Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Wow, the year has gone so fast and before I know it, 2008 has come to an end. Just finalizing my divorce and I was not too crazy to spend the holidays alone. So I called my daughter, Tifani who happening to be traveling all over the world for a year and a couple of months. "Hi Princess, did you want to spent the holidays with your mommy?" I asked. "ummmmm....I don't think so, Mom!" she replied. "Well, why don't you come and see me instead?" She asked. "Okay" I swallowed her response, trying not to take it personally."Mom, pick a country. You have a multiple choice of meeting me in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or Thailand! Why don't we meet in Bangkok?" Tifani suggested since she's been on a road trip with her Dad all over Asia for a couple of months now. " I could use a break from my father" she added. "Now, this sounds more interesting for me." I thought. If I don't see her now, I won't see her this year at all! Wow, life is too short and I can't let a year pass without seeing my one and only beloved daughter.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007


All my bags are pack and I'm ready to go. Today, I am flying to Frankfurt, Germany and saying good bye to my doggies, actually my babies. They seem to know that something was up. They saw me packing and just kept me company until I got my act together. Up to the final goodbye, they did not want to take the treat out of my hand nor did they like to pose for this picture. Goodbye, doggies, my little babies.


Met my sister at the airport. I am glad that my sister was able to come with me. She did not know until 1:00am (a few hours before take off) that she was making this trip with me. What a relief! I was happy that she could come. My sister really can't plan things way ahead. She prefers to live her life, one day at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time.


Security in San Francisco was on high alert orange due to the event that happened in Glasgow, London, a week earlier. It was no wonder that cars were not allowed to park at the airport, and particularly this time, all approaching cars and their trunks were inspected. You have to be at the airport at least 3 hours before you fly. One hour to check in and another hour to go through security. The moment you catch your breath, they are already calling the passengers for boarding.


Many middle eastern people were racially profiled and as soon as I made a comment to my sister, she was selected too. Bummer! As for me, they let my backpack go through the ringer 3 times, and nitpicked my bag of toiletries. Finally they decided to throw half of my personal care products unless I come up with a Ziploc bag. Wow, what a hassle. I decided to do without it, since I really don't feel like going through the whole security round again. At least my load was lighter, but how the hell can I survive without my face? :)


Finally we made the flight! After going through the hassles of the long line, I can sleep like a log at the airplane.


Janine, an acquaintance of 20 years, met us at the airport. But someone else who was overjoyed to see us, waving and jumping for our attention. I thought to myself, "Who is this person?"

When she came closer I realized it was my daughter Tifani. I was so beat up and exhausted from the 12 hour trip and did not recognize my daughter at a distance. I thought I was going to meet her in Heidelberg in the next couple of days. But she surprised us.


It was good that she came to meet us so we could decide what trip we were going to take. We were considering countries that we haven't all been yet. This was a tough call since my daughter and I had been almost all over Europe. We had an invitation from our cousin to visit Dubai. We could not make up our minds if we were going to fly to Dubai, Egypt or Israel, depending on the packages and our budget. My sister was excited about Egypt because of the Belly Dance culture. She was also taking Belly dance course and did some shows herself. My daughter and I did not mind checking out the pyramid. We finally decided on a reasonable last minute package tour to Egypt. We all agreed we got a good deal for such a short notice and in the middle of a high season. Egypt here we come!



Before we flew to Egypt, my sister and I spent a few days in Frankfurt catching up with old friends. This was home to me for the last 18 years. Looking back, I could never imagine how I survived the winters. Every year, I swore to myself it was going to be my last winter. It's been 6 years since I last visited. This visit was important to me although I did not have the time to see all my friends. I did get to see the important people in my past life and that is all that matters.

It was nice to hang out and catch up with my good friend Janine. Her son did not recognize me anymore since he was only a baby when I last saw him. Janine had visited me in Cebu too. Since than, we always made a point to contact each other on each other's birthday's, Christmases and we sent postcards to each other when we were away on vacation.

Her residence was strategically located in a good neighborhood in Frankfurt, and at a walking distance to the city too. Just across the street where she lived, was a very beautiful botanical park in Frankfurt called the "Palmengarten". They have exotic plants and a beautiful park to stroll with your kids and loved ones. We strolled in the park although my sister and I were familiar with all the tropical plants. They also held concerts and exhibits. At that time, they had an exhibit of the pyramids. What a coincidence. We were happy to look into it, although we knew we were going to visit the real thing in the next couple of days.


