That got your attention, didn’t it? Well we are being held hostage: by our luggage. We have too much stuff traveling with us so we left an entire suitcase in Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines while we traveled other parts of Asia. Now we must return to Cebu City, Philippines for the suitcase. If Tom got a job, we would want all the stuff in that suitcase, but if we want to travel, we (apparently) don’t need any of the stuff in that suitcase. However we don’t want to abandon it forever so we must go back for it. Besides, we already bought a ticket for Cebu back in September. Thus here we are: back in Cebu.
This is only a little complicated by the fact that the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are rapidly approaching. That means hotel and airline prices are going up so we probably need to hunker down somewhere and get through New Year’s.
We tried to book into ABC Hotel and Residence where we stayed before, but not only had their
prices gone up, but they didn’t have all the days we needed, including the ones when we first arrived in Cebu. We ended up booking a week in Tsai Hotel and Residences. It’s not quite as nice as ABC, but it is less expensive and there is a lot of good food close by. In fact, some of the really good restaurants we found in our previous stint in Cebu are within walking distance: Abaca, Maya, Carnivore, Circa 1900 and we found a couple of new ones: Brique and Phat Pho. Others are a short (cheap - $2.00 or less) cab ride or (even cheaper - less than 50 cents) jeepney ride away.
However, when we first arrived at Tsai we feared we wouldn’t be able to stay. The water pressure in the shower was very low (like slowly pouring a small stream of water over your head from a cup)and the shower water temperature (at best) was tepid.
*Aside* Only three times in all our travel has there been hot water in the sink. They just don’t do that in hotels in Asia.
We described our problem to the front desk. Almost immediately someone came to the room and took the shower apart and cleaned out a LOT of dirt. Then they turned up the temperature on the water heater. This made the shower tolerable if not stellar
*Aside* When we arrived our shower was in the running for worst shower ever! Now it’s somewhere in the middle of the pack. It’s really interesting to me that they had to “fix” the shower. Technically it appears that this is the “soft opening” (according to the sign in our room). So ostensibly this is a “new” (although I think it is refurbished) hotel. I would have thought that all the mechanicals would have been checked before people actually started staying in the hotel. Based on the banging we hear during the day, I think they are still working on other parts of the hotel.
There were other minor problems but the staff was very accommodating and fixes are made immediately.
Some of the best things about Tsai:
1. They change the sheets and give us fresh towels every day.
*Aside* They have old towels and new towels. The old towels are little frayed around the edges but heavy, thick and thirsty. The new towels are bright and white, but light weight. I find myself hoping for old towels which seems weird.
*Aside 2*They have a fascinating way of making up the bed. They use only flat sheets. With a flat piece of Plexiglas (with all rounded edges) about six to eight inches long and wide enough to hold in their hand, they smooth and tuck the sheets in on the sides and at the foot of the bed. It’s almost like watching a dance when you get to see them do it. The beds end up looking almost military precise when you walk back into the room.
2. There’s a good restaurant right across the street called Pino.
*Aside* We ate here several times: Osso Buco, Lamb Shank, Scaloppini (all prepared with a great mix of veggies); good salads and pizza. There are lots more things on the menu too!
3. Cabs are easy to hail right in front of the hotel and there’s usually a guard to help you with the process.
4. There is a grocery store in the small mall a block away down the street.
*Aside* We love this. We have a compact refrigerator in our room which we stock with fruit, yogurt and cheese. We wake up in the morning to make a light breakfast before we go out. This also means that often I have breakfast in bed. The fact that this is because it is the easiest place to sit doesn’t matter.
5. We have a balcony where we can look out over our section of the city, enjoy natural light and quickly assess weather conditions.
The bad things about Tsai:
1. The noise from the street sometimes seems as though it’s inside our room.
*Aside* This is a side street, not even a primary street. I can’t even imagine the cacophony if we were on the main drag.
2. There are lots (practically every day) of exuberant (REALLY LOUD AND NOISY!) holiday parties in Pino Restaurant right across the street. Their open air second floor dining room is almost at the same level of our balcony so the sound seems to flow into our room unobstructed.
3. The guard (who hails our taxis for us) LOVES the whistle he’s been issued to hail the taxis and
guide traffic and uses it often, repeatedly, seemingly right under our balcony. Not so noticeable in the daytime but quite apparent at night as you prepare for sleep.
4. Sometimes our air conditioner goes insane and tries to freeze us to death in the night.
*Aside* This is a complete mystery. The temperature on the air conditioner will be fine some nights then other nights, even though we don’t change the setting, we wake up at 1:30 AM in Antarctica.
5. There are lots of street urchins that follow you and beg when you leave the hotel.
*Aside* This was a problem when we first arrived, but it has gotten better since we’ve started saying a firm, “No!” I also think Tom might have been even more significantly emphatic one day as well. A couple of kids walked toward us the other day, as one stretched out his hand, the other looked at Tom, pulled the first by the sleeve to keep walking past us. I heard the second say to the first, “No money,” as they walked by us. We’ve already been here long enough for the street kids to know we are not an easy touch.
