Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cruising, Fun On A Star


Barely before sailing we have one of the most efficient and fastest safety briefing ever. By the time we arrive at our muster station it is practically over.


Snapshot 1 (1-30-2016 9-14 AM)Just like that our “Fun On A Star” begins.

Fun On A Star

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Philippines, Manila Cock Fighting


Although we had been led to believe “Cock Fighting” was a popular venue in Manila we are having a difficult time getting information about it. After several attempts talking to different locals we finally find someone with some good 411.


IMG_20151115_084737With this information in hand we make plans for an early get up on a Sunday morning to head to Pasay City Cockpit.





Having been to a bull fight once I am not really to fond of this outing. However, our son is excited about it so I basically tag along for the experience.

We watch a few fights with a mostly male audience who almost go in a frenzy betting on the fights. A few of them even tried to solicit us into playing along although we felt much safer just being spectators.

Interestingly, there is not always a winner and loser in the fights. Unfortunately some roosters that survive get a trip to “The Rooster Doctor” for repairs to later rejoin the circuit.



IMG_20151115_095444The Rooster Doctor


What an experience to watch him do his magic and even perform man to rooster mouth to beak resuscitation.

To my surprise cock fighting was much less unpleasant than watching a bull fight and another good lesson for me in how we are all so culturally different.

Experiencing these things for us is truly a part of the joy of traveling.

Cock Fighting In Manila

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cruising, On A Star Under A Bridge


Our first cruise out of Tampa, Florida and of 2016 turns out to be surprisingly a lot of fun with an early highlight of sailing under “The Skyway Bridge”.



IMG_20160110_182029Skyway Bridge


For a 93K ton ship not only is navigating the channel to the bridge impressive but even more so is passing mere feet under it.

NCL Star Under A Bridge

Philippines, Manila By Night


Part of our night exploration of Manila has us going against the flow of traffic on a busy street as we pass by The National Museum. Our destination is Chinatown one of the oldest such market area outside of China.



IMG_20151114_181308For us the area turns out to be a bit of a disappointment but probably not as bad as it could have been.

We learned from a taxi cab driver the day after visiting that it is not one of the safest places to be in Manila especially at night.




Our second night is spent enjoying one of the locals passion, karaoke. We end up at the Star Of Manila which has one of the best karaoke set up we have ever seen. It is not too busy the night we visit and we end up having the good fortune of meeting one of the bar owners, Steve. This turns out to be a treat as we get to learn more about business and Manila life from a foreigner’s perspective.



IMG_20151116_002008Star Of Manila


We finish the night with a walk towards the American Embassy with Steve and his bodyguard who then escorts us back to our hotel.

Tomorrow, we set out for another unique Manila experience but this time only two of us will be a part of it.

Manila By Night

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Philippines, Hectic Manila


Besides its what I am told normal madness, we are told that Manila will be even more hectic as we will be visiting (unplanned) during the APEC conference. We get a quick taste of this outside the airport arrival area when we attempt to join the taxi queue which is about 150 passengers deep with a “Yellow Cab” showing up about every 7-10 minutes.



IMG_20151114_133127Knowing this will not work we walk off the airport area through a construction site then jay walk across 6 lanes of traffic on a major highway to find a “White Cab”.





Our 5 mile journey to downtown begins but takes us almost an hour in bumper to bumper traffic even on a sometimes multi-lane highway.

Checked into our hotel our next adventure is a ride in one of the most popular forms of public transportation, a colorful and (9 pesos) very cheap “Jeepney”. Our destination is one of the oldest parts of Manila, Intramuros. Here we discover of the quickest ways to see this huge area is on a bicycle tour where someone else is doing the pedaling.





A lot of the city's history is here including Fort Santiago and the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral which I think has being rebuilt about eight times. Intramuros is definitely a worthwhile stop in Manila.

Our second day has us crossing MacArthur Bridge to see another part of the city.


IMG_20151115_122802A nice local noodle lunch then we receive a sidewalk blessing of “Holy Water” before we make a visit to Quiapo Church.





