Monday, November 09, 2009

Mayflower hotel, Washington DC

Finally reached my hotel, 4 hours ago. It's nice, the lobby is not so big but elegant and bright. Here's the hallways, 4th floor, to my room.

From the time I entered Manila airport (NAIA) yesterday until the time I got out of the Reagan DC Airport, it was exactly 24 hours. But this is shorter than my previous trips to NY (last March) and Atlanta (April '08) of 27 hours, also via Northwest. Both via Narita-Detroit. Today, it's via Narita-Minneapolis/St. Paul. The waiting time for my connecting flight at Narita was short, less than 30 minutes after coming out of the Narita security check. Also the waiting time at Minneapolis for the flight to DC was also short, only about 1 hour. In my earlier trips via Detroit, there was a long waiting time in-between connecting flights.

Renaissance Mayflower Hotel will be the venue of the Atlas’ 2009 Freedom dinner and conference that will start tomorrow until Tuesday noon. Then there will be an Atlas’ Think Tank 101 seminar after that until Wednesday.

Below is my bed, it looks very comfortable and very nice to sleep. Unfortunately, I have other things to do tonight, so I will still cut some sleep and enjoy the bed only for a few hours this evening.

The TV is nice, but it’s not a flat tv yet. Maybe they have flat tv in luxury and more expensive rooms. Not a problem for me either, as I won’t watch tv either.

Outside my room, nothing much to see. There's an office building probably 10 storeys high.

Btway, outside the Reagan airport, I went to the super shuttle. I waited for more than 10 minutes as their staff was busy coordinating a ride for a group of travellers on a seminar or what. They said that the fare is $14. I got impatient, I went to the taxi. I queued for only about 2 minutes. The hotel is within the 4.5 miles zone fromu the airport. It was a short drive (well, it's a Sunday early evening), and I paid $16 or $2 more for a faster, no hassle ride.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pan Pacific Hotel, Singapore

I attended a free market think tanks' meeting, then the 3rd Pacific Rim Policy Exchange here last October 12-16. A huge and very modern hotel. This photo is from the web, not from my low-tech camera.

I remember a friend brought us for a light dinner at the penthouse restaurant, that protruding structure at the left side of the tower. Beautiful view of the surrounding areas and buildings, also the pool below.

The restaurant/bar near the hotel lobby.

I stayed at the 18/F I think. View from the top looking down to the lobby. Elevator ride is beautiful going up or down, you can see the lobby below, the hallways in different floors.

My bed, huge and comfy.

My work area, good view of the buildings below.

My wife and elder daughter Elle Marie joined me. They moved around on their own, I attended all the meetings and conference events and would see them only late at night when I go back to the room, also in the morning before I go to the conference.

Organizers paid for my hotel and plane fare, wife and I just shared for their plane fare going to Singapore.

Monday, September 14, 2009

SAN MIGUEL (Sa Aming Nayon, May Isang Grupo...)

For those who still reminisce the old bottle (circa 80s) of San Miguel beer pale pilsen, here's one heart-melting story, really dramatic :-)


Here now is the story. Each letter of those words meant something. This is a product of many nights of drinking beer with so many friends 2 decades ago :-)

Pag Ang Labanan E
Pabilisan, Ingat Lang Sapagkat Etong Nangyari.

Sa Aming Nayon
May Isang Grupo Uminom E Lasing

Erbe (beer) at X Ekis (gin) Pinaghalo Eh Rindi Talagang Lasingan Yan
Bawat Round E War freak Eh Di

Pati Ako Lasing Eh
P____ Ina, Lasing Sila, Enjoy Na

Ang Nangyari Dito
Bawat Order Tiyak Trouble, Lasing Eh, Dumampot
Buti Yelo

Sampu Ang Naupakan
May Isang Gago, Umeksena Eh Loko
Binanatan, Rumesbak Eh Walang Enabutan, Riot Yan

Pati Hostess Inupakan, Lahat Inupakan, Pati Pulis Inupakan
Nahuli Eh Stockade

Ngayon Etong Tangang
COnstabulary Nakatulog Tangengot Eh
Nakatakas, Tumuloy Sauna
320 Masahe Lang.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Hampton Inn, Daly City

April 29-30, 2009

Kris wanted me to be closer to SF City as Rocklin is nearly 3 hours away from this big city. She asked her provincemate from Laguna, Ronnie de Luna, to find me a good and cheap hotel. Ronnie works at Hilton SF, he reserved me a room at Hampton Inn, Daly City. It’s a sister company of Hilton.

The hotel is about 15 minutes walk from Daly City BART station. It’s not big but nice and clean. Ronnie got a big discount, an employee discount. But it was Kris who paid for my hotel for 2 days, such a very kind friend!

