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Happy 2011 and updates!

Ok I’m back, lol. Apologies for the lengthy absence but I have been in geolocational chaos ; what was supposed to be a two-leg vacation to Siem Reap and Bohol and lots of rest in HK in between, turned into an unexpected tour of five Asian cities (Bangkok, Siem Reap, Manila, Tagbilaran City, Taipei) spanning the various stages of development. Six, if you count my little weekender in Shanghai a fortnight earlier.

S arrived on Dec 23, and we left for Siem Reap on 24. Cathay was late in departing and we missed our connecting flight to Siem Reap. Found ourselves stranded in Bangkok on Christmas Eve and ended up having a Thai Christmas Eve dinner at the hotel with a similarly-stranded couple from HK.

Arrived in Siem Reap on a spectacularly un-Christmassy Day Christmas. Went around the temples for 2 days (very gorgeous), and visited an orphanage. Our driver told us he made 60usd a month, and we were suddenly afflicted with Rich Man’s guilt and donated 500usd worth of rice (500kilos) to the orphanage. It was, on hindsight, a bit overdramatic. Met a little boy who climbed all over me and stole my heart, leaving sandy footprints all over my clothes and memories for forever.

We fought on our last night in Siem Reap and I called for a breakup. So uncaring my mental frame was, I didn’t even cry (a first for me), and we did not speak for at least 20 hours, including sleep time. Didn’t care about the rest of the vacation we had planned; I was too busy planning a backup – either return to HKSingapore, or go somewhere else like, Shanghai, where I can indulge in my self-absorbed afflictions.

Not the proudest moment of my life.

20 hours later, he initiated conversation. Something in his unwillingness to give up on us on a whim or a potentially one-off argument struck a chord in me. Maybe it was because he had done exactly the same a few months back; maybe it was because he understood something I didn’t yet (at that point in time) – that our relationship was fundamentally tumultuous, it can only be – no LDR is stable. Fact of life, deal with it.

So mutually we agreed to go ahead with the rest of our vacation and ironically, it made us stronger. Once I got past my fixation on analyzing what I liked/disliked about him/us, once I got past the mindset that everything in a relationship should be perfect and, I relaxed and started enjoying just being together.

As it turned out, adopting a backseat wait-and-see attitude turned out to be strangely fulfilling. My current assessment is: neither of us is ready for a big move, a life-changing step, so nothing is/can be assured for the near-term. But for as long as we both love each other, and are willing to be patient with each other, we will stay together. I am certain a few more break-ups are lying in the horizon ahead, but if we get past them, we can only get stronger.

If not, then c’est la vie, and there are other fish in the ocean, as life tends to demonstrate now and then.

To continue my travelogue, we headed back to HK, rested for a day and left for Manila on Dec 30. Spent a day in Manila (nothing much, still one of my most disliked cities), then adjourned to Tagbilaran City, then to neighboring Panglao island. We were to stay at Eskaya, the “second-best resort in the Philippines after Amanpulo” which was fully-booked for the New Year.

ESKAYA – BIG TIME FAIL.

I am capslocking and bolding this for emphasis so that none of you will ever make the mistake of going there. If you are going there for your honeymoon, cease everything and book another destination immediately! (Jia this is referring to you.)

I am just waiting for my internet connection at home to get back on-stream so I can pen a hate review on Eskaya on Tripadvisor.

Seriously, for 1,000usd/night, it was utter and complete bullshit. It felt more a 200ringgit/night resort on Redang but worse, because we were made to feel like walking dollar signs. New Year’s Eve dinner, compulsory, 160/pax. Shit buffet food with cheesy singer and lame keyboardist backup. Breakfast, 25usd/pax, not included in room rate. No croissant, no rolls, no nothing. Just square white bread which they might decide to toast if you’re lucky. Poached eggs? Don’t bother, they come cold.

‘Complimentary’ slippers in the room, fake Havianas. Hello? I am not going to wear ‘Havanas’ with soles 1.5x thicker than that of a standard Haviana.
‘Villa’. Looked more like a room with an extended bathroom than a villa. Interior was not pleasantly or smartly designed, and it was so dimly lit, I found myself hanging out at the outdoor bathroom more because at least there was light. Outdoor pool was somewhat sad and surrounded by a sundecks infested with an exotic variety of bugs.

Eskaya’s unique selling point, sixteen villas only for maximum privacy. Thank god. I would hate to think that this place cheated more than 32 guests per night for the past 1-2 years.

Oh, the highlight: a 2,000peso ‘corkage’ on food brought into the resort. This seriously got me hopping mad. You serve me cold poached eggs and poor variants of bread, and generally substandard food, and you want to charge me ‘corkage’ on food that I bought in the supermarket in town with my own money? For this, I condemn you for eternity!

Staff was unprofessional, haphazard at best. I kept getting villager-like looking people knocking on my door, giving me strange cakes in the middle of the night and what not. Other resorts deliver truffle chocolate with a smartly-dressed housekeeping person, then turn down your beds. Eskaya sends different women each night, with a different attire each time, who hand me a plastic plate of dodgy dough and run off into the dark of the night. How am I supposed to know if this is from the hotel, or from a real villager who may be living nearby?

In essence, a badly and unprofessionally-run hotel. Even after we left, we had no idea who the highest-ranking manager was, because they kept trying to shift responsibilities. Weanted to speak to the restaurant manager once but were told that he had gone home. Saw him five minutes later at the restaurant, sitting down and shaking his legs and tummy rolls. The more we got angrier at the way we were made to feel (like unwanted guests), the wider the staff smiled. Hello? I get it when Filippinos say they face problems with a smile, but please don’t smile at me when I’m in a bad mood because it makes me even more pissed off.

We hated the place so much (weather was shit too), we decided to forego two nights and fly back two days earlier. Even had to pay more to upgrade because flights were full – that was how desperate we were. How Eskaya made it to SLH or Conde Naste’s Hot List is beyond me. I get it that they are rich enough from unethical dealings (collecting prince’s ransom from guests and paying peanuts to staff) to bride SLH/Conde Naste but shouldn’t there be some QC at least?

Either you stay primitive and charge primitive rates, or you become truly professionally luxurious and charge luxury rates. Don’t come and be primitive (and pretend to be exclusive with just 16 villas and what-not) and charge luxury rates.

Ooh, now totally in the mood for my hate review.

We finally made it back to HK, and with more time on our hands than originally scheduled, decided to go to Taipei!. Taipei’s OK, not really my kind of city because I didn’t really like the food or the shopping. Managed to get S to eat street-side food with me at Shilin, and felt very triumphant (and happy) after that, haha!

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