Published: February 2nd 2006February 1st 2006
Banka with beautiful sunset
This is a traditional Filipino boat
El Nido, Philippines
Jan 24-Feb1, 2006
Snow Cover: negative
My ‘round the world trip has come to an end. Before I lay out my conclusive thoughts, I will write a little about the Philippines which to say the least has been a very pleasant surprise. Again, here is a brief index to this, my last blog entry:
1) FILIPINO ADVENTURE
2) OVERALL TRIP THOUGHTS
3) SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION
4) TRIP STATISTICS (North Americans are addicted to statistics… these, I presume you will find interesting)
1) FILIPINO ADVENTURE
I flew into Manila via Hong Kong on January 23rd. I was expecting to find my pre-arranged hostel and hunker down for the night before heading to El Nido (north Palawan islands) early the next morning. After accepting an offer from the taxi driver, I found myself singing karaoke to Bon Jovi and Madonna until 4am with a bunch of locals. Filipinos LOVE karaoke and even though it was a Monday night, they sang like it was a Friday night! I could not get over how friendly they were and generally interested in Canada and ‘was I having fun?’ Needless to say, I slept very little that night
Is she sticking her tongue out at me?!... likely catching rain with her tongue!
and found myself wandering around the Manila airport looking for my flight to El Nido very early the next morning. Little did I know that it was a charter flight that left 2km away from the main terminal. Thankfully, I had planned for this and left enough time and eventually found the gate.
We flew into El Nido on a small puddle hopper plane which took an hour. The Palawan Islands are described as the ‘last frontier’ in the Philippines (hence, my interest) and they did not disappoint. At 10ºN they have more of a tropical climate than the rest of the Philippines which also means they have very few typhoons (Pacific name for their Atlantic brethren: Hurricanes) due to lack of Coriolis force… I won’t bore you with the meteorological details. At any rate, they also distinguish themselves in that they are part of the South China Sea oceanic plate as opposed to the rest of the Philippines which are part of the Pacific Plate. This is important to you (and me!) because whilst observing the photos you will notice what is known as KARST topography. Karst topography is distinguished by limestone formations of jagged cliffs, caves, underwater rivers
and generally spectacular scenery. One finds similar geography in Vietnam (Halong Bay) and South China.
We took a banka (boat) to Dolarog which is the ‘resort’ I researched on the internet. At $70/night, this place was a bargain. Not only did I have my own beach hut, but I also was escorted around the islands for snorkeling and general sightseeing. Meals were included and I also had access to kayaks and paddle boats. I made full use of the kayaks and was able to see some very unique spots.
Some of my better times were spent during my trip into the town of El Nido. This town of 25,000 gave me a very interesting perspective on how Filipinos live. Of note would be the fact that most Filipinos understand and speak English… they all learn it in school. Every child I passed would say ‘hello’ and smile. Most adults also waved or passed along their regards. Whereas I have felt like I was a walking dollar sign in most Asian countries, the Filipinos could almost care less. The Philippines is also the only Christian country in Asia and devoutly Catholic. There are signs of religious fervour EVERYWERE. From insignias on
Veggies with a side of peanut sauce and John Mauldin's "Bull's Eye Investing"... not a bad read.
their ‘tricycle taxis’ to the barber counter top (I shaved my head due to excessive heat problems!), God seems omnipresent in this country. I admit that I am in a small town in Asia which is a stark contrast to a big city atmosphere but I also felt this in Manila and would have to conclude that the Philippines is a country I would visit again.
I basically spent my days jogging, kayaking, snorkeling, eating and reading A LOT. The photos tell it a lot better than any drivel I could present, so please enjoy!
2) OVERALL TRIP THOUGHTS
I am often asked upon my return from such trips the following questions:
a) Where was your favourite place?
b) How much did it cost?
c) Why travel alone?
d) Were you every in danger?
e) Would you have done anything differently?
f) MY OVERALL TRIP THOUGHTS a)
I can’t really say where my favourite place was. I loved visiting my friends in the UK, seeing magnificent architecture in Sweden, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, immersing myself in Russian culture, enjoying the beauty of Siberia and Mongolia, feeling the bustle of Beijing and the warmth of the Philippines.
