58. 7 Seconds

from “Man”, Neneh Cherry (with Youssou N’Dour), 1994. 

After a few days of living in Makati we’ve already begun to get a feel for the way some things are done here in the Philippines, much like we did when we were first in Japan (see blog post 23. Turning Japanese). And obviously it’s not always quite what you expect or are used to back home.

Pedestrian Lights

7 seconds is approximately how long the green pedestrian crossing sign lights up for on Manila’s roads. Basically you need to step it up pronto to cross, and that’s still with cars trying to drive over the crossing while you’re using it. Be bold, be brave, but most of all be quick when crossing.

One-/Two-Way Streets

Still on the roads there are, at least in Makati, quite a lot of one-way streets. However, on the weekends and holidays, these turn into two-way streets.

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One-Way – ah but it doesn’t actually say if it becomes (a) two-way, or (b) the other way, on Sat. Sun. & Hol. does it?

From our experience so far this seems to be just as confusing for us as it is for everyone else. We’ve seen quite a few vehicles doing three-point turns on the one-/two-way roads and looking like they don’t really know which way they want to go, or so it seems.

As we’ve learned from Thailand, it pays to look both ways regardless of the stated direction of traffic.

Shopping Bags

Shops here in the Philippines give you paper bags for your shopping. Er, have you seen the rain this time of year and what water does to paper? Never mind the fact they don’t have handles. Oh good grief!

Park Music

We visited the the nearby Washington Sycip Park for a stroll around and discovered that there is music played from speakers hidden away in the bushes and trees. And with such classics as It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones, and It’s A Heartache by Bonnie Tyler, there’s certainly something for discerning ears of all kinds 😉

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Washington Sycip Park – bring some wire-cutters if you want  peace and quiet.

We’ve yet to discover if the music is unique to this park or whether it’s a Filipino thing. Watch this space – but maybe with earplugs in.

Posting Mail

Unlike the Post Office and Royal Mail services in the UK – and mail in other countries we’ve visited – the Philippines seems to do things a little differently. Firstly there are no post boxes on the street so to post your mail you need to visit a post office. This is also the only place you can buy stamps. So basically you need a post office in order to be able to do anything with your mail, and there are not many post offices around that we’ve seen.

So with mail in hand, we headed off to the Makati Central Post Office, around 20 minutes walk away. The post office was somewhat archaic, with lots of counters, and no technology or self-service machines. It took a few moments to work out which was the best counter to queue for – basically the one with the most people, who were also trying to buy stamps funnily enough.

We had to queue for 30 minutes which included a fun game of “musical chairs”: you sit on the plastic seats that are tied together with string and everyone shuffles along one place when the person in Seat 1 gets called to the counter. The queue wasn’t helped by the fact that the person at the counter when we arrived had literally hundreds of letters he wanted posting – it looked like a marketing campaign and he was getting them all franked manually. Fortunately they did open another counter to allow the growing queue behind him to be served.

Philip decided he wanted to send the birthday card he was posting as registered mail so we had an additional post office adventure as we had to go to Window 106. This was located at the back of the sorting room and no one batted an eyelid as we went – as directed – behind the counters and through the sorting room in search of Window 106. We found it with no problem – resisting the temptation to help with the mail sorting as we passed through – and so the birthday card was delivered into the tender mercies of PhilPost (no pun intended).

Will it arrive OK? We’ll keep you posted 🙂

57. It Won’t Be Long

from “Singles”, Alison Moyet, 1995.

Well now lovely Alison that is where you’re just a little bit wrong. Let us explain.

We arrived in Manila, capital of the Philippines, for our first visit to the country. And, as it’s quite near Philip’s birthday, we decided to make the start of our stay a little bit special and so checked into Raffles (darling!) in the Makati district. We’ve not stayed at a Raffles hotel before though have stayed at some of the Mandarin Oriental chain so were hoping for a similarly posh experience.

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Raffles Makati – the main lobby. Swanky.
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Raffles Makati – the Writers Bar where guests can enjoy complimentary afternoon tea and evening cocktails and canapes. Classy.

The hotel is located in Makati, which is is one of the sixteen cities that make up Manila as a whole, and it is home to many of the city’s financial institutions and embassies, as well the main shopping malls and cultural venues. So all in all a good place to start the Filipino adventure.

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Raffles Makati – the rooftop pool just near our suite. Handy.

Obviously the most famous of the Raffles hotels is the one in Singapore, home to the Singapore Sling cocktail which was created in the hotel’s famous Long Bar. And as we discovered as we explored the hotel, the Raffles Makati has reproduced the Long Bar from Raffles Singapore. As such it seemed rude not to venture in, coo appreciatively at the very long bar, and partake of a Singapore Sling.

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Raffles Makati – the reproduced Long Bar from Raffles Singapore. Lengthy. Tut, blooming Pokemon GO players get everywhere.

