Stuck in Manila! Emily makes the best of it at the Pearl Manila Hotel pool...
Most people would probably think that being stuck in the Philippines wouldn't give us too much to complain about. Emily and I came here before Chinese New Year for a weeks holiday in Boracay. Unfortunately we were not able to renew our China visas before we left so we got stuck here, unable to get a new visa to get home because of the Chinese embassy being closed for the holiday. This has meant that we have now been stranded here for two weeks. One bonus – I did at least manage to do some diving in Puerto Galera on the way back to Manila.
The embassy reopened last Friday, when we handed in our passports. We finally got them back yesterday with no Chinese visa. They could only offer us two weeks at great expense, despite much pleading. After over a week in Manila we finally leave for Hong Kong on Sunday to try our luck there.
Anyway here is selection of Instagram photos I've taken on our trip…
In the second week of January, for Emily's 30th Birthday, we flew to Guanxi province for a long weekend escape from the cold and pollution where we spent a few days in the Khast landscape of Yangshuo before heading north for a days hiking in the Longji Rice Terraces.
Here's a selection of my Instagram pics taken from the trip.
Only a year after I was last there, I found myself back in Thailand, this time with Robbie and his parents, Bunny and Montsi, on their boat, Effendi. Over Chinese New Year we flew down and met them for a week of sailing and diving and general relaxation. As we arrived at the Boat Lagoon in Phuket on our arrival I could hardly believe that I was back there again, but must confess some levels of glee thinking about those of you who were with me last year. ;)
After a highly entertaining lunch party on our first day which left all of us in a seriously inebriated state, we stumbled aboard and departed at 9pm. Then, in the way that only murphy’s law can strike, we proceeded to have various things go wrong with the boat, starting with the engine leaking diesel into the bilges and finishing with us somehow tearing a whole in the zodiac. The long and short of these events that we decided to abandon our plan to go up to the Similan islands north west of Phuket because we realised that we wouldn’t have enough time.
Instead we decided to stay around Phuket going to the islands in the area, and spent the rest of the week doing lots or snorkelling, diving and sunbathing. It was a very relaxing few days and at the end of the trip, I actually felt rested and ready to face the world again, rather than the usual requirement of another holiday to recover from the first one!
On Sunday I went to a Thanksgiving party at Tom’s house put on by Candice. It was a pretty relaxed afair with lots of good food, wine and Charlie spiced things up with his chocolate biscuits. Since the only american at the party was our host, it is perhaps a good question as to what we were all thankful for but then again the pilgrims were all europeans so, as they say in the new world, go figure. My camera was out of action but luckily Tom and Denise had theirs.
Last week, over the October holiday, Robbie and I flew to Sichuan for a week, where we met up with his cousin, Roger and girlfriend Eva who were spending a month backpacking around China. We visited some amazing places and it really reminded me how much fun you can have travelling around this country – something that my Beijing-fueled cynicsm had made me forget. It was also great to finally get to go to Sichuan which I had wanted to visit ever since I first arrived here. There were a lot a pics so I have split them over two photo streams:
After recovering from Mark’s birthday, Robbie and myself managed to talk Charles into driving us into the countryside on Sunday so we could escape the city and try out his new Land Rover. After lunch in the bagel restaurant in Shunyi we headed to Miyun county to a place called Hei Long Tan, long rocky gully full of rusty walkways, crystal clear water pools, waterfalls, caves, and a woman with a crossbow encouraging us to shoot fish at point-blank range…. Enjoy the pics.
This weekend, for the second time this summer, music once again filled Chaoyang Park for the Beijing Pop Festival. Headlining was former Stones Roses front-man Ian Brown and hip hop artist Common. It was an excallent way to spend a Saturday evening and a great way to finish the Summer. Click here to view the pics.
On Saturday I spent the afternoon with Tom, St. John and Denise travelling over to the huge camera market in Wu Ke Song in the west of the city. The place is amazing, absolutely huge, and with prices supposedly lower than Honk Kong. They have a huge selection of new and second-hand camera equipment ranging from the latest dSLR’s to old Leica’s and box cameras. Stranger still is the fact that they also have stalls selling wedding dresses, makeup and wigs. I’m not sure what level of impulsiveness is required for someone to go shopping for a digital camera and come back with a wedding dress, but it seems that in China your wedding and camera needs are all provided conveniently under one roof. Ah… China. No matter how long you live here there are always new surprises to catch you off guard. Hilarious…
After trying a number of different lenses, I purchased a Canon 50mm F1.4 EF, a very fast lense that lets a lot of light in to the camera. The upshot of this is that you can use it without a flash in low light which enables to you to take more natural photos in these conditions. It is also good for portraits because its depth of field can be used creatively to blur the background of photos. Mastering it is clearly a leaning curve but so far I am really pleased with the results. You can read a review of it here and, if you are interested, it is available from both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Later in the evening, having a spent a few hours in Ditan park with Will playing frisbee, I headed out armed with camera and new lense to celebrate Tom’s birthday. We had an excellent dinner at a new Yunnan restaurant near cafe Sambal in Hou Hai (the name of which currentlly escapes me) before heading off to the Tree in San Li Tun. Supposedly we finished the evening in poachers but my recollection of that part of the evening is a little foggy…. Anyway… Enjoy the pics.