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I started in California, and decided to connect in Tokyo on the way. I thought that maybe I'd be able to go outside and see some peaceful Japanese garden or something. Instead, there was a parking lot. Oh well.
However, I did find a box saying "Do You Like Cheese?" so I figured that this must be a good sign.
Getting from downtown Manila was an interesting 2.5 hour car ride. Unfortunately, the car had tinted windows and none of my pictures came out. Then we arrived on a beach to see one of these boats.
And I'm off! I have never seen such flawless execution in the tropics. My wait time was less than zero---I walked out of the van and onto the boat and it left 3 seconds later with me as the sole passenger. This is the ferry point out of Batangas, a south point where the boats to Mindoro leave from. Bye-bye land!
The crossing to Mindoro takes an hour. In the distance a large pod of dolphins plays near the surface, something I regard as a good omen. Not that I'm superstitious, but I'll take any omens I can get. CLICK TO PLAY MOVIE.
This is the beach of Puerto Galera, a town on Mindoro. The real town is about 6 km inland. This beach settlement is here to support the tourism industry (best I can tell) only.
For you telecom geeks, that is a cell tower and I had 7/7 bars on my cell on two different carriers at all times. It did cost $2/minute to call home, but when I did, it was crystal clear---better than I get in a backwater like Tucson.
The U-shaped bay ends here, and this is where a lot of the diving begins. It's about a 5 minute boat ride from the beach of the resort I stayed at, Atlantis Dive Resort.
This is the inside courtyard of the Atlantis Dive Resort in Puerto Galera. There were about 40 divers there out of a capacity of up to 80 in the high season. That gave us a nice, relaxed feel, although when things got hoppin', they were hoppin'. My room was up only one level on the right.
Here's Puerto Galera beach in the morning when the tide is out; when it's in, the water comes within a few feet of the walls. I'm about 100 yards from the Atlantis resort where I stayed; the beach goes on for about the same distance behind me.
A narrow passageway runs parallel to the beach, with restaurants and small businesses on the left, and larger businesses on the right. In the case of my hotel, the passageway basically divided the lobby and rooms from the dive area.
Running perpendicular to the beach and up into the hills are larger roads, taking you past more substantial buildings, banks, and larger hotels (including the castle-like Tropicana).
As you climb away from the beach, the houses get large and the vegetation lush.
Here are two Jeepneys, the official 'small bus' of the Philippines. These are everywhere, small busses that hold about 20 people and ply the routes all over these small islands. Most are wildly decorated with a cab in the front and open bench seating in the back.
More Jeepneys parked in the morning, probably awaiting the runs to and from the beach into the other cities of Mindoro island.
My room, done Flintstones style, with a bed on the right, fridge and TV, and the shower in the far corner. Off to the right hidden by the wall is a sink area and a water closet. The bed looks like a queen-size.
View from my room at the Atlantis Dive Resort in Puerto Galera. The resort is built in a rough U shape; I'm looking past balconies on the other arm of the U out towards the sea. There are also 2 levels of larger "executive" rooms above mine, although the executives should have good stair-climbind capabilities.
Looking across the U, the wall of the resort ends in a storage bunker and immediately the ramshackle roofs of the two begin.
This pool serves as a combination relaxation area and dive instruction center. Off to the right in the dark is the restaurant and one bar; the other roof visible is the lobby, dive classroom, multimedia room, and an open-air botique with diving gear, T-shirts, and the usual stuff. Further between the two buildings is a passage that takes you to the dive area and beach, about 40 or 30 yards total from where I'm standing.
My ferry home leaves under threatening skies
Downtown Manila looks like every city you've ever seen, mushed up together. Rather than show the chaotic parts, I thought I'd show the part that looks like a mall in Southern California.
The food court in Cyber City, anchored by a large building initially controlled by IBM but with a substantial geek component from all over the world now. There's also a mall, a spa, a drugstore, and, well, you get the picture.
My desk in Manila. As you can see, they don't have a lot of space to give people. This is basically where anti-spam and anti-virus engines come alive, with young women (men are not good at this, I have been told) writing rules 24 hours a day.
There's nothing 3rd World about this machine room.
Leaving Japan, I went through Korea and stepped outside. This enormous building is here, but unused. It looks like something out of Babylon 5 with a huge red pod on top. The tunnel directly in front is obviously supposed to be a metro or rail link, but the railbed is currently empty. All the explanations were in Korean, so I have no idea why it's here but not done yet.
In Korea, I found this hair dryer in the airline club. You probably thought that Unix would be OK for a real time system, but here's proof.
Taipei from 12 stories up. Clean, modern, safe, not horribly wealthy, but incredibly interesting.