HK Day 2: Leg Day

I was expecting to taste authentic Chinese cuisine since we landed in Hong Long but I think we didn’t had any. At the airport we ate curry, the best curry I have tasted so far, and a chicken with mushroom menu which were surprisingly very good although heavy as both were served with rice.

Then last night’s dinner was also rice and pasta that I had so much carbs to burn just on the second day so I was eager to go to the gym.

Our hotel doesn’t have the gym but I was advised it’s in one of the affiliate hotels. Disney Explorers Lodge which is less than half a kilometer away from ours appears to be where the muscles are formed but it’s not here.
A few minutes more away from the second I found myself standing in front of Hong Kong Disney Resort Hotel.
And this pink corridor leads to the gym.
Even the gym room doesn’t look like any of those I’ve seen before.
The gym has complete and functional equipment. And it was cold. Will make me pick this anytime than the humid park.

I racked up 5K on the treadmill, did some weights and returned to Hollywood Hotel. I arrived with Marcus up and awake and everyone else eager to check out for the next phase of our Hong Kong trip.

Today’s main plan was to find stuffs on sale. It would be a long day. We transferred to Stanford Hillview Hotel which we accessed mostly by HK’s train (MTR) all the way from Disneyland station. All of us were spent (and silently grumpy) when we reached Jordan train station so lunch was the immediate agenda.

It was another meal that didn’t come close to what I had in mind for Chinese food. Specifically noodles. Marcus was looking for McDonald’s and found one so we settled for it as well. Nothing special there, FYI, except for the sight of expensive cars like Ferrari, Porsche, and Teslas passing in front of the fast food that kept Marcus entertained.

Our hotel was a short taxi ride away. We could’ve even made it on foot but everyone voted against and it was good decision. We didn’t waste much time upon checking in. We hit the streets with the first challenge of wheeling Marcus on a road with 1.5 slope that extends for several meters.

Pushing the wheelchair down and up is a challenge.

Initial destination was the museum with some side trips. We passed by Kowloon Park to check out the aviary. There wasn’t much to see there except for groups of familiar Filipino faces huddling together on their day off.

We reached the museum but scrapped the plan to get inside. Firstly, it was packed, then we learned there’s a schedule, and from outside I can see stairs. Not a place for Marcus. It was just about 3 PM so we decided to take the ferry to Central Hong Kong. Learning that it’s where there’s Jollibee for Marcus and cheap chocolates were compelling enough to stay exposed to the weird weather.

Clockwise from top left: Marcus on his first ferry ride; Posing in front of Hong Kong eye; View from our room; The iconic Hong Kong skyline.

Hong Kong Central was more crowded and busier. It was common to see people dragging luggage which I later figured are meant to store stuffs that they bought from the stores. Plastics are charged extra so it pays to bring luggage if you’re in for some shopping spree.

We covered almost 18 kilometers, ferry rides included, that afternoon.

It rained heavily in the afternoon so Marcus and I had to seek shelter while wifey and her sis did the bargain hunting. After what felt like hours we saw their faces emerge from poorly lit and crowded part of Worldwide House and with them was a bag full of chocolates. Never been happier to get out of a mall.

Arrived alive at the hotel.

Sun was still up but it was almost 7 PM when we reached the hotel. By then it already felt like I have used up every extra calorie I stored from eating magic cone that Marcus didn’t finish and scoops of White Rabbit and choc mint ice cream back at the ferry station. The last stretch running and pushing Marcus up the steep road had me accept that Jollibee chicken bucket was best recovery food that evening.

***

Mood: 8/10 Honks! (Pushing away writer’s block.)

HK Day 1: Finding Mickey

Marcus once again had the opportunity to see the world outside our house, outside the country. Last weekend, with his now blue wheelchair, Marcus went to Hong Kong for his first Disneyland adventure.

The blue wheelchair gets its first airport sticker.
As expected Hong Kong was gloomy.
Our first taste of lost in translation.
Reached Disneyland Hollywood Resort Hotel to drop off our bags and go directly to the park.
First glimpse of Disneyland’s gate.
Weather was hot and humid, stress on humid. Later learned that HK being close to the sea has a lot to do with it.

Marcus watching the Toy Story parade away from the splashes.

Parade that afternoon featured Toy Story. The floats and characters sprayed water so we had to get Marcus out of range to avoid him and his wheelchair from getting soaked.
Our first Disneyland ride.
Waiting to enter the Iron Man Experience virtual ride.
Still reeling from the heart pounding virtual 3D experience.

Our check-in time at the hotel was 3 PM so we had to get out of Disneyland theme park coming from the Iron Man Experience with the plan to return right after we’ve settled.

Clockwise from top left: souvenir shop inside the hotel somehow made up for our lost opportunity to see the other Disney characters; Marcus got a discounted Simba plush toy; Food was pricey so we settled for something less expensive and doesn’t require reservation; Meal was heavy and Marcus was bored so we checked the pool out.

