Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Philippines: Day 1

Early Saturday morning we left Guam for a short trip to the Philippines (returning early Tuesday morning). We figured since we were already halfway around the world we might as well take advantage of the opportunity (and a great airline/hotel package offered by a local travel agency). The flight was just over 3 hours.

Getting in a bit closer we were able to see hundreds of fish farms in the waters surrounding the islands. It was pretty amazing to see how densely populated some of the islands were as well.

Upon arrival, I got my first stamp in my passport. I've been waiting my whole life for that stamp. It took 26 years but it finally happened! I hope to accumulate many more over the years to come.

After checking through customs we loaded into a taxi and headed for our hotel. That taxi ride was the most terrifying experience of my life. Hands down, no exaggerations. I really thought it extremely likely that we would die or be seriously injured. It was insane. The driver drove so fast and wove in and out of lanes with no regard to the lines on the road or the other drivers. He drove on the wrong side of the road when traffic on the right side was too slow. He came so close to other vehicles and pedestrians I thought for sure we would have an accident. Little did I know that EVERY taxi ride in the Philippines would be the same way. One driver explained to us that the lines on the road were just for decoration.

We zoomed through the streets of Manila and arrived at our hotel a few minutes later.Upon arriving at the hotel (the Dusit Thani) our taxi was searched for explosives by two policemen (along with every other car entering the hotel.) We were also sniffed by dogs at the hotel entrance for explosives and manually checked for weapons by guards. This was both reassuring and worrisome.
The interior of the hotel was lavish and probably the nicest hotel we have ever stayed at. Definitely worthy of it's 5 stars.

This girl played different instruments in the lobby. Her costumes were so beautiful and I wished so badly that I could get really up close to examine her jewelry. It was gorgeous. I felt bad taking pictures of her though and didn't want to get all up in her face so I didn't.The view from our room.

Our room was nice and fairly large. The only bad thing was the bed. It felt like plywood with foam stapled to it. It was so hard!

The first thing we did was change our American dollars to Philippine Pesos. The conversion is about 45 pesos to 1 dollar. Money goes very far in the Philippines. I also always love looking at foreign currency. I always think its a lot more beautiful than our own money in the US. I love all the color and detail and decoration.

After checking into the hotel we bravely (or suicidally?) got into another taxi and headed for Greenhills Shopping Center. Greenhills has over 2000 vendors and is a huge marketplace selling everything from handbags, to fancy electronics like Ipads, to pearls and jewelry, to local handicrafts. I think you could walk around in it for a week and not see everything. This was the one thing I knew I wanted to do for sure in the Philippines because I had heard that it was a great place to buy pearls.The stalls were so small and close together and there were so many people that the experience was incredibly overwhelming. Still I was determined to go home with some pearls so I persevered and found the pearl market in the labyrinth of shops.I didn't go crazy like I could have, but I did come home with several strands of great quality freshwater pearls. I mostly bought small pearls that I've been using for the new production line I've been developing. I wish I had bought some large pearls strands just because I was there and will probably never have the opportunity to buy them that cheap again, but I went conservative and bought very little. I did make one luxury purchase on a large mabe pearl that is beautiful, but I have no idea what I will do with it. I'll do a post soon just on all the stuff we bought with pictures so you all can see.
There were so many vendors, but we found some great stuff. We weren't very good at bargaining, but it seemed wrong when the prices were already pennies compared to what we would spend if we were buying these items in the states. We did do some bartering but probably could have paid a lot less than we did. Despite that, I was really happy with how we did and what we came home with.

After leaving greenhills satisfied with our shopping, we headed to a local Philippine and seafood cuisine restaurant called Zamboanga. They had entertainment that depicted the evolution of Philipine traditional dances. See video below.

This shows the bamboo dance, which is a crazy dance in which the dancers have to step quickly in between moving bamboo rods. They went so fast it was incredible!

The restaurant also had a great little trio that serenaded us with songs from the Beatles, the Eagles, and Kenny Rogers. It was a great end to our first day in the Philippines.


Jeremy said...

I am incredibly jealous! I wish so badly that I could have been there with you!

Vir John Fajardo said...

glad you enjoyed our hometown.. yeah!!