Best Laid Plans
Friday, July 1, 2016 Back in Manila We booked an adorable little AirBnB condo - actually another Avida Tower unit, but more north and slightly west of our original Manila, Makati location. The space is smaller than the previous space - all one room - but two walls are completely full of built-in closets and shelves with doors. Even the tiny efficiency kitchen closes up and disappears. The refrigerator has matching door faces so it also disappears. You can fold up the table, pulling out the bench to reveal a second double bed released from under the raised primary double bed. Most of one wall has a tropical island scene wallpapered across it (even on the underside of the fold up table!). The best part may be there is tons of light: recessed lights all around the edges in addition to the two large ceiling lights, one over the “living area” and the other over the bed. We find this to be unusual in the Philippines. Things tend to be “under lit” probably because electricity is expensive. We can see to unpack all our gear, stowing it on the shelves, closing the doors and “Viola!”all the clutter disappears. It’s amazing and calming: breathe a sigh of relief. *Aside* I could cheerfully live in this condo. Of course Tom would have to live somewhere else - maybe next door or something - because there really is only room for one person day in and day out for the rest of our lives. There is a single window about 3 feet by 3 ½ feet. Since we are on the tenth floor, we now have an impressive view over this part of Manila. *Aside* The coolest thing is that there are three steps leading up to a “walkway” beside the “upper bed level.” The third “landing-strip” step along the outer window wall provides the perfect place to sit, looking out. It only disturbs me a little that you can open the window and with no screen or bars there is nothing to stop you from just going right on out the window. But I close the window and promise myself I won’t think about it. Much. We have plans for Manila this time. We want to visit the VA Clinic again so Tom can pick up some prescriptions. We’d like to walk through Rizal Park and visit the National Museum of the Philippines and maybe a couple of other “cultural” outings. We need to buy a new battery charger for Tom since the original one went kaplewy. We have a “Big Binondo Wok-ing Tour” scheduled for Saturday morning at 8:55 am and we scheduled a meal with our friend Walter on Sunday. *Aside* Remember Walter? He helped us at the train station last time we were in Manila. Binondo Church - our meeting place for the “Wok-ing Tour” - is about fifteen to twenty minutes away by cab. Rebecca doubles that, figuring we should leave the condo at about 8:15 at the latest. We head downstairs just after 8:00am. The cab is slow to arrive, but we’re still on the road by about 8:15am. The driver turned in the opposite direction Rebecca expected. She hauled out her phone -that Filipino Smart Sim card is paying off big time - and sure enough we’re headed in the wrong direction. Ivan, our guide for the tour sent out an early morning email to let us know that several bridges were closed for a movie filming. Rebecca related this information to the driver, who nonetheless whisked them in the wrong direction across the only open bridge. When the other bridge he wanted to use was closed, “I told you so” was pretty pointless. We spent one hour and a half in the cab trying every which way but up, to get to Binondo. We finally arrived to text Ivan who directed us to their location.
Luckily we only missed the first stop, finding the group (using the phone’s trusty GPS again) at Quick Snack in Chinatown. We sampled fried tofu which was actually delicious -truly I could eat that stuff on a regular basis; noodles with a greens like spinach and beef that had a yummy “beef stew” flavor; and a wrapped but not fried spring roll. Next it was really hard to resist eating my weight in Northern Chinese dumplings at Dong Bei Dumplings. They were the most delicious dumplings I’ve ever put in my mouth. I want to go back to Manila just to eat them again. We had cold mango soup with transparent tapioca pearls. We sampled some different fruits; some interesting sweets; and some sweet, sour and very salty preserved things like ginger, plums and blueberries. I suspect I got my full portion of salt (and probably nitrates) for the year in that sampling. The best part? At the end Ivan gave us a map of Chinatown with all the restaurants and stores we visited and a bunch more that couldn’t fit on the tour. I’ve got to go back to Chinatown for more food!
*Aside* While we’re in Chinatown, we turn couple of corners to a store that says it has the battery charger Tom needs, but no go. It looks like the one, but it’s actually the wrong size. Back at the condo the internet gives us another location. This time we verify via text that the charger is in stock then head off to buy one. Our taxicab driver tries his best to scam us, but we ignore his cries of, “My meter is not working right,” give him his money and get out of the cab. No matter: ultimately we procure said charger. The store owner helps us “grab cab” (another version of Uber) back to our lodgings. One item checked off the list of things to do. As arranged, we meet Walter and his sister Divine at Bistro Remedio for some local Filipino food- about 45 minutes south of our condo location at 1:00 pm on Sunday. We planned to leave early in the morning, visiting the National Museum on the way, but we needed to finalize our plans for Palawan, the next leg of our trip. That moved the National Museum to Monday after we go to the VA. We have a fabulous meal with Walter and his sister including the restaurant specialty “Bamboo Rice.” They steamed the rice inside a bamboo sleeve then tap, tap, tap the bamboo until it splits in half, serving you round slices of rice from the bamboo ‘dish’. It was delightful. We sat and talked, eating such a leisurely meal that we had no appetite for dinner. Monday bright and early we head to the VA. I can only say we may be just a little disconnected from the reality of home in the U.S. This hit us when we arrived at the front door of the V. A. Clinic to find it closed for the 4th of July. Well duh! We obviously were not thinking straight. The next hit came when we found that the National Museum, like the Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio USA, is closed on Mondays, but free on Sundays. Fallback plan? Lunch at Mall of Asia. We skipped the Biggest Bouncy House in the World and went straight to mani-pedis. Nothing makes you feel better about yourself than some pampering.
I’ve talked about Halo Halo before. Walter advised us that the best Halo Halo is at Razon Restaurant. It just so happenes that there is a Razon at Mall of Asia. It’s definitely different from the Halo Halo we had at ChowKing but very delicious. I’ll be watching for Razon Restaurants from now on. We wanted to stop at an ATM, but the sky was darkening and the wind was coming up as well. We decided that we should grab a cab before it started raining because getting one after it started raining would not only be difficult but also miserable. Sure enough, about 10 minutes into the cab ride it started pouring raining which made the traffic come to a grinding halt. *Aside* It’s the rainy season in Asia so it rains some almost every day. It often rains around 4 or 5 o’clock. If it doesn’t rain at 4 or 5 o’clock, it will probably rain all night making the streets and sidewalks mucky and unappealing the next day. When it rains, it appears there is no place for the majority of the water to go. It will rain fiercely, then water will pool in low areas flooding some streets. This is exactly what happened to us in our cab. It may seem odd, but we were actually grateful to be stuck in the cab for over an hour rather than on the street trying to find a cab for over an hour. Finally back at the cutest condo ever, we again packed our bags. Tuesday morning we will board the 2Go Ferry for a 36 hour ride to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. Catch you in Palawan! Wish I could have eaten some dumplings for you! Wish I could eat some more dumplings now! Who wants to bet we’ll be back in Manila again?