It has 4 storeys, the lobby is on the 3rd floor. My room was on the 2nd floor. Big and spacious bed, wide table, wide toilet, wide screen (but not yet flat) tv, I like that place. I don’t know if internet was really free, but Ronnie secured a complimentary internet connection for me. It was a blessing because on my 2nd day at the hotel, I was supposed to roam around SF city, but my tummy wasn’t fine, so have to stay the whole day in my room, composed and posted the various travel notes, read newspapers, watched tv and rested.

There is a complimentary breakfast – bread, fruits, fruit juices, coffee, etc.
For someone looking for a comfortable place to stay, cheap and near the airport (it’s between SF city and the SF international airport), this hotel is good.

Oyster Point fishing Pier, SF Bay

May 1, 2009

On my last day in SF, my new friend Ronnie de Luna, brought me along to their fishing-bonding event with his fellow Filipino staff at Hilton SF. We went to Oyster Point Fishing Pier, near Daly City. This place is made from reclaimed land. It’s not far from the SF airport, so from the pier, you can see the planes landing and taking off.

There are hundreds of boat docked nearby. Ronnie explained that when you go fishing on a boat, you need a license from the government. If you go fishing at the pier, no need to secure a license.

There’s another group of fishermen-hobbyists on the outermost part of the pier. Some of the guys there nearly caught really huge fishes, their fishing rod would be bending hard, it took them minutes to pull the struggling fish in the water. After several minutes of “struggle”, the fish would escape as the fishing line would break or be cut.

One guy caught a stingray. The same long “fight” to bring up the fish. When the stingray was finally hauled up, it was still flapping its wings and wanted to get away, it was making a noise that seemed like it was crying. I pitied the fish. The guys removed the hookline on the fish’ tongue or inner throat, pulled it and dragged it into the edge of the pier and threw it back into the water! The fish immediately swam away.

Ronnie lent me a small fishing rod, I was able to catch one medium-sized fish, nice thrill. By early afternoon, strong winds accompanied the rain showers, we packed up and went home. I was very thankful to Ronnie and his pals – “Kapitan” for the ride, Rey and his wife.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Amtrak trains

(this picture from

When I moved from Rocklin-Roseville to SF yesterday, I took the Amtrak (Roseville to Sacramento by bus, Sacramento to Emeryville by train, then Emeryville to SF by bus). The Amtrak buses look more modern than the Greyhound buses. It was also good that the bus driver from Roseville to Sacramento was a Filipino. Had a brief chat with him before I went to the train.

This is the first time that I will take the Amtrak. I thought that Amtrak trains are ugly compared to the trains in Europe, because Americans are generally car drivers, not train riders. So when I boarded the train, I was surprised that it was nice and spacious inside. I rode on the upper deck. The seats are clean. I sat on chairs with a table.

Though these seats with a table are spacious, the legroom is not as wide as those in the InterCity Express (ICE) trains in Germany. In terms of speed, Amtrak trains are slow, may 100 or 100+ kph, partly because they are heavy, have double decks, while the ICE can run up to 300 kph.

Riding on the upper deck is nice, wider view of the scenery outside. I won’t see or appreciate those sceneries if I ride a car because there are plenty of trees that can block the view.

When you board the train without a ticket, the conductor will charge a 50 percent surcharge. Well I got my ticket one day before.

Greyhound Bus

In April 2004, I took this bus from Washington DC to Blacksburg, Virginia. The trip was about 8 hours long. It was a good sightseeing activity. Nice to see Virginia’s other cities and rural landscape. I was also surprised to see some drivers in the cars overtaking us, they were holding the steering wheel but their feet were curled up or somewhere else except the accelerator pedal! I was informed later by a friend that cars in the US have sort of a “speed lock”, so drivers don’t worry about speeding or slowing, they just hold the steering wheel.

Last April 29, I took the Greyhound bus again, my 2nd time, from LA to Roseville in northern California, 1:30am trip. Fare was $58, purchased a day before. The same purpose – sight seeing, plus the fare is cheaper.

Greyhound buses in general look old. There’s another bus line I saw in the terminal, Glucero, they look more modern. Well, at least it looks comfortable inside the Greyhound, and there’s a toilet at the back of the bus.

The bus made several stops, 5 minutes on average on smaller cities or towns. Then we stopped for 30 minutes at Fresno. It seems to be a big city. Then the long stop is at Sacramento, about 1:45 minutes, where we got off and waited for another bus that will take me to Roseville. My bus was going to Reno, Nevada. From Sacramento to Roseville, it was only about 35 minutes. At Roseville station, my friend Kris came shortly after. I will stay in their house in Rocklin for 2 days.

