema to choose from".. she just laughed and said " I just wanted to sit here" so I'm still not sure about it !! I reckon that she hoped that I would talk to her and maybe take her out that evening, she kept making comments to me during the film and kept getting up close and personal during the scary parts. She probably couldn't resist my sexy body or maybe it was because I'm a white "rich" foreigner... ok I'll believe what I want and you can believe the truth !! ;-))

It's lucky that I'm a good Catholic boy........ that's a nice saying but of course I'm not really... actually I'm on the other side of the fence I suppose. I guess "a good Anglican boy" just doesn't sound the same.

I've never had so much happen to me as I have had in the Phils...

Are my posts getting too long.... who is brave enough to say "yes".

Hope you are all having a great Tuesday

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Home sweet home.........

Well it's nice to be back in Manila after my jaunt in Vietnam.

I got the airport in Nha Trang early... I had this crazy Vietnamese woman taxi driver.. her goal seemed to be to get as close as possible to the vehicle in front when driving... now I have a fast car and sometimes drive fast but never get so close to the vehicle in front that you can read who made their license plate !!! She didn't think that she should slow down for bends... remember this is a mountain/sea pass so the road is right on the edge at all times, she even was answering her cell phone but with the other hand NOT on the driving wheel but through it. She didn't get a tip.

At the airport... airport in the loosest sense of the word... its an old converted air base (NO not my friend's), the terminal building is like a canteen on 2 floors, we had to wait upstairs, as we were waiting something came over the tannoy in pidgin English.... through those old Hi-Fidelity speakers that they made in the 50's.... ssshheello....sssssssss.......passssssssssssssssssengers.. delay......zank yooooo sssffor yoooorsssss....coooooooooooperation... everyone looks at each other thinking what did she say ?? I caught the word DELAY.... just what I don't want as my connection in Saigon is tight. 5 minutes later 2 Vietnam airlines land at the "airport", one obviously for passengers and the other one looks like it's for cargo... both the old 2 propeller types..... I haven't been on one in a long time....should be interesting.

At 12.15 they called for boarding.......yes this looks good for me... I went straight up, she says.. later... ????.....then I notice that the people boarding have a brown boarding pass but mine is yellow....???... yes I know.... they must be business class.. normally with these small flights they don't have business class and I never thought to ask as I always travel B class whenever it is available. Anyway no problem B class will go on first and the peasants including me will follow.... the business people get on so I and a couple of others go up to board...... she again says....later.... ???.. so we step back...... she then puts the padlock back on the gate door and walks away !!!??.......... what's happening...I simply don't know.

We are on the 1st floor so we are watching the planes outside, all the Business passengers have boarded the plane so when do we get on ??.... the propellers turn and they take off at 12,30..... 30 mins earlier than the original flying time, that would have got me into Saigon early !! So what happened.... I can only guess that there were so many passengers that they flew 2 planes for the flight, I know that there was only 1 flight scheduled at that time as they only have 2 flights per day, that one and 1 at 8am which was too early for me.

They may not have been business passengers but just tickets for an extra flight that was scheduled. Anyway the other plane is being loaded with cargo as I thought... but wait a minute.. there are suitcases being loaded also, this must be our plane... ok well that's life. At 12.45 we board, the steps down from the "terminal" to the tarmac was simply the old fire escape !!... old people were struggling with their hand luggage, mothers with prams and young children all trying to get down this fire escape..... crazy !!!. We get on the plane and it is small with only 4 seats across, 2 either side of the gangway, I had an isle seat so I was ok but the guy on the inside at the window was an American over 6'4" and over 20 stones, the shape of the plane made him lean towards me to avoid his head touching the plane body.
I was going to offer to change places with him but after listening to him for a few mins I changed my mind as he was a bragger and wanted a listener which wasn't going to be me for this flight..... the plane took off and my head went back to sleep/rest.... and avoid having to listen to him.

We lands at Saigon in good time, I only have hand luggage so I can quickly get out of the domestic terminal and run (walk fast !!) to the international terminal... so far so good as it's only 2.25pm, checks in business class for this one always should, nice lady gives me my boarding pass and a ticket to the VIP lounge... I can feel all the frustration and worry leave me as I head for the business lounge... got there but it was closed !!.. after 10 mins of faffing around I eventually get to another lounge which accepts me, I sit down in the plush surroundings to relax for the 30 mins that I have to wait... really nice as always... is there any other way to travel.... cup of coffee, a sandwich, 2 small cakes, a diet coke, a read of the newspaper, use their computer to go online..... about 3.05pm a steward comes over to me and says " sir you can now board when you are ready"............... I walks slowly and fully relaxed to the aircraft, I'm greeted by name by the stewardess and took to my seat.... all the peasants in economy are already on board as I sit down in my posh seat... the dividing curtain between business and economy is then closed..... as I said is there any other way to travel !!!

