Another low-key day

Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Once again, we got out too late for breakfast and went straight for lunch.  Back at Ayala Mall (which will seem to serve for an exceptional variety of dining options the duration of our stay) we this time selected Gerry's Grill, characterized as a Filipino seafood grill.  We ordered three items: plate featuring pickled fish, Asian vegetables, chili peppers, and ribbon-sliced grilled pork; a soup with whole prawns, chilies and vegetables, and some crab fried rice.  All items were very good, although the crab fried rice sounded better than it was -- crab is just too delicate of a flavor, and while they did it as well as can be expected, it just probably isn't the best feature ingredient for a fried rice.  At one point, Zel asked if the chilies on the pickled fish plate were hot, I replied I didn't think so (I found them to be somewhat less intense than the sport peppers common on Chicago-style hot dogs).  Zel tried one and nearly killed me.  She said it felt like her whole mouth became swollen!  I told her she now knows not to trust me when I say something is not hot, but if I say it is hot, she knows to stay far away.

After lunch, we caught a jeepney to the other big mall in the area, SM.  This was my first experience with a ubiquitous but seemingly insane form of public transportation.  The fare is exceedingly cheap -- about 15 cents in US currency.  These vehicles are minibuses with an open back, when you see one heading to where you want to go, you just climb in (sometimes negotiating traffic to get to it).  There is a variety of sizes, the vehicle we took going to the mall had a capacity of maybe 14 adults, the one we had on the return was larger and could hold 20 or more.

At the mall, I got the rest of my US (and Canadian) currency exchanged.  I was advised to only change a small amount at the airport and seek better rates in the city, a tactic that has paid off in the past.  The Marriott Hotel, however, was a full 2 pesos / dollar LESS than the rate I got at the airport.  At the mall, the rate was similar to what I got at the airport (in other words, not enough of a difference to warrant waiting); and still slightly less than international market rates according to

We had planned to take the Super Cat ferry to Leyte on Wednesday, and thought that tickets could be reserved online, so we opted not to visit their office at the mall.  Instead, we stopped at a grocery store for some snacks, knowing the 5:45 am ferry departure meant little time for breakfast.  We picked up some sliced pineapple that looked good, and I also got some longan, a fruit I've had before when a friend bought some in Chicago's Chinatown.  Zel never tried it before.  It's a cherry-sized fruit with an inedible, leathery skin, a melon-like flesh, and a large pit.  Bite the skin open , squirt the fruit in your mouth, then spit out the pit.  Zel didn't like it at first, but when she got hungry, they sort of grew on her (I remember this being the case when I first had them).  We also picked up some spicy prawn crackers and some seaweed-flavored Lays potato chips.  The former I've had before (commonly found in US  Asian supermarkets), the latter will be a first.  Pringles had a similar product, as well as crab-flavored potato chips. 

After stopping at a coffee shop for an afternoon snack consisting of a not-too-sweet chocolate cake and coffee (Zel had mocha), we headed back to the hotel.  We discovered we could only reserve the Supercat tickets online, and a 48 hour advance notice was required, so that trip was put off until Thursday.  As of now (Wednesday morning) the request is still listed as "pending" and we need to pick up the tickets today, so we'll see if that trip comes off as planned.  Instead, we decided today we will find a beach.  Not knowing where exactly to find one, we asked the concierge at the hotel, who merely pointed us to the reservation clerk.  The clerk advised us to check with the vacation planner who is in the business center at 9 am, but she gave us an area map.  The information book in the hotel room mentions secluded beaches on some of the islands, so we'll see what options are available.  This will not be the only beach trip on the to-do list.

For dinner, Zel had a taste for Italian food and we went to Don Henricos at the mall.  To put it in perspective, this place would have to aspire to become as good as Sbarro.  Yes, it was that bad (and we should have known since it was pretty much empty).  A mixed seafood pasta had a grayish hue; but at least it tasted better than it looked.  The pizza was pretty dreadful (not that I expected Pizzeria Uno).  Zel mentioned her favorite restaurant in Manila is Italian and much better, and that they have a good pizza place there as well; we will try both near the end of the trip.  

We walked around the second level of the mall to look at some of the other restaurant options.  Neither of us expected Don Henricos would have decent dessert after what we had, so we kept an eye out for someplace to stop, but nothing caught our fancy.  I thought it was a lovely night out (low-70's, low humidity and the breezy wind from earlier had died down).  But it was too cold for Zel, so we came back to the hotel and watched a movie.    
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