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'15 Jan: Philippines
Mostly Manila plus a day trip to Tagaytay and the Taal Volcano and surrounding area.
'15 Jan: Singapore
So cleeean...
'15 Jan: Malaysia
Sometimes I surprise myself ...Kuala Lumpur... interesting!
'15 Feb: Myanmar
Oh my goodness, by road from Yangoon to Mandalay.
'15 Feb: Thailand, mostly Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai: the Chiang Mai Flower Festival Parade and elephants.
'15 Feb: Laos
Mostly Luang Prabang, a handsome and expectedly touristified UNESCO World Heritage town.
'15 Feb: Thailand, mostly Bangkok
A capital city.
'05 Dec: Suwon and Seoul in Korea
The real life of a young English teacher in Korea.
'05 Dec: HCMC / Saigon and Chau Doc
Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta.
'05 Dec: Cambodia-Phnom Penh, Angkor complex
Traveling the Mekong River, Phnom Phen and the fabulous complex of Angkor temples out of Siem Reap.
'05 Dec: Hanoi and Halong Bay
Christmas in Vietnam(!), gracious Hanoi, a cruise in Halong Bay, and The Rain.
'06 Jan: Hue and Hoi An and Nha Trang
An overnight train, a day tour of Hue, a drive past Danang and China Beach to Hoi An, and then more beach at Nha Trang.
'06 Jan: Dalat, HCMC again, Cao Dai and Cu Chi
An historic hill station, HCMC, and tours to the gaga Cao Dai Temple and a recreation of the tunnel system that determined the course of the American War.
'05 May: Beijing and The Great Wall of China
What's left of hutong life before it's entirely gone.
'05 May: Pingyao and Xi'an
A small town (by China standards) and a lavish local funeral and the staggering Army of Terracotta Warriors.
'05 May: yikes, Tibet
You just have to look at this. Really.
'05 Jun: Lijiang and Yangshuo
Minority people, Jade Dragon Cloud Mountain, and the fabulous Karst mountains.
'05 Jun: Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou
New and Old, snuggled right up.
'05 Jun: Japan
The lovely small temple town of Narita, the castle in Odowara, Yugawara with the dear and wonderful Kamihagi family, Takayama, and Matsumoto with its illustrious castle.
'00 Dec: Japan in the snow
Digi photos but I didn't write the story on time to remember.
'99 Sep: Bali, Yogyakarta, & Lombok
Impatiently scanned from an album.




Click HERE and all the pictures in this chapter will get big.

January 9 ARRIVAL MORNING in MANILA

After a basically uneventful 15 hour (instead of 16 1/2 hour) flight, we arrived early at 4am instead of 5:30am. I had an excellent taxi driver take me straight to the White Knight hotel in Intramuros.

TAXI ADVICE: Don't go with the guys who come up to you saying they are the airport taxi. They wanted 1750 pesos to go to Intramuros. I walked across the street to the metered taxies and it was 450 pesos even considering all the detours because of the festival.

This is what it looked like outside at 4:30am, pitch dark in other words, when I walked to one of the main streets in my neighborhood called the Intramuros or the old walled city, to find...

...The Pilgrimage of the Black Nazarene.

I'll tell the story in pieces as we go. What is happening here is that the walking people are throwing printed hand towels mostly, and sometimes shirts, to the guys on the float.

They touch the fabric to the face of Black Jesus and then throw it back. This happens on many other floats too for miles and continues, I understand, through until tomorrow morning.

You can see the hand towels on people's heads and in their hands. They were for sale by the thousands.

It is still entirely dark out so these are all heavily processed pictures.

You can see here several different kinds of shirts all in white, yellow, and a dark red. Each group of shirts had a banner and many had some kind of shrine that they carried or pushed along. This was so early I think the people were still looking for their own group. Soon enough all shirts of the same type were walking together.

Also importantly notice that they are barefoot. It was fine at the beginning it seemed, but by 7:30 it had been raining and the streets were a mess - so very very dirty with the soggy debris of a huge crowd but still the participants remained barefoot.