Be that as it may, we liked Tsai well enough to book through the 19th of December. We decided to find a place a bit nicer to spend Christmas and New Year’s. One day we walked about five miles to tour other hotels.
*Aside* It’s really fascinating that things that look so good on paper (or on the internet) are barely adequate in person.
We finally find a place we both like: The Sarrosa. It’s a little farther out, but it’s more like a Western-style hotel with thick carpets in the halls (which are hushed and quiet) and in the rooms. The room we like is significantly bigger than the room we have and there is - wait for it - an upholstered fainting couch in the room.
*Aside* That fainting couch is all mine. I was really interested to notice how much the carpet absorbed the sound. Most hotels throughout Asia have all tile hallways and rooms for ease of cleaning. It also means that hallway acts as an echo chamber for anyone talking outside your door. If small children are allowed to run and play in the hallway . . . well, let’s just not talk about it.
We place a reservation for December 19th through January 3rd.
We thought a job for Tom would dictate where we go next, but with no job in sight we now need to choose what’s next. I create profiles on a couple of house sitting/pet sitting websites, applying for several sits. We both liked Thailand, but Chaing Mai is a good deal more than a plane ride away and we still haven’t forgotten that the hardest beds we’ve ever slept on were all in Thailand.
We explore our neighborhood, settle into a routine, talk about where to go next and what to do, but don’t reach a conclusion. We go to the mall, go to the movies, eat great food and walk a lot.
Aside About Sidwalks and Walking in Cebu* Some sidewalks are fine with only the occasional up and down for driveways and minor obstacles, but some sidewalks are so convoluted that you can’t stop watching your feet for fear of falling. Then in some areas there are no sidewalks at all or the sidewalk has been completely sacrificed for parking. On Salinas Drive - the main thoroughfare at the end of our street - one side of the street is insanely up and down and hazardous while the other side is a seemingly “normal” sidewalk. I think as new buildings go up, the sidewalks are fixed, but in some areas old, unregulated building has created infringement on the sidewalks to the point of making them non-existent and downright dangerous.
Our routine becomes: wake up; make and eat breakfast; make a plan for the day which usually involves figuring out our eating for the day: two more light meals or holdout for a significant early dinner. Once in awhile we go to the mall. One night we walked down to the food market, Subgo Mercado in the IT Park for dinner. I write the blog and do yoga. Tom scans scuba jobs online. We play games on our phone and are bored out of our minds in a 21 square meter room (that's 226 square feet if you need the conversion) which includes the bathroom (and the balcony, I think).
*Aside* We make repeat visits to Circa 1900 and Brique. Occasionally we go to A Cafe Bakery at Ayala Mall for breakfast. For those who know Columbus, Abaca is like a blend of Skillet and Pistacia Vera (two of my favorite places in the world!!) It would be way too easy to eat here every day! On Tuesdays we go to Taco Tuesday at Maya Mexican Restaurant one of the restaurants in the Abaca group. Every one of their restaurants we’ve tried have been excellent: Beqaa (Middle Eastern), Phat Pho (Vietnamese), Abaca Bakery, Maya Mexican. They have a standard of quality and taste that matches anything in the US. I swear the Bun I ate at Phat Pho was the best I’ve ever eaten! Anywhere!
Then we got a House Sit! Well actually a pet sit. We will go back to Kuala Lumpur from December 19th through January 2nd to baby sit a puppy named Rosie (she’s actually ten months old so almost full grown) while her human family goes on holiday. We will stay in their house, enjoy their pool and spend OUR holidays in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Now we need that pesky suitcase. Decisions must be made.
*Aside* Opening the suitcase was almost like getting a present. We packed it over three months ago so we really can’t remember what is in it.
We threw away everything that wasn’t essential. We packed our extra suitcase (because we now have three in addition to the carry on) with everything that needs to go home. We researched expat forums for the best way to send the stuff we don’t need back to the US and went off to find a Philippines Post Office. When we finally found it in a closet in Gaisano Country Mall our hearts sunk. There was no way we could ship this from here.
*Aside* I know you think I’m exaggerating but the office was LITERALLY four feet by five feet. Tom insists it wasn’t more than four feet by four feet, but if the girl had not been a really skinny Filipina, she wouldn’t have fit in the office, let alone though the door! But this was not the first rodeo for this skinny Filipina girl.
She came out with two boxes, a roll of official Philippines Post Office tape and proceeded to tape that suitcase into a shipping box. With any luck in twenty-five to thirty days my family will receive our box. For about $100 we shipped our suitcase home.
So now we are back down to two suitcases at under 30 kilos each (about 66 pound if you need the conversion): heavy, but manageable. And we have a plan: we’re going to KL for the holidays to play with an eight week old puppy. This should be great! About the time we get tired of cleaning up after a dog, her real mommy and daddy will come home to take over! Perfect!