If I was forced to isolate a few great experiences it would have to be the nights out in St. Petersburg (and museums!), snowmobiling in Siberia and the dog sledding in Mongolia. b)
I have absolutely no idea how much this all cost me (VISA might have a better idea!) but a reasonable estimate would be around $200CAD/day. I’ve been away for 60 days so let’s say around $12k. For my non-Canadian readers, the Canadian dollar has just broken above $0.87USD for the first time in 14 years. A note to my Yankee friends: those of you who claim they can’t escape W (double Yuh) because they have US debt denominated in US dollars… please understand that your argument grows weaker by the day… and YOU know who you are… apologies, I digress. Traveling alone presents opportunities and challenges. The cost for my trip could be significantly reduced if I was traveling with another person or in a group. The dog sledding trip, as an example, probably could have been cut by 30-50% as I literally had small tribes dedicated to making sure I was fed and warm. c)
I travel alone for a few simple reasons:
i) I do
not have a significant other nor do I have many friends who are able to take time away. I am able to effectively manage my business anywhere in the world as long as I have internet access. This is becoming less and less of an issue. The only task I cannot accomplish is face to face meetings with my clients.
ii) I find that I meet more people and am more motivated to engage in activities that I might not otherwise do whilst traveling with another person. I may not always feel this way, but I have enjoyed my last few trips alone and would recommend that others should NOT feel apprehensive by doing the same. One needs to take certain precautions while traveling solo (especially female travelers) but it is rewarding and simple to do.
iii) While I do not travel to ‘find myself’ (a common misconception… not necessarily of myself but travelers in general) I do learn a great deal about culture and people… more so than if I were to travel with a friend or cooped up in my apartment watching CNN. d)
The closest I felt threatened was in Moscow when I learned that some drunken
fools were planning to steal my cell phone. I have no idea if anything would have transpired because two kind souls helped me out and escorted me to my apartment. I realize that trusting people implicitly is a slight fault of mine but there is also something to be said for letting down one’s guard with intelligent back up plans. I never wore a money belt but I always had two wallets on me… one for would be muggers and then my ‘real’ wallet. I carried photocopies of all my documents and rarely went anywhere without my passport. I never berated border guards or officials even though I would have loved to have given the odd Russian guy a bit of a ‘working!’ I always said ‘hello’, treated others with respect and never came across as a ‘know-it-all’ or affluent individual. I was generally interested in culture and history and I think most people related with me which GREATLY reduced me being exposed to dangerous situations. e)
I would have done two things differently… first, I would have stayed in Beijing longer (at least a few more days) and second, I would have flown from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar to avoid
the lengthy border stop. f) MY OVERALL TRIP THOUGHTS
I have been around the world and have some profound opinions about our planet and more importantly the people who inhabit it. I will speak first to the geographic nature of our planet and then the people. I have seen some very beautiful places and I have also seen terrible examples of environmental degradation. In the West, we seldom see the burning of coal. I however have seen what the industrial revolution must have done to European and eastern N. American cities… it is disgusting. The air is thick with black smoke, surfaces are covered in soot and I had an uncontrollable cough for two weeks starting in Irkutsk. Most of Asia still burns coal for heat and it is awful. China is for the most part an environmental wasteland. They have manipulated their natural resources to the point where it seems surreal. There are damns, gullies and tunnels seemingly everywhere. Manila is the size of Vancouver… maybe smaller but hosts some 14 million people. I didn’t stay long but the poverty and concentration of people is appalling. Priests preach large families and I was told that the
my hut's in the middle
average Philippine family has anywhere from 4-6 children. We (in the ‘West’) are facing an impending workforce shortage as the baby boomers face retirement; many of these countries are facing a population explosion. It will be interesting to see how the two play out.
While this all sounds doom and gloom, I am stead fast in the following statement: “The world is not how we see it on TV… we are all genetically the same and have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations.” No matter whether I was in Scotland, Russian or China… whether I met people with everything or nothing… they were all smiling, happy and spoke of their lives with pride. Sure, I saw people who were destitute and begging… here is something of note: NEVER, in any of my travels have I seen more people beg than I do in Vancouver. Think about this: my city which for 3 years running the UN has voted as the #1 city in the world has more beggars than any city I have ever visited. This sickens me and the majority of my readers who are from Vancouver can draw the obvious conclusions. Most people who pass beggars in Vancouver
don’t pay an ounce of note to their plight… however, in places like Moscow or Ulaanbaatar, regular citizens (living off a fraction of what Westerners make) actually stop and give these people money. It is shameful to beg for money in most countries and people treat it like a means of last resort. Rather than beg, many will offer to polish shoes, sell cigarettes or candy… anything. I admire the entrepreneurial spirit especially at the root level.
