2012

January 10th, 2012

2012, year of overblown predictions of Mayan doom. I also predict a year of less posts than last year. That’s an impressive prediction since I didn’t even reach double figures last year, in fact I barely struggled over the half-way line. Maybe it’s time for another revamp where I try and do something clever.

In any case you can follow me on various other sites where there may or may not be more information, including, but not limited to: Google Plus (and Google Schemer — mail me for an invite if you want), Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr, Twitter, Dopplr.

Normally, around the start of the year, I’d have posted some sort of resolution — but truthfully I don’t have any real ones this year. Or nothing interesting at least. I was going to resolve to travel from Manila to Edinburgh without flying, which is still something I’d really like to do but it’s not happening this year.

One last unresolved item, my resolution to visit 12 ‘new’ places over the course of the last year.

So how did I do, well in the Philippines I got to, er, one new place (Boracay) although I did go back to two places I’d been previously (Cebu, where I did manage to actually do some sightseeing and Puerto Galera, where I saw slightly more of the place than I did last time).

Outside the Philippines I fared slightly better visiting Thailand (mainly Bangkok), Cambodia (Siem Reap, Battambang, and Phnom Penhpics), and Vietnam (mostly Ho Chi Minh Citypics).

If you count places I went for work (or as side trips to work destinations) then you can add Florida, Hyderabad, Singapore, and Shenzhen, China.

So, if you’re feeling generous we can maybe call that 12 places … in any case it’s not a bad tally.

Those picture links may not work (Flickr is acting up), I’ll update them if I can — also this should serve as a reminder that there’s at least a handful of pictures that haven’t made it online yet … another thing for the To Do list.

Happy New Year everyone.

Presented without (much) comment

August 11th, 2011

Facebook Status Updates:
Facebook Word Cloud

Google Plus Updates:
Google + Word Cloud

(I’m not dead, just busy, updates may or may not return at some point later in the year)

Faulty

March 23rd, 2011

Shortly after the news of the Japanese quake hit the ‘net I started to receive concerned e-mails from people wondering if I was OK and asking why I hadn’t posted here or on Facebook to say things were fine. It was a little strange because nobody in Manila seems even faintly worried about the quake or the possible after effects. Most locals I talked to weren’t aware of the tsunami warning, or if they were they weren’t worried.

Which is fair enough, Manila was on the wrong (right?) side of the country for this one and I hear that most of the coastal areas in the danger zone were successfully evacuated. And in the end the tsunami and pretty much worn itself out by the time it hit here.

But on Monday a 5.4 magnitude quake did hit the Philippines around 50 miles out of Manila. (Looking for the details I noticed there was another one on Sunday).

There was some shaking but it wasn’t too bad, people did the normal stand-up and wonder if they should leave the building routine. There was some nervous laughter, but no-one bolted for the door. There seemed to be a little more panic on Twitter but it subsided when it became clear that this wasn’t going to turn out to be a ‘big one’.

The earthquake that hit Japan would have been around 4000 times stronger. Which is pretty scary, I can’t really imagine what that would be like. Gazing out my window at Manila I don’t want to imagine the destruction that it might cause. Even buildings that are supposed to be earthquake proof probably wouldn’t fare well in a 9.0 — and lots of the smaller buildings and shanty towns are all self built from whatever people could find.

It’s fairly clear to most people that the Philippines isn’t prepared for the a big quake, the government is working on it but I’ll not hold my breath. There’s a lot of confusion about exactly what to do, annoyingly the instructions hastily posted in my apartment building refer to the dubious Triangle of Life rather than using the more sensible advice from FEMA. Compared to Tokyo, which has defined safe gathering points and regular earthquake drills, it’s all a bit depressing.

Of course there’s nothing much I can do, it’s practically impossible to predict quakes and I knew about the Philippines and the Pacific Ring of Fire before I moved here, although I wasn’t aware that the Marikina fault line runs less than 500m from my building …

So I’ll try and do what I can and hope for the best …

Just buy the damn ticket …

February 1st, 2011

Twelve places in a year — that shouldn’t be difficult. Or at least that’s what I thought when I decided on it as a target during a drunken moment.

