Friday, May 18, 2012

Cebu City - a Philippines Vaction

About a month ago, we realized that having a baby would limit mobility for about three months on either side of the big day. If we want to see more of this half of the world, we would have to actually go somewhere soon.

We started with the Philippines.

Coconut juice doesn't taste great, but it comes in a coconut

And it were awesome.

The room's view

Taking the recommendation of a few other ex-pats, we decided to visit the Shangra-La Mactan Resort in Cebu City. The place is super nice, super laid back and super pricey...but you get what you pay for and we were looking for someplace like this.

Two months doesn't seem like a long time to be in China, but we hear the first months are the most stressful. Clif was certainly ready for a break and Shayne was getting dangerously close to the flight restrictions of the final trimester. Two months deep into our assignment was a perfect amount of time to take a vacation.

This was to be served in a pineapple...imagine his disappointment!

Other than Clif's sun burnt feet and some interesting airport experiences (more on that in a bit), the trip was a huge success. We spent an immense amount of time at the beach, where tropical fish hung out in the shallows waiting to be fed. The resort had a little sign to identify all the species we saw, and we saw many.

Clif brought his water proof video camera, and we took a lot of video of the fish. The problem with under-water video is the sound is ear splitting. Rather than simply mute the audio, I overdubbed a recording we took from the lobby bar band...all bootleg style. I encourage those of you at work with fast internet to enjoy the video in HD.

Other than amazing clear ocean water and friendly fish, the resort had plenty of other things going on. We played mini-golf, we swam in the endless pool, and we ate meals at the restaurants and bars. We opted out of the Filippino cultural show, but could hear the drums from the lobby bar. Shayne forced a stalemate on the giant chess board. And one day we took the shuttle bus into town to do some shopping and see the city.

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Going to the city!

Compared to other places we've been, the city reminded us of Mexico with a little China sprinkled in.

Lopez eatery and tire storage.


There were swarms of these funny looking vehicles called "Jeepneys." Some seemed to be for hire, others looked like they were owned by companies to shuttle workers and some operated more like a city bus.

The only thing common among the Jeepneys was the fact they weren't common. Each one had a unique paint job and looked to be custom fabricated.

Now...about the airports...

We flew Philippine Airlines (PA) from Shanghai to Manila, and then on to Cebu city. The only reason I mention the airline is because they are the only reason we were able to make our connection in Manila.

We didn't do ourselves any favors and scheduled layovers of approximately 1.5 hours. The flight from Shanghai was delayed 20 minutes and the nice people at the desk knew what hell we were about to endure.  So they gave us stickers....

The mark of a man about to miss his flight
We didn't know the reason, but we were told to wear them on the plane and someone would contact us. So we wore them on the plane...we noticed no one else wearing stickers and started to wonder when nobody contacted us. But after deplaning a representative from PA grabbed us on the jetbridge and hustled us through the Manila boondoggle airport. Somehow the rep got our bags off the plane first so we could be first through customs. The gate personnel were waiting for us and shut the doors immediately behind us. Without help from the airline, we never would have that connection because....

The Manila and Cebu City airports are operated by drunken two-year-old chimpanzees of inferior genetics. I won't go into details about our experience specifically, but to get on a plane you have to:
  • go through security (printed itinerary required)
  • check in and get your boarding pass
  • use a currency exchange or ATM to get cash for "airport fee"
  • pay an "airport fee" in cash (local currency), at each airport visited
  • fill out immigration forms (entering and leaving) 
  • go through security again (boarding pass required)
It is not obvious how to do any of that.....and in what order. Plus all the normal hassles of being at an airport also apply. If I were in charge of those airports, I would quit due to embarrassment. My only advice to those who follow is to make sure the connection time is plenty. We stepped foot in those airports three times and nearly missed three flights.

For some reason they get away with it...stuff like this can make you forget stuff like that.

The other phenomenon we noticed was our eagerness for the trip to end. In the past, a week was about right before we wanted to go home. But we weren't going "home" so a week didn't feel like enough time. I suppose when China feels like home, we know the transformation is complete.

Baby Gerke at the beach


  1. Looks like a good trip. Blue skies and blue oceans and pretzels.

  2. The film was fun. Feeding the fish there wasn't quite like feeding the fish at the Lake of Ozarks.

  3. We sure enjoyed OUR trip to the Philippines through you blog. Looks like you guys are seeing so much of that part of the country, and enjoying it all, (or at least most of it). The fish were beautiful! And it looks like "baby Gerke" is doing fine, too. Love, Dan & Karen