I got a result on that flight, there were only 11 passengers using the 12 business seats and the spare one was next to me..... thank you oh thank you soooooo much......this is the ultimate in flying, not only a nice seat for yourself but 2 which means I can sit in the isle seat, look out the window whenever I want and put my pillow, book, glasses etc on the seat next to me...... as the stewardess brings me my Australian red wine and my pork dinner... I'm in heaven.

We get to Manila on time as I have only hand luggage I am expecting to get out of the airport quickly, I reach immigration at the same time as other passengers that have just landed, there are 7 different queues and there are about 400 of us, I look at the signs, 3 of them I don't qualify for so it's one of the other 4... which one should I choose... this choice is crucial... pick the right one that has a fast inspector and you are home and dry........ of course I picked the wrong one and I was THE last person though immigration... well I can't have it all. Through customs and then I'm outside... Hello Manila great to be back. As I live in Manila I know not to use the airport taxis as they cost 330 pesos but if you go upstairs to departures you can jump in a local taxi that has just dropped off someone and it will only cost you 120 pesos. I go up upstairs, catch a taxi..... I say to legaspi and use meter... he replies yes sir, I gets in and he says 300 pesos.... I get out.....onto a 2nd taxi.... I say the same as before and so does he, I get in he says 300 pesos.... are they all deaf.... I get out as he is explaining its because of the traffic, I said to him in a very sarcastic voice if you don't want to drive in traffic you shouldn't be in Manila..... I am now annoyed and decide as it is so busy here to simply use the airport taxi after all, they are dependable, are always new clean vehicles and the driver is usually friendly as he makes a good living from working for the airport.

He gets me home safe and sound to my building, I'm greeted by 2 of the building staff opening the door for me ( as they always do) and saying that it's nice to see me back. Welcome home, I get into my condo, throw down my bags, get myself a large glass of Australian red, sit down and switch on the TV and my laptop.... straight to my blog..hey it works immediately... must have been something about I'm back to normal life once more.........

Sorry that was a bit long wasn't it....

Well it's 8.30am Monday here (12.30am UK ) I guess Anne will reply in the next 30 mins or so as she usually does around this time.... I'm waiting Anne... don't let me down !!

BTW thanks to Gary in Canada for the email, Gary I dreamt about you the other night.. no you weren't anywhere near Jennifer Aniston and I... so forget that.. I'll tell you sometime.... nothing really interesting I'm afraid...

Hope you all had a great weekend

Saturday, 12 January 2008

leaving Nha Trang

I was up early today to get some photos and video of the area and find the old US air base for my friend on the net. I hired a bike for the day, they call it an automatic bike, we would call it an upgraded scooter but it got me round everywhere, I had a lot of fun on the bike but I couldn't locate the air base, no-one knew of it or didn't understand what I meant. I ended up with severe sunburn to face, arms and legs, when riding a bike with the wind in your face you don't feel the sun until later. So it's baby lotion on my skin every hour and it's still burning. The bike cost me £5 for the day, their is no licence needed nor insurance, if you hit something or someone then you just pay for the damage. I still have until 9am Sunday so will be out for an early morning jaunt.... eat your heart out Steve McQueen.... gerry's on his way !!

I have to catch the 12.55pm to Saigon, then run to the international terminal as my flight to Manila is 3.30pm, I am supposed to be there for 1.30pm but I don't arrive til 2pm at the domestic terminal... I do hope the flight from Nha Trang isn't delayed or I could be in a wee bit of trouble.

I had a nice meal at 6pm then back to my room to watch Good morning Vietnam with Robin Williams...... an apt end to my stay in Vietnam don't you think.

I still can't view my blog or reply to comments, maybe it will get better in Manila.

Goodnight all.......... for all UK viewers whose nightly comments were those ??

Friday, 11 January 2008

Nha Trang

I'm now in Nha trang, I left Saigon after a 1 hour delay, the airport is about 30k form the town, it cost me 200,000 dong... about £6.50 for the taxi.

