Train: Russia, China, Mongolia

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I've been reading much about Russia these past few days and became highly interested in the Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian/Tran-Manchurian Railway adventure. Imagine being able to cross China-Mongolia-Russia in 6-8days, across 7 timezones, over 9000 kilometers using as little money as possible is completely fascinating! Well, you still have to indulge as the prices don't come in cheap but compared to sitting in a plane for 24hours, looking outside the window and seeing nothing but clouds, cramped up in your seat with little walking area...i think i'd rather take the more extreme ride even if it means living off of noodles and little biscuits, seeing nothing but snow outside, freezing in a cramped quarters shared with other people and taking a bath once due to the freezing waters.

Visit www.monkeyshrine.com to see the interactive route map of this:

If i'm really gonna do this tipid-budget trip, i would probably start off with:

1. Manila and buy a Piso (P1) fare or a really discounted fare like P999 (approx. USD23) from Cebu Pacific Air to Macau. This flight would take about 1.5hours. A P1499 fare to Beijing would be cost-friendly too and would take about 3.5hours but if I had the time, I'd take the longer route. You can check out the website http://www.cebupacificair.com for flight details. I am not an endorser, just a really avid fan of the discount fares.

2. From Macau, travel by bus to the Guangzhou border. Cross the border and from there take a train to Beijing. Talk about cross country travelling...China-style! This would cost about P2800 for the RMB428 Hard Sleeper.

http://www.beijingchina.net.cn/transportation/train/train-from-guangzhou.html

3. From Beijing, take the ultimate train ride!
The ideal way to travel and experience all. http://www.seat61.com
There are 2 options here:
a. Take the Trans-Mongolian Train 3/4 via Mongolia using Chinese rolling stock
b. Take the Trans-Manchurian Train 19/20 via Manchuria using Russia rolling stock

Wondering where the Trans-Siberian option is? Well the that train is from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, Russia. This is the gateway to Japan. So for Europeans, they usually take this option as they would want to visit Japan. I believe this is the pricier option since Moscow and Tokyo/Osaka are the priciest cities in the world. See also http://blog.koldcast.tv/2010/koldcast-news/the-fifteen-most-expensive-cities-on-the-planet/
http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html
Either way, it's about time to get ready to Russia and travel via the Trans-Manchurian way. Usually tickets are pre-sold to agencies so the only way to get them is to buy from the agencies. You can visit www.cits.net or China-train Ticket or China Travel Center or China Train Tickets for this. Usual cost would be about USD711-1000 or P31500-45k.


From the blogs I read, they greatly suggest to cut the trip into pieces. Instead of buying a direct ticket to Moscow, buy just the next town then go forward from there to avoid exhaustion or in case you meet some friends and they want to stop over somewhere along the way. I think this would be great but since I'm going for the ultimate cheap adventure, I'd rather go with the non-stop route, starve, stink and be cold. It's an adventure in itself.

After burning approximately P45k-60k/person, which includes Visa for China, Mongolia and Russia (for Filipinos), train tickets, airport fees, other transportation fares; almost 8-10 days of travel, you would've crossed a great part of the Earth already. As compared to taking a P60k-27-hour-flight direct to Moscow, this adventure would be legendary. Add another P10k-20k for food, souvenirs, warm clothing, and hotel-stay while waiting for the scheduled train rides. This seems to cost a lot but i'm pretty sure the experience would be unforgettable. 

This may not end in Moscow, you know? Travel to St. Petersburg then take the train all throughout Europe to end up in London. Whew!

Boracay: Beach Bum

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I went to boracay this time purely to be a beach bum. I needed some R&R from all the stress of resigning and finding a new job and being bankrupt. I was afraid that I was not gonna enjoy it for it has been raining the past couple of days so we weren't expecting to see it's majestic beauty. But behold! The weather was perfectly sunny.

Due to my poor finances, I booked a flight to-and-from Iloilo Province. Iloilo flights are a whole lot cheaper (as in P1-4k cheaper) than the flights to Caticlan or Kalibo. However, it's comes with a disadvantage. Iloilo is located 5-6hrs away from Caticlan by land. That means an additional travel time and of course a more tiring one. But since money concerns are a priority, I could not complain much.

The Travel:
From the Iloilo airport, take a taxi to the Ceres Bus Terminal. Ride an airconditioned bus with the Caticlan sign. The fare is P303 for the 5-6hour trip. It will make a lunch stop where you can go down, stretch your legs and buy some food. It will make a dozen or more stops, picking up and letting down passengers. This is a commuter bus although it is very nice and cold, the chairs aren't exactly super cozy so try to bring a pillow to help you sleep. When you get to the Caticlan port, get in those bangkas at the end of the road. They leave more frequently than the fast-craft. This just costs less than P100 with the environmental fee. In Boracay, take the tricycle to your hotel. The flat rate for the is P20.

The Accommodations:
For this trip, I decided to stay in the farther side of Boracay for some peace and quiet. I ended up in between Stations 1 and 2. Watercolors is the name of the inn and it is exactly beachfront. There are no dinner tables separating the hotel steps to the water, which is cool.

The rooms were a lot cheaper since it was offpeak, it only costs around P1350/night for the 2 beds. There were complimentary fruits and a really cool bathroom. Plus they clean up the room everytime you get out so you always come back to a really clean room.
Neat bed.

Where our hotel is located.

Cabana cabana.

There are cabanas where you can hang-out dry with your laptop and free wifi with the beach as your background. Cool!
Hanging out with my electronics.
As always, Boracay is a sight to see. But it was better now than when I went last 2008. There weren't that much moss in the shallow end of the beach unlike before. The beach is cleaner, less trash can be seen. I guess they really made an effort to keep it pristine.

