Showing posts from February, 2018

A Whale of a Trip

We decided that we wanted to go on the Whale Shark Tour. We have done several other tours in the Philippines and really this was the only one we had not done. The hotel told us that we had to get up at 5.30am, which we were not too keen about, and they said that the trip would cost us 1,200 pesos each. They also told us that we would probably back at the Bee Farm by 2 or maybe 3pm. Well, we duly got up at the right time and took a tuktuk, one of those three-wheelers that does a passable impression of a WW2 Bren Gun carrier.
We soon arrived at Alona Beach, on another part of Panglau island, where the Whale Shark trip was supposed to start. A couple of Filipinos paddled us out to the ship in what looked like a plastic box. More than two hours later, we were still at Alona Beach, waiting for the trip to start!

We finally left and had quite a pleasant sail past Virgin Island (Richard Branson seems to be everywhere these days) and across to Oslob, on the island of Cebu. (Is Oslob full of m…

Food, Glorious Food!

One advantage to the Bohol Bee Farm as a holiday venue soon became apparent: the food. Yes, it’s good and there is lots of it. The breakfast buffets are a feast in themselves: home-cured ham, scrambled egg, excellent fish and chicken in breadcrumbs, delicious fruit juices, fresh salads and of course the yummy squash bread and dark brown muffins. In the Philippines, the coffee is usually pretty bad, but here at the Bohol Bee Farm it is hot and tastes as though it has just been brewed. All of this and a sea view, with smiling Filipino waitresses that always say, “Good marneen, sir!”

Breakfast was included in the room price, so we have had some serious scoffing in the mornings. I had never eaten salad for breakfast before in my life, but perhaps it is something that I could get used to.
The lunch menu was as varied and as exciting as the fare on offer for breakfast. Particularly good were the complimentary starters (pumpkin bread with mango and avocado spreads), fish and chips, chicken sti…

Hell's Holidaymakers

It was of course J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Hobbit, who wrote, “It is a dangerous business going out of your front door.” The truth is that more and more Chinese people are not just going out of their front doors: they are heading overseas for their holidays each year. Should we be celebrating the adventures of these Middle Kingdom (not Middle Earth) Bilbos? 
In the Philippines, the waves of Chinese tourists that invade the archipelago, especially during the Chinese New Year holiday, bring lots of tourist dollars. The problems that Mr and Mrs Chen and their children bring with them are not so welcome. (Those who have read An Unexpected Party may recall that Mr Baggins was rather put out by the large number of uninvited dwarves that appeared at Bag End.) For example, the Chinese young men in the next hotel room to ours were talking and laughing loudly on their balcony until after 1am.   
Although Chinese children are so well-behaved in China, especially at Green Oasis School, on holiday they…

Bee Happy

The Bohol Bee Farm is not on Bohol: it’s on an island called Panglau. Apart from a couple of hives that are used for demonstrations for tour groups, there are no bees. It also is not a farm, as there are no tractors, cows or pigs. Yes, they do have some horticulture going on, as they grow on site the key ingredients of the delicious salads that are served in the restaurants. During the Chinese New Year, the main crop at Bohol Bee Farm is Chinese tourists. This is a bit of a problem because I have the impression that the staff do not really like the Chinese guests. An elderly Spanish couple, on the other hand, seemed to be very popular with the Filipino staff.
When we arrived in Manila, an internal flight took us to Tagbileran airport and then a minibus took us to the Bee Farm. It was raining and the Bee Farm seemed to be full of (yes, you guessed it) Chinese tourists.
After some greedy goose gobbling, we usually had a rest in our room for an hour or so, before the morning swim.

Blackface, Red Faces

It was a source of embarrassment for the Chinese government and a dent in China’s image around the world: that is what some commentators are saying about a TV comedy sketch that appeared during the Chinese New Year. Lots of Chinese people, especially the younger generation, go back to their hometown during the CNY holiday, in order to see their parents and grandparents. Sometimes they will bring with them their boyfriend or girlfriend. This means that the Chinese New Year is often the first occasion that the older members of the family will have to meet their future son- or daughter-in-law. In the television sketch, a smart-looking Chinese young man is going with his black girlfriend to meet her parents for the first time. The sketch was meant to be funny, but many people all over the world have condemned its blatant racism and the way that it perpetuates racial stereotypes.
The sketch was supposed to be set somewhere in Africa. The girlfriend’s mother was played by a Chinese lady wear…

Hongkies are Piggies

When we go to Sofia, we sometimes have lunch at The Happy Grill (very unoriginal), but in HK it is usually a trip to the Prince Edward metro station (use your Hong Kong tong) and to the One Dim Sum restaurant half way down Playing Field Road, on the left. Actually, it is not one dim sum – it’s lots of them.  And just in case you did not know, dim sum have nothing to do with being bad at Mathematics. They are a bit like jaozi, as they are pastry rolls filled with all sorts of yummy things. Hongkies, if you still have not worked it out, are residents of HK. Shenzhen is just around the corner and over the border, so we were only temporary hongkies.
When you get to the restaurant, there is always a queue and sometimes you have to wait nearly an hour for a table. In fact, we arrived at about three in the afternoon, a very non-lunch hour of the day, and yes, there was still a queue and it was crowded inside. Those round bamboo baskets soon arrived at our table and they were placed one on top …

Flat Out, Part 1

Regular readers of my online ramblings will know that our apartment in Shenzhen is in fact in Futian, opposite the huge and splendid Lianhuacun park. Another advantage is that our apartment is located half-way between two MTR stations on different lines, Children’s Palace and Lianhuacun. However, in this posting I am going to take your, dear reader, into our apartment and show you round a bit. This may perhaps be of some interest to anyone who is thinking of living and working in China (and Shenzhen in particular). The good news about our apartment is that it is cheap. All of the Bank of China Towers blocks are clad in ghost-busting reddish-dark pinkish tiles. This is in order to keep away the evil spirits of those who were executed nearby. (It seems to work, as so far no spirits have appeared, although I do sometimes have a glass or two of vodka when Irena makes some Russian-themed soup.) As a result, a lot of Chinese people do not want to live in these blocks and so our apartment is …