Nha Trang as you can imagine is a lot quieter than Saigon, it is surrounded by beautiful blue sea. Alas it is also very touristy, as you walk along the street all you see is places offering the same boring tours. I am in a very nice hotel with my own suite facing the sea, it's only for 2 nights but the cost per night is more than the locals earn in 2 months, I was talking to one today so that's how I found that info.

I am really here just to get out of Saigon and to take photos for an American ex USAF that I know from the net, as I mentioned before he lives in Manila and we are going to have a meet up sometime this month, he was stationed here that's why he asked for some pics if I passed through here.

Not much else to say really but I still can't see my blog even though I can post !!

will post some pics later,I'm hoping to hire a bike to get some pics of the old American air base as it is outside the town... I have never rode a bike so it may not happen !!

Not another weekend.......... !

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Friday 6am

It's now 6am Friday, I fly to Nha Trang at 11.35am, so I have to get packed, pay my hotel bill and get to the airport.

I have been in Saigon for 6 nights now, I always say that 3/4 nights in any city is enough to see the sights and move on, this is certainly true of Saigon. I probably overstayed my time here but now I go to a resort which will be quieter and I can have a nice rest in a quality place before I return home to Manila.

Below is a short video of my trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

So it's another weekend starting, they don't half fly around don't they.

I hope your weekend refreshes you

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Wednesday 9th

Well I'm having problems with my blog, I can post but I can't actually see my blog so I don't know if the post is being published or not.

Today I went to Vung Tao by boat, I just wanted to get out of Saigon for a bit of peace and quiet. I know that the boats here in Asia are not the best but the one that I travelled to there today was scary, it was listing side to side and hitting waves at all angles, passengers were joking about it all but you could see lots of people were nervous, sometimes the joking is just to cover up the fear. The boat was probably built before the war... I meaan WW2 not the Vietnam one !! With all this crashing around bits started to move and fall off inside, when that happens then you start to really look closely and I didn't like what I saw, you could see that there was poor maintenance, the lifejackets were in a cupboard, I only knew that as I was looking for them just in case, that's when I saw a cupboard marked "lifejackets". Luckily I was in the seat nearest the exit and I was seriously getting prepared just in case. As you can imagine I used another company on the return journey which was a lot better.

There should be a video below this writing but as I said I can't see the blog, can someone email me on to let me know what is or isn't here.


Gerry in Saigon

Monday, 7 January 2008

Monday 7th Jan

I visited the Vietnamese war museum today, quite interesting but obviously from their point of view, it did paint a bad picture of the U.S.

I also went for a motorbike ride, I just had an hour with a female biker showing me around the city, only cost me £2, it was nicer holding onto a young female than a sweaty guy ;-)

I think that I can honestly say that I see more bikes here in 1 hour than I do in the UK in a full year. You have to see it to believe it.

Saigon is the busiest city in the world that I have ever visited, it just doesn't let up for a minute, there are just too many people and definitely too many bikes. It is even too much for me and I usually love all this but it is simply too much. I tried to have a breakfast today but was constantly hassled by hawkers, shoeshine boys, booksellers, watches and sunglasses etc.

I must admit though that I do admire the women that sell those books, they walk around with 40 (yes 40 I counted) books balanced on their hip, the books are tied together but it's still a difficult balancing act and probably heavy too.

I thought Manila was bad for noise and hawkers but Manila is like being in a library compared to Saigon, also in Manila, the armed guards stop anyone from bothering you whenever you are in their buildings (malls, shops, eating etc).

That’s another thing that I don't like about here, they have no malls or places like McDonalds where I usually jump inside when the weather is too hot, in Manila these places all have aircon so I can pop in there to cool down for 10mins. They don't seem to have aircon here except in the rooms of the hotels, even reception areas don't have it as they simply don't have doors etc and keep the areas exposed to the outside.

I couldn't live in this part of S.E.Asia, too many tourists, too hot with nowhere to get cool, too many people with bikes and don't speak English even those that do obviously speak it with a heavy Vietnamese accent. it's the opposite in the Phils their English is crystal clear and most of them speaka d English.
I much prefer the Phils and the woman are better looking there too !!! Mind you so are the men.. I mean that in a non-interested way from a mans' point of view.

The internet here isn't very good, it took me all evening just to get on to answer your comments and write this. BTY do you all check to read my replies to your comments ???.... well do ya.. if you don't I'm pretty good with a M16 ya know.

Mary and I are in the sunshine.... how is it for the rest of you....:-0

Bikes as far as your eyes can see

More of the same

He's a bit young

try crossing this road

If the road is too busy just use the pavement..........

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Sunday 11pm

I have had huge problems getting online tonight so hopefully I can post this on the site before I lose my connection.