The clear waters of Boracay.
Boracay beach stretch.

Airport: Naia Terminal 3

Naia Terminal 3 is located near Villamor Airbase, just right in front of the new casino, Resorts World. This airport is one of the most UNfriendly and money-hoarding airport there is. Yes, the beautiful structure and clean, sparkly interior can be deceiving. Although there are only 2 airlines that use this airport, namely Airphilexpress and Cebu Pacific Air the lines can get too long and waiting time can be for hours. Waiting time for what, you say? For everything.

The Departure:

The Departure area is located at the 2nd floor. The private cars can unload directly infront of the gates. The taxi cabs, however must be in another aisle parallel to the gates. Though it is not too far. Friends and family can go in and accompany the flyers until the check-in counters.

The disadvantage for those traveling in international flights, namely Cebu Pacific customers is that although you probably got a bargain  in those ticket fares, you will get robbed by the Airport Tax which is P1620/person. Aside from this, you have to pay another P750 for the airport terminal fee. Add it all up....not really a bargain eh? In addition, the receipts are manually handwritten by at most 2 people thus making the queue long enough for you to miss your flight. Then you have to go back to the check-in counters to claim your ticket. Hassle? Yes.

Inside the airport is nice although there can be a long queue in the immigrations counter plus another long queue for the xray scanner. so better make sure you arrive ahead of time if you don't want to run in your socks to the departure gate.

The Arrival:

Arrival in Naia Terminal 3 can be a drag. The only mode of transportation available out of this area is a taxi. There are 3 kinds of taxis:

1. Fixed rate taxis - are very expensive. Unless you are a foreigner with really deep pockets, do not get this one. They bloat the fares up to 4-6x the real amount. (Example: Naia 3 to Mandaluyong = P650) No wonder nobody lines up for this. These are the taxis you will probably see right just outside the arrival area.

Fixed rate taxis. No one bothers to line up.

2. Airport Metered Yellow taxis - are slightly expensive. Unless you are in a rush, do not take this too. The flag down rate is P70 then the per km rate is P4.50. (Using the same example above: P218.50). These taxis can be found near the arrival area. Just walk further ahead.

Yellow metered cabs. Not much people there either.

3. Plain taxis - are the ordinary ones. The flag down rate is P35 and P2.50 per km. These are the local taxis that can be found anywhere. They are located on the 2nd floor of the airport, yes in the departure area. Needless to say, these are the taxis that came to the airport with a fare. To get to these taxis, do NOT go out of the arrival area. Instead, use the escalator near Bay 3 (can be found on the left side of the airport when you get out of immigration), go out of the departure area then flag down those taxis that just let off passengers. (Using the same example: P112.50)
    However, the down side of the plain taxis is that when it gets late, they tend to be scarce. As in 2hours-worth-of-waiting-scarce. The line for these taxis take up almost the entire length of the departure area. As the night progresses, the taxis tend to be more picky with their passengers. They usually won't want to go to traffic places or far away cities. But if you beg, they take you in exchange for a little bonus (P50-80). So if you're up for that, ride away. But if you did, why didn't you just line up at the metered yellow taxi?! You could have saved a lot of time.

    In essence, I think that this airport is fairly a success in providing a gateway to the airplanes. But i find it silly of the government not to provide cheap, multiple ways of getting in and out of this airport. It is as if their area of responsibility is until the airport doors only and once you get out, you're on your own. 

    Way to go to promote tourism!

    Airports: Iloilo International

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Iloilo International Airport is small but clean and very much alike Naia Terminal 2 and 3. It is located far from Iloilo City, 19kms away in the city of Santa Barbara.

    The Departure:

    To get to the aiport, there are taxis available. However, they will try to give you a flat rate of P350-400 for the trip. The cheaper way to go is to get yourself to SM City Iloilo. There is an airport terminal there where L300 vans will take you to the airport for P70. Be at the terminal approximately 2hours before your flight schedule. These vans do not have a scheduled departure time. They leave as soon as the van is full. So if you're flight schedule is out-of-the-ordinary, it might take some time before the van gets filled up.

    The Arrival:

    This can be a little tricky. There are airport taxis that would be willing to bring you to wherever you want at a fixed price. Haggle before riding. To the Ceres Bus station, it may cost around P350-400. However, the cheaper option would be to ride the vans for P70-100. This will take you to SM city. From here, you can take a taxi to wherever (atleast you are already within the city vicinity) or take the jeep if you can find your way around.

    Since this is an international airport (although all flights that come thru are only domestic), the terminal fee is P200/person.

    Russia: The Land I'm Dying To Set Foot On

    Thursday, October 7, 2010


    View Larger Map

    This is where they'll be sending my on January 2011. I think. haha! I'm not really sure about the exact location in Russia but I figured it might be in this area. About 230kms south of Moscow.

    When i looked it up, i saw that it was actually in the European side and not the China side which is cool because it's the closest I can get to Europe for now. Plans for this are still in the making. This was only mentioned in passing but I sure do hope that it will push thru because I'm really excited about this.


    Russia is actually one of the places I really want to go to. I remember going to the library to sleep and to look at history books especially the ones about Tsar. I wanted to know the real story about Anastacia and Rasputin. I was so fond of the stories that I wanted to name my future son, Dmitri. I thought Dmitri in the animated movie was so handsome that maybe my future son may get some of his good looks.

