Archive for September 2009
We were supposed to go hiking up Mt. Pico de Loro this weekend but as early as Friday morning, my gut feel was already telling me ‘Better luck next time.’ But since accuweather.com didn’t indicate heavy rains in NCR and South Luzon where this boondock is, we were still kind’a hopeful. But come 1am, I got the news that the trek was canceled. As they say, safety first!
And then today…
I woke up around 11am to find my sister standing at the side of my bed with all our three kitties in her arms. I asked her why is she carrying them all at the same time. She said papa is taking WonBin, our doggy at the other side of the house because the flood is fast rising and is getting inside our gate and that they had to put sandbags to prevent it from entering the house. The rain – although bereft of strong winds – was pouring down heavily as if manifesting heaven’s misery. And it’s not even signal number 1 in Manila.
And so, less than 30 minutes later, our house (at least the first floor) is already flooded, first up to our calves then later, it was already knee-deep. With the non-stop heavy rain all afternoon, the flood has already reached our thighs. Luckily, papa and ate was able to move most of our stuff in the 2nd floor.
Mom, who insisted going to work this morning, is stuck somewhere in Manila and it’s already very difficult to reach her. We’ve been monitoring the news the whole day and it’s heartbreaking to hear about people who have been stranded – cold and hungry – in their rooftops and those who lost lives because of accidents caused by the tropical storm. The rescue teams are having a hard time because of inaccessible roads and the shortage in search and rescue equipment.
It’s almost 9pm and the rain has already stopped but the flood isn’t subsiding yet. I kind’a blamed the LGU’s engineer’s office this afternoon when we got flooded because I was thinking it was probably because of the drainage system. But I saw photos of various areas in the whole NCR that are totally submerged in floodwaters and I thought our problem is very little compared to theirs. It’s just that this is so unusual for us since our area is a bit high and on normal circumstances, all areas in Manila will be flooded but ours would still be flood-free.
So we were contemplating on not sleeping tonight just in case it starts raining hard again. We don’t wanna wake up floating in floodwaters!
But seriously, God will take care of us so we need not worry… =)
Seems like my two Jae’s (Kim Jae Won and Jae Hee) are doing great in the army.
So where do I start? The five days of bliss is over and now, I’m back here, sitting on my swivel chair, editing, writing, and racking my brains about this magazine (October) issue that we have to release in less than three weeks.
But that’s not actually my point right now. I wanna go back to that trip where I, somehow, forgot that I am miserable back here and just enjoyed life and the blessings from daddy up there.
We’ve been planning to go to Ho Chi Minh (and Siem Reap on the side) since last April… yep, as in a year and a half (almost!) ago and the procrastinators that we are, we have practically watched the months jump after the other without doing anything as close to planning. I guess planning is cursed for us. When we plan, it doesn’t push through but when we decide on the last minute, it always happens. I guess, although crazy, I like the latter better.
And so, while lazily bumming around on a Sunday afternoon (that was August 9), my friend Tere sent me a message asking if I’m still free to travel last week of August. Knowing the ‘kaladkarin’ type (in its most literal sense) that I am, I said yes, without actually thinking. What the heck! I only considered if that week is deadlines week and if not, I’ll definitely go. Finally, a thing closest to a plan is happening. That same afternoon, we booked our tickets (via Cebu Pacific) to Ho Chi Minh and we turned the initial plan around and made our stay longer in Siem Reap. We figured there’s nothing much to do in Ho Chi Minh and yet, there’s a lot of places to visit and explore in Siem Reap (Angkor in particular). Had there been a direct flight to Cambodia, we wouldn’t have bothered with Ho Chi Minh. But in any case, we’re still glad we did ‘coz we surely had quite a number of experiences there that are somehow worth going back to when we’re older. (details later)
And so, August wheezed unnoticeably and the next thing I know, my luggage is ready and ridiculously heavy. When I travel, I have this principle that it’s always better to have tons of unused clothes rather than be short of it and be forced to re-cycle. Nothing spoils a travel but a wardrobe that’s been worn twice or thrice in a row. Hehe.
Our flight to Ho Chi Minh was at 11pm. That night was crazy… starting with that opportunist of a taxi driver who probably thought I was a foreigner and asked me for a thousand peso cab fee to the airport! Crazy sonuva-. So I transferred cab to fetch Tere and we went to the airport together. Thankfully, Cebu Pacific isn’t delayed and we arrived in Ho Chi Minh on time – err, that was about 1 in the morning (it’s one hour late in Vietnam, Cambodia and other IndoChina areas).The hotel car (we stayed in Hotel Continental Saigon) fetched us from the airport. At 3am, we were lounging and eating our very first authentic Vietnamese noodle in our hotel room which is quite big actually with very high ceiling. Tere said the structure inside reminded her of UST which I find a little funny. The hotel looks old – original French colonial style – but well-maintained. It is situated in District 1, right in the heart of the city. We said if we had enough wealth, we would buy and refurbish it. The hotel is just right beside the famous opera house and walking distance to tourist spots like the Ben Thanh market and the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, which they said is an exact replica of the one in Paris…hmm, although I’d say, maybe not.