The buses run slow, but they always leave on time, they also arrive on time. They are also often not fully occupied.

Hyatt Regency, LA

April 24-25, 2009

The Atlas Liberty Forum 2009 was held in this hotel. It’s on a fancy street name called “Avenue of the Stars”. There are just a few high rise buildings in this area where the hotel is located. On its back though, there is a big mall and shopping center.

Being a travel grantee, I shared a room with Dan O'Connor, he's an American working at the Lion Rock Institute in Hong Kong. Our room was on the 16th floor. Each room in the hotel, those facing the Avenue of the Stars, have a veranda, nice view outside.

The lobby is wide, a bar greets visitors at the entrance, the concierge is on the left side. The swimming pool is at the back of the building in an open space, the conference rooms and sort of "tent" are on the next floor below.

The "foyer" looks cool. Beside it is the grand ballroom, a huge area. The opening dinner speaker was Mr. Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico.

The hotel is of course expensive. I didn't ask for the rate, my room was paid for. Since I didn't have a credit card, I made a cash deposit in case of incidentals (phone calls, food or drinks consumption in the room, internet use in the room, etc.). Their rate is $100/day. I didn't use any, so I got back my $200 deposit.

One of the bell boys is a Filipino. He suggested I can have free internet access at the lobby, great! I composed my articles in my room, go down the lobby and send it out, also check my emails.

It's nice to find Filipinos in foreign places, they can give you some tips on many things.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hollywood, LA

(Facade from the movie, "Lord of the Rings")

After the Atlas Liberty Forum, my friend from my university days, Joey Dayao, picked me up from my hotel last April 26, and toured me around many interesting places in Los Angeles. It was my first time to move around and see that city, aside from my trip from LA airport (LAX) to the conference venue.

Joey brought me to the expensive neighborhood of LA’s rich people like Hollywood’s top actors and actresses, Playboy publishers, etc. Then the UCLA campus, then the city proper. It was good that it was a Sunday, so there was no traffic congestion in the city. Then the Hollywood district. I told Joey a number of jokes while he was driving me around.

We got hungry, he brought me to the Hooters restaurant, where the attending ladies are wearing skimpy shirts and shorts. There was one Filipina there, a Taiwanese lady, and I think the rest are all Americans. One American lady approached us, Joey and I had pictures with her.

The “look alike” guys in the Hollywood street were attracting attention from tourists and visitors. There were the Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Friday the 13th, the Transformers, other characters. The Transformer seemed to be the most popular as it was getting lots of people who wanted their photos taken beside him. Look-alike characters make money from the tips of people having their photos taken with them.

In the evening, Joey and I visited another friend from UP ETC, Jim Villar. Jim's house is not far from Joey's. Jim immediately pulled a camera. This photo is from him. Then he asked me if I wanted rhum-coke or tequila, I said beer, he didn't have one, so I chose tequila. Then the exchange of jokes and stories back home started.

When old friends meet after several years, the exchange of stories, jokes and lessons in life can be endless. We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, later we saw that we were the only customers left, the restaurant staff were cleaning the tables and floor, and it was already 11pm.

We packed up as I also have to go to the Greyhound bus station to catch my midnight trip to Roseville, CA via Sacramento.

Atlas Liberty Forum, LA

The forum was held April 24-25 at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, LA. This would be the 3rd Atlas Liberty Forum that I have attended. The first was in Chicago in 2004, the second was in Atlanta in 2008. The liberty forum is held annually by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation to gather leaders of free market-oriented think tanks, public policy institutes, and some academics and individuals who are thinking of putting up their own think tanks or research NGO. In those 3 liberty forum that I attended, the most important lesson that I gained was the networking with new and old friends. The discussion panels on certain topics were helpful too, but it's the networking during coffee and lunch break, opening and closing cocktails, and small meetings that are very helpful.

Here with Peter Holle of FCCP-Canada, Jo Kwong, Atlas VP, Margaret Tse of IL-Brazil, and Xingyuan Feng of CIPA-China. My network with leaders of fellow Asian think tanks is also expanding.

One may also befriend some known personaties in the liberty or free market movement. Among the cool guys that I met there was Michael Reagan, a son of former US President Ronald Reagan.

Atlas is further strengthened with the entry of Tom Palmer, formerly with Cato. Tom is now the head of the Atlas Global Initiative where major international projects are being undertaken by Atlas, like the Freedom to Trade (F2T) campaign and coalition, in association with the IPN in London.

Atlas is very kind to me, especially Jo Kwong. They helped me with some travel scholarship to enable me to attend those huge forum that usually attracts nearly 300 people from 30+ or 40+ countries every year.