The taxi driver told me that millions will be participating. That's a big number.

One website says this: "The Black Nazarene is a more than 200-year-old statue. Some say that during the Spanish colonial period missionaries brought an icon to Manila. During the trip however, there was a fire on board and the icon, the Nazarene, caught fire. Despite its charred condition, the Nazarene was kept safe and honored from then on."

The Black Nazarene got his name from 'Jesus of Nazareth'.

Most of the imagery in the parade was, I think, copies of the icon such as this one.

There is a miracles component to this procession in that touching the Black Nazarene means miracles are more likely to come your way.

That's City Hall in the background and this is at the edge of the river of people.

The sun is coming up now. There was a very light rain off and on the whole time I was out. I would get an umbrella if I had any sense.

There were street food stands along most of the route with various fried, boiled, and steamed delights, and many stands selling a stick of chewing gum or a single cigarette for 5 pesos - about a dime.

Traditionally this was a men-only event although I did see the very occasional woman participant.

Oh my goodness these guys loved getting in a photo and I am not making this up. I just wanted to take a picture of their Jesus but they were not having any of it. "Take a picture of US!"

I did nothing to make any of it happen except once, for fun, when it was just three guys yelling and waving "here here here" I yelled back "more!" and they started yelling "more!" and 3 more and 3 more and 3 more until the group looked like this.

The only sign I saw announcing the event.

I hope you can imagine the density of all the action out there. Ah, nice, you can see an example of the hand towel tree one of the vendors is carrying.

As I was walking along with the crowd I glanced up and saw this, the Manila Hotel, which Wiki calls the oldest premiere hotel in the Philippians.

And lovely it is, steps from the above scene. I had a very satisfying cup of coffee in the bar - dark with lots of warm milk, a meal in a cup, and a very satisfying conversation with the bartender. It was a First Class break in the day.

And then strolled through the grounds...

...and outside for a view of Manila Bay.

Leaving the Manila Hotel I saw this group had gathered at the front gate.

There was plenty of security people especially around places where you might expect to find money and some were rather heavily armed. You had to pass a guard at the gate and then a security check at the front door before entering here.

Check out their faces!

The Pope Is Coming! He's coming the very day After I leave. The taxi driver said millions would be out to see him and the service will be in the Cathedral 3 blocks from my hotel! But no Pope for me this time.

More!

An internet picture of a slice of the crowd. I didn't see the real Black Jesus and looking at this picture it's obvious why.

Back home inside the wall, these pedicabs are it in the Intramuros since it wouldn't make sense to bring the big cabs in here with the small and very crowded streets.

At my corner.

I'm having a walking tour of Intramuros tomorrow and also a walking tour of Chinatown so I'll learn something I'm sure. That's my bank there at the corner.

January 10 MORNING

Let me tell you about the jeepneys. When I arrived on the 9th and was driving with the taxi around town at 4am the streets were already full of these vehicles.

The riders enter through the back and sit on the two long benches against the side. You pass your money forward.

I can't get any of the local people to 'let' me try it. They always say it is too complicated to know where they are going. I will have to keep trying.

I had Cuba-big-old-American-car dejavu. Snap snap snap I couldn't stop. Many more jeepneys to come!

wiki: "When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of World War II, hundreds of surplus jeeps were sold or given to the Filipinos. The jeeps were stripped down and altered locally: metal roofs were added for shade; and the vehicles decorated in vibrant colors with chrome-plated ornaments on the sides and hood. The back saloon was reconfigured with two long parallel benches with passengers facing each other to accommodate more passengers."

"The jeepney rapidly emerged as a popular and creative way to re-establish inexpensive public transportation, which had been virtually destroyed during World War II."

Tour Number One! Binondo is the word for Chinatown of Manila.

Old Manila Walks: The Big Binondo Food Wok-ing Tour.

Our guide, Ivan, kicking off our first stop with tea. There are five total stops with Plenty of food.

Here we had really delicious Lumpia, the specialty here. Lumpia is the Philippine version of Chinese soft spring rolls. The condiments were particularly fun and different.