    Anyway, I'll research more about Russia and Novomoskovsk, Province of Tula, Russia more then put posts as the days go by. I found their website though (http://www.nmosk.ru/) And i think i should learn a little russian too. I have less than 4months to cram! (http://www.russianlessons.net/)(http://masterrussian.com/)

    Oh i should get pasalubong, an authentic Siberian Husky? a Siberia Tiger? Or maybe a Black Russian Terrier!

    Wish me luck and i hope the plan pushes thru!

    Subic: Treetop Adventure

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    We went to Subic to celebrate my birthday coming in the "mid 20s" bracket. So it was just proper to celebrate this moment by being a kid.

    Treetop offers a variety of "rides". Basically, equipments are tied to trees and you will "ride" by falling down, swinging back and forth, gliding super fast, transporting super slow and all other movements possible that will get you from one tree to another. Check their site (http://www.treetopadventuresubic.com/).

    There are packages that are offered where multiple rides can be taken by a single person for a discounted price. However, since we didn't want to try everything, we just got single tickets rides instead.

    Rides:

    1. Trekking - for the non-adventurous. Learn about the flora and fauna around the vicinity. This is held on solid ground so no fear is induced.
    2. Canopy walk - almost like trekking however you will be walking on bridges 100meters high.
    3. Canopy ride - motorized cable ride from tree to tree that is sooo slow. This is a little expensive P350 i think.
    4. Tree Drop - for just P150, your heart will drop. Be almost 4 stories up then you will be dropped to the ground below.

    Are you willing to be dropped?

    5. Superman - P250, just like superman's pose. It is extremely fast and you will go back-and-forth so that's feet first then head first.
    Superman!

    6. Silver Surfer - P200, this ride goes up and down the track then swings you in place too. It can be a little scary at first then you just get used to it.
    Swing, Swing.
    7. Other adventures - there are other adventures like one where they simulate free-fall and more but I can't seem to remember than. The fees per ride mostly cost around P250-350 so it's really up to you to mix and match depending on your liking. The rides are just short and quick so spending 1-3hrs is enough for the entire treetop adventure getaway.

    Camarines Sur: Ironman 70.3

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Ready to swim.
    Ironman 70.3 in Camarines Sur was a blast! I did the swim part for the relay which is almost 2kms. The swim is the easy part among the 3 disciplines. Yes, im being biased coz i'm a swimmer but it's true. I can ride a bike even the high bikes. But after i start pedaling, i wouldn't know how to stop and get down. haha pathetic. :P And the run, i can't even finish a 3km fun run, much more a 21km run under the blazing heat of the sun. I got a shirt tan not because of the swim but because i was under the sun too long from watching and cheering my teammates on.


    Just before the race starts. The runner, biker and swimmer.
    Race Start.


    We got our finisher goodies :) Good job Fiona and Kathy!



    More goodies from the sponsors :)
    Race success!
    I joined because a church group called Ligaya needed swimmers to complete their relay teams. A friend of mine is part of that group so they pulled me in. I was blessed enough to be a part of this group even for just a little time. They got sponsors to pay for most of our expenses such as the entry fee, food, lodging, transpo and even uniforms. I got to experience something wild and wonderful (something i'm all up for) while gaining friends along the way. :)


    "Karen, I particularly remembered your boyfriend faithfully waving a cloth/towel in circles to cheer for you all throughout the swim at the big lake. But, you were too fast, I think, because he was still waving it while, you were already out of the water. Talk about devotion! :)" RRManuel@smart.com.ph

    One of the Ligaya members told me that after we got home. My boyfriend was my bellboy, locker, photographer, one-man-cheer-team, feeling-coach and alarm clock (we had to wake up at 4am coz we had to be at the venue by 5am) all at the same time. Lucky!


    Sydney: Pacific School Games

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    I recently found this webpage that showed the results from way back in 2000. I competed in the Pan Pacific School Games in the Olympic Park, Aquatic Center at Sydney, Australia as part of the Philippine National Delegation. It was a fun meet for me though I had to sweat blood in order to get in the team. However, when i got there I felt no pressure at all. It was probably the non-competitive environment we were in. We had fun meeting a lot of people from different nationalities. I was 14years old back then and I couldn't care less if I win or not. I was in a different country and the experience was all that I was after.
    The Olympic Stadium, Sydney 2000.
    Australia is one of the countries that I absolutely love. It's laid-back but fast-paced at the same time. One of the things I remember about Sydney was that there were a lot of "rotondas'. There was no left turn when you are driving. Mostly, you have to go around a circle to get to the left road. The only downside was that the malls close early. As a Filipino, I was used to having the comfort of the mall until late at night. But there, we had to have our grocery done by 4pm!

    Since this was my 2nd time in Sydney and I came for a competition, I did not have much chance to go around the city. As part of the welcoming hospitality of the host country, each athlete was assigned to live with a foster family for the duration of his/her stay. Sad to say that I cannot, for the life of me, remember the names of my foster family. All i remember is that my foster sister is Hannah, who was 15 then, and i had a foster brother named Todd then 13. My foster parents usually drove me to a school, which was converted to a meeting place for the athletes in that area. A bus would fetch us then drive us to the Olympic Park. Then we would proceed to our designated sports venues.
    The 2000 Olympic Pool in Sydney, Australia.

    The competition was held a few months before the actual Olympics in 2000. Basically, we tested the new pool and got a feel of how it was to swim in an Olympic-venue with FINA standards. Pretty intimidating! The water was kept at a temperature that was standard to the Olympics but it was a little too cold for my taste. Also, it was my first competition where we were provided with laundry baskets beside the starting blocks so we could deposit our non-pool gear such as jogging pants, jackets and slippers. I remember that when we got back to Manila, competitions here adapted in this method so as to lessen the confusion of the gear ownership.