From Janine's house my sister and I walk to the Alte Opern (Old Opera). They have lots of shows here like broadway and musicals except Operas. This is normally shown in "Theaterplatz". I know Frankfurt very well, as this was formerly home to me. I know it by feet, by bike, by car, as well as every streetcar and cable car routes and back roads. But the best way to show my sister Frankfurt was by foot. We walked for almost 4 hours everywhere, as I recollected the places where I lived before, the people I have encountered and my experiences.

We watch free street entertainment as well as visited tourist spots like the "Rathaus" in Frankfurt and some museums. As far as I remember this was the place where the last emperor was crowned. They renovated the whole place but kept the old facade since most of them have been bombed and destroyed during the second world war.



Later in the afternoon, Dirk picked us up. I have known dirk for 23 years. I think I met him shortly after I gave birth to my daughter Tifani. He seemed to find me everywhere I went, even to the ends of the earth and made sure that we always kept in touch. He was pretty good with following birthdays, and holidays too. He picked us up from Janine's house and we stayed with his family the following day. The years has taken a toll of him since he sounded cynical.


"People can be married for a long time, but can be divorced in their minds.", he said. "Furthermore, People stay together for many reasons like children or even have a baby to fix the relationship", he continued. "What was he trying to tell us?" I asked my sister. "Maybe they are having problems?!" she responded. Nosey as we were, it was really none of our business.

Finally Egypt, here we come!

We boarded Air Berlin, from Frankfurt to Hurghada. I have never heard of this place before but it seems like a popular tourist vacation spot. We arrived in Hurghada in the middle of the night. The air was warm and muggy and I was glad that we arrived in the evening because it would have been really unbearably hot during the daytime.

We finally found our bus and were anxious to get to our hotel. As we loaded our luggages, the bus boy demanded a tip even before we could loaded. He was almost threatening, that we were compelled to dish out just anything in fear that he would not take our luggage in. Talking about harassments in the middle of the night in a foreign country.

I remember experiencing this in India. Everytime I arrived in the middle of the night the taxi drivers never brought me to the hotel I wanted but rather to a hotel they would get commission from. It was always a "pain..." but who can fight and argue in the middle of the night, tired and weary from a long flight?"

We finally got to our hotel and instantly liked it. We could not wait for the next day, to start exploring our area.

We got to our hotel in the early hour of the morning, so we missed our breakfast which were served at certain times only. We had an orientation meeting in one of the rooms, and my sister was falling asleep, since she did not understand a word of German. It seems like everyone in the hotel spoke German, and it was hard to find anyone who spoke English.
After the orientation, we walked under the scorching blistering sun. No wonder people took siestas in the afternoons and stay up til' nighttime. Shops are open until 12 midnight and really there is no place to be but in the water or inside an air-conditioned room or building.


For the next couple of days hereafter, we enjoyed the pool, massages, dinners with entertainment, and shopping. Hurghada is a small town that was born just 20 years ago by the Red Sea.

It is called the Red Sea, because when the sun shines on it, the sea takes a color that is literally red.

It started with only 25 hotels by the beach and now there are more than 400+ hotels, and they are still building. We noticed only male employees and were wondering where the women were?

Most of the employees came from Cairo or Alexandra. Most of them are professionals with degrees but since they could not find work, they have migrated to places that is more profitable for them like Hurghada. Few women travel alone that is the reason why there are less women employees. Most of them speak incredibly fluent German rather than English. You would think that they have lived in Europe although they have lived here all their lives.

egypt storeThe vendors were persistent in drawing you to their shops. If you don't politely refuse, you can get stuck in their shops and if you don't buy anything, they get mad.

Of course, we cannot visit Egypt without seeing the Pyramids. So we booked a bus tour to Cairo. We really felt safe in Hurghad, but not Cairo. For our safety, we drove in a convoy of more or less 15 tourist buses.

buses to egypt

The drive to Cairo was only 6 hours from Hurghada, but because of our stop-overs it actually took 8 hours long. The bus ride was very comfortable, and the scenic view was awesome. It was also great to have a good book, my IPOD and the company of my lovely daughter and sister.

