A Day at the Bronx Zoo

Last June, my wife and I took a trip up to the Bronx Zoo. Prior to moving back to New York City in 2010, I’d lived here as a kid, or visited numerous times, but I don’t know that I had ever been to the Bronx Zoo before. Anyway, we showed up about two hours after opening and, after some deliberation, went ahead and put out the extra money for the all-access passes instead of paying a-la-carte as we went through the zoo. The zoo has a large amount of free “content” but if you want the “premium” experience, you have to pay a heftier fee.

I think it was worth the money. We almost exclusively visited the premium areas, but ran out of time before seeing everything. Of course, some of the stuff we wouldn’t want to see anyway, because it was geared towards kids, but basically the Bronx Zoo is a two day experience, at least. There’s so much left that we didn’t see that we’re definitely going to have to go back again.

My favorite photos from our trip:

If you’re thinking of visiting the zoo, my only suggestions are to bring water, food (inside prices are out of control), a hat for shade and comfortable shoes for standing in lines for access to some of the premium areas like the Asia Monorail and the Dinosaur Safari, which we didn’t ride, but saw the line for while walking towards the butterfly garden.

Two Quiet Weeks in Georgia

My blog has been pretty quiet lately, and that’s because I’ve been down in Georgia visiting family.  It’s nice and quiet there, so quiet in fact that the advertisements in the newspaper are sometimes thicker than the newspaper itself.  So… that doesn’t leave much to talk about.  The paper even covered the disappearance of a Ronald McDonald statue, though that is kinda funny.  Somewhere in Columbus, Ronald McDonald is always sitting on a couch, ready to hang out with the person that stole him from a McDonald’s bench.

That’s not to say nothing interesting happened though.  Well, interesting to me at least!

Super WalMart is huge!

We did a lot of shopping!  We did so much shopping, in fact, that I had to pack a box to mail back to NYC.  Thankfully, the shipping cost was less than the checked baggage fee on Delta and it showed up the day after I got back to NY, spending only two days in transit.

Dunkin Donuts ground coffee.

We also did a lot of grocery shopping for big family dinners.  While browsing the shelves I kept finding new stuff that I hadn’t seen before, like Dunkin Donuts having their own line of ground coffee.  I also got excited about stuff I hadn’t eaten since before I left the US, like Toaster Strudels and Fudge Shoppe cookies.

Kadie the cow in Columbus, Georgia.

I finally got a picture with Kadie the cow.  This giant cow used to sit in front of the Kinnett Dairy plant, which has since gone out of business and been replaced by a Best Buy.  The original plan was to remove the cow, but it had been there for so long that the plan caused an uproar in the town and it was allowed to remain standing.  There used to be a baby cow next to it, which is why there are those extra blocks stuck in the ground.  The baby cow was stolen, returned, and is now supposedly in storage somewhere.

Old toys from when I was a kid.

I saw this red box and the wooden toys that were inside it for the first time in years.  That red box is at least 21 years old.  I thought it had been thrown out a long time ago.  The wooden blocks have marbles inside and you have to twist and turn them to get them to come out.

This yard needed some serious work!

I did a lot of yard work.  Raking up these leaves took about 6 hours over the course of two days.  It was hard work, but in a way it was also relaxing.

A real cat named Garfield.

I met a cat named Garfield that thought the perfect place to sleep at night was right on top of my chest, and would purr until I fell asleep.

I had a good time doing a whole lot of nothing on this trip, aside from the shopping I mentioned.  It was all about hanging out with family and relaxing before coming back to NYC to get back to work.  Now that I am back in NY, I have a bunch of errands to take care of and then it’s time to start a new job.

It’s also time to start really blogging about NY!  So, look for that in upcoming posts.

Enjoying a Vacation!

Starting today and going through Tuesday my wife and I will be taking a short vacation in Kuala Lumpur.  It’s nice to get away sometimes right?  We found ourselves a nice guest house with some great amenities and we’re looking forward to checking out the Batu Caves, hopefully tomorrow.

Anyhow, I didn’t take the time to write any posts in advance so this blog will be quiet until perhaps Teusday night or Wednesday, depending on how tired I am when we get back to Singapore.  I already wrote one good draft though, so you can expect to see a lot of great stuff about Kuala Lumpur later this week!

Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend and has a great start to their week!

(Just a side note:  As I type this I can hear what sounds like the Muslim call to prayer coming in through the windows.  It’s a very lovely sound, but it brings back memories for me.  The last time I heard it so clearly was when I was in Iraq in 2003 sitting on the rooftop of a building in the outskirts of Baghdad.  We were playing cards to pass the time and when it was getting dark a building a few blocks away exploded.  It lit the sky back up with an orange glow and I could feel the thump from the blast deep in my chest.  One day I think I’ll blog more about that.)

Home From Phuket

Last night my wife and I got in from Phuket, Thailand, safe and sound.  Somehow I was both relieved and dismayed to be back.  It’s always sad when a vacation is over!

The trip was only three days long, but those three days were very full!  We did quite a bit, some unexpected, and we also didn’t get to do a few of the things we were hoping for.

Without going into the details (yet), I will say that we’re planning on making a repeat visit sometime soon, after we swing by Bangkok.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting stuff about our trip, including the accommodations, food, scenery, the beach, and… even some ladyboys.  There are some pretty good photos, so keep checking back!

Heading to Phuket!

That’s right!  Around the time this is published I’ll be hopping on plane to Phuket in Thailand for some much needed rest and relaxation!  I’m looking forward to hanging out on the beach and finding out what the town has to offer in terms of cuisine.