Next stop: a noodle dish, a tofu dish, and a stuffed-pastry dish. Happy crowd!

There were a few more people over to the right of the guide, a little more than 40 in total I think but everyone was having a blast. The tables were big and it was all first-come, fill the tables before going to fill the next tables so almost everyone sat with different people all the time.

A surprising number of local people were there too mostly because they had relatives in tow. Everyone Was So FRIENDLY.

Third stop, a lot of the food didn't look nearly as good as it tasted but this was pretty - chunks of friend chicken and a very different omelet made with lots of oysters and some yam flower that made it gooey. There were many plates full of leftovers on this one.

I, yes, ate the whole thing.

Waiting for the group to gather, who could resist adorable children?

THE corner that marks Chinatown.

Our fourth stop - a crazy tasty ball of dough surrounding a liquid-y custard made of salty egg yokes. Everyone got all...like it/don't like it/like it/don't like it on the egg. I was in the Like It camp.

The second thing was totally uncontroversial. Everyone loved it. It was a mango 'soup' with small chewy tapioca balls.

Here we have an unscheduled stop because someone wanted to locate a particular item from his childhood. Then everyone decided they wanted to get something from their childhood and we hung out here for 15 minutes.

The staff were happily handing out samples so you know that means I had fun!

Fifth and last stop - a market really where the guide stood around the store and just took things off the shelf, announced what they were, and passed them around. It was crazy!

I want to give kudos to the guide who managed this large crowd, covered what he wanted to say about the food, and kept everyone entertained, socializing with each other, and moving along.

Two thumbs up!

January 10 AFTERNOON

Between the two tours (Binondo and Carlos) I waited in the cathedral for a while and they have weddings in there every hour on the hour. The wedding party for the next wedding gathers in the back seats and Q-T-Pies roam the aisles.

Today's Tour Number Two!

Carlos Celdran: Walk This Way.

Walking it is not. You gather in a park and stroll to three or four spots in the park stopping for a spiel then at the end is a three block trek where they provide pedi-cabs and horse carts for anyone who doesn't want to walk.

And a tour it is not either. It is Performance Art.

Here he is, Carlos Celdran, and based on this performance I'd say he's an entertainer and entrepreneur first and historian second. I enjoyed it completely.

The first thing was to get all the Filipino people to sing the national anthem which was great - excellent audience participation and gave Carlos an idea of the mix of his Very Large crowd.

A view in the park.

He did his raps with flip books and he had that story down cold. I have to leave in 20 minutes so I'll try to do the story tonight, we'll see, it might never happen.

Carlos is currently under a veil of possible incarceration due to the charge of "offended religious beliefs" by holding up a sign in the church in 2010. We'll just have to see on that.

At this point he's ready to talk about the Americans so I simply had to hop in here for a photo. The visor makes my head look ever more odd than usual.

He had a whole collection of hats to go with the story and the flip books. He also would periodically throw handfuls of flowers out of his pocket as an exclamation point.

He also had local candies that he would toss up to the crowd and the local people sighed in delight and memory. One of the women standing next to me said there is not a Filipino on earth who wouldn't recognize this taste.

There was a lot of yelling even in the other sections but here he was really yelling and passionate about the WWII destruction of Manila. I think he blamed in equal measure the Japanese and the Americans but he never had anything positive to say about the Japanese. I think his overall take on the Americans was that there was effort at restoration and what'a ya gon'na do resignation.

I decided to walk instead of ride to the next thing being still engorged with the Chinatown food.

She tried to get out of the picture but I asked her to no please stay because my picture was much prettier with her in it.

((Tell the story about the Cathedral.))

Our last stop was, and I had no idea! in the patio of My Hotel! The whole group sat out on stools and they brought us a really good dessert and I ate it as if I was hungry.

It's a classic I've had before where they put a few sweet beans, small cubes of jello, carefully cut bits of fruit, other things I'm sure, but it's not so much, maybe an inch in the bottom of a small canning jar. Then they fill the jar with crushed ice and then pour evaporated milk over the whole thing. It is delicious. hmmm, there must be sugar involved. There's always sugar involved.

