Olá and 再見

I recently spent a week in Hong Kong and Macau for a work gig. It’s good to be back. I’ve always liked Hong Kong. Back in the day when I was just starting my career, I’ve always gone there often on business trips and ultimately build some friendships and fond memories.

One thing about small countries is that its is so packed you can accomplish many things in a couple days. Yes, no need to remind me that they are prefectures of China yada yada.  I still consider them a country of their own.

First off, Macau has been designed to be the Las Vegas of Asia. So all the big hotel/casino names are here in all their grandiosity and glamour. Much of what you see here is a replica of The Strip in Vegas.

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My day time is usually full so I only get the chance to walk around at night. The crowd of holiday-ers are noticeably less than Vegas so you could walk around with much less weaving in and out. Also majority of the visitors are from mainland China so they tend to be in groups and only come out at day time (they spend the nights in casinos).

It is relatively safe to walk around alone. Of course you don’t leave your wits and street smarts in your hotel room safe. If you want to get away from the fancy restaurants in the hotel resorts Taipa Village is the place to go. There is a smorgasbord of restaurants and stalls offering Portuguese and Chinese delicacies. Ah yes, and the famous egg tarts. And slabs and slabs of jerky. Pork, Beef, Stuffed… they have it. And the best thing is they offer you slices as samples. Next stop to sample are the pastries. Macau is also known for their pastellerias. There are also hawker type stalls for your street food fix.

Funny thing is I came across the only store that has people lining up. When I checked it out everything was written in Chinese. Also most of those lining up where from the mainland so yeah there was some lost in translation going on.I joined the cue for a bit but then decided since I don’t really know what are they buying and no pricing in Arabic numbers, I decided to bail out. Needless to say I was curious.

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What are you guys lining up for?

So most nights I would walk around this area, occasionally stopping for  food or beer. Amidst the Portuguese designed buildings are small pockets of restaurants offering a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese food.

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There is no shortage of restaurants – Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, etc. Oh yeah and a pub. How can I forget the pub!

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Going beyond the main tourist area, it is lovely and peaceful.

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street art

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Next stop, Hong Kong

The ferry crossing to Hong Kong was uneventful. Well except some girls loudly discussing the season finale of Game of Thrones which I haven’t watched it at the time. Talk about spoilers!

It was raining when I arrived in Hong Kong. That basically set the tone for the remainder of my stay. So instead of planning for a beach day I spent some time reacquainting with my old haunts. Needless to say I did a lot of walking. And crossing streets.

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Hong Kong is so jam packed I like weaving in and out between the main and smaller streets to get to your destination faster.

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Oh yeah and Victoria Peak just because I was close by the Peak tram station.

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The off and on rains prevented some quality beach time. Oh well.

Then its time to have the reunion with friends. Just like any other major city hub there is a vibrant night life   that needs to be taken advantaged of. Needless to say, there was a lot of fun along with consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.

Then off to catch a plane with a hungover. Yeah tell me about it. I’m getting too old for this shit.

So long Hong Kong and Macau. Thanks for the good time.

 

Sail-A-Thon

I was recently invited by a friend to hang out on his boat. Who am I to refuse? So off I went and after navigating out of the  dirty city (my friends pronounced it as shitty) I was on an outrigger boat to the province of Mindoro where the aforementioned boat is anchored. It didn’t take long before I was humming the Lonely Islands famous tune…

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I get on board and there were several people who instantly became new friends. It was the first day of the yacht sailing race and they just came back from the race. Everyone was already on party mode so what do they say, when in Rome…

Next morning, I woke up to this view:

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Also there is something to be said about sleeping on a boat. You are being rocked to sleep.

As this the second day of racing, everyone is gearing up for the race. We even had crew shirts which was very cool! By 11:00am we were off.

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Good winds good weather, we had a pretty good start. As we were halfway through however, the wind died down. The wait was rather long so this allowed for some time for the crew to jump into the water and cool off. More beers were popped, the music came on and we started dancing (it is a party boat after all).

junior member of the crew entertaining himself during the lull

Alas after a long wait, the wind finally took pity on us and we slowly trudged through the finish line. Considering the delays, we came in third in our category which we were happy to take. As we were entering the finish line we blasted Eddie Murphy’s “Party All the Time” and danced complete with choreography and all to everyone’s delight. All the other boats stopped to watch. There were cheers all over. Good times!

Needless to say that was the start of a roaring party culminated by an after party and ended in the wee hours of the morning. As usual there will be no incriminating photos. I did end up passing out on the top deck from watching the stars.

Oh look it’s morning!