Snowy mountains and beer

As I mentioned below, I did not know that California’s mountains would have thick snow at this time of the year, it’s now end-April and summer would be approaching. The last time I saw snow up close was last month in New Jersey and those seen from the plane, and November last year in the mountains and glaciers of northern Austria (see notes below).

Today, I would see thick snow again, in the mountains of north California. Though I saw some remnants of the burned trees and mountains last year, the view in the mountains here are mostly thick green trees in the lower and middle elevation, and rocky or mountains with trees and ice in the higher elevation (above 4,000 feet above sea level).

Having a bottle of cold beer up in the mountains is also another good way to further cheer up this new experience. I am really thankful to the Kris-Harold Cabrera couple!

Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada

This should be the among the biggest lakes, if not the biggest, in California and Nevada. About 2/3 of the lake is in California and 1/3 in Nevada. It was our 3rd stop from Rocklin (Donner lake 1st, Squaw valley 2nd), and our main destination.

It’s huge and wide, and it is dotted by dozens, if not hundreds, of hotels and inns nearby, big and small, on both California and Nevada sides. I actually fell asleep while Harold was driving on the eastern side (California) of the lake. I woke up when we were near the northern side of the lake. Wow, lots of ice and snow in the mountains on this side of the lake! And the wind can be strong and very cold.

In the parking lot, there’s a huge white rock. Visitors have to walk a few meters down to see the lake, amazing view! Down below, there’s a small island protruding in the lake and there was a small castle built right on it.

To the right side above the lake, there’s are short waterfalls that flow down into the lake, the water coming from the melting ice on the northern mountains.

We pursued the route up north-west, there’s another parking area overlooking the lake. The trees there are huge, radius could be about between 1 to 2 meters wide. One can see the other side of the lake, there are markers for important places too.

Going down further to the southern part, the area is flat, just a few meters above the lake, and this is the main commercial area. The hotels here are big, and this is where the California-Nevada border is marked. I think only a narrow street separates the 2 neighboring states here. Two big hotels on the Nevada side are among the landmarks. One or both of them have casinos, whereas casino is not allowed in California.

On our way back to Rocklin, Harold took another route. Here, the trees in the mountains are much thicker, dark green trees on the horizon.

Donner lake, California

Before Kris and Harold brought me to Squaw Valley resort, we passed by Donner Lake. On our way there from their house in Rocklin, I was intrigued by the snow in many parts of the mountains of north California. At 3,000 feet (above sea level elevation) mark on the interstate highway, I think I already noticed pockets of snow from afar. At 4,000 feet, the ice in the mountains were getting plentier. At 5,000 feet, and 6,000 feet, ahh, what a sight to behold!

The highest part of the road along the way could be the 7,227 feet mark, then the road started descending, a little uphill somewhere.

Those ice in the mountains are slowly melting, producing water for the creeks that end up in Donner Lake and nearby rivers and lakes. Donner lake is not very big or wide, but it’s situated on a higher elevation than Tahoe Lake. There are plenty of vacation houses and small hotels or lodging houses near the lake. It should be very cold here in the evening even during spring, brrrrr!

Squaw valley ski resort, California

Here at the house of my friend, Kris Asinas and hubby Harold Cabrera, at Rocklin, CA. This is next to Roseville, and near Sacramento, the capital of CA state. Kris is a friend way back in our university days, the UP Pol Sci Club (UP Sapul) in the 80s. They have 2 kids, Kimy and Kimo.

I arrived yesterday from LA where I attended the "Atlas Liberty Forum" last April 24-25. Today, the couple and their youngest, Kimo, brought me to the mountains of north California.

The ski resort was the venue of the Winter Olympics about 2 decades ago. The place is really beautiful, I thought I was in north Austria again! The snow are still thick, though could be thin on some parts.

The cable cars though were close today, not many visitors. But I think the cable cars are open on weekends where there are plenty of visitors. I never really thought that such a beautiful and famous ski resort exists in California considering that it is a southern state of the US. Well, I'm not that familiar of the US geography in the first place.

I told Kris and Harold, "This is like north Austria that I saw last month, or north Italy or Switzerland that I saw in the pictures!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

RORO Boats

The roll-on, roll-off (RORO) boats were designed mainly to transport vehicles, big and small. They are a good and useful invention because they have facilitated the transportation of people and their goods over long distances. But since it was on the eve of the Holy Week, vehicle and passenger volume was huge. Congestion was the natural consequence.

Congestion can be minimized if there are plenty of boats to carry people and vehicles anytime of the day.

Outside of peak travel seasons like Holy Week and Christmas vacations, I don't know if the same level of congestion can be observed.