Our first few nights were spent just down the street from Taipei 101, the skyscraper designed to look like bamboo (or a stack of Chinese take-out boxes?) Taipei is the capital of Taiwan – a somewhat disputed sort-of-part-of-China island (depending on who you talk to) – just off of mainland China. It’s an interesting mix of developed economy with upscale and international eateries, and inexpensive fantastic local street foods and night markets.
Cute little puppies at a pet store walking down the street. Cutest dogs ever 🙂 Such small cages 🙁
The exterior of one of many beautiful temples in Taipei. The ornate wood structures are phenomenal, usually ordained by dragons, with a cornucopia of colors 🙂
I don’t always work.
But when I do, I try to do it in the most beautiful places on Earth 🙂
Taipei Metro. It’s about 20-40 New Taiwan Dollars (NTD) to ride the metro. At 30 NTD = $1 USD, it’s only about $.60 to $1.30 to ride the metro train. Fast, frequent, clean, inexpensive, and fantastic! San Francisco Bay BART managers… take note!!!
My first metro ride in Taipei. It’s great not driving …Unless I’m on a scooter or motorcycle!!! 🙂
These are not surgeons.. They are the diligent dumpling rollers of Din Tai Fung in Taipei 101. Din Tai Fung is an extremely well-known and loved Taiwanese dumpling house, famous for their Xiao Lin Bao, (Pork soup dumplings), along with a lot of other tasty dishes. The cucumbers in sesame and spicy sauce were especially tasty 🙂 The Xiao Lin Bao dumplings were also delicious, and actually reminded me closely of the Dumpling Kitchen downstairs from my apartment in SF! Good to know they are representing correctly in San Francisco 😉
The full meal spread of Xiao Lin Bao, hot and sour soup, some other rolled steamed dumplings, fried rice, and their delicious sesame cucumber dish 🙂 yumyumyum 🙂
View from inside the Mall of Asia in Manila. The start of a beautiful sunset outside..
The sky lit up just over the Bay in Manila. I love sunsets 🙂
The underground river is a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It’s the longest navigable river inside a cave in the world, and amazingly beautiful 🙂 The only thing I’ve seen remotely close to it was some amazing underground caves and river in Mallorca, Spain. The boat ride out, monkeys running around, and mangroves made it extra special 🙂The boat ride out was a little choppy. These are the standard boats you see all over the Philippines, with a bamboo floatee on each side to keep the boat stabilized. We’re riding with one side pretty far out of the water here. Fortunately, I don’t get sea sick, unlike others.. The mangroves have lots of wildlife, including this creepin’ monitor lizard. This one is just a baby. The long, wiry roots of the mangrove trees crawl their way into the brackish water below.
Arriving at the cliffs just outside the underground cave’s entrance. The cave is very dark, so not many pictures there..
Silly monkey running across the walkway to the caves.
Fantastic rock formation near the underground caves in a grassy field 🙂 I heard they filmed one of the “great race” episodes or something here. But don’t watch much TV. Beautiful spot 🙂
One more shot of the path to the mountain..
I started the night at the Reggae bar, right on the beach front in El Nido. Lots of friendly people (mostly travelers) dancing and relaxing to Reggae music. Here’s a shot from the second story loft down onto the dance floor. I happened to run into the lead singer from the band at about 3AM later in the night walking down the beach.. but that’s a story for later! (hint: what do Reggae singers do late at night? hehe) After walking out of the bar with a beer down the beach around midnight, I ran into some Germans spinning poi and drinking on the beach..
This woman rocked with the poi! What a great night standing in the warm ocean, warm air, watching everyone have fun, entertain, and enjoy life 🙂When ukulele meets poi… a match made in heaven 😉 The Germans were super friendly, and gave me their poi to spin around, while I lent them my ukulele to rock out on.. We ended up spending a few hours playing and drinking on the beach in the balmy SE Asia night 🙂
Turns out she’s played ukulele before! It was great rocking out with some strangers, drinking whiskey and beer, talking about Germany and Oktoberfest (prost!) and traveling the world 🙂 They were on a 4 week tour through the Philippines, and enjoying every minute! 🙂
SMILE Looks good on you 🙂 Going back into the Reggae bar to get some beers to go, I noticed this lovely paint on the wall.. Smile looks good on you 🙂 Live it!
They were all super friendly and hung out for hours 🙂 Even got an invitation to come out to Germany to party and enjoy some of the local flavors 🙂
Some local Filipinos ended up joining us when they saw the poi, music, and laughing. After hours of ukulele, drinking and having a good time, we exchanged numbers, and started my way back down the beach toward the apartment at about 3am.. when I ran into the lead singer from the Reggae band from earlier in the night! Him and some friends were cruising down the beach to enjoy a little of the Reggae flavor.. why not!?
