Reflections, Updates, New Year’s and 2007 and Australia

Nothing too new or exciting to report, but thought I would spew some Berwithoughts out into the ether for your contemptuous and/or piteous viewing pleasure.

Firstly, for the record, if you are the kind of person like me who enjoys beautiful locales, unique experiences, fine dining, beautiful girls, good vibes and idyllic pleasures, you need to seriously consider putting Boracay, during the week between Xmas and New Years on your to-do list.

Upon ending my second consecutive xmas in Boracay I have even more praise for the place. While it is quite an adventure to get there, leaving you almost frazzled, upon arrival it is no less than paradise. The difficulty in getting there is rewarded, however, by the fact that there are very, very few rude, horrendous, loud colored wearing, big gulp drinking westerners there… there are a few, but much less than most places of the type… this is likely to change over time, so as with most places of this type, get there soon before THEY all find out about it and begin arriving in organized tours.

While it is paradise, it is not however all that far removed from real Philippino life… You could spend the entire time there on the beach, where absolutely everything, from restaurants to hotels to bars/clubs are located, and never even wear shoes or sandals the entire time… it is eminently peaceful… soul-healing… perfect. However, even going 100 meters behind the hotels and buildings leads to an entirely different world. Within meters is dirty, poor, loud Philippines. Which, kinda makes it really neat. As an example, after strolling the perfect white sand beach, looking at the stars and relaxing one evening, I decided to be lazy and walk behind the buildings to the main road to catch a ‘trike’ (a motorcycle taxi with a side car where anyone over 5’5â€? has to basically get into a fetal position to fit into). On the short 1 mile ride back to my hotel we passed numerous cock fighting venues, streets filled with people, metal garbage cans on fire etc! It makes for quite the juxtaposition.

I have changed my mind on Boracay as being a potential beach bar location though… For the time being, for reasons you probably are not too interested in here, I think I will pass on it… but if I am in the region anytime around xmas-new year’s I will always have Boracay circled on my always tentative calendar.

Okay, enough about Boracay.

After Boracay Jane and I went to Manila for a few days. Nothing too big to report there, other than I finished 3rd out of 60 in a poker tourney there which was nice.

NEW YEAR’S

As most of you are aware, I hate most human traditions and holidays. But New Years is not too bad. However, I like to call New Year’s “Amateur night� because alllllll the people who never go out much, who never drink, all seem to go out on that night and make fools of themselves.

This is thankfully much less so in Asia and Latin America so I tend to venture out more when I am in those areas as opposed to really terrible places such as Canada, USA, Australia etc…

While many people really look forward to New Year’s and make “big plans�, this is never my style… so almost always, New Year’s is never planned for me and almost always it turns out to be one of the worst nights of the week, much less year for me…

As example, I spent New Year’s 2005 (or was it 2004?) at a bus stop in Ixtapa, Mexico with Ceebz, where we went to a 7-11 and at least bought a can of beer to cheers each other. Much to our amusement and interest, we found out that night that Mexicans don’t celebrate New Year’s like the rest of North America. Ceebz and I went from club to club around 11:30pm to find that they all were still closed and had no intention of opening until their normal opening time well after midnight… leading to our bus stop celebration.

For the millennia new year’s, Elsie almost killed me as I told her around 10pm that I just wanted to “go to bed� in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico… she dragged me out and we had a somewhat okay time after a few tequila shots, and then ended up walking about 10km’s back to our hotel as every taxi was full.

And this year kept to script, as Jane and I were very surprised to see the streets of Manila almost completely empty, which isn’t too surprising given that Manila’s nightlife is one of the quietest and worst in all of Asia… but I was expecting at least something. We ended up at a Hard Rock café around 11:30pm, which was half empty… then we went to two other bars… one was really funny, at least to me… as I enjoy unusual situations. There was a terrible band in one, and only about 15 people in it… most of whom were a family, along with all their kids… with the usual new year’s noise makers. The band was atrocious and in between songs there was nearly a minute of total silence, except for the feedback from the microphone and the kids almost on cue, at the most quietest and awkward moments, half-blowing into a noisemaker, adding to the dismality of it all… only topped off by the bar playing advertisements for its “amazing new year’s party! Join us on new year’s for an unforgettable night of memories!�… ahhh, I loved that.

However, around 11:45 I could see Jane was a bit sad. Girls seem to like things like New Year’s and “making it special�, so I actually put in a bit of effort and asked a few people where, possibly, could be a place that had at least a few people and music… we found it in Port Bonifacio at an okay club called Embassy and arrived just in time to “ring in the new year� before heading home. Well, actually, I ended up taking Jane back to the hotel and then ended up in P Burgos Street (anyone who knows Manila knows what I am talking about) and actually had a pretty fun night after that.

Movinnnnnnng on….

I then went to Sydney… on my way to Melbourne to play in a big poker tourney… no I am not a poker pro or anything now… just something I enjoy and am getting quite good at as a pastime.

As for Australia, I have two comments.

One, wow are things expensive here now. The massive inflation engineered by most central banks and governments in the world, combined with an unusually high Australian dollar (relative to other currencies, not gold) mean that a bottle of water at 7-11 will cost about $2 USD, the bottle of water in my hotel room is $6.50 USD and the steak on the menu at the restaurant last night was over $50 USD.

And two, I think Australia actually competes with Canada for worst nightlife in the world. I was in Sydney for nearly a week and went out one night… it was brutally bad… Most Australians are direct descendants from England, home of some of the world’s ugliest people and it shows.

After Sydney I went somewhere I have never been before… Melbourne.

I just arrived here today and it seems really nice… almost Vancouver-like, but maybe even nicer… and it seems quieter… I was surprised to find out the population was 3.5 million+… after spending a night out, I was guestimating 1-1.5 million…

This is also the furthest south on the planet I have been to date. The two previous spots were Sydney and Buenos Aires. It is chilly at night here… very chilly. And it is the dead of summer here right now, so you can tell you are getting into some of the higher latitudes, although at 37 degrees it is far closer to the equator than Canada, so in the winter it actually doesn’t get very cold here, and rarely ever snows, so it is quite moderate. The weather can change very rapidly here though… some days were really cold but then the next day would be ghastly hot, then the next day windy and cool, etc.

Interesting Melbourne Factoid: Australian Rules Football is Australia’s most popular sport… there are 16 teams in the league but NINE of them are based out of Melbourne!!!?? Go Melbourne Roos! Go Melbourne Outbacks! Go Melbourne… ahh forget it.

I glanced at a map and considered maybe going further south to Hobart just for the sake of doing it. But my laziness may trump that.

As an aside, I am currently reading a book called “A Sense of the World�. It is about a blind guy named James Holman who, in the early 1800’s, traveled the world more extensively than ANYONE before him… and he did much of it alone. And, let me repeat, HE WAS BLIND!?!?

I am astonished to see that he has been almost everywhere I have been, and then some, all via horse and sailboat!!!?? AND BLIND!!!!

If the book has changed anything about me, at least now when a flight is delayed by 2 hours I stop myself before whining, realizing that James Holman would have taken 2 months, and contracted Malaria, to do the same 4 hour trip as I am doing.

As for the immediate future, I may stick around Australia another few days or a week or so, then likely New Zealand then over to Chile, Argentina and Brazil… but ya never know! Stay tooned.

In the meantime, here are some pics just to prove I am still alive:

Me in Boracay
Me golfing at Boracay Fairways Golf Course