    Since i was there for fun, the results of my swim were not that great. However, it was fulfilling to see this after 10years.


    Event 42  Girls 13-15  200m Individual Medley
    
     PL     Name              Age      Team                   Prelims   Finals
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Finals
      1 Abbott, Jessica        15  New South Wales            2:25.54  2:22.82
      2 Crossingham, Charnelle 15  New South Wales            2:29.14  2:24.98
      3 Stanley, Nicola        14  South Africa               2:26.68  2:25.62
      4 Houghton, Melanie      15  Queensland                 2:27.31  2:26.43
      5 Leane, Karina          15  South Australia            2:28.67  2:27.44
      6 Chen, Junfan           15  Peoples Rep. of China      2:29.63  2:28.59
      7 Kubank, Monique        15  Western Australia          2:32.09  2:30.20
      8 Paton, Sarah Louise    14  A.C.T.                     2:32.18  2:30.23
      9 Chen, Wenjun           15  Peoples Rep. of China      2:31.62  2:30.30
     10 Luker, Simone          14  South Australia            2:32.34  2:35.16
    
    PL     Name              Age      Team                  Seed Time Prelims
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Preliminaries
      1 Abbott, Jessica        15  New South Wales            2:25.19  2:25.54
      2 Stanley, Nicola        14  South Africa               2:24.32  2:26.68
      3 Houghton, Melanie      15  Queensland                 2:28.51  2:27.31
      4 Leane, Karina          15  South Australia            2:33.80  2:28.67
      5 Crossingham, Charnelle 15  New South Wales            2:30.42  2:29.14
      6 Chen, Junfan           15  Peoples Rep. of China           NT  2:29.63
      7 Taylor, Courtney       14  Queensland                 2:30.86  2:31.23
      8 Chen, Wenjun           15  Peoples Rep. of China           NT  2:31.62
      9 Kubank, Monique        15  Western Australia          2:30.21  2:32.09
     10 Paton, Sarah Louise    14  A.C.T.                     2:33.12  2:32.18
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
     11 Luker, Simone          14  South Australia            2:34.48  2:32.34
     12 Vance, Stephanie       15  New South Wales            2:30.37  2:32.40
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
     13 Jingyi, Choo           15  Singapore                  2:31.00  2:32.44
     14 Lam, Cheong Weng       14  Macau                      2:36.00  2:32.71
     15 Cosgrove, Fiona        15  Western Australia          2:30.07  2:33.46
     16 Uren, Tracey           15  A.C.T.                     2:28.48  2:34.31
     17 Lawniczak, Jayne       15  Western Australia          2:33.62  2:34.57
     18 Gale, Victoria         15  Tasmania                   2:34.78  2:34.78
     19 Kotaridis, Elenie      14  Victoria                   2:32.58  2:35.52
     20 Allen, Sarah           15  Victoria                   2:33.59  2:36.30
     21 Howes, Renee           15  A.C.T.                     2:35.67  2:36.75
     22 Buckley, Dawn          15  South Africa               2:31.54  2:36.84
     23 Nisce, Michelle        15  Philippines                2:43.94  2:37.47
     24 Leach, Shannon         15  Queensland                 2:32.00  2:38.33
     25 Autunes, Jade          13  South Africa               2:34.28  2:39.09
     26 Yong, Rebecca          14  Victoria                        NT  2:39.75
     27 Grace, Nicki           15  New Zealand                2:39.32  2:40.16
     28 Allston, Johanna       14  Tasmania                   2:36.46  2:41.77
     29 Pearce, Adele          14  Northern Territory         2:45.03  2:43.81
     30 McKinnon, Hayley       13  Northern Territory         2:42.95  2:44.34
     31 Langit, Lea            14  Philippines                2:52.00  2:44.92
     32 Bereznicki, Hannah     15  Tasmania                   2:39.13  2:45.11
     33 Winkfield, Tamiko      15  Northern Marianas          2:54.75  2:47.43
     34 Rudolph, Amy           15  Northern Territory         2:44.30  2:49.88
     35 Tiambeng, Karen        14  Philippines                2:55.00  2:50.21
     36 Pierce, Jill           15  Northern Marianas          2:51.82  2:51.71
     37 Lassere, Severine      14  New Caledonia              2:52.43  2:57.52
    Event 126 Girls 14-15 100m Breaststroke
    PL     Name              Age      Team                   Prelims   Finals
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Finals
      1 Martin, Brooke         15  New South Wales            1:14.21  1:13.52
      2 Chen, Wenjun           15  Peoples Rep. of China      1:15.10  1:13.57
      3 Lam, Cheong Weng       14  Macau                      1:16.24  1:15.14
      4 Watt, Abbey            15  New South Wales            1:15.05  1:15.55
      5 Parker, Lauren         15  South Australia            1:16.51  1:15.68
      6 Connelly, Sunshine     15  New South Wales            1:17.12  1:16.21
      7 Teo, Nicolette         14  Singapore                  1:16.97  1:16.59
      8 Rennie, Dianne         15  Victoria                   1:18.37  1:18.21
      9 Allen, Sarah           15  Victoria                   1:19.16  1:19.82
     10 Hawes, Kate            15  A.C.T.                     1:19.12  1:20.41
    