I did go to the Cu Chi tunnels, it was very interesting to see how the vietcong lived during the bombings, they were quite clever in the way that they fought the war, quite vicious too, I've seen some of the ways that they ambushed the American G.I's with some deadly traps.

The big problem for me here is that there are too many tourists, I really don't like to see so many white foreigners around, I sometimes feel like I'm in Uxbridge. Saigon is a real backpackers spot, so many budget hotels like the one that I'm staying in at the moment, so much aimed at this tourist market, and although I enjoyed the tunnels today, I didn't like touristy part about it. All these coaches probably 20+ all waiting in the main street to pick up the tourists from their hotels, all leave around 8am with their guides to visit somewhere outside Saigon.

You get on the bus and as always they stop at some boring (IMO) art/craft factory for us to look around and buy something, I didn't bother as I have seen so many of them around the world, it's just a time filler and they probably get a kickback for bringing so many tourists. Then it's onto the tunnels... when we arrived there was at least another 10/15 busses of tourists already there, so it's 1 group goes this way and another that way, you stop here and look at this then onto the next thing.... just too commercial/touristy for me........... yes I probably am just a fussy so and so !!!
I went down 1 level of the tunnel and crawled half way through another, in the distance I could see a girl sliding down to a 2nd level and thought to myself.... no way... so I turned back.... yes I am a big girl's blouse !!!!

I did enjoy shooting a real machine gun and also a MK15 rifle, you have to pay for this as an extra, it's real bullets you fire at targets. You actually buy the bullets ( yes real live bullets) at the shop then you go to the shooting area and give the bullets to a guy in army uniform, he loads and you fire, no training... just do it, I think I missed everyhting with the machine gun but I did hit the target with most of the 10 bullets I shot with MK15 rifle. It cost 200,000 dong for each shoot...that is about £6.50..... the money here is a joke, everything costs 1000's but a pound is worth 30,000 dong !! So you carry all these notes around with you, 100,000, 50,000, 20,10 and 5. Why they just don't knock off 3 0's is beyond me.

I will post this now hopefully, hope you all had a great weekend

Saigon...(Ho chi minh city)

Well I got up at 3am on Saturday for my journey to Saigon, left the condo in plenty of time, got a cab straight away and was in the airport for just after 5am for my 7.20am flight. Got checked in ahead of the big queue as I am in business class ( that was the only advantage of business class), walked to the departure lounge then was asked for the 750 pesos exit tax, I forgot about it and only had 600 pesos on me, the guy said that the bank may open at 6 or 7am... thanks !!... he didn't think to tell me that there was an ATM outside which luckily I asked about, so I wanders down to the business class lounge where they had wi fi so caught up on my emails and stuff. (ok 2 advantages)

I was first on the flight at 6.35 am, at 7.20am there were 17 ( why is always 17 this or 17 that ??) passengers stuck trying to get through Immigration, more likely that they were late getting to the airport, the result was that the rest of us that got there on time had to wait til 8.10am before our flight could leave.

Comfortable flight and arrived in Saigon about 9.30am (their time) flight was only 2hrs 15 mins. Picked up and taken to the hotel.... driving on the way from the airport I can honestly say that I saw more motorbikes in that 30 minute drive than I have seen in probably the whole of the last 10 years of my life.... no exaggeration.... bikes everywhere, when you stop at traffic lights there are at least 150 bikes on each of the 4 corners waiting to go through the lights, I will add some video for you to see later.

My hotel, the "An An" is only a 2 star probably because it only has rooms, no restaurant, bar or anything else for that matter, it's just a building about 6 metres wide but 11 floors high, you walk in the door into the small (6x4 metres) reception with its desk and a small lift to the rooms. I got the room that I requested on the 11th (top) floor which has nice windows on 3 sides, the room is really very nice for a 2 star hotel. The building scares me as it is so narrow but high, it feels like a strong wind would blow it over, you will see when I add a video.

The area is so in your face you wouldn't believe it, lots of people would hate it, but walk out the front of the hotel and you are in Bedlam city... it's chaotic, noise is deafening 24/7, bikes on the road everywhere and on the pavement, people selling allsorts, from shoe cleaning to bike riding and everything in between. Yes I love it !!

It's now 7.30am Sunday and I am going on a tour to Cu Chi, this is where the Vietcong hid during the American bombings, the tunnels are 100's of kilometres long and interconnecting, they have widened the entrances so that our western bodies can fit through them, during the war they had schools and hospitals down there, it should be interesting but I don't want to go down too many levels, although I'm not claustaphobic as such, anymore that 1 level underground will make me feel very uncomfortable.