Hotel check-in was a breeze. We got room 6716 which has twin beds. It was comfy, so comfy that I woke up close to 8 PM. Nobody woke me up so I guess everyone wasn’t just vocal about it but the humid park wasn’t worth the return. I concur but it was a pity we didn’t see Mickey up close and personal.

The Garmin came handy in tracking places we visited. It recorded that we walked a total of 4 km just in this portion of the park.

To be continued…

***

Mood: 8/10 Honks! (Been a while since my last post. Was busy and this HK trip was a blessing. Thanks wifey.)

An Airbnb and a Van

Last December was a vacation with a different setup. No thanks to the near miss that almost ruined our Christmas and left us with only one parent. The good news she’s a fighter and is recovering fast but to lessen her stress of managing demanding guests, therapist, and helpers in one house, not to mention the growing pets, we all decided to use Airbnb. For the very first time, all of us visiting Bacolod lived in a house that wasn’t ours.

A breakfast at MyPlace.

It was a good thing that we found MyPlace on Airbnb. It appeared among the first set of search results given the number of guests. MyPlace can accommodate 13 with its four bedrooms but since there were only six of us checking in, the first issue we had was picking which room and which bed. Others were very minor and we learned to deal with it. Props to the host, Judith, and her staff who are very professional, organized, and friendly. They made sure we have what we need and familiar with everything, including the wi-fi password, before leaving the whole house to us. MyPlace in Bacolod City is an ancestral house that became our home for seven days.

Tempting to have a party with such space but house rules don’t allow rowdy ones.

On top of a house that’s fully furnished, MyPlace has a two-car garage. This encouraged wifey more to pursue renting a van instead of us flagging a taxi every time we need to go somewhere. In a busy December, it was a sound idea. Her spec includes that the vehicle could take two wheelchairs–one for my mother and one for Marcus–and luckily we found one that my high school friend owns. Vehicle was a white Nissan NV350 with only a few mileage on it.

Shot of the garage from my dash cam that I attached to the van during the entire trip.

I’ve driven several vehicles in the past but never a full size van so I had some anxiety about doing it since the thought of getting a rental started. But no guts, no glory as we used to say in my younger years, so we did and there was no regrets.

The van was surprisingly easy to drive. A few adjustments on day one and minor hiccups like driving with the emergency brake engaged, I picked up faster than expected. NV350 van is diesel and it’s a bit torquey on the first gear but I got used to it soon. Its wide mirrors made it easier to park and maneuver in tight December traffic so I never had any problem driving it. The white van made our trips to the malls, fast food breakfast runs, and every other trips needed a more convenient one. P2000 per day seems worth it.

It was raining on and off so I had to get the van washed at least once.

One week has past since we left Bacolod and join the rat race once more. I miss everyone back there, including our first Airbnb home. Of course I also miss the white Nissan van which has become my new dream car even if it will be hard to fit it in our space. Maybe I’ll stick to the Honda Jazz or maybe I’ll stick to our current City. Perhaps a new paint job to the 11-year old car will do the trick of shaking off that thought of mortgaging a new car.

***

While waiting to pick up sis and family at the Silay airport.

I wasn’t totally honest. There’s actually one thing that annoyed us. Nissans are known for their good air conditioning so I was surprised when the front blowers died while we were on our way to have lunch at Vikings SM Bacolod. My backseat drivers said the rear fans were working fine so we proceeded anyhow. On that same afternoon I dropped by my friend’s house to have it checked and we later confirmed that my hunch about a busted fuse was right. It was late in the afternoon when a technician found the blown fuse so he replaced it with the only spare available but one that’s underrated. As expected, it blew up two days later after I absentmindedly turned the blower to full setting. Good thing the fuse box is easy to access so I was able to replace it myself and even bought extra 15 amps spare flat trumpet angle fuses for my friend’s future use. This fact however does not change my newfound love for vans. Marcus loved it too and it fits his wheelchair upright. I must win the lotto soon.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Each small bit of chocolates seem to stuff me up.)

Evia has Evolved

We broke routine this weekend. Christmas is getting closer and yesterday’s advisory on SLEX’s LED monitors showed hint that grinches, I mean shoppers, are flocking to Alabang onwards. But luck was on our side this time.

Our recent plan to check out Evia Lifestyle Center once more was timed right. For the first time I drove coming from Calamba to Daang Hari via MCX and parted ways from motorists on SLEX who were then pacing slowly like reindeer-less Santa sleighs. Traffic to this mall in the middle of the Villar-owned properties was light with only a slight hitch at the toll gate. Thanks to RFID we got through faster than those queuing at the cash lanes.

Evia has evolved and improved a whole lot since we first set foot two years ago. It now has more stores and more parking spaces. Basement parking is also now open and there’s an extended parking area across the mall close to Petron gas station where free shuttle service to and from the mall is available from 10 AM until 10 PM.

Evia Lifestyle Center is part of the growing Vista Mall chain and construction is ongoing. I realized this must be the reason some of the guards are as confused as us. We asked a couple of them for directions to the cinemas and we were advised we can take the escalators with Marcus in his wheelchair. We obliged despite protest but soon figured there are two elevators we should’ve used. First is the one that’s only until the 2nd floor and another that reaches the cinema level.