    PL     Name              Age      Team                  Seed Time Prelims
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Preliminaries
      1 Martin, Brooke         15  New South Wales                     1:14.21
      2 Watt, Abbey            15  New South Wales                     1:15.05
      3 Chen, Wenjun           15  Peoples Rep. of China               1:15.10
      4 Lam, Cheong Weng       14  Macau                               1:16.24
      5 Parker, Lauren         15  South Australia                     1:16.51
      6 Teo, Nicolette         14  Singapore                           1:16.97
      7 Connelly, Sunshine     15  New South Wales                     1:17.12
      8 Rennie, Dianne         15  Victoria                            1:18.37
      9 Hawes, Kate            15  A.C.T.                              1:19.12
     10 Allen, Sarah           15  Victoria                            1:19.16
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
     11 Luker, Simone          14  South Australia                     1:19.75
     12 Kubank, Monique        15  Western Australia                   1:20.05
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
     13 Leach, Shannon         15  Queensland                          1:20.40
     14 Bain, Emily            14  South Australia                     1:20.64
     15 Stabler, Clare         15  Western Australia                   1:20.72
     16 Edwards, Angela        14  A.C.T.                              1:21.39
     17 Karbanenko, Megan      14  Victoria                            1:21.40
     18 Thorpe, Amanda         14  Queensland                          1:21.84
     19 Konijn, Elaine         14  Western Australia                   1:21.88
     20 Pierce, Jill           15  Northern Marianas                   1:22.99
     21 Uren, Tracey           15  A.C.T.                              1:23.04
     22 Eser, Camille          15  Philippines                         1:23.27
     23 Grundy, Marisa         15  Tasmania                            1:24.45
     24 Taylor, Courtney       14  Queensland                          1:24.66
     25 White, Bronwyn         15  Tasmania                            1:25.43
     26 Woods, Claire          14  Tasmania                            1:26.67
     27 Rudolph, Amy           15  Northern Territory                  1:27.77
     28 De Vries, Andrea       15  South Africa                        1:28.43
     29 Altmann, Jessica       14  Northern Territory                  1:28.46
     30 Abueg, Clarisse        15  Philippines                         1:28.63
     31 Tiambeng, Karen        14  Philippines                         1:29.80
     32 Monot, Celine          14  New Caledonia                       1:30.57
     33 Heng, Bee Cheng        14  Malaysia                            1:33.00
     34 Aisi, Penelope         14  Papua New Guinea                    1:36.03
     35 Foo, Woei Wen          14  Malaysia                            1:39.84

    Cebu: 6km Open Water Swimming

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    I pasted a blog entry that I wrote a year ago. This happened last April 2009 in Olango, Cebu. I found this post in my facebook archives, read thru it again and got reminded that i should stop joining crazy aquatic competitions. But then it's too late. In a few days, i will be competing in the Swim Leg of the Ironman Challenge in Camarines, Sur. Most probably, I will make a blog entry about that but before that happens, read thru this and figure out why I accepted to swim long distance again after all that happened below.

    ~~~start~~~
    swimming 6kms is no joke.

    swimming 6kms in the deep blue sea is crazy.
    i am crazy. haha! i joined the event coz doing crazy, impromptu, adventurous stuff is what i do. i just love trying out new things. the crazier, the better. so after being abum for quite a while (really a bum as in sleep 16hours/day then waking up to check facebook and eat then sleep again), i went to cebu to try out this open water swimming thing.

    the olango challenge is a fund-raising event for the olango island. the funds will help in the building of a school for the kids and for promoting water cleanliness and anti-drowning. anyway, on the day itself, i was much more focused on surviving the 6km swim and not be a part of the drowning incident statistics. haha!

    the race starts at Pacific Cebu Resort and ends at Tambuli Beach Resort. basically we had to swim in parallel with the shore, crossing the different beach resorts to get to the finish line. we were about 250meters away from shore at the starting point. so basically, we were still in the snorkeling area where we can see the corals below us.

    KM 0 : at the start, everyone started sprinting out to get away from the pack. being a bum thus with notraining under my belt, i tried to sprint out too but just managed to stay somewhat in the middle of the group.

    KM 0.5: long powerful strokes. steady swimming. still can see the corals. saw the milo signs (which they said were in every 250m). wanted to get away from the people that were pacing me. felt a little competitive and wanted to atleast place 3rd in my division. haha!

    KM 1: steady swimming. saw the milo signs and saw that they wereplaced in a zigzag pattern following the coral reefs. i realized that swimming in a straight line would save me a few meters but then i would be swimming in the deep blue sea already. still, i decided to save myself a few meters.

    KM 2: in the deep blue sea. from my view, i can see blue water, the sun streaming down the water and nothingness. i can't decipher how far the sea bed is anymore. i was then around 500meters or more away from shore already. i can't see any of the swimmers anymore. most of the time i would stop and remove my googles to get a good look at where the next milo sign is. i saw boat #2 and a volunteer swam out to me (since i can't touch the boat coz then i would be disqualified) to give me water (mineral water :P).

    KM 2.5: basically i cant find the next milo sign. i was too far out and i bet the sea was too deep already. i kept hoping that there wouldn't be sharks or big fishes around to scare the shit out of me. i felt like they could surprise me and gobble me up whole! i can't see the kayaks, bancas and patrol that were supposed to be watching out for us. :O good thing though i saw one of the swimmers so i decided to just follow him/her.

    KM 2.8 or something: i lost the other swimmer. he/she started swimming towards the shore. i felt that the route would be shorter if i stayed in the deeper part of the sea so i decided to go my own way.