We’d been thinking about going to Phuket for about a year, and now I’m finally going to get to see the place.  White beaches, great water, great photo opportunities and I really hope there’s some great food!  I wonder if Thailand has satay?

Anyhow, if you’re not familiar with the place, here are some map clippings.

The first one shows Singapore at the bottom and Phuket at the top left, circled.  It’s not that far away.  The flight is less than an hour, and I can’t recall exactly how much we spent on the tickets, but it wasn’t much.

The second one is a close up of the Phuket area and also shows the Phi Phi Islands, where that movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed.  I never saw it, but I heard the beach looked great, so we’re going to try to get out there and have a look for ourselves.

Our hotel is supposed to have wi-fi, but who knows?  Maybe it’ll be flaky.  I’ll try to get online at least once a day in the evening to approve any comments there may be, and I have some posts scheduled for tomorrow and the day after, but no guarantees!

Sent Off In Style

Remember how I said in an earlier post that Filipinos will use a motorbike for just about anything?

Well, when my wife and I flew back out of the Philippines, we had to leave through Clark Air Base, since that’s where we arrived at. We spent most of our stay in Antipolo and had to commute back to Pampanga for our flight. The original plan was to leave Antipolo the day before, spend the night in Pampanga and then head back to the airport the next day. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave Antipolo though, so we wound up leaving the morning of our flight.

Our trip back to Pampanga was a bit hectic. We stopped by my brother-in-law’s restaurant to have a meal first and then we headed to Manila. Before leaving Manila we had to stop by POEA. That’s the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, or in other words, another place to get slammed by senseless fees. We had a bit of baggage with us, so my wife deposited me at the nearest Starbucks, told me to have a coffee and surf the net on my laptop and then disappeared for a while. I think she knew I would have fun surfing the net on my own laptop for the first time in 8 days and she probably didn’t want me in the POEA. If I were there, they might have tried to hit her with more fees, just because, and then I would get pissed off, and it would have led to me making a scene and being aggravated for the rest of the day.

After that we had to find our way to a bus terminal. So, we jumped in a cab. Unfortunately, the cab deposited us at a bus terminal that only had routes going in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go, so we had to do some walking. It was hot that day, and we wound up being a little toasted by the sun while we trudged up the street. Luckily, a bus going to Pampanga happened to be stopped on the side of the road, trying to pull in more passengers before it hit the highway. We hopped on and relaxed.

By this time, we were counting the hours. We weren’t sure we were going to make it on time. The bus was kind of puttering around too, stopping everywhere to find more passengers and we started to get nervous, but once we hit the highway this guy’s foot turned to lead. He laid on the horn and tailgated people to get them out of his way and we reached Angeles City in a short 55 minutes.

Now, it was time for another headache. When we got off at Angeles City we realized we didn’t remember exactly how to get back to my father-in-law’s house so we could get the rest of our baggage and freshen up a bit. After a furious texting session, we finally gave up on outside help and took our chances. We hopped onto a Jeepney that deposited us at what looked like a Jeepney terminal. Then we just asked around until someone pointed us in the right direction. The ride on the 2nd Jeepney was a bit long, and we were nervous because we weren’t sure we were going the right way, but eventually we saw things that looked familiar and we got off in the right place. A short tricycle ride later and we were at my father-in-law’s house.

So, the hard part should be over right? Well, not quite. The yard is walled and the gate was locked. My father-in-law wasn’t answering his phone, so we wound up leaning up against the wall by the house, yelling for him. We knew he was there, since the house’s windows were open and the gate was locked from the inside. I was about to look for a place to climb the wall when we heard him call out from inside the house that he was coming. Turns out he caught a cold and was laid up in bed, passed out.

Once we got in we packed our things together and then took showers. Yup! Showers! We got to enjoy the first pay-off of fronting the money to have the water connection hooked up! The water was cool, which was refreshing on a hot day. I prefer hot showers usually, but anything is preferable to dragging water in from the well and washing out of a bucket. In Asia, “central” anything is rare. As in, there’s no central A/C. There’s no need for central heating of course. Also, there’s no central water heater. The only place you usually get hot water is in the showers, and that’s only if you spend extra cash on a wall mounted water heating unit.

So, after we freshened up, we began our journey to the airport at Clark Air Base, accompanied by my father-in-law, who wanted to see us off. My mother-in-law was still on her way from Manila and said she would catch up with us at the airport. So, how did we get from the house in Pampanga to Clark? Here’s where the motorbike comes in. Part of our trip was on a modified motorbike that had a frame built around it, including a passenger area/cargo area in the back. I was amused, and impressed, by the owner’s ingenuity.

On the trip, I had the pleasure of seeing this pigs riding in the sidecar of another motorbike (which I also showed in Part 9).

The ride in the modified motorbike was fun, but it was incredibly slow. By the time it dropped us off outside the main gate to Clark Air Base, I was almost sure we’d rode all the way back to Antipolo. Outside the gate, we had one more Jeepney ride to go before we made it to the terminal.

We went ahead and checked in as soon as we got there. We arrived at 7:30 PM, and check-in had started at 7:00 PM. Afterward, we came back out and talked for a while and waited around for my wife’s mom. She must have gotten hung up in traffic though, because at 7:55 PM we gave up and went inside to finish the check in process and move to the departure gate area. We didn’t want to risk missing our flight. We wound up saying our goodbyes to her over the phone. She arrived at the terminal at about 8:05 PM, but by then we’d already gone through immigration.