Friday, June 13, 2008

Serendipity in Phnom Penh?

Just 30 minutes ago, I was taking a walk along the main boulevard of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. They call it the Sisowath Quay. Darkness has embraced the riverside and the few lights that light the park infront of the spectacular Royal Palace doesn't give enough illumination to the walk beside the Tonle Sap (the "Great River" that joins the Mekong).

I was conscious of the long row of flags lining the riverside. Flags from all over the world, waving on Khmer winds. The whole row must have more than a hundred flags. A blind old busker is beating his drum, singing...chanting a dissonant "song" that seems to come from some distant land. I sat there watching people walk by. Beggars asking for spare change. Tuktuk drivers offering their rides. A tall Khmer woman repeatedly walking past me, singing her own song. She was lost in her own world, insight has obviously escaped her. The wind was blowing against my hair. I decided to sit facing the river. When I looked up beside me, there it was! A hymn running inside my head. Flapping proudly against the Khmer winds, the Philippine flag was standing beside where I was seated. Sniff!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I Lost My Soul in Vientiane... errr...

I mean "sole".

Now this is funny!

For a change, I decided to use a different pair of shoe for this trip. And no leather Doc Martens too. That would be too "heavy, bulky" carrying around. Anyway, while punishing myself with an arduous climb going up the upper cave of the Buddha Caves (Pak Ou Caves) along the Mekong River in Luang Prabang- after a wobbly 1 hour ride with my sangtheaw - I felt a "rattling" sometime during the climb. I was breathless and didn't notice anything else. Then when I got back to my hotel, I noticed that my right shoe's sole was gone!

Now, you have to know that this is a very old rubber shoe that I haven't used in 5-6 years. In fact, I've probably used it less than half a dozen times. This was a very cheap shoe I bought on a whim. Having said that, I have been walking around Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng with a sole-less shoe, which is funny. I plan to buy a new pair once I am in Bangkok. Buying one in Laos doesn't seem practical, as per price, style, etc.

Today, I was walking along Lane Xang, a majestic avenue in the center of Vientiane which has the Victory Monument in one end (their version of Paris' Arc de Triomphe - bigger and taller than the original to spite their former colonizer) and the Presidential Palace at the other end. On with the story, while walking there, I felt a disconcerting "flapping" sound at my left shoe! Now, I was trying to walk inconspicuously as it was embarassing being seen with a flapping sole while walking along a beautiful avenue. Upon reaching the curb of the road, i stepped on the flap and removed it altogether.

It is drizzling in Vientianne. The streets are immaculate. The people are so friendly, even the policemen are accommodating. These bunch of beautiful people - the Lao - seem bewildered why people (caucasians) are flocking to their country by truckloads! Their innocence is sweet. This is why Laos is considered as the most relaxed city in the world. No touts, no overly persistent hawkers and vendors. When you say "no", they leave you alone.

In the process, I lost my soles in Vientiane! I am a man walking without a sole.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

In Love with Laos

This photo is from a Janna of Flickr. Will share mine when I am able to upload.

There is a heavy downpour on the streets of Vang Vieng as I write this, but the heavy waters pour down like warm water on a weary soul. I am tired from the constant moving around. Hour-loads of bus rides, crossing borders, getting scammed, tasting Lao food, chatting with these amazingly friendly and lovely Lao people - as well as tourists along the road. It is not possible to keep blogging from here - it takes a lot of time (and money) - so I'd rather experience Lao more, and share this spectacular experience later.

So many stories to tell, and beautiful images too...

I am in love with Laos!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Camotes Island's My Little Island Resort in the Town of Poro

Trying to catch lightning! That night, I kept clicking my cam trying to "catch" a nice lightning photo. Heaven was throwing them in steady succession - once every 10 seconds or so - but this (above) is the best I could get. Not a very safe endeavor, but hey...

The night before we were to leave Camotes Island and head back to Cebu City, the Philippines’ 2nd biggest city, I was trying to be optimistic. Dark heavy clouds were hanging all day over very calm seas. I was enjoying the new surroundings. We left Tudela, checking out of Mayor Roger Baquerpo’s R&N Resort. The multicab we earlier hired at the port was back to pick us up. Another PhP700 that will take us from Puertobello to the town of Poro.

Now, imagine yourself staying at a Caribbean-inspired villa, perched on a cliff. And the view before you is the expanse of a very still ocean, as blue as the sky. That was how it was! We checked in at the luxurious My Little Island Resort. My reason for this was simple. Our fast-track (boat) departs at 6 AM and the resort is just 10-15 minutes away from the port. The resort also offers transportation services (for free) – to and from the port! The pink building is nestled atop the hill, with no other establishments nearby. No shanties, no small stores, just hundreds and hundreds of trees and a deserted road.

Outside of a tour, staying in the resort offers peace and tranquility; the chance to do absolutely nothing, as there really is nothing to do there, except watch TV, or taking a dip at their lovely swimming pool which is open for use at all times, even in the wee hours of the evening. Our room was a classy hub, fully equipped with ref, aircon, cable television, a bathtub, polished wooden floors, a veranda that has a magnificent view of the rolling greens below, and the ocean. From my deck, I could see the island of Bantayan. The restaurant has limited service. The reason being, the concierge who checked us in, was also the cook, the waiter, the “sales manager” (his words) – and (drum roll, please) the driver! Though there were half a dozen items at the menu, each viand would PhP200 – excluding rice or drinks! Guests don’t have much choice, but to patronize the restaurant since there’s absolutely nowhere to go for food! This has turned out to be a very expensive place!

At 7:30PM, I received a call from the desk, asking me if I wanted to have our dinner already. This was an unusual practice of course, but – hey, ok! This hotel, with all its amenities and heady ambiance only has a single staff! An hour prior, there was a succession of lightning and thunder. The wind was blowing hard and I was getting worried. I knew I was gonna be safe there, but I was concerned about our boat ride in the morning. I was praying: let it all fall down, blow harder, so that by 6AM, the skies would have ended its fury. This exactly was the reason why my mother never returned in her birth place for decades!

At 4 in the morning, the weather has calmed down! Though it was a relief, I felt that something was bound to go wrong. True enough, upon our arrival at the Port of Poro, our fast-track was nowhere in sight! It did reach the shores yesterday. Unfortunately, it allegedly bumped into something while “parking”! Damn! We needed to get out of the island since we had an outgoing flight from Cebu City early the next morning! We were going to miss our flight if we stayed! Besides, I didn’t feel like paying for an extra night (PhP2,200) – or for a P200 meal!

After a few minutes of indecision, I learned that there was another option. We could travel to another port in the town of San Francisco, then take a pumpboat that will travel to Danao City (1-hour north of Cebu City). Amidst obvious overloading, I decided to go for it! There was probably half the population of Camotes in that boat! I was cramped and uncomfortable in my space! There was a tyke kicking my back. The lady beside me was breastfeeding her neonate! There were sacks over sacks of whatever's being loaded, as well as a school of live pigs and goats on board! The boat was so congested; even the little walking spaces at the sides were all taken! It was surreal! After 2 ½ hours of uncomfortable silence (I forced myself to finish the book I was reading to take my mind off my penitence, errr I mean, discomfort.), we reached the shores of Danao City. Back to civilization! We had our breakfast at a nearby Gaisano-Jollibee, then took a fiera that would take us to SM Cebu!

Reception area.

My room.

The afternoon sun brightly shines over Bantayan Island visible from the pool area of the resort!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Visit my 1st post on Camotes Island which a lot of visitors seem to miss -