I was taking so much pictures along the way, that when we got to Cairo, my camera ran out of battery. Typical me. It it was desert along the way, and it reminds me of the deserts in northern Chile, when I took the bus rides from Chile to Peru which lasted a couple of days.

egypt desert

When we got to Cairo, we had dinner in a simple restaurant. Dinner was very good, but my tummy was very bad from trying all the exotic food and sauces.

Traffic was just as bad as manila.We noticed that most of the buildings were under construction. It was explained to us that the Egyptian families grow horizontally. When a son or a daughter marries, they continue to build one floor higher for the new family. This way additions to the houses are being added continuously. So a house construction is never done or finished.

There were many poor and homeless people who live in the cemetery. that is why they call one portion of the city as the "City of the Dead". Many poor and homeless people in my country live in the cemetery too.

Crime rate is high in Cairo like in all big cities of the world. The bus driver dropped us off to a public bazaar and it was interesting to see all the exotic products and wares. The local merchants could not guess where we (my sister, daughter and I) were coming from, so they switch from one language to another trying to strike up a conversation with us to lure us to their shops. They thought that we were either spanish or Italian. It was fascinating that they could speak Spanish fluently than switch to German or English easily. I would really be amazed if someone spoke to us in Japanese or Chinese.

From the Bazaar we took a late night Nile cruise. It was just awesome to be in the big modern buzzling city of Cairo. The night was so alive. There were many people outside since it's too hot during the day and people prefer to socialize in the evening. Stores are open til' midnight or early morn.

The next day, we drove to see the Pyramids. It was so fascinating to see one of the 8th wonders of the world right before my eyes, like a dream come true. I can't believe I am really seeing it in person. The pyramids is 5 minutes drive away from the city. But from the city we can already see it.

There were many tourists arriving in their buses. Tourism is one of the top national income of the country. We entered the second pyramid because the tickets for the first pyramid was already sold out. I would not advise this to people who are claustrophobic. We had to crawl in a very tiny dark tunnel for 20 minutes and it sure was scary just to see an empty tomb. Of course the treasures have been taken to the museum and probably distributed to different museums in the world if they were not stolen. There were a total of 3 pyramids and there are still lots of chambers waiting to be discovered.

pyramid in cairo egypt

When we returned to Hurghada, we rested for a day than we joined a jeep safari to enjoy the desert, watch a sunset and peek into a Bedouin family's inner sanctum. My sister and my daughter wanted to ride a camel, but I was not particularly crazy about it. I remember riding a camel in Jaipur India once, and did not relish the experience at all.

Our group consisted of 8 -10 jeeps and they raced the desert like a madman. The videographer were pulling hollywood stunts that could raise some eyebrows, and we named him spiderman.
They had us all climb to the top of the
mountain and get a view of the desert. Climbing to the top of the mountain in the scorching heat of the sun was not fun at all. My sister Conni got very sick and we were very concerned for her. But she survived.

After we got to the top, we slid down the sand to the bottom. It was a nice pleasant experience except for the sand getting into our shoes and clothes. Refreshments were available for the fearless.

After my sister and my daughter got their high from the camel rides we watch a Bedouin family weave a carpet, and bake bread. They also tried to sell us some handmade souvenirs and herbs. It was a bit pricey but I preferred to buy from them to support the tribes rather than enriching the hustler merchants in the city. In the late afternoon, we climb another mountain to watch the sunset. A real sumptuous Egyptian dinner awaited us, and for dessert we smoked tabak from a traditional water pipe.

egyptian sunset

We returned to our hotel in Hurghada the next day. The rest of the days, we just laid back and enjoyed the sun, the sea, and the Egyptian night life. There were shows every night at the hotel, with Belly dancers, Nubian dancers, and a travelling theater group from Italy.

belly dancer

The best and famous Belly Dancers come from Egypt. They earn a reputable $1000+ /hour.

