Well, I think I had left you on my day's random sightseeing in Manila. Not, as I have mentioned, the capital city most blessed with historic buildings etc. but an interesting place to visit nonetheless. Whilst I enjoy fine cathedrals, old buildings, museums and the like it is not the reason I travel. I travel to walk about the back streets, often in places that other travellers tell me I shouldn't go, and actually learn something about the place "as is" forgetting the sanitised history presented in the tourist attractions. Yes, people say I am mad but I have not come to grief yet and I know what to look out for. I think my idea of Hell would be one of those "if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium" kind of ten countries in 14 days coach trips. Certainly, they have their place for people who are not confident enough to travel independently and I am not knocking them, I would rather someone travelled that way than not at all. It's just not for me as you may have guessed if you have read some of my other posts on this blog.
I am now going to wax lyrical yet again about travelling and I make no apology for it. I could sit here now and find a lot of quotes on the internet from much more articulate people than myself, but I won't.
The Philippines is, on on one level, just another country in Asia that I have been lucky enough to visit, but that is to do it a disservice. Certainly, there are similarities to the other Southeast Asian countries I have visited and yet it it quite different in many ways. What does not seem to change, however, is the unfailing friendliness of people in this region. In contrast to Western Europe, a smile seems to be the default position here. I am not suggesting for one minute that you should try to cross these people or be smart, there is little in the way of law here and you could fall foul but if you approach people in a friendly manner you genuinely will have no problems. I told my Filipina mate Isa, who I have mentioned before, about taking a late night walk through the Santa Cruz market and she was appalled. She said she would not do it. I had the most wonderful time chatting with the guys in broken English and just taking in the atmosphere. At one point I was sitting topping and tailing baby carrots with a Stanley knife for a guy whilst he dealt with a customer. My veg prepping duties over, I toddled off to an all night fast food joint and had a couple of the best egg banjoes (military term, basically a fried egg sandwich) I have ever eaten. I am always aware of my surroundings and I never felt in the slightest threatened. Did the package tourists staying in he flash hotels in Makati ever get this? I doubt it. OK, that's my becoming fulsome about international travel over, and I shall now return to normal blogging duties. Those that know me know how passionate I am about this.
The next day (11th January), I had arranged to meet with Hansi and Lori, Claus, and Valerie from Singapore or KL, I believe. She is working in Manila on some huge project. If you are coming on this post fresh I shall explain briefly and apologies to my threee regular readers! The main purpose of my trip to the Philippines was to attend a meeting of friends from the website Virtual Tourist, for which I write. Hansi and Lori are a lovely retired married couple from Canada who travel extensively and are wonderful company. Claus is my slightly crazy Danish mate who I meet up with in various odd corners of the world, and Valerie I had never met before but turned out to be a simply delightful dining companion.
The venue chosen was Oody's Thai restaurant in the Greenbelt shopping centre. Well, Greenbelt 3 to be precise. I got off the MRT and have never seen such an array of shopping centres. It makes Westfield in London look tame in comparison. The only hassle about it is (apart from navigation) the security. As you enter each of the numerous individual malls, as they are called here, your bag is searched and often your body swept with a scanner. Honestly, in the worst days of Northern Ireland in the 1970's I do not remmeber security ever being as tight as this.
Eventually, I got to the venue and it was a good choice. I don't tend to eat too much in the heat of the day in these parts, so a Sukothai was called for, a sort of hearty soup. The image gives an idea. It was delicious but the find of the day was the lemongrass juice. I must find a recipe for it, it is delicious and I have never seen it before.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with Claus transsexual spotting in a certain part of the Greenbelt complex. OK, a strange thing to do but we wanted to go to a praticular bar for a drink and it just so happens that is where the transsexual and transgendered community hang out. I have to say, they were generally nowhere near as convincing as their Thai counterparts. When we had tired of gender guessing, we retired to the place he was staying on Adriatico for an evening of beer and guitar playing. Another fine day.