But the Philippines have changed how their national holidays work, previously most would be moved to the nearest Monday or Friday meaning that last year there were 16 national holidays that fell on a work day. This year there’s 7, meaning that I’m effectively working with two weeks less holiday than last year.

So I’ve been over-analyzing everything, is two nights enough? Would I be better to go for fewer longer trips, or lots of weekend hops? Is it worth the money? Etc. While fretting about this I got an e-mail from our local budget airline Cebu Pacific (think EasyJet but with singing aircrew) offering cheap flights to China at around 40 pounds each way and local flights for only a few quid. Not bad! But I continued to deliberate and by the time I decided just to book it the offer was sold out.

There’s a lesson to be learned there, and I did. So today, when they offered the same deal on trips to Bangkok, I jumped on it with as much enthusiasm as I can muster on a Tuesday morning. Upshot: I’m going to Bangkok in June and I’ve decided the best way to ensure I actually go different places is to just book it and hope for the best.

So here’s todays travel tip (which I’ve heard before, most recently on an annoying Discovery channel advert with the particularly annoying Ian Wright): Just buy the damn ticket and sort the rest out later.

Simples!

Returning …

January 13th, 2011

I think it’s normally about this time that I write a post about my feelings on returning to Manila after a few weeks back in Britain. Which is what this is, but not really. Because I managed barely 30 hours in Manila, much of it sleeping, packing, travelling, or … er … boozing and didn’t really get settled at all.

So now I’m in China. In the rat tail of the dog end of the Shenzhen in the south of China, in a hotel with no heating and not much of anything surrounding it. But I’ll leave that for the moment, I snapped a couple of pictures on my phone that I can’t upload right now. So I’ll talk about the hotel and the surroundings some other time (or maybe never if the muse leaves me again).

It’s odd having resolved to try and go different places that I find myself sitting in a hotel room writing this with a beer, instead of being out exploring. I did wander around a lot but my sense of adventure has deserted me at the moment, I don’t even feel bad that I’m not out trying something different. Sometimes I would try, sometimes I would definitely feel I should be trying, but not today.

Actually I crave familiarity, routine, the knowledge that I’m going to be in the same place for at least a few weeks. Basically I’m ready to go back and stay in Manila, or possibly a nearby beach, for a while. It was lovely to go back to the UK and see everyone, but it was all a bit hectic and here-and-there.

I was originally going to write ‘back home’ instead of ‘back to the UK’ but decided it didn’t feel right. I know I’ve definitely caught myself referring to Manila as home recently. It’s odd, I’m not sure when that happened. Or when I started to notice. Or if I should care.

So I’m here, drinking Tsing Tao, about to head to bed for the early start on this course tomorrow. And then Hong Kong and another hotel (two in fact, I need to change on the Saturday). When I think about it the longest I’ve stayed in any place for in the last twenty odd days is four nights, and I’ll have stayed in ten different places by the end the time I get back to Manila. Not to mention spending almost a tenth of that travelling around by one method or another, with another chunk spent killing time in various departure lounges.

Wow, no wonder I’m traveled out.

I doesn’t help that I’ve just been run over (well, knocked down) by a cyclist. I’m completely unhurt, but if I hadn’t already decided to abandon exploring and head back with a beer that would surely have been the sign. Too be fair I made the (understandable?) mistake of trying to speed up to get out of his way, while he swerved assuming I wouldn’t. Creating a feedback loop that led to the inevitable. However, he could have swerved behind me, which I would feel is sensible. And he had, you know, brakes. Probably.

Or he was just trying to hit me. Which is stupid, ‘cos I was fine — if a little startled — and he probably had a good chance of coming off worse. Although I didn’t hang around too much longer that a quick check to make sure he was OK, because I didn’t fancy him deciding it was my fault and us ending up in an uncompromisable shouting match in the middle of the road.

Still, Hong Kong is always good to perk me up. I get the chance for a decent sleep in, I’ve some Christmas money to use for a bit of gadgetry retail therapy. I’ve fortunately researched online to discover that that place I was going to go shopping is most likely a rip-off of some sort.

And then back to Manila to relax. Except probably not as I’ve seen some of the stuff coming up at work and it doesn’t look like the start of this year is going to be any calmer than the end of last year.