Not only did they serve the classic Singapore Sling but there was also the Makati Singapore Sling, which was a slight variation on the original and included 24k gold flakes sprinkled on the top! And as well as copying the Long Bar, the Raffles Makati has also copied the tradition allowing patrons to throw peanut shells from the bar snacks on the floor of the Long Bar; apparently this is the only form of littering permitted in otherwise mega-clean Singapore. And again it seemed rude not to join in so we partook of a little littering ourselves.

So the Philippines is off to a classy and swanktastic start ahead of our moving to our Airbnb condominium just a few minutes down the road from the hotel. And we’re already planning to head back to Raffles Makati for dinner to celebrate Philip’s birthday in a week’s time. What ho, rather!

56. Your Funny Uncle

from “Alternative”, Pet Shop Boys, 1995.

One of our favourite places to visit in Bangkok is the Thailand Creative & Design Centre (TCDC) in Phrom Phong (พร้อมพงษ์). The TCDC was established in 2004 to promote creativity and design particularly with an emphasis on Thai-led work. As part of this it provides a library and other creative resources for people to use. It also holds a number of exhibitions throughout the year in its two large galleries to display and showcase various works, and these have proven to be very interesting during our visits over the years.

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The latest exhibition we attended last week was “Business Humour” and it explored, with a definite Thai perspective, the use of humour in media as a way of promoting and expanding business. The exhibition started with a short film (in Thai but with English subtitles) that explained how humour was very effective as a way to get across messages and bring people together. It featured elements from various films including The Matrix and Shaolin Soccer – notable for being the only football related thing we will watch!

Most of the remainder of the exhibition featured advertisements from both Thai and international sources that used humour to convey their messages and thus in many cases their products. Our favourite was the “Dumb Ways To Die” safety campaign from the Melbourne Metro.

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“Dumb Ways To Die” features animations of, well, dumb ways to die, accompanied by a little song that was quite difficult to get out of your head. Here it is:

Another reason we enjoy the TCDC is the 2B Café located next to the TCDC’s library and resource centre. This is a great little café with lots of space, interesting city views and is always relaxed and peaceful. But most importantly it serves the best salmon and scrambled eggs on toast we know of on planet Earth. The people who run the café can pretty much guess what we want now whenever we pop along for a bit of lunch. In fact it’s invariably lunch first and exhibits second when we go to the TCDC.

There is also a nice little gift shop that sells lots of stuff that has been associated with past and present exhibitions at the TCDC, so it’s a good place to pick up some more unique items.

The TCDC is not your usual touristy attraction and is often quite quiet except for those using the study facilities it offers. This is good: there will be all the more salmon and scrambled eggs for us! 🙂

55. Relax

from “Welcome to the Pleasuredome”, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1983.

So we are back in Bangkok after our three months in Japan and will stay here for four weeks before we go – for the first time – to the Philippines. Our time in Japan was pretty much full on with all manner of seeing and doing as we wanted to make the most of our time there, especially as we moved around several cities. All of which is to say that now it is time for a little downtime and relaxation.

We decided to use Airbnb again for our accommodation, and especially so as the condominium where we are staying is actually next to our own condominium of The Park Chidlom. So not only are we in a very familiar area of town, but we also get to use our own condo’s facilities such as the swimming pool and gym. It’s the next best thing to having our apartment back from our tenant 🙂

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The Park Chidlom – what a lovely pair of pinnacles.
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The Park Chidlom – all lit up.

And we’ve got quite a nice city view too, overlooking the British Embassy (handy for a quick escape to Blighty) and some of the new developments in the Chitlom area.

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Airbnb condo – our view from the 20th floor.
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Airbnb condo – our nighttime view.

It’s the rainy season here so, while most of the day is usually good weather, you can get sudden downpours; a timely reminder of which we received on the way to the Eat Me Restaurant a few days ago. The rain sends everyone either indoors – so the malls are even busier than usual – or onto public transport, so our trip to the restaurant was on a very packed BTS Skytrain (รถไฟฟ้า) indeed. It pays to never leave without an umbrella to keep the worst of the rain off if you do get caught in a downpour, and we always have our trendy little Muji pocket brollies for all our travels. Fortunately we didn’t get too wet for our meal, especially as Eat Me is one of the best restaurants we visit in Bangkok and no one wants soggy diners!

A few days later we also had to switch to Emergency Plan B when heading out to the riverside restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – the rain suddenly hit again and so we jumped off the BTS Skytrain early and headed to another favourite restaurant: Luce at the Eastin Hotel. Fortunately there are lots of options for eating without getting wet once you make it onto the Bangkok train system – thank goodness for covered walkways.

We’ve also taken in a movie – Star Trek Beyond – at one of the many cinemas in Bangkok. The cineplexs here really are very good, lots of big screens and in very upmarket venues. You can see a latest film for as little as £3 – or if you want a first class experience with reclining chairs, free snacks, private lounge access and more, you can stump up around £18. All of which is to say you can catch a movie and the price will suit any pocket. We’re planning to catch a few more while in town, so it’s popcorn at the ready.

So all in all we’re getting in some quality downtime and intend to keep doing so for just a little while longer yet.