We ended up not racing on the final day as we needed to prepare the boat for incoming guests (the paying ones). You see, we basically took out most of the furniture to make the boat lighter for the race. The task of cleaning it up, putting it all together and making it look good was not easy. Well I have to say it was a nice workout to burn all the calories from the parties. Once the boat was ready, we decided to check out the beach nearby.

Aninuan Beach

We then went back to complete our beer and ice run and we were back on the boat doing what we do best, party.

The next day, we said goodbye as the new residents will temporary take over the boat and will sail her to the nicest parts of the Philippines for the next three weeks. The next rendezvous will be on the island of Boracay. A party boat on the party island.. what could happen there?

Here’s the actual boat from the air:

photo courtesy of philippinesailing.com

If anyone is interested to charter or join the sailing trips, check out: http://www.freedom-kitesurfing.com/

Life Underwater

It’s been many months, no make that almost a year since my last diving trip. Blame it on the frequent trips to a certain island where debaucheries trumped any attempt at underwater shenanigans. Well now, I am planning to rectify this.  Time for some decent diving!

Let me just be the smug SOB  to point out that this part of the world is blessed with a diverse, blooming marine life. Yep we do. True, there is a lot of work needed to preserve what we have but really, we are spoiled for choice. And since I am lazy to take photographs underwater, I will shamelessly borrow some other people’s works to prove my point. Sure, I’ve been to these places too. Such doubters!

Titan Triggerfish. Photo courtesy of Nomadsforayear.com

Who doesn’t want a photo of Nemo? Photo courtesy of Wanderlass.com

Wreck diving anyone? Photo courtesy of Aqua-Dive.net

Because it’s the closest destination from the city, my usual underwater playground is Sabang in Puerto Galera. Now some of you may have heard how seedy the place is, with sexpats going on there for more than just diving. That is true. Girly bars and gogo dancing abound. Whatever. I am not one to judge people’s motives for going there. The fact of the matter is, the diving in Sabang is one of the best in the country. In terms of diversity and having so many sites to explore (lots are not far from the shore,)  it is right up there in the  top world rankings.

Soft corals at Verde Island. Photo courtesy of ElaineStar

More photos from  my friends at Searider Dive Center:

wacha lookin’ at?

underwater traffic!

If you are a macro photography enthusiast, these guys are the best in macro spotting. You can see the rest of their photos at http://seariderdivecenter.com/?page_id=56

My favourite spot however is Apo Island in Dumaguete. The work that the locals and diving enthusiasts has put in there to restore the underwater scene is amazing. This is one of the examples when things  are done right. It was a great turnaround from an area being badly damaged due to dynamite fishing  into one of the most successfully run marine sanctuaries. Something that should be emulated in so many places.

And because it deserves to be shown the accolades it gets, I thought it best to show a video clip of the underwater of Apo Island. Video courtesy of Steve De Neef:

My first forray into diving started many years ago. I still remember my Open Water certification where I was made to read a whole course textbook. The first couple days of the course, all I did was read the book and watch videos. I can tell you how difficult that was given that I was supposed to be on vacation. And it doesn’t help that I was on a gorgeous beach while “studying”:

Obviously I passed. And never looked back since.

My appreciation for the underwater grew and got me hooked for life.  Now I understand every diver’s wish to save what is left of our oceans and contribute to efforts of marine preservation. How can you not be? Just look at that!

Sooo… where to go diving next…hmm…

Laziness

Brain Talk:

Why is it so bright in here?!#@

*pulls blanket over head*

Hmm… something’s vibrating… Is that my phone??

*fishes mobile underneath*

Wow look at the time… Is it really 11AM??

*hugs pillow*

*stomach grumbles*

Hua… am hungry. I want some eggs. And bacon. And toast. And peanut butter. And… ah shit, that requires some cooking.

*stomach grumbles some more*

Okay gotta get up. Offff to bed… That’s a good girl… good, good. Now it’s only 10 steps towards the fridge… let’s go. Good job!

Erff… that was some workout.

Wow food! Who cares if it’s cold? Microwaves are for sissies anyway.

BURP!

Man, coffee would be so good right now. If only I can command that damn coffee maker to make a cup without me lifting a hand.

Oh wait did I see some leftover Screwdriver on the fridge?

Sweet!!!

*glances at computer*

Eesh… Did I really bring work at home? Erm… why did I do that again?!?

Hoookayy…. Maybe if I go up to the pool and have a swim it might reboot this human dead weight I am carrying. BUT that requires changing  into swimwear. That’s too much work!

Sod, it. I am going back to bed.

**Full disclosure: These past days has seen me lacking proper sleep and nourishment.