Anyway got to go as it is time to get a bus.

Hope you are all enjoying your lazy Sunday

Friday, 4 January 2008

9pm Friday 4th Jan

Well I have to get some sleep as I have to get up at 4am to pack, shower and leave my condo for 4.30am, my flight to Saigon is at 7am, it's 45 mins to the airport and I will have to find a taxi to take me there.

I've been trying for the past 3 days to get a particular room in a particular hotel, the hotel isn't fantastic like most hotels that I stay in, I normally only stay in 5 star places.... yes get me... sound like Donald Trump !!

Anyway this hotel is only 2 star but is really above that according to all the sites and reviews, they have a special room on the 11th floor that has picture windows the length of the room. I have been in contact with the hotel by email many times, the problem is with the language barrier, the receptionist speaks good english but there is a difference from being a native speaker and it being your 2nd language, so I have asked for this room in capital letters, I'm not 100% sure that she understands, I will have to wait and see.

This hotel is right slap in the middle of everything, walk out the front door and you are in thick of the city, which encompasses all the noise, smells and bells if you know what I mean... did I just use my most hated expression.... ya no wot ah mean... yes I did !!!! It wouldn't be everyones cup of tea but I do like the noise and all the activities of asian cities, you can't walk down the street for tuk tuks, cycles, motorbikes and cars all vying for the little piece of space called a road, horns beeping, cocks crowing, people shouting.......... I LOVE IT !!!!!

I hope you are all having a good weekend and don't forget from my post below ( which wasn't posted until 18 hours after I published it...sorry but not my fault ) that you are all rich... I suppose it is all relative.....

I hope this gets posted tonight....

Foreigners... walking ATM's

All non Filipinos are Foreigners and are always looked on as such, you are a foreigner therefore you are rich so you should expect to pay more for everything. This is so ingrained into this culture that they don't even see as it being unfair or wrong.

Everyone will try and get that little bit more out of you, even people that may be friends of friends will take a "finders" fee. If you as a stranger in this country need something but don't know where or how to obtain it, for example to hire a car, someone will always know someone else that is in the business and will offer to help you. I have found to my cost and dismay that they really they only helped themselves,(not my direct friends) so now I only trust myself, if I need something I look for it and if a friend says that they know someone that can help I just say thanks but no thanks.

Everyone that you meet will try it on, I went to visit the dentist here in Makati yesterday, actually just round the corner from my home, as this practice is in the centre I knew that they wouldn't be cheap. Anyway I walks in and ask for a simple check up, only 350 pesos or 1000p with a camera, I say the 350pesos will suffice til I know what I need. Sits in the chair and she uses a camera to show me my teeth, tells me that I need 3 cavities filled.. ok reasonable so far......I ask what are you going to do and how much does it cost..... I'm told 2500p for each one...7500 pesos in all. I decline this offer as I can wait until I get home and get my normal dentist to do it for a similar price. So I goes to pay the agreed 350 told 1000pesos Sir as we used the camera.... forget it I asked for the 350p not the 1000p with camera....... ok Sir no problem. They didn't argue but still ignored my request and done things how they wanted and charge me for it too..... forget it I'm no tourist !!!

When outside I phoned a friend of mine that is a dentist.... I don't use her as I don't really want a friend staring down my throat... I explain and she says that it should be around 6-700 pesos for each one which is about 2100pesos against the 7500p that was quoted. She lives an hours drive away so doesn't know any dentists in Makati that she could recommend.

At home I went online and found another dentist in the cheaper part of Makati so made an appointment to see him, actually you don't need an appointment to see dentists here you just turn up. He just asked me to text him whenever I was on my way to see him, he was a young friendly guy probably not been practicing for very long. Anyway while taking my details I find out that he is mad on badminton, we have a friendly chat and I tell him that I want Filipino prices not Foreigner prices, he laughs and agrees. we had a long chat about badminton, turns out that he is a top player and trains every morning for 3 hours. I spend 30 mins in his chair for my teeth but another hour in his surgery talking about badminton, at the end he charges me 300p I give him 500pesos, even he admitted that he has a higher price for foreigners !!

So instead of paying 7500p I end up paying only 500p and met a new friend at the same time. He asked me to help him as he has a big tourney in 2 weeks.... no problem.

