Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy Golden Week, and A Trip to Manila

I'm back!  I went to Manila for a four day weekend (what is commonly known as Golden Week in Asia) visiting my friend who has been living and working there for a while now.  We had high hopes of more elaborate plans to go to Bohol or Palawan, but ultimately the rainy weather deterred us.

Plus, travel in the Philippines is often more trouble than it is worth - destinations that look close on a map end up taking a mind boggling amount of time in cars, ferries and buses.  I learned this the hard way on this trip, many times, but mainly I will never forget the soul crushing realization after riding forty minutes in the car with my friend that we had only progressed from terminal 2 to terminal 3… at the same airport.

Also, side note: after the unbelievable crush on the return end at the Hong Kong airport, I may rethink returning so late on the last night of a public holiday.  One thing about Hong Kong - people travel.   Even if you have a very efficient system, if a typhoon happens to strike, flights get delayed, the hour inches past midnight, the immigration counters close down, and the airport express stops running…and suddenly you are exhausted and stuck, waiting in a series of interminable queues (queueing for air traffic control to give you permission to land, for immigration, for your baggage, for taxis or buses) - yikes!

My view at 1:52 am.
 People were taking a lot of pictures because they had never seen it like this.  Usually the e-channels have no lines and the visitors immigration counters are much longer.  It is very rare to see the complete opposite effect!  Disbelief abounds.  I guess Hong Kong residents are a bit spoiled.
Despite my grumblings (haha had to get that out front!) overall I had a wonderful, lovely, relaxing and really fun time visiting my friend.  It was a much needed and nice break, so I am very grateful that she was such a good hostess and was so generous with her time and patience!  It so happened another friend was there at the last minute too, so it turned into a spontaneous girls' trip!  Yippee!

We managed to cram in a lot of pampering and down time in the four days we were there.  Here, a random assortment of pictures detailing just a few of our activities.

We went to a pilates studio where I tried a private session on a reformer machine (which I had never done before).  All of the instructors here are ex-ballerinas and freaking strong.  I never realized how much pilates was about alignment and, well, just how unaligned I am (though I had and still have no illusions of just how weak my core is).   It was great and I loved breaking out in sweat just from the tiny micro-movements.  Pilates sessions on machines are always pretty expensive and in Hong Kong they really take the cake.  In Manila they are much more reasonable.

This was the outside of the studio - walking in to the dark hallway at first, one would never have been able to guess the gorgeous light filled space with big glassy windows and lots of machines that existed behind its unassuming grungy exterior.
This is a view of the city from my friend's apartment.
 Can't say that the weather really got much better, but oh well.  You don't really need sun when you are getting nails done, sipping lattes in coffee shops, or lying prone on a massage table fast asleep!
A beautiful cinnamon chai latte from Toby's Estate.  It was very delicious, albeit a bit sweet (but that is probably to be expected).
 We went to the movies!  We watched Everest at the SM Mall of Asia, in 3D on an amazing IMAX screen.  The theater wasn't crowded at all - perhaps 10% full, if even that.  We emerged to a lot of lights and a spontaneous outdoor concert, followed by firecrackers, which we later found out occurs every Saturday.

 I got a gel pedicure in a fun pink!
 The spa was called maison, located at Rockwell Center, and I actually made the girls go twice (heh) because I only got a manicure when we went the first time and I regretted not going for feet too.

They had lovely surroundings and very high quality nail polish.
 Doesn't the bed just look like something you could laze in for hours?  My manicure and pedicure and 30 minute foot massage came out to $25.22, and that included two pots of tea.
We also sat at illy caffe, always a favorite.  Red tables, good Italian coffee with a biscotti, and a glass of water - the perfect ingredients for a good conversation.
 Their cake though… maybe not so much, heh.
More pictures of food, spas, fruit (love!) and observations to come, but I wanted to put up a quick post in the meantime!

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