To wrap up my earlier comments, I truly believe that the world we observe on the evening news is a farce. Sure, it’s real in as much as a select ‘elected’ few run our world, but the true citizens of our planet are just like you and I. I met few people who supported terrorism or war. I met few people who thought trade embargos and tariffs were a good thing. I met many people who went above and beyond to make sure I had a great time and were genuinely interested in me and my origins. Canada is perceived worldwide in favourable light. Most people do distinguish between Canada and the United States and whether it is through our governments’ efforts or
our actions as world citizens, we are seen as peaceful and liberal; a country to be admired and imitated. I am excited to return home and continue my business charitable endeavours. For those interested here is what I’ll be up to in the foreseeable future:
3) SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION
Professionally, I run an investment advisory practise through Canaccord Capital in Vancouver with my business associate Ashanthi Munaweera. We have practiced for over 8 years and manage retirement and investment accounts for clients of all ages and walks of life. I hold the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designations and am licensed to deal in securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, GICs) and options in the provinces of BC and Alberta. Through other licenses and various professional contacts, we also help in the following areas:
i) Life, disability, critical illness, long term care insurance
ii) Estate planning (including drafting of wills and trusts)
iii) Financial planning for short or long term goals (such as education or retirement)
v) Pension and foundation asset management
For the time being, our business operates exclusively on referrals. Many of you are existing clients and naturally we are appreciative
of your ongoing support and trust. If you are not a client or if you know someone who could benefit from our services, please do not hesitate to contact us at:
My other focus is soon to be transformed into a non-profit society. I started Bocce.ca
Bocce.ca a few years ago because I love to play bocce and there wasn’t any web sites in Canada dedicated to the game. My goal has always been to promote the game rather than profit from the site. I have assembled a few close and talented friends to help me convert the site and our efforts into a non-profit society with the goal of applying for charitable status in a year. Through our efforts of selling/renting balls and hosting corporate events and tournaments, we hope to raise $10,000 in our first year. This money will be distributed to two charities of our choice. Our requirements are that they have operated as a charity for more than 3 years and are dedicated to helping children. Here is how you can help:
• please don’t buy balls from Costco or Walmart (!)… purchase the best balls money can buy at Bocce.ca
Bocce.ca. $35 from every purchase goes to our various charities. (the rest of the money goes to our suppliers!)
• bocce balls make EXCELLENT wedding or birthday gifts
• hosting a family reunion… how about a great pre-wedding mix and meet?... rent balls from us… we’ll make sure the event is a success
• come out and support our tournaments… our goal is to have a 64 team tournament this summer… 34 teams was our high water mark last year
• lobby your company to host a corporate bocce picnic/tournament rather than a stuffy exclusive golf afternoon… we’re MUCH cheaper and far more inclusive and fun
• do you know of a charity that could use $5,000?... we haven’t made up our minds yet who to help, so please pass along your suggestions.
4) TRIP STATISTICS
Days away 60
Distance traveled 36,000kms
Distance in air (11 flights) ~28,600kms
Number of flights missed 2
Number of flights made 9 (a weak 88.88% success rate)
Distance on rail (4 train journeys) ~7000kms
Distance on sea (1 boat journey) ~400kms
Countries visited 9
Nights spent with friends 11
Nights spent in hostels 6
Nights spent in apartments or hotels 30
I paddled across this abandoned hut... I ate and read... FANTASTIC!
Nights in accommodations with no electricity or running water 5
Nights spent on train 7
Nights spent on boat 1
Most populous city visited Moscow (Russia) pop 8.4 million
Least populous city visited Listvyanka (Russia) pop 600
Coldest temperature -40C (Terej National Park, Mongolia)
Warmest temperature +32C (El Nido, Philippines)
Deepest snow cover 50cms (southern Siberia)
Number of live shows seen 5
Number of museums visited 5
Most expensive accommodation $100CAD/night (apt in St. Petersburg)
Least expensive accommodation $8CAD/night (hostel in Manila)
Rise of S&P TSX while away ~8%
Rise of Canadian dollar while away from $0.865 to $0.88
Canucks’ record while away 14 wins, 12 losses
Number of changes to CDN govt. while away 1
Amount of vodka consumed Not enough according to the Russians
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PS... to the guy who took my Mongolian pic for his desktop... enjoy!
There are more photos below