Friday, October 28, 2011

Mm, that's nice

After a slightly downbeat post summing up my disappointing experiences in the Philippines, you might wonder what I'm doing out here if I'm intent on not appreciating Asia or enjoying myself.

Sometimes I wonder that too, but then I look back at my amateur, blurry, overcast photos of the ace things I've seen so far, and then check out professional, idealised, Photoshopped images of what's to come, and I feel like I'm not completely wasting my time.

Here are some of my favourite natural sights I've seen in Asia so far. The quality of the photos won't be enough to make you go 'WOW!' or 'oh my god, how does that exist on the same planet that brought us Preston, Lancashire?'

But hopefully they'll be enough to make you go 'mm, that's nice.'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Really? That's all I have to show for my Philippines trip?

You might have noticed that I haven't blogged much about my extraordinary adventures in the Philippines. This is because I didn't really have any, save for a few nice days out.

I can't blame it all on the water. The Philippines just isn't the best country for solo backpacking in South East Asia, and as satisfying as it can be to hop between jeepneys and end up where you intended (about half the time), travelling longer distances can get a little stressful if you're determined to do it cheap and don't have anyone to split the cost with.

Still, I would have made more effort if it hadn't been pissing down all the time. I'm English by the way - can you tell?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Japanese burn

Manila's historic, walled city centre doesn't seem to be a big hit with tourists, which I put down to most of it not actually existing, thanks to a solid month of devastation at the hands of the occupying Japanese in the Battle of Manila (part of World War II we don't hear so much about in the West, because it mainly affected brown people).

Those no-good Japanese, someone should destroy some of their major cities and see how they like... oh. Right.

There's been some rebuilding of walls and gates in the decades since, but most people would probably agree that the Philippines has more important things to spend its money on, like cosmetic surgery and embezzlement. For colonial sightseeing, Intramuros isn't as good as Georgetown in Penang or Singapore, but it's better than Malang in Java.

I still enjoyed spending an afternoon walking around these orderly streets, which offer a welcome escape from the bland, endless uniformity of Metro Manila in general. I always feel much more comfortable enclosed within crumbling walls than I do in bigger cities, and I grudingly accept that this will inevitably lead to me developing some sort of BDSM/asphyxiation-based sexual perversions in middle age, for which I apologise in advance.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mamma mia

After 26 years, I'd just about grudgingly accepted that hills in the real world don't look like the perfectly round domes found only in children's drawings, Postman Pat and Super Mario games.

Then I visited the Chocolate Hills in Bohol and realised I was right all along. Take that, experience! Let's a-go.

Except the clouds didn't really have eyes
(unless they were just looking the other way?)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oh Bohollocks

After a pleasantly sunny first day in Bohol, I was woken early to find the typhoons had followed me south. I thought I'd escaped their inexplicable wrath, but like the Grim Reaper and those scary flying faces in Mario 2, they were going to catch up with me sooner or later.

The tour guide taking our depleted group around the island's sights couldn't understand it - apparently the storms don't usually reach this far below the typhoon belt. I felt guilty. Clearly I'd done something to piss off Anitun Tabu, Thor, Tlaloc or one of the other storm gods, and according to Oliver (who knows about these things), I needed to get a blessing to make things right again.

But where should I go? Which one of these obviously pretend deities was the right one?

Then I remembered - there is only one God; namely God (clue's in the name, duh). Silly me! I'd spent so long in the heathen world that I'd forgotten. Luckily for me, the Philippines was raped by the Spanish 500 years ago and they sorted things out by leaving the permanent scars of Catholicism and Colonial architecture. I just had to find me a church. Gracias, seƱores!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The littlest bastard

Not my photo.
We'll get to my disappointing photos in a minute

The Philippine tarsier was one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing in this country - and not, like many people, because of their teddy bear style cuteness. I don't see that myself. To me, they look sort of like a cross between an owl, a lemur and a poo.

But I find all primates fascinating, especially these older types who were clinging to branches with their funny fingers long before our ape ancestors learned to walk upright and were taught to kill by a weird alien monolith. Go back far enough, and we might have been a lot like these guys.

I feel a particular affinity with the Philippine tarsier. They enjoy a solitary existence and don't like staying in one place too long. They only mate once a year and like eating crickets. We both look a bit like aliens as well, or at least when I was ill at school once, the popular concensus was that I looked 'like ET when he's dying.' These things look more like Ewoks.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lil' bastard

Hooray! I finally actually did something in the Philippines, making the most of my last day in Manila.

I didn't spend it in Manila, obviously. I'm not insane. I went to a volcano inside a lake with a lake inside it.

I don't need to split costs with a lazy Canadian to make it more affordable either - I just relied on public transport, paid local prices and enjoyed a slightly stressful sightseeing adventure using 4 jeepneys, 4 scooter taxis, 2 buses and 2 boat trips to get from my Manila hostel to Taal volcano and back.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Philippines phailure #3

Yesterday, me and a Canadian guy tried to see this:

But what we saw was this:

The megatropoplex of Manila is too big and confusing to get anything done.

I'm going back to my book.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do first impressions count?

Day one in most countries I visit is usually pretty disappointing/frustrating as I'm forced to deal with over-zealous airport security, incompetent bus drivers and sleazy taxi drivers to get to my accommodation, hoping I don't have to share it with pests (bed bugs or English people).

Sometimes I get rained on as well (the fact that you're even reading this anthology blog means the weather here hasn't improved, or I'd have some tedious travel photos to show you instead).

These first days may be quasi-traumatic on occasion, but they're at least useful for setting the bar extremely low so that I'm easily impressed when/if things go right. And sometimes, they give an accurate indication of what I can expect during my time there.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bare bones

So I came up with this idea for a steampunk/sci-fi story earlier this year, got really excited developing it and carrying out the historical research (my idea of fun is probably a little different to yours), and then felt all my enthusiasm exfoliate away when I tried to actually write the thing and remembered I'm not actually all that good at writing. My optimistic first draft got as far as chapter three.

Then recently, my MP3 player broke which tragically meant I had to spend time actually thinking about stuff, like I was from the 1950s or something, and I finally figured out an ending to the story that worked and (most importantly) could be fun to write. It was pretty irresponsible of me to come up with a comprehensive plot outline so close to National Novel Writing Month, but maybe I need that ridiculous, needlessly stressful 30th November deadline to finally get this out of my brain and onto the page. By which I mean the Microsoft Word 2003 file in Arial 10. Even if it's rubbish, at least I can get it out of my system.

Here's a summary of the situation and plot that I've kept as brief as possible, with minimal aren't-I-clever explanations of my genius ideas. Think of it as the York Notes plot synopsis for extremely lazy English Literature students who've already structured their timetable of minimal lectures and seminars so they only have to go to campus on Mondays and Tuesdays and have the rest of the week free, but still consider it unreasonable that they have to actually read stuff.

While Paradise Lost and Ulysses arguably lose something when stripped down to a 500-word synopsis, in this case it's the ideas I'm happy with and the joining-the-dots exercise of inserting conjunctions, verbs and dialogue that ends up spoiling it. If you fancy reading it and letting me know if you think it's worth writing, that would be great. Alternatively, if you think it's awful, this disillusion will save me lots of wasted hours in November.

Then again, once you know the story, there's no reason for me to actually right it - write?