    KM 3: i saw boat #3. i asked for the my gatorade bottle and got 3 small gulps just so that i won't be dehydrated. left the boat with a smile. i could still joke around with them then. haha!

    between KM 3 and 4: struggle part. felt like i am losing my way. i was too far from shore. i can't see any one or anything anymore. i can just see sea. hehe:P i had to stop every 10 strokes just to see if i was going in the right direction. i don't even know where the "right" direction was. just focused my view on the really tiny buildings ahead.
    just kept on swimming. but then in that part of the sea, there were a lot of sea things that kept on biting me everywhere. i figured it was the jellyfish stings or the little fishes nibbling at me. couldn't see much din eh. also, in this part, the waves got too big that even if i completely stop and check where i was, i couldn't see a thing. just the wave bump. asar! but then i still had the energy so i decided to go forward.


    KM 4: already asking boat 4 which way to go. they told me to go to the orange building and that was it. so i kept on swimming towards the orange building. the water there was seaweed infested. as in! super duper seaweeds galore that i had to either swim below in order to avoid them which i did at first. but then it got tiring so i just swam right through it. no fun! it was very itchy! and also, just the sight of it scared me a lot. but since i cant do anything much, i just closed my eyes and swam ahead. kinda lost my way coz my eyes were closed but then it was better than seeing.

    KM 4-ish: death. haha! why did i even think of joining this?! this is crazy! i am crazy. going up a mountain was so much easier than swimming there. felt like crying coz i cant see the goal. thought about my ece barkada and wished that they were there with me and rented a boat that would guide me to where im going. looked around for supporters but they were all gone. i was singing the all american rejects latest album in my head just to put my mind elsewhere.

    KM 5: saw a "fun" swimmer on fins. decided to follow him. saw a sea snake, starfishes and a lot of small fishes. couldn't enjoy the view much. just wanted things to be over. i reached the orange building, apparently that wasn't the goal. hahaha! i had to swim on the other side of the island pa pala. it was so hard coz the waves were crashing hard. felt like throwing up already. i remembered that i have motion sickness and am sea-sick. crazy karz for even thinking of joining the event! pasaway!

    KM 5-ish: too far still....swim swim...survive...must finish!

    KM 5-isher: saw 2 shokoys. haha! redcross people that told me which direction to go to the finish line.

    saw the finish line. it had a red banner. thought of just dying there and not finish anymore. felt really sick already. the waves weren't helping with my motion sickness and seasickness. :P

    KM 6: as soon as i can reach the sand again, i ran up and crossed the finish line!

    things that ran through my mind as i crossed the finish line:

    smile for the pictures.

    must be beautiful.

    do not barf!


    whew! haha:P i managed to survive without barfing. had to sit down and rest for a bit lang. grabe. i was never ever so happy to see dry land!!!

    crazy crazy...

    nga pala, got 2nd place pa :P

    death to karz.

    if may alam kayong ibang "death trips" pa, don't forget to invite me. kahit walang preparation, im there! haha!

    things i learned from the experience:

    pool swimming is 100x easier.

    being eaten by a shark would be a blessing in disguise.

    being alone in the middle of the sea would really test your mental toughness.

    i am really seasick.

    i am really crazy.

    the physical activity will not make my tummy smaller! haha:P

    ~~~end~~~

    Resignation Fiasco

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010


    I know this is not at all travel-related but this fiasco has brought me places like THE HIGHER ROAD and the HIGHEST LEVEL in DANTE's INFERNO!

    This story should have been as simple as handing in your resignation, fixing all requirements and closing pending transactions but the company won't allow matters to be handled in such a professional and simplistic manner.

    BREAKDOWN:

    July 5, 2010 - I sent my resignation letter to HR. This was noted and signed by my superior. Oh and there's another harassing story about this acceptance of my letter from HR. (see details below)

    July 19, 2010 - Completed transactions with the Treasury Office of DMPI. Submitted postdated checks which they signed and received. A receiving receipt was also given to me.

    I photocopied all the letters I made, all the checks and all receipts for a total of 8 pages long. One copy was given to HR, one to my department's admin assistant and one copy for me.

    July 26, 2010 - An email was sent to me by a Law Office wherein it said that a legal case is filed against me for "Breach of Contract" for the Training Service Agreement.


    Why i think that this is infuriating:

    1. I am still an employee of the company. I asked for the 30-day notice to be waived since I needed my rest badly. They declined thus, my effective date of resignation is still on Aug 5, 2010.

    2. I have NOT received my pay for July 15 which, I believe, covers June 16-30 workdays. The last paycheck should've been for July 16-August 5. What are they doing holding my paychecks?

    3. Legal cases must be filed if after the 30-day period I have not made any actions regarding the contract I signed. Also, legal cases must be filed with proper evidence. Check first before acting on it. I submitted all necessary documents for that Training Service Agreement way before my August 5 deadline. I have closed that issue and they should have checked on all matters before contacting a 3rd-party Law Office.

    4. The 30-day period is REQUIRED to ensure that i have fully transferred all my accountables. I have not been properly given that 30-day period as my PC account has already been deactivated (by HR, i suppose but certainly not my department) thus i cannot access my email anymore.

    Out of good faith I followed all the requirements for the resignation. I signed the transfer of my PC which includes the CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse and LAN cable. I signed the transfer of my pedestal and given the key as well. I closed my Expense Allocation Fund (EAF) thus returning the P10,000 they loaned me. I paid my bond thru Post-dated checks for 1 year which the HR required.

    Since I am still an employee and still am going to the office, I have yet to submit my proxy card and my service unit SIM card, but have given permission for its deactivation on July 30, which is again before my August 5 effectivity date.

    I did everything required of me and this is what i get in return! Too much hassle and harassment! No wonder people just run away after resignation.