It’s enough to make me want another holiday.

Happy New Year

December 31st, 2010

Well Happy New Year everyone, I hope that 2010 was a good year and 2011 is even better.

For me 2011 sees me pretty much where I was in 2010, although a recent visit to Manila by a friend of mine made me face the realisation that I’ve not really seem as much of South East Asia, or even the Philippines, as I should have done. Which is a bit crap after 18 months living in the area.

So, for this years resolution I intend to get out of Manila and visit 12 different places over the course of the year. I’m not saying ‘new’ as there’s been plenty of places I’ve been to only briefly and places isn’t very precise, but I’m trying to make my life easy. Basically I want to get out of Manila around once a month and just by visiting places I’m comfortable with.

We’ll see how this one goes, notice that I’m not resolving to write about them …

Unresolved

December 29th, 2010

Well, that failed then didn’t it.

52 posts in a year, it ain’t happening unless I aim for around every two hours between now and the end of the year. And frankly that wasn’t the point.

I’m not sure what happened, I had lots of ideas for posts but never the motivation to write them (or at least finish them). Perhaps sitting in front of a computer for countless hours a day removes my will to do the same in the evening. Perhaps it’s the weather. Perhaps it’s just that in the back of my mind I don’t really think that what I’m writing is that interesting.

Whatever, all I can say is, sorry. I will try and post when the mood takes me, I don’t intend to let this site die on the vine but perhaps I just need to find a few more … unorthodox … things to write about.

Anyway, hope you’ve all had a Merry Christmas, let’s see what the new year will bring.

Failing …

June 15th, 2010

Well, I’m certainly failing at my plan to keep this site regularly updated — and probably failing at my resolution. Maybe I should just accept defeat, perhaps it feels too much like ‘work’ at the moment. Still I have 26 posts sitting in my drafts folder, and while most of these are just a one line idea, if I just finished half of them I’d be well on track.

I’ve been back over a month since my last jaunt to the UK. I had a great time there but this time it definitely felt more like I was coming back home. Although my homecoming wasn’t helped by an unfortunate drunken run-in with a wall a few days before, that left me returning with a corker of a bruise on my forehead and no small amount of shame. It does look like I’ll have a nice scar on the middle of my forehand, although not as bad as it might have been save for some expert patching up (cheers, Steve!)

As well as that I’d been feeling run down and generally under the weather in the UK, a cold that virtually disappeared the minute I stepped back in the humidity outside Manila airport. And so followed some long needed early nights and lazy weekends. Although I’m starting to get out and about again the weather here puts me off any longer trips — well that and the fact that I can’t really face getting on a plane again for the time being.

But the weather … the weather is insane. My first weekend I was back the skies opened and dumped rain on the city, complete with thunder, lightning, the whole works. The word I used at the time, explaining why I wasn’t venturing out the apartment to the pub, was ‘biblical’. Then, an hour after it started, it stopped. And it’s been like that ever since, most nights I can see lightning somewhere in the distance. Occasionally it move’s over where I live and the lightning starts hitting the conductors on the top of the buildings — which is pretty loud if you’re looking out the window on the 26th floor. Still it’s over quickly at the moment, no sign of the massive typhoons that battered the country last year, but it’s not quite the season for that yet. And while it’s not raining it’s just stupidly hot and humid, one place was showing 35C at the weekend. It’s no wonder everyone is feeling tired and wiped out all the time.

So what else has been going on here? Well not much. I did miss writing about one major milestone: on May the 12th I had lived in the Philippines for one year! Although given my previous visits and my frequent travelling maybe I can just call today roughly 365 days of non-cumulative Manila life. Over halfway through my official contract, time to start thinking about what I want to this time next year. To be honest I’m fairly sure I’m going to stay in Manila for a while longer, the reasons I took the job haven’t changed, the UK economy is still mostly screwed, and I hope there’s still lots of things I can contribute here. I guess I have to see how the rest of the year pans out — there’ll be far less travelling so I’ll have more chance to really see what long term life in Manila is like.

Still, lots to do before that, not least deciding if I want to move apartment again. But this post is already too long, and it’s too hot and too late here to get into the pros and cons of moving elsewhere in the city. Maybe next time.