The Dancer in our hotel was charming but she was thrusting her breast at the guest' face and gyrating her hips to their bodies screaming for a tip. She looked like she was lap dancing instead. Of course, the locals disowned her, and claims she was not an Egyptian but a Russian.

belly danceMy sister and daughter danced to their hearts content. Like all vacations, time flies faster and good times have to end. I really enjoyed the trip and was able to spend quality time with my daughter and sister.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

When we returned from our excursion, it was already Christmas Eve. We had a dinner reservation in a local restaurant by the sea, which offered live entertainment and inexpensive yummy lobsters. Most of our acquaintances were partying in the hotel Las Hadas, where there was a Mexican fiesta, buffet and show. We decided to part in house and join our friends.

Greg and Sanaz were a lovely couple who comes from Vancouver, Canada. Greg frequents the hotel as he own local businesses in Manzanillo. They were really both a very nice couple and we run into each other frequentlu in the pool, breakfast buffets or at happy hours.

We also enjoyed the local Mariachi band, as well as the shows and presentations of the local cowboy.

Not to mention the rich fattening, exotic food and the overflow of Tequilas and Margaritas. It was a wonderful christmas eve. Forget about the morning after hangovers.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

On our drive back home to Manzanillo from Comala, we were looking for the El Salto waterfall which we read about on the internet. The night before, during happy hour, we asked friends from the bar, if the El Salto waterfall was nice and worth visiting?! Everyone from the bar looked at us, and did not know what we were talking about." "What Waterfall?" Sergio, the bartender from Las Hadas hotel asked.

Sergio is a Canadian who migrated to Mexico and "living la vida loca" in Manzanillo. :) He is such a nice person, and loves to spoil his guest with drinks pouring even after happy hour. Theoretically, He knows all the hotspots in town too. "No one has ever heard of that water fall." he said.

After driving along the winding natural roads and jungles, we thought we were lost several times. Occasionally, we would spot a blue pipeline along the road. This pipeline is used to transport iron ore (by flowing water) to the pelletizing plant several miles away in Manzanillo. We did find the waterfall. But first, we found a new water park, with 3 pools, a large 3-story water slide, and two smaller "kiddy" slides. The water that feeds the pools comes straight from the spring-fed creek, so it's cool and crystal clear. There were a few locals enjoying it. We had to pass by this waterpark to get to the waterfall.

Now we know why noone knows about it. To me it was a trickle-fall. Only spurts of water was gushing from the mountaintop. "It's dry season, okay? " My husband Daryl intercepted my thoughts, before I start saying something wierd.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


We were anxious to drive out of the hustle and bustle of Colima's enterprising city and headed for Comala. We heard that it was a very cute town. A volunteer fireman soliciting cash in between the traffic stop lights, directed us to Comala, after handing him a donation.

As soon as we hit Comala, I immediately fell in love with this small quaint town.I love the atmosphere emanating from this cute town. We drove along the narrow cobblestone roads, along white houses and red roofs which led to a state park directing us to an active smoking volcano.

The countryside was picturisque. There were an abundance of fruit trees and cattles, and the view of the countryside was simply breathtaking.

Soaking in the magnificent view and atmosphere, Daryl was anxious to drive close to the volcano to get a good shot of it. He suggested that we explore the town of Comala after our sight-seeing agenda. As for me, I was anxious to get off the road, stretch out a little bit, and of course, shop for souvenires and momentos.

A small plaza was located in the middle of the town, and cantinas were full and boisterous.

Musicians played in the middle of the plaza, and shops surrounded the town. It was a nice day to spend christamas.

Friday, December 30, 2005


Manzanillo, here we come!!!

After watching the movie , "Christmas with the Kranks", Daryl and I figured it was not such a bad idea to take a trip to sunny mexico and boycott christmas as well. Instead of sitting it out here to brave the cold, December storm of the bay area, we decided to book a flight to Manzanillo, Mexico via Alaskan Airlines. Last year, when we spent our New year in Seattle, my brother, JJ convinced us that Alaskan Airlines offered the best mileage plan, after studying all the mileage plan available. So we subscribed enthusiastically and started accumulating our miles as the new year rolled in. We also get a $50.00 companion pass every year from Alaska Airlines to anywhere we choose to go in the world as long as it lies within the alaskan airlines route. Well, isn't that a good deal so far?

After verifying my school semester's schedule and my husbands vacation allotment, we decided to book a flight to Manzanillo , Mexico. Why Manzanillo?