    Needless to say, I am gravely disappointed with how things were handled. From the ineffectiveness of the Engineering Management Training Program as they call it to the way things were handled until the end. This is it. Good Riddance!

    ~~~~details of submission of resignation letter to HR~~~~~

    I submitted my resignation letter to HR last July 5, 2010. I went down at 4pm and tried to find the VP of HR to whom I addressed my letter. I decided to address to him the letter feeling that it would be appropriate since I was employed thru an HR scheme called the "Engineering Management Trainee Program". Seeing as he was in a meeting, I was directed to the Manager for Engineering Employees who, coincidentally, was the person who signed me, as well, more than a year ago.

    She processed my resignation letter and conducted the exit interview which is a routine necessity for all leaving employees. I asked for my 30-day notice to be waived which they declined. I think they did not at all value my reason for leaving which btw were health reasons. Maybe they thought it was just a reason I made up so I can leave and make a run for it. (Too bad i wasn't hospitalized. That would keep them off my case!)

    After talking with her, I was passed on to the Manager for Technical Training. Seeing as i was leaving before my 3year-7month-bond finishes, they tried to convince me to just transfer to another department. I did not reconsider it seeing as the transfer would not change the ineffectiveness of the entire program. Needless to say, I was leaving due to health reasons which were due to their lack of plans for the program. The program was just a way to lure great minds from high-standing schools and tie them up in a 4-year bond which would rot their brains out, suck-out all the hope they had for life and its wonderful opportunities and imprison them with a bond that would be hard to repay given their meager salaries.

    Talking with the TechTrain Man was frustrating. He kept going on and on for the "real" reason I was leaving. He was trying to pry something out from me that wasn't there. He kept asking if i was maltreated/abused/blackmailed by someone in my department. Of course he was trying to save his ass since I blamed them for my leaving. Typical. He kept throwing phrases such as "off-the-record" and "satin dalawa lang". I made my case. That was my reason so just accept it. Funny now that he should have seen the first draft of my resignation letter. That was brutal. My boss didn't want to sign it since it would definitely create chaos between me and the company.

    Upon convincing him that I would rather rest and be poor than get my ass back to that office, he proceeded to talk about the bond. Bond oh bond!

    The bond I have is for 3years and 7months. Worth about 16months of allowance from my college days. Of course, i had a rather big allowance. Sort of. Anyway, I didn't want to pay the said amount for I have not completed and received ALL the trainings indicated on the contract. There were a lot of loopholes in the said contract such as:

    1. AFTER the classroom training, said bond would amount to XXXX Pesos. It purposely said "After" and NOT "After Starting". So finishing the 2-month classroom training would be a requirement for one to pay the bond. Not after attending Day 1.

    2. There are 3-Phases of the Training: Classroom (2months), OJT (5months) and Immersion (1year). For the HR department, the "phases" and the "duration" of these phases are interchangeable depending on their need to win their side.

    I contested that the 2month classroom training placed in the program was not completely fulfilled by them as we just received 16days of training. (They said that 2months = 44 work days). They clarified that during the 1st 2months when we should have been receiving our classroom training, whenever the instructors would not be around, that particular day would be counted in the 2nd phase (OJT). So basically, the 16days of training is still running and there are 28days left for the classroom training. The 3Phases of the program can coincide with one another whenever they feel like mixing it up.

    I was still in the OJT PHASE. I have not been given a permanent position which they defined as the 3rd phase. Put it, I am still in Phase 2 despite my 1year and 2month tenure at the company. However, since the two words are interchangeable for HR, they said that my bond should be the full amount since I am already in the 3rd phase of the program. I clarified that I am still in the 2nd phase and they said that since I am already more than a year in the company, I am considered a part of the 3rd phase.

    There is, however a clause in the program that says, "It is understood that the length or duration of a training program may vary depending on the capacity of the Trainee." I volunteered to make a letter and have the proper people sign it if i can prove that I am still just 2/3 of my program.

    NR. He went back to barraging me about my "real" reason for leaving.

    3. There are a lot of loopholes in the contract. I could not have my lawyer check for it since i WAS NOT given a copy of the Agreement the exact date I signed it. That already is a breach on their side.

    After an hour of questions, I asked for a copy of this Training Agreement. The copy that I signed more than a year ago. I was not allowed to obtain a copy UNLESS i sign a separate memo that basically says, "I shall pay my bond worth XXXXPesos if I resign prior to the expiration date of my bond." I just wanted a copy of the contract I signed years ago. However, they were blackmailing me to sign the 1-page memo, shortcut version, without any of the clauses of the original agreement. Just Pay when you Resign Before YYYYY. I would be willing to sign a receiving memo indicating that I have received a copy of our previous agreement. I, however, was not willing to sign a 1-page memo blackmailing me to pay them.

    With this, I asked to be excused for 10mins for I would like to consult friends/family/whoever-the-hell-i-want with these decisions. THEY WOULD NOT ALLOW IT. I was forced to sit in that same chair for the past 2hours grueling on the idea of blackmail and extortion. They said that I needed to sign the freaking piece of paper before I get up and leave. They would be forced to put on my permanent record a "REFUSAL TO SIGN" note.

    I kindly asked then if i could have the night to think about it and will come back the day after to sign. They refused. They would still put the RTS note. A 10-min break perhaps? Court hearings get breaks too. They refused and said that since the recently printed piece of paper was dated July 5, therefore I should sign on that date itself. It was ultimate blackmail. I told them that me leaving for 10mins would not change the date. Seeing as they had no room to refuse, I hurried out the door and stayed in the hallway of the very same floor.

