Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thailand trip, part 2

On our 2nd day, June 2 this year, we checked out of the hotel and Samran picked us from there. He rented a van, big and comfortable enough for us. His Filipino wife, Letty, joined us. Letty has lived in Thailand long enough, and she comes home after every few years, so she was happy to speak again in Filipino.

From our hotel, we went to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). We picked up Samran's other Filipina friend, Redia, who was visiting her daughter who is working and staying at AIT. Redia was a soil scientist, she used to work at PCARRD in Los Banos, Laguna. She is now working at the Senate Committee on Environment as Committee Secretary. Redia brought her grandson, about 5 years old. Our toddler was happy to have an older "kuya" as her playmate for the next few hours of our travel.

From AIT, our first stop was Bangsai. There's a beautiful resort and shopping center. A big concrete multi-headed dragon spewing water (not fire) in a lagoon is the main attraction. The lagoon is big and well-sculpted.

There's a big shopping area nearby, but most of the stalls were close if not abandoned, only a few stalls and food shops were open.

In a bigger structure, is a big, clean and air-conditioned shopping center and shops were selling various souvenir items. There's another concrete dragon and Buddha inside.

From Bangsai, we went to Bang Pa-in palace, the King's summer palace. It's not far from Bangkok city proper, maybe about 80 kilometers. Entrance fee I think was Baht 100. This place is wide and sprawling. A number of beautiful structures, wide and long lagoon, an observation tower about 6 or 7 storeys high. One can reach the top level by foot only, and shoes and slippers to be left outside. The view at the top level is beautiful -- well manicured lawns, the lagoon, the palace, the temple, etc.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Scenes from the air: Manila-Cebu

Three days ago, I went to Cebu to attend the wake of an uncle who died of cancer. I took the afternoon flight from Manila and I was seated window seat, right side.

Upon take off from Manila airport, the scenes in southern part of Metro Manila is basically those plenty of houses. There are very few sky scrapers to see. The ones at Filinvest corporate center in Alabang are noticeable, several tall buildings, but not plenty. Ayala Alabang village is noticeable with big houses detached from others, and there are plenty of trees, those green vegetation partly covering many roofs.

Laguna lake is brownish in color, representing muddy waters coming from the farms, and polluted waters coming thousands of households and firms surrounding the lake. There are plenty of wide fishpens (mainly for tilapia aquaculture) and these should be contributing to the muddy and brownish waters of the lake.

After crossing the lake, it’s Batangas province. Relatively populous by virtue of its proximity to Metro Manila. Going out to the sea, the first island-province to see is Marinduque. It’s a small province compared to most provinces in the country, both in terms of land area and population size. Relatively flat, with 2 open pit mines with lakes in the middle (this could be Marcopper mines), relatively in the middle of the island. To the province’s southern part, there’s a tall mountain that looks thickly forested because of its dense green view from the top.

After Marinduque, it’s Romblon province’s several scattered islands. The one nearest the plane’s path could be Sibuyan island because of the prominent presence of a big, tall and thickly forested mountain, it should be Mt. Guiting-guiting. It’s one of the memorable mountains to me because it was among the most difficult and most dangerous mountains I have climbed, about 12 or 14 years ago, along with a few friends. Anyway, beside Sibuyan island are 2 islands to its right, should be Romblon island (the smaller one) and Tablas island (bigger and wider). There are about 2 or 3 other smaller islands nearby.

The plane started descending a bit, and the western tip of Masbate island is more visible. Masbate is shaped like a seahorse with an elongated and extended nose pointing towards Panay island. This part of Masbate is flat, there seems to be no mountain or tall hills here. A few cluster of houses below. And there seems to be a few forested area, perhaps these are among Masbate’s famous cattle ranches where a ranch is several thousand hectares wide of mainly grassland. Panay island is not clear because it’s a bit far from the plane’s path.

Descending further, I saw a small flat island with plenty of houses. This could be Bantayan island on the northern side of Cebu island-province. A few minutes more, the plane was hovering above Cebu’s northern villages and towns. There’s a plateau and on top of it are hundreds of small hills, they look like the “green version” of Bohol’s “Chocolate hills”. After the plateau, the lower hills and farm lands, could be mostly coconut plantation, the plane crosses the western side of the island-province, seems sleepy towns up there.

Mactan island is not far behind, it’s a flat island adjacent to Cebu. The 2 long bridges connecting the 2 islands – the old Mactan bridge and the new Marcelo Fernan bridge – can be seen now. Mactan’s big hotels and resorts are mostly on the left side of the island, fronting the smaller Olango island. While on the right side of the island are its industrial (like Mactan Export Processing Zone) and commercial centers since they’re just facing Cebu city and its domestic and international seaport on the other side.

Among the prominent structures of Cebu City from the air are naturally its tall buildings like Marco Polo hotel up on a hill, those in Fuente Osmena circle, and those around the Ayala business center.

For a one hour trip from Manila, it’s worth foregoing sleep and rest during that period and watch the various islands and mountains below the plane.