January 11

Thank You Cristina! What a TREAT!!

Cristina is Marija's son Andrew's newly minted FIANCEE! Cristina came home here to Manila and Andrew came to meet the family and PROPOSE. He's gone back to LA but Cristina and her aunt Paulynn took me out for a great day around town.

Their family employs a full time driver which is a very desirable situation. I haven't mentioned the traffic in Manila yet because as long as you just hang around Intramuros you can walk to the sites, restaurants, etc. But once you step a foot outside the walls of the old city it's car-madness.

I think it has been particularly crazy since I got here because as soon as the Pilgrimage was over the city began preparations for the Pope's visit on the 15th by closing roads to test the routes he would pass. It's not like traffic in India or China for example where cars come at you full speed in any lane - they do seem to stick basically to the rules, and maybe without the Pilgrimage and the Pope it would just be bad instead of horrible.

Our first stop was to eat lunch at Abe's and what fun. I had things I'd never had before!

That's rice cooked in bamboo and it was so flavorful. You get rice with every meal here, often rice and garlic, but this rice was extraordinary.

We had shrimp in butter and garlic, a lamb adobo that was perfect, a vegetable dish made with ferns (ferns!) and egg, and another vegetable dish - I can't remember the name of the vegetable but it was creamy and crunchy and delicious and went perfectly with the bamboo rice.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.

Wiki: "With a total of 17,206 graves, it has the largest number of graves of any cemetery for U.S. personnel killed during World War II and holds war dead from the Philippines and other allied nations. Many of the personnel whose remains are interred or represented were killed in New Guinea, or during the Battle of the Philippines (194142) or the Allied recapture of the islands."

An overview that I didn't take.

(internet pix)

Here you can see a small section of the Tablets of the Missing. It's huge and very moving.

A more complete view of the Tablets of the Missing.

I forgot to find out who she is.

We three.

Wiki: "Twenty-five large mosaic maps in four rooms recall the actions of the United States Armed Forces in the Pacific, China, India and Burma. Carved in the floors are the seals of the American states and its territories."

Next...Ayala Museum.

We admired the collection of historic gold objects and saw the 60 dioramas chronicling Philippine history. From Paulynn I was privileged to enjoy an extensive personal commentary.

I wish I could remember all the details but I'll just say wow Cristina's family is full of impressive accomplishments.

It's a very handsome building.

Cristina and Paulynn looking Tall.

January 12

My guide and driver to Taal Volcano and Nurture Spa. It took us about three hours to drive out there in lurch and jerk traffic. I was really feeling queasy with the drive and the pace of my first few day and the smack-down of a 16 hour time change.

By the time we got there, to the place where first you have to ride a small rocking boat to the dusty trail for a one hour climb I was a goner.

Nope, I just lay down on a bench and slept until lunch.

This is what I would have seen, and it would have been great.

Then we went to the spa where I had a fine massage that I can hardly remember because I fell asleep.

Then I lay down in the back of the driver's suv and slept for the drive back.

Then I immediately feel asleep at the hotel and didn't go out until I had to leave at 6am for my flight to Singapore on the 14th.

January 13

My goal for today was to see the National Museum but it was not to be. Since I didn't go out all day and mostly slept, here are some pictures from previous days that I didn't use yet.

International street art hasn't made it to Manila as far as I can tell and I did ask around. I never learned why though.

I've put off talking about the churches and now I have to go to sleep again!

Later...

...tomorrow I hope.

My hotel, the White Knight. My room was inexpensive, large, clean, and a third floor walk-up. Also it was under the eaves of the building with a few 1 foot by 1 foot windows from which you could see the aforementioned eaves.

They have a good restaurant here which was a super benefit since I didn't leave my room all day.

Absolutely wow on the jeepneys.

The story is in the morning of the 10th.

Because...

...we Americans are generally not so strong in the geography department.
Click HERE and all the pictures in this chapter will get big.


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