Manzanillo is a low key international tourist destination. There were only a few Americans. Is this good or bad? :)

We met a few americans from the cruises who were rerouted to Manzanillo due to some weather or tide turbulence. There were a lots of Canadians from Vancouver who availed themselves of the Alaskan Airlines web promotions and there were many Mexican tourists from Guadalajara as well.

Manzanillo is home to the Mexican navy. It is an old provincial port with historical episodes involving pirates and treasures. The historical old town has a gargantuan statue of a sailfish by Mexican artist Sebastian, as it is a sailfish capital.

It has the most important west coast ports because of it’s rail connections to the interior. It is the shipping center for coconuts, bananas, limes, avocadoes, mangoes, and sugarcane from local plantations.

It is mexico’s main door to the increasingly important pacific rim.

So why not Manzanillo? My husband and I also had our own personal reasons as well as to why we wanted to visit. Daryl has heard about this wonderful place from a good friend, who unfortunately passed away. He owned properties down there and oftentimes extended Daryl a personal invitation to come and visit.

As for me, I am more inclined to dig on my own personal historical roots. Manzanillo was the place where galleons were built and Legazpi set off the Galleon trade from Mexico to Manila Philippines in the 1600's. After Ferdinand Magellan was killed in my island of Cebu, Philippines, Legazpi came one hundred years later to colonize my country. We stayed in the same area where the Galleons were built around Las Hadas Hotel.

As soon as we got off the airport, I started taking pictures and the authorities instantly chided me for my actions. Oooooopppssss, I was forbidden to take any pictures while in the airport area. "Sorry!Lo siento!", I foolishly smiled. We left one chilly rainy night from the bay area and as soon as we landed almost everyone wanted to tear off layers off thier winter clothes and switch into their shorts and t-shirts.

After exchanging curt brief polite spanish greetings with the immigration and customs personnel, "Bievenido" we retrieved our luggages. Than we sought out the rental car we booked from the mainland. It is wiser to book from the US, as it did cost double the amount, if we leased the car locally. The car rental agent still persisted in charging us local car insurance, even if we bought the mexican local insurance online. So be wary, and don't let them talk you into buying extras they think you should have.

The drive to the hotel was simple, direct and easy, as we followed the sign obediently. There was a road construction from the airport to Manzanillo centro. Two lane roads were reduced to one dusty rubble roads to the centro. That did not stop the road ragers from overtaking, if you drove your car carefully and cautiously.

Along the way, the countryside was pleasant to view with a stretch of palm trees, mango, banana , and lemon trees, pineapple and sugar cane. It almost reminds me of home. Finally we got to our hotel, the Hotel Las Hadas.
Las Hadas hotel was evocative of one thousand and one Arabian nights. The hotel was owned and built by multimillionare Antenor Patino also known as the bolivian tin king. It looked like a huge white palace with moorish influence. The floors were all made with marbles inside and outside the courtyards. This place was also the setting for the movie "10" with Bo Derek and Dudley Moore.
The dinner scene was shot at Las hadas Legazpi gourmet restaurant. Many scenes were shot as the Las Hadas beach.

The following day, we decided to explore the Manzanillo Centro. We drove to the city centre familiarizing ourselves with the traffic lights and road signs which were slightly different from the mainland USA signs. It was difficult to spot a red light . But we managed to tour the city without getting ticketed. It was fascinating for me to see the bright colored houses. When I spotted a purple building, I already liked it here.

We visited the old historical town of Manzanillo and walked through the old streets and shops. The town was decorated with festive christmas decors.

The next day we wanted to explore the neighboring town of Colima which was just an hour's drive north of Manzanillo. The roads were pretty good and there were lots of telltale signboards cautioning the commuters to drive carefully. Driving north, we can see the smoking twin volcanosfrom the horizon.

Colima is the state capital and still maintain old town atmosphere. It was a day before christmas so everyone seems to be doing their last minute shopping. Naturally, parking place was hard to find. The influx of the crowd was suffocating. As Daryl tried to find his way out of the traffic maze, I was so engaged in taking pictures of the old Spanish architecture. He wasn't so happy with it as he expected me to read the road map and guide him out of the way. Reading the road map was no easy task either so i just decided to enjoy the view and piqued up my husband's temper. :) We decided it wasn't the right time to tour the town and proceeded to drive on further north.