From Madras to Manila

Monday, March 27, 2006

State of Emergency

A belated post but as all of you would have known from the endless ‘breaking news’ on CNN there was a state of national emergency out here recently.

Watching the news got us worried!!! That’s when we decided we needed a ‘COB’ bag – for all ye bankers & people in equally boring professions such as mine :-), a COB is a continuity of business or contingency plan….so off we went, meticulously packing passports, important papers, some pesos and the last few dollars we had into our trusty COB bag. Amit went as far as to pack toothpaste & a change of clothes just incase we had leave country in a hurry…Always the well groomed one in the family:-)

But seriously, just goes to show how exaggerated the news can get( and ofcourse, how well prepared we are:-)). The armed gunmen they showed on CNN were only in few select spots around the city. Life continued as before. Yet the coverage made it seem like the whole nation was in a state of fear.

Indeed, the last time there was coup near a major shopping mall, people continued to shop and normal life was not affected at all. Rallies also hardly ever get violent around here. The last time, when Estrada (Erap as he is called here) was ousted, people took to the streets, singing him out of office!!! Like that about the Filipinos!

Even if it was indeed serious, having survived many emergencies, my colleagues were blasé about the whole deal…This time around, they were a little tired of continued political instability and the disastrous impact that it has on their economy & the resultant bad press...

The only good thing about the emergency was traffic was a lot less and I got home a lot sooner those days I think….We also got adventurous and took a friend to Greenhills (awesome pearls for CHEAP!) and then to Lake Taal for a coffee on the Sunday there was a Fort Bonifacio Military standoff!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bora & a Plea!

We went to Boracay in Feb. Nothing we heard prepared us for it. Lovely blue water, amazingly fine white sand, lots of great & surprisingly affordable food (And veg at that!!), resorts right on the beach, lots to do…..

Sailing into sunset with my trusty ipod & Amit for company, snorkeling near crocodile island, sitting in a hammock while reading a book & nursing a Margarita, watching the sunset….life doesn’t really get much better than this. I’ve been to Penang, Goa and Phuket but Bora was easily the best for me.

Some pix attached, but I am begging Amit to quit being silent and start blogging (esp on Boracay). I miss your posts, Amit, you are fun to read!!!!!

Guys, do post comments and get my recalcitrant husband to blog????

Los Banos and Pagsanhan

We set out one early morning headed to Los Banos, which is the Spanish word for ‘The baths’. I was very excited, quite naturally, at the prospect of going to places made famous by innumerable Victorian era novel s (BTW, do read Georgette Heyer if you like these kinda books. She is droll, and all her books have completely mad protagonists). So we arrived, Amit &I, a sleepy cousin and a very excited aunt at 9 am at a pretty, but non-descript town at the foot of McKinley. This is only time Lonely Planet ever let us down. They had highly recommended 2-3 hot spring resorts – all of them were extremely average places with extremely lukewarm water, and very sad hot water tubs (can’t bring myself to call them pools). We bravely persevered, though, going from one ‘resort’ (All homes, even ones the size of a studio apt have been converted to resorts) to another…in the hope of finding the perfect place to relax…not finding anything at all, we finally gave up at around 11 am.

We then drove to Pagsanhan, which is famous for its waterfall. We stopped by at Jollibee (the very worthy, omni-present local competitor to McDonalds ) to grab a bite. We started driving into the parking lot, when out of nowhere, atleast 10 men surrounded us waving and yelling ‘boat ride, boat ride, very cheap’ . Even my aunt, a hardened Indian, was a little stunned. All thru her trip she was enraptured by the legendary pinoy friendliness. This was menacing in comparison!

We eventually started on a narrow dirt path to the waterfalls with a bike (again waving boatride) in hot pursuit ….they followed us all the way and told us we were headed in the wrong direction. Our driver checked, and yes, we were on the wrong road. So we followed the bike(an unusual sight in Pagsanhan - its always the other way around)…we soon stopped in front of a run down building abutting the river…and pretty soon found ourselves agreeing to take a ride up to the falls in a canoe.

Apparently many tourists have been taken for a ride …everywhere we found signs with the official rate(660 person, 2 to a canoe) and a hotline to report harassment & forced tipping!

So we paid, and got in. As soon we did, the boatmen started off about how the fee does not include the boatmen’s pay. Amit made some witty remark about the canoe flying to the falls at 660 pesos…but sadly this was lost on the boatman. For the next 10 minutes, they went on abt the fees. When we said no, they got us to a ‘toll booth’ on the river asking us to pay. At this point I sorta lost it and pointed out the hotline number. After that, the boatmen stopped asking for more every minute. Request now came every 5 minutes!

But the irritating boatmen aside, the ride up was beautiful. The river winds its way deep into a gorge. Verdant green. Not too many tourists. Little canoe to take you places. Really Nice. See pic!

Ride downstream was spectacular – sort of quasi rapids & safe thrills of pseudo white water rafting. It’s an absolutely exhilarating experience, albeit a shirt one. I’ve been rafting before, this doesn’t compare but is highly recommended for a day tour or if u wanna take your folks. Safe fun.

We're back!!

Hi there! A much delayed post - wrote it long ago and kept postponing the actual act of posting it. Anyway, here goes.

Happy New Year!

Hi guys, Amit & I wish you all a terrific, funfilled, stress-free 2006. We’re sorry to have been out of touch for so long but soo much has been happening in our lives. We’ve experienced our first Manila Christmas & the shopping mania that grips this nation, and whips up people into a frenzy. We also got a taste of the difficult visa rules for all us Indians – my aunt’s visa got rejected and after a long, tense wait of 10 days, finally got approved – just in time to catch her flight to Manila. We explored Manila & beyond in December – weaving our way through Tagaytay (Again!), Los banos, Green hills, Divisoria, Pagsanhan….and through it all, we moaned and groaned as we kept getting stuck in traffic jams ( there truly is NO traffic jam like the ones in Manila during the Xmas season). We then left the Manila xmas madness for the sanitized, restrained Singapore. Ushered in 2006 with a very lovely, but quiet new years eve party at a dear friends place there….and now we are back.

Amit says he won’t write till I start posting on the blog. So folks, my first post of the year.