Working from a beautiful beach-front “resto-bar” on the beach in El Nido.
Panoramic view of beach in downtown El Nido. We visited the large rock formations in the background on an island-hopping trip snorkeling a couple days later.
This is the “power house” room at a restaurant on the way to El Nido. Electricity goes out from time to time in El Nido, so many restaurants have generators. Others have no connected power at all in more rural areas, and only use generators when they need to.
Heading into the “large lagoon.” There are several lagoons created by large rocks jutting up out of the water, sheltering the water in the cove from the rougher waters out in the ocean. Lots of pretty fish in the water here 🙂
Panoramic shot from another side of El Nido after I rode through the forest on the scooter 😉
This is the lush forest on a remote road going out of El Nido.
….which I road to on a scooter as usual 😉
The kids in El Nido move around in roaming packs, seemingly without parents. But they seem to stay safe, and are a perfect example of what you really need. Their favorite game is filling a plastic bottle with water or sand. Then they take off their flip flop (or borrow a flip flop if they have no shoes), and slide the flip flop down the street to see who can bowl over the bottle.
These kids are playing a different game.. Jumping from bag of clothes to bag of clothes in a kind of “king of the mountain” / run in circles kind of game. It’s all about the little things in life 😉
Having a cocktail with my travel partner before the sunset 😉
Amazing sunset bouncing off the water in front of the bar where we’re having cocktails.
This is a standard roadside restaurant in the Philippines. No real appliances. No oven hood or sprinklers. There are propane tanks under a counter, and some burners to cook the food. Usually one sorta-chilled refrigerator (I call “Asia cold.”) Some pots, pans, utensils, and you have a low-startup operation! You could pack up the whole thing in 20 minutes, and no one would ever know you existed..
I boarded most of the planes in the Philippines the old school way – walking across the tarmac! I’ve only boarded prop planes at small airports this way in the past. But fortunately, was not sucked up in any jets lol Made me feel like the president 😉
The end of a lavish meal, eating and drinking with my homie Roberto and his classmates from high school. Decades after graduation, these are the tightest bunch of high school friends I have ever seen. And they’re all super awesome and friendly to friends of theirs 😉
I went with Roberto to his in-law’s house to say hi and take a little nap after the long night of partying. Here is his mother-in-law’s collage of the whole big family! With almost a dozen siblings, and many of their offspring, this is only a fraction of the pictures in the house…
A beautiful sunrise from my Airbnb in the Makati district of Manila. Soooo beautiful. This is in a high-rise tower called the Jazz Residences. While I’m not a big fan of the “mall” life downstairs, it was super convenient to have wash and fold laundry downstairs, haircut, massage (~$8/hr), restaurants, grocery store, bar, etc. Like a little village at the bottom of the tower. And someone even came around 3x per day to pick up trash at the apartment door! Damn.. this is making me even lazier! lol
This is a pic from a diorama in the Ayala Museum. The third floor has a really great series of 50+ dioramas that chronicle the history of the Philippines, mostly detailing the many countries that have colonized the Philippines throughout the years, and their impact on society, architecture, and language in the Philippines. This is a definite must-see to learn more about Filipino culture. From the Chinese to the Japanese, Spain, then America, the Philippines have constantly been under the control of other countries. Many Tagalog words still match up with Spanish, and more Filipinos speak English than any other Asian country I have been to, by far. It’s amazing that Filipinos are so open and nice to foreigners today, after everything foreigners have done to them in the past. Salamat Po Philippines! (Thank you!)
A cool dot-painting on the ground floor of the Ayala Museum.
I rarely see sunrises, but this was a particularly nice one 😉
The Philippines has an interesting rule of law right now.. The President, Detuerte, has implemented all sort of crazy rules. And the local councils follow suit. Curfews? Could you imagine if this happened in the US (except maybe during war time..?)
The best way to get around Manila are these tricycles. It isn’t exactly luxury, but they will shake you down the road, and they’re cheap! It costs about 10-20 pesos for a short ride of a couple kilometers, and not a ton more for longer trips. With about 50 pesos per $1 USD, it only costs about 20 to 40 cents for a trip 😉
The tricycles are essentially just a motorcycle, with a bolted-on shell that has a windshield, body with a couple seats, and 2 wheels on the back for stability. No shocks, so hold on to your ass!