Quiapo Church is home of the Black Nazarene which is considered scared and miraculous by many here in the Catholic faith.




IMG_20151115_133059The Black Nazarene

Manila By Day

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cebu, Our Intro To The Philippines



IMG_20151112_102246Thanks to Air Asia for approximately USD 90 per passenger, about 4 hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia we are touching down in Cebu.





Our on the spur of the moment (adventure style) travel presents a bit more of a challenge than usual as we soon discover that our “Plan-A” for this stop is not as workable as it looked on paper. Although our planned destination for the next two days is less than 100 miles away we are told it will take us at least 5 hours to get there. So much for swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob.

Nonetheless we are fortunate that our rental car agent helps us develop a “Plan-B”. As we crisscross the city with her and her drive in search of affordable accommodations for the night we get a chance to learn first hand about life in the Philippines. Stories of corruption including “The Airport Bullet Scam” are amazing and frighting.

After several attempts we finally find our home for the next two nights. A stroll around town and before long we are dining on delicious and tender local pork and chicken. A haircut for about 35 US cents and we are ready for a night out on the town. A visit to what some might consider a “local discotheque” is kind of a bust except for cold beers and a glimpse of Cebu nightlife on a Thursday.


IMG_20151113_135057We are up early the next day for a delicious breakfast before we set out to explore Cebu by car. We opt for a closer destination but the 46 mile journey still takes us almost 3 hours to cover. Our exploration rewards us with some bridge diving like a local for my son and a chance to relax at Hermits Cove.





IMG_20151113_142428Hermits Cove



IMG_20151113_165526Dinner at Carcar City Public Market and our “Plan-B” turns out not to be so bad after all.

Two Days In Cebu

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Florida, An Afternoon With The Ponies


In Tampa a day early for a cruise we decide to spend a part of a rainy afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs a short drive away from our hotel. Fortunately, for us we arrive in time to catch the last three races of the day but on a muddy track.


IMG_20160109_155233Although we love watching these beautiful and amazing animals, when it comes to betting horses and gambling in general I have very little idea.

However, I do know if you bet to win and your horse wins then you win.



Anymore complicated than that and I get confused.


Taking a 30-1 odd does not work out to well for us in our first round of betting however on our second shot at it we hit the “jackpot”. We can see our winner leading the pack down the stretch... and I start screaming louder to make him run faster... Come on No.9... It's not even a close finish.


IMG_20160109_163833We wait for our money maker at the “Winner's Circle” then excitedly go off to cash our pay dirt.

For a $2 bet, we walk away with a whopping $7.56 an almost 600% better return than we got playing the $900,000,000 Powerball. Not bad, not bad at all.

Tampa Bay Downs

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Malaysia, Don't Mess With Melaka


Our second day touring around Kuala Lumpur has us driving South. We are again in love with all the lush green vegetation including tons of palm trees that constantly surround us.

Oddly enough we soon feel like we are in Texas minus the cowboy hats and longhorns when we encounter a sign warning us not to mess with Melaka.

As our good fortune would have it we make a roadside stop along the way and get invited to the “Grand Opening” celebration of a local restaurant.


IMG_20151111_114614Free delicious food along with an endless stream of free beer from the “Carlsberg Girls” and about two hours later we have to force ourselves to leave. However, we really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with the locals and learn a bit more about their country and culture.



Finally arriving in the historic port of Melaka we take a stroll around town before taking a short cruise on the Melaka River. While it seems the area has seen better days our cruise does give us the chance to meet a few more Malaysians even a little cute one.


IMG_20151111_160357Next it is a tour of a replica ship from Melaka swashbuckling days were we learn a bit more about the are's maritime history.





Our last taste of Malaysia is it's warm waters at the beautiful Saujana Beach where we watch another day come to an end.

Don't Mess With Melaka

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Montana… Weeeeeeee

What started as a gimmick to attract business at Bear Creek Saloon And Steakhouse during lean times has turned into a “Big Sky Country” phenomena.
Now I have seen a “Shoe Fly” but I ain't ever seen a ….. “Pig Fly”

Big Sky Where Pigs Do Fly