Choice ..

May 6th, 2010

As so the UK goes to the polls (or the majority of them don’t, they ignore it and just bitch about it later — I’ll try and avoid the bitching).

For the first time I can remember I’m not voting, I could probably have managed a proxy or postal vote but I left it too late (and the Philippines postal system leaves a lot to be desired). I doubt my vote would count for much, my home constituency is solidly red and my parents — where I could also vote — solidly yellowy-orange, or whatever the Lib Dem colour is. I have to clarify as the Scottish Nationalists can’t pick a colour different enough from the other three, what’s wrong with a nice purple?

I know I should have made more of an effort to vote, but I’m honestly not sure of who to vote for. Thirteen years of Labour haven’t turned out as well as it might, the economy is in the toilet and our civil liberties are fairly shredded. I used to be very much of the mindset that “if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear” but I’m not anymore. Whilst I genuinely think that government did what it thought was best it’s left the machinery there for a later government to abuse.

Which annoyingly leads to me liking a Tory policy, as they’re looking too repeal a lot of it. Unfortunately it’s only one policy and they’ve got a bunch of really dubious candidates standing and other dubious policies to match. Although they might be the only party that wouldn’t panic the horses in the city too much, which might prove important in the long run.

The Lib Dems are dangerously close to actually having some power, and having to enact some of their policies. Something that would have been unthinkable in any other UK election I can remember. I guess they deserve a shot, but I’ve never really got over the sudden compromises the Scottish LDs made when they got a sniff of power in the Scottish government.

I’m not sure I believe the Nationalists argument that they’re still relevant in the UK parliament, previously perhaps — nowadays, not so much. And they trail a distant third or fourth in either seat I could have voted in.

Maybe I’d have voted greens or a maverick independent, who knows. I certainly don’t. I don’t know what’s going to happen next either, but I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction:

The Lib Dems vote collapses to just above it’s usual level as ‘Cleggmania’ fizzles, probably partially due to being given a stupid name. Their vote is split roughly evenly.

This gives the Conservatives the most votes and seats, but no overall majority. The LDs could make up the difference for the Tories but not for Labour who come second but with too few seats to make a coalition work.

Gordon Brown resigns in a surprisingly dignified goodbye, Nick Clegg starts to make overtures to the David Cameron but insists that electoral reform an absolute must. Cameron says no. Some newspaper makes a Man from Del Monte joke.

Cameron goes it alone and forms a minority government. The city has a bit of a fit as it realizes that this might go on for a bit, the FTSE drops along with the pound. In reaction the LDs and other smaller parties agree to support a limited Queens speech and an emergency budget and then ‘address each issue on merit’.

The opposition try and push through electoral reform, they may or may not succeed before Cameron calls it quits and goes back to the nation for a proper mandate.

All signs pointed to this being the last first-past-the-post election I would see, with reform following rapidly on it’s heels. Now I’m not so sure, I think we’ve got one more old-school election before we’ll see proportional representation … maybe more.

Bring on the trumpets …

April 27th, 2010

Almost went a whole month without updates, and still not much to say.

I really don’t know where the time is going, the weeks seem to be flying by at the moment. It’s nearly the end of April, a third of the year gone already. The first few weeks of the year seemed to really drag on and now I can barely find the time to do anything.

So what have I been doing? Well I’ve been to Sydney — which was ace, I’m surprised I managed to pack so much into the trip after spending my first weekend just relaxing and mooching around. Since I’ve been back it’s just been mental, I spent two days catching up on work then had to go on a leadership training course for the rest of the week. Giving just enough time for the work to mount up nicely again.

Meanwhile Manila has been getting slowly hotter, hitting 38C last week, and even the locals are complaining that it’s way hotter than normal. It’s going to be a long hot summer, fortunately I’m off travelling again (for work this time) in a fortnight, so I might miss the worst of the heat. And arrive back in time for the rain.

Anyway I’ve managed to get my Tokyo pictures on Flickr so I’m now only two trips behind on the pictures and about four behind on posts. I’ll try and catch up with that over the next few weeks even if I don’t manage to do that much interesting in the meantime.