We slept the rest of the morning and woke up around 8am, ready to explore Ho Chi Minh city. What I love most about the place is the swarm of motorcycles in the streets of Saigon. The ratio of a motorcycle to a car is probably 8:1. No exaggeration. I even got culture-shocked when we were offered to ride in their motorcycles for a fee. Apparently, that was a normal practice in Vietnam. If we have jeepneys here in the Philippines, they have motorcycles and these cute bicycles with the passenger seat in front (I forgot what it’s called). They are everywhere in Saigon, in every corner, waiting for passengers.
I literally held millions in my hands because the value of their currency, Vietnam Dong, is really low – about 17,000 VND to a dollar. So for about 100 dollars, you’ll have nearly 2 million Dong. And we kind’a enjoyed the fact that a typical meal costs an average of 170,000 Dong; sounds too much or expensive but it’s actually not. And our favorite, the 20,000 Dong worth Diet Coke. =)
We walked around the district in the morning, taking pictures as if it were our last and headed off to the market to fill our empty stomachs (we didn’t make it to the hotel breakfast). And for the fun of it, we ate at one of the stalls at the market which offered us the best food the rest of the Ho Chi Minh trip. I don’t wanna generalize or probably, it was just us being unlucky, but we seemed to go to the wrong restaurants (food is bad!) It was funny how the both of us looked completely clueless on how to eat the food that ‘ate, the vendor’ had to tell us how to in a language we don’t really get. For the duration of the Ho Chi Minh stay, we normally answer ‘Chenelin Chuchu-belles’ to the locals who were trying to talk to us in their native tongue. (Later on we changed it to ‘Meooww” as it sounded more alike to their phonetics) =)
I had a funny and a kind of traumatic experience in the market. While walking, oblivious to the chaos around me as I was busy eyeing the merchandise in the stalls, someone (an unknown local male entity) touched my armpit! As in kinalabit niya ko sa kili-kili. Good thing I wasn’t sweating there! But hello?!? I felt violated just the same. My kili-kili is private, how dare he! Hmp.
Anyway, we experienced more pushing and shoving at the market that I was half-convinced that maybe it was possible that we teleported to Hong Kong (where I experienced the worst shoving and pushing of my life, without those people saying ‘excuse me’ or ‘sorry’ at all). I was surprised to see there are a few Filipinas in Vietnam manning some of the stalls, shouting ‘Mura lang’ or ‘Bili na’ when they are somehow sure that those two naïve-looking tourists are from the Philippines. Meron din pala sa Vietnam! =)
The weather in Vietnam is capital HOT. As in wet-underarms-hot. It’s good that we brought clothes that would last us three weeks so we could change without having to recycle. We walked for the most part of the morning as everything seemed to be just walking distance.
We waited for the ‘Reunification Palace’ – one of the most famous landmarks in Ho Chi Minh – to be opened as they close at 11am and resume at 1pm. And since we are too lazy to adjust our watches, we normally get punked by time. So we had to kill time drinking coffee and eating (again) at this local coffee shop which looked like a pub regardless if it’s in the middle of the day. It was noisy and full of people and the boom box was at its peak, we could barely hear each other. We ordered a pandan cake which tasted like it has been untouched for ten days in the serving tray. It was sour and we were trying to justify if that’s how it’s supposed to taste like. We’re too nice, see?
The ‘Reunification Palace,’ one of the most prominent structures in the city center, was the home and workplace of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam war and the site of the official handover of power during the ‘Fall of Saigon’ in 1975. We decided we both had ADDs (Attention Deficiency Disorder) so we avoided going with the throngs of tourists who followed the tour guide around for a better overview of the palace’s history. We thought we’d be happy just taking pictures and reading the description ourselves. I don’t know but I really had a hard time understanding their accent. It’s like a mix of Mandarin and Khmer but a little more nasal. Then there’s this funny lady who was staring at Tere as if she wanna poke her and check if she’s really human. She was just a few inches away from her face and didn’t get embarrassed at all. That was weird. We toured the palace for about two hours and went back to the hotel.
After ‘freshening up’ and resting for a bit (and working for me), we walked towards the Notre Dame Cathedral and marveled at the post office which looked a cross between St. Peter Basilica (from what I saw in TV) and KL Sentral. I really wanted to buy the traditional Ao Dai (the Vietnamese traditional clothing for women consisted of a close-fitting blouse with long panels at the front and back, worn over loose trousers)and the ‘Salakot’ and wear them and have my picture taken. But as I always tell myself, I will look like a walking irony. Plus, it will just be another dust eater when I bring it home so never mind.
Then came the worst part of the evening. We wanted to try the river cruise which we heard is superb. And so, without any clue where the Saigon River is (and weird enough, even the taxi drivers don’t know it) we just hopped into a cab, whose cabbie driver claimed he knew the place, and got ripped off big time! First, he dropped us off at the wrong place and his meter was running like Niagara Falls. We ended up paying 125,000 Dong for a very short route (which normally is only at about 20,000 VND max) but didn’t dare argue. He’ll get his karma anyway.
The icing on the cake is the river cruise itself. It was a total disaster. The food , and what was supposed to be a serene boat ride turned out to be a karaoke night with loud music playing in the background and an ensemble of about three amateur entertainers singing on an alternate succession. The only consolation there was the nice view of the Saigon city from where we were. Coffee followed dinner at the restaurant adjacent to our hotel and we wrapped up for the night.
Tomorrow, we’re heading off to Cambodia! =)