    I called my lawyer friends and asked what to do. After talking, I was decided that I would not sign and fill a case against them instead. I had a lot of cards in my hand.

    When I returned to the chair, I asked to see the contract they were asking me to sign one last time. Lo and behold! The amount was decreased by a third. Weighing in my options, I decided that I did not want to be a martyr for the entire workforce. I pick my battles, too. The amount was fair and was actually the only amount i was willing to pay then. I got SOME lousy trainings but they were still trainings and I would pay back for those. With a heavy heart, i signed the memo, felt free and thought of ways to pay off the company.

    ~~~side story~~~

    When I got back to my floor, my VP was looking for me. The next day the managers were concerned as to why I walked out on the VP of HR. I did not! When I talked to my VP, he said that the VP of HR texted him and told him that I walked out on him. I didn't even see him in his office the day i submitted my resignation! I was stuck on a chair, much less walk out on him. Oh what rumors they are spreading the put me out as the bad guy! amazing! :O

    Lessons:

    Never trust your HR. They are not in it for the employee's interest. They are out the save themselves from shame which they themselves create.

    Never sign up for a training program which can superspeed your way to the top. There is no faster lane. There are no shortcuts. Just heartless souls exploiting your innocent minds and trusting hearts.

    The learnings I got were the same as my colleagues'. We all had to go thru being the newbie. I also referred to myself as being in the bottom of the food chain, so low that i was merely amoeba.

    There are a lot of opportunities in life. Do NOT settle if in your heart you are not contented. NEVER settle.

    As for HR, DO NOT EVEN DREAM of hiring a group of people all from exclusive Big-Time Schools if you aren't ready to pay them what they're worth. The pay should be greater than the miscellaneous fees we had to pay per semester in college. If not, you are just forcing us to lean on our parents which I don't think is growth in any way.


    Macau: Ms.Fortunes

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Macau is one of the most unique places i've been to. For a non-gambler like myself, going here once is more than enough experience for me. However contrary to the usual HK-Macau trip tandem, i find it worthy to separate visiting the 2 countries in order to appreciate the quirkiness of Macau more.

    FOOD TRIP Arriving in Macau at 12mn is NOT advisable. Although it is the Vegas of the East, shops in Macau close earlier than expected. By midnight, there are only a few shops left where you can grab a bite to eat. Be sure to have a healthy meal before the flight and bring along snacks with you for the midnight and the morning after. Yup, the morning after coz people here wake up late!

    At 11am, most of the shops are still cleaning and fixing around stuff. Usually people start serving food by noon time. There are however, a few pastry shops open. Grab egg tarts and cookies there then find some milk tea. Breakfast would cost about MOP 25 (around Php150).

    For lunch, enjoy noodles from the Chinese restaurants or rice toppings. There are a lot of sidestreets where
    you can discover places to eat. But incase you get lost, the top floor of New YaoHan offers a variety of cuisines.

    Eat dinner anywhere! All shops are open during dinner time. Try portugese cuisine around Senado Square (locals call it "San Ma Lo"). However, this can be costly. Around MOP 100 (Php600) for a singl
    e dish.

    SIGHTS

    • Senado Square (San Ma Lo) - where most shops are located. Is very quiet in the mornings until 11am. Very busy at night. Watch out for the signs coz the St. Paul Ruins is very near.
    • New YaoHan - almost all the Pinoys we talked to there pointed us to the only mall in Macau. Very good way to take off the heat.
    • Guia Fortress - a long walk from Senado Square. Once there, buy a 2-way cable car pass for MOP3. Once inside the fortress, take a long walk to the lighthouse. There is a small armor museum there. This is the highest point in Macau.
    • Fisherman's Wharf - Temporarily closed but nice to take pictures. Near most of the casinos like MGM Grand or Wynn.
    • Grand Prix Musuem - amazing race cars. No entrance fee. Walkable from Fisherman's Wharf. just infront of the Gold Lotus.
    • Wine Museum - same place as with the Grand Prix Museum but the entrance fee is MOP10.
    • Maritime Museum - Learn about the history of Macau. It is right beside the A-Ma Temple. Take the bus to Barra.
    • Temples - There are a lot of temples all over. We even visited the one near the border of Guangzhou. Not much of a fan of temples but the trip near the border was an eye-opener.
    • Taipa Village - Take the bus to central Taipa. The Olympic sports complex is right beside it. Looks like a small town with a lot of restaurants. Much nicer than in Macau proper.
    ACCOMMODATIONS
    If you have money, go to the grander hotels. If you are on a budget, try the guesthouses or budget houses. Just reserve online in hotels that have email addresses then find a decent place to actually stay once you get there.

    TRANSPO

    Mostly walk. Buses have 2 end terminals so make sure you are taking the bus that is going in the right direction. Bus fares are either MOP 3.20 or 4.20 around macau. Taxi fares have a flag down rate of MOP13.

    FYI


    Wear exercise clothes. There are a lot of gym equipments scattered throughout the city. Stop to exercise your abs and obliques :P
    Bring an ipod! People in Macau don't play any music at all. Not in the shops, not in the bus, not in the malls. Not even plain house music of chinese cultural sounds much less american pop! Everything is eerie quiet. You'll go insane!
    Nobody speaks english! Ask directions from foreigners who are confused and lost as well. They might not give you answers but they understand your question and they give a sense of hope that you are not alone in wandering. You may also try asking teenagers who have a better chance of understanding you than the old grumpy people.
    Oh don't forget to
    get a tourist map from the information counter just before you leave the airport. Make sure it has english words in it!

    Basically once in Macau is enough.

    Where I've Been

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