My assistant in the Philippines was nice enough to give me an introduction to some of her family and friends. After I took a car down to Tagaytay, they were nice enough to pick me up and drive down to Batangas, a beautiful oceanfront location with a warm ocean and lots of water sports 🙂
I’d never seen this “Flyfish” before, but as the boat pulls you faster, the front part of the raft flies out of the water at about a 45 degree angle and the whole raft lifts out of the water from all the air rushing under it. Tons of fun! I convinced everyone to hold on with one hand, and a few even stood up while riding with one hand with me 🙂
Katrina, Shieka, friends and I enjoying the fantastically warm ocean 🙂
Having drinks late night on the beachShieka rocking out on my ukulele. She only knew how to play guitar before, but after teaching her a handful of chords on the ukulele, she was already schooling me! 🙂
The warm air on the beach is so nice. You could hang out all night here..
WAKE UP AND BE FUCKING AWESOME
I can’t remember if this was Katrina or Shieka’s screen saver, but I love it!! 🙂 A little inspiration for every day..
Filipinos also love gambling! This was some kind of “draw” poker game going on right by the beach. If you don’t who the sucker is at the table, it’s probably you.. so didn’t jump in on this one..
Riding down in the car from Tagaytay to Batangas. Did you know there are quite a few people in the Philippines who don’t even know how to drive a car..?
Tagaytay is relatively small city just a couple hours South of Manila, and at an elevation of 2,000 ft (630m), was the first time I had felt cool air since I had landed in Phuket more than a month ago! (ahhhhhhhh!). Manila residents come down in the Summer to get away from the punishing heat. I traveled to SE Asia without a single hoodie/sweater/jacket, It’s so warm and humid, even the nights are fine without cover. But this was the first place I had to go out and get something to put on my arms. Almost felt like SF for one day!
In the center of Tagaytay is a large lake with a dormant volcano in the middle. It makes for beautiful scenery in the background. This is a shot from the top of “People’s Park in the Sky.” I tried to rent a scooter for the day, but couldn’t find any companies, so got a local to ride me around on the scooter to check out some sites.
Another shot from the edge of People’s Park.Soooo beautiful up here! 🙂
Working again. It would be nice to never have to do anything, but have to manage my manager, develop strategy, and make sure everything’s going well in my businesses. But if you have to do some work, better to do it with a beautiful view like this than sit in an office 😉
Like Thailand, there were lots of signs for properties and lots for sale, lease, and construction going on.. The back of this lot has panoramic views of the lake and volcano. Would be a perfect spot for some vacation huts. Who wants to partner up on this…?!
When I first arrived in Tagaytay, I hadn’t booked a place to stay. So I just walked down from the main road to some restaurants, and was greeted by this beautiful view, played a few songs on the ukulele, had a few beers, and relaxed a little 🙂
Filipinos are overwhelmingly Catholic, and you can see signs of it all over the country. This is a street corner in the Ermita district of Manila, with a shrine to the Virgin Mary, surrounded by pretty rocks, and a web of vines growing to the right.
Jeepneys are these kind of mini buses, privately owned, that have set routes they travel, and pick up anyone who flags them down on the side of the road. Essentially, a private bus system. Each one has a different route painted on the side, and they also deck out their rides with various decals, paint, and a name for the Jeepney, often a family name or something religious. It only costs 10 pesos for a short ride (~20 cents USD), up to maybe 50 pesos for a longer trip.
San Miguel is the most drank beer in the Philippines, by far. There is a Pilsen (pale) and Negro (dark). Looks a lot like Spanish, eh? That’s because it is! The Spanish colonized the Philippines for years, and there is still a lot of Spanish intertwined in the Tagalog language.
Delicious western breakfast overlooking the golf course from the Exec Lounge at the Manila Marriott. This is the nicest hotel I stayed at on my entire trip to SE Asia, and the nicest Marriott I have ever been in, with an amazingly friendly staff.
Roberto finally arrives in Manila! Roberto grew up in the Philippines, and we recently celebrated our 8th anniversary of knowing each other! We started work on the same day at the State of CA in 2009, in bank regulation, going through the worst of the financial crisis and bank failures with financial institutions around the Bay Area and California. We struck up a good friendship shortly after, and have been hanging out ever since.
Thanks for showing me around the Philippines Roberto! Love that smile!! 🙂
Looking out over the Bay in Ermita, Manila. Although the water is calm, it’s filled with litter and bags of trash. Sadly, this district in Manila, and Manila in general, is one of most littered and dirty places I have seen in SE Asia. Such a beautiful island, so poorly treated… 🙁 As I was sitting on the wall during the sunset talking to some locals, we were talking about the trash on the beach and how sad it was. The Filipino said it’s a big problem with society – that they just don’t see littering as bad. Then he flicked his cigarette butt on to the beach when he was leaving..