The best thing here is if you see something in a shop that you want, take note of it and then send a Filipino in to ask for the price. So many times I see something in a window that I may be interested in, if there is no price tag on it then I don't bother going in to ask how much it is as I know whatever I am quoted will be vastly increased because I am "rich".

Today is Friday, as I am leaving home tomorrow at 4.30am for my 7am flight to Saigon, I will try to post this evening before I go to bed. I am taking my laptop with me so should be able to post while I am in Vietnam. The visa to enter Vietnam cost me $100 or £50 just to enter the country !!! You also have to pay 750 pesos each time that you leave the Phils !!

So I hope all you "rich" foreigners out there have another great weekend.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

2nd Jan 2008

Well the new year has begun and the festivities are over, we can now settle down for another year.

I have just booked my flight to Vietnam today, the travel business over here is abysmal, at this moment in time I have a flight but nowhere to stay yet. I have no worries though as Vietnam is geared up for tourists... nothing is a problem there.

It's sad really as the Phils is a great place to be for tourists, there is so much to see, the weather is superb and they speak English... but they have no infrastructure at all.... " you wanna go where" ??.......... "ok you can stay here it will cost you so much".......... but I want to have a choice..... "What do you mean...a choice ??"

Anyone that started a "proper" travel business here for foreigners could make a fortune, of course he would have a lot of setting up to do but it would be very financial rewarding in my humble opinion.

Anyway I wanted to fly into Hanoi, stay there for a couple of days then take the train down to Saigon ( Ho chi Minh city.. but everyone still uses the name Saigon), travel around a bit there then fly back to Manila. No-one flys to Hanoi so that's a bummer....I would have to go via Saigon which isn't really sensible as it would cost more financially and time wise too.
I have an American friend( 68 + ex US Air Force) that has asked me to take some photos of Nra Trang as he was stationed there, he is in bad health now so I thought I will do my best to get there for him. I haven't met him yet but he lives in Manila, we met on the net. Everyone has a story to tell and i think his will be intersting.

Vietnam for those that didn't take notice during the war there, is a long strip of land, north to south attached to Cambodia, Laos and China, Hanoi is in the north and Saigon is in the south. I remember all the scenes from the Vietnam war in the sixties, I will be visiting the tunnels that the Vietcong lived in underground when they were being bombed by America.

It is about 3+ 1/2 hours flying time from Manila, I got my business seat for £400 to go this Saturday morning at 7.20am.... yes I am normally sleeping at that time but beggars can't be choosers. I just have to find myself an hotel but Vietnam have a great infrastructure for tourists and travelling, so much so that I have no worries at all. I could land there and find an hotel within an hour...... reminds me of when in 1999 I landed in Honolulu at 1am with nowhere to stay, I met 3 sheep shearers from N.Z that were in the same position and we still managed to find a room.... I never forget the name of the hotel.... it was called the Banana Bungalow.... so Jean if you are on the big Island.... have a look at the BB. !!

Below is a video of the New years party here in Makati, I only included 50 seconds of the 20 mins fireworks so you didn't get bored. In the streets they have these firecrackers, about 1000 tied together, it takes about 5 mins for them all to explode, the noise is deafening but exciting too.

If you want to see a bigger picture then click on the link under "my videos".

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Welcome to 2008..........

Well last night was simply awesome, one thing the Filipinos are good at is fireworks, the display last night was really fantastic. I tried to video all of it but realised after a while that I has pressed the pause button by mistake, I misssed some of it but will put the rest on the site soon.

I went there about 10am, stayed and watched til about 12.30am then walked home. Passed by a latin cafe which was still open and very busy, I stayed for a while soaking up the atmosphere. The atmosphere here in the Phils is so much better than at home, everyone has fun but behaves so well, no shouting, screaming, pushing, shoving or anything that could be construed as bad behavior. No one getting so drunk that they can't walk straight or want to fight everyone. In the UK the 18-25 years old group have a couple of beers and then they are ready to march on Poland, its like a war in English cities when bars/clubs reach chucking out time.
Seen and heard some of the noisest fireworks on my way home, really fantastic. I stayed up until 4am as their were so many texts wishing me a happy new year.

The 2 beers in the bar cost me £2 even though it was after midnight on New years eve, can you imagine how much that would have cost me in a london pub, where I would have to fight my way to the bar.. it was waitress service here also !! The phils is so much more civilised.

I spent a lot of the day in bed and generally just being a slob... very enjoyable. I have to get back to organising my trip to Vietnam tomorrow which isn't easy believe me.

Happy new year to you all and I hope that all your dreams come true in 2008