Evia’s 3rd level offers more than just movies. We discovered after spending a thousand for two persons for dinner that there are cheaper alternatives like pizza, pasta, burgers, churros, and even street food snacks. No regrets though as Bulgogi Brothers served us a nice hotpot plus the staff were very accommodating.

Evia has a newly-opened iMax cinema but Marcus has his mind set to the new Fortnite season and was also anxious to get back home to see our dog which is why we skipped the movies this time. Anyway I’m sure we’ll be back some other time soon.

Evia’s Christmas decor beats the Ayala malls’ we’ve visited.
The tight elevator makes good effect.
At Bulgogi Brothers. Away from fatty pizza and burgers.
Cinema area looks nice.

***

Big question: what’s with malls that they would rather use a PWD elevator than build a ramp?

Evia’s wheelchair/stroller elevator.

Ayala Town Center has this similar elevator which remained broken until our last visit and it was the reason I didn’t like going there anymore. Hopefully they already fixed it is our access to the cinemas, North Park, and the sports store that sells nice shoes. Wink, wink.

***

Mood: 5/10 Honks! (Weather’s nice but I got cold to deal with.)

Marcus Can Fly

An ultralight adventure got us back to Pampamga. After more than 10 years I drove the car up the north route again, its seven of eight good spark plugs doing their job. Our unplanned stopover at the Total NLEX gas station where wifey and I got locked out before made the trip even more nostalgic.

Last year I read about ultralights flight being safe and affordable and since then I wished we’d someday do it. A month ago a friend’s video on an ultralight became the final reminder so we booked our son for his first ever ultralight flight.

The drive to Angles City Flying Club took about four hours in a surprisingly moderate traffic on a Saturday morning. One hundred and sixty kilometers later we arrived at our destination although we later learned Waze could have done better had it directed us to Mabalacat exit instead of Mexico, Pampanga.

Incidentally, World Ultralight Fly-In (WUFI) 2018 was also happening that same day so Marcus had to stay and wait in the queue with other eager flyers. There were five ultralights per batch. Our son was number 29.

Marcus soon took off and didn’t back out of it but the other kid in his batch did bail out so a second take off was made. Flight time above the scenic Woodland Airpark in Sitio Talimundok, Pampanga was about 15 minutes with his pilot giving him a taste of how to control the nimble ultralight sometime during flight.

Me and the crew assisting Marcus after landing.

A copy of the video we received a week later would confirm what Marcus said he experienced. Strapped and having poor control of his muscles, he wasn’t able to look around while up in the air. He said he was limited to what he could see up front and within his peripheral vision. Nevertheless, another achievement unlocked. Marcus was able to fly.

***

Luck was on my side that day. Vince from Travellog.Ph who assisted booking Marcus for this event offered me a free ulttalight ride. I’ve done static skydive and tandem skydive in the past so I thought nothing could be more exciting. The ultralight flight proved me wrong.

***

Here are tips for a better ACFC ultralight flight experience.

1. Bring a GoPro. ACFC’s 15-minute flight is only Php2,888 but availing the package that includes shirt and photo-video costs an additional Php1,700. Shirt was cool but the photo and video aren’t worth it. So bring a GoPro if you have one as the plane has a GoPro mount.

2. Memory, memory, memory. I didn’t avail the photo-video package (firstly, got my ride for free) so I used a traditional Canon point-and-shoot attached to a selfie stick to record my flight. I was enjoying every bit of the experience when in the middle of the flight the dreaded “insufficient memory” error started showing up. Sucks that the thrilling turns and stalls weren’t captured.

3. Pick your pilot. Ask around, look for dizzy yet happy passengers when the planes land. I flew with a crazy local pilot and it made the free flight double the fun. Check my video above. Find that guy.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Sunny Sunday and I wish we could fly again.)

I Miss Baguio Weather

Contrary to what I believe that Baguio is no longer cold as before, no thanks to climate change, I was in for a surprise when we stepped out of our rented Foton View Traveller van after a 5-hour trip.

The place still chills almost like California. “It’s like US,” Marcus exclaimed when the early morning air of Camp John Hay hit him. Our initial plan was to travel light and ditch thick clothing but good thing I got the Accuweather app so I packed hoodies and jackets for us before we left Batangas. Brewed coffee from 7-11 wouldn’t have been enough if I didn’t check the forecast.

First morning straight from a long trip.

Temperature was about 16 degrees Celsius and peaked at 26 around noon. Obviously far better than the scorching 32 degrees back home. Home where it’s hot and humid that running has become more challenging. Waking up from a sweaty sleep wasn’t a problem though.

Like this morning I had to make an effort to put on my running gear to do a 5K. I wouldn’t have done it if not for the servings of strawberry–fresh from Baguio–that I turned to milkshake yesterday. I downed 600 plus calories out of that sweet guilty pleasure. (My curiosity of how much calories the shake would make had me use MyFitnessPal’s recipe entry for the first time.)

Tough run.

Baguio weather is perfect for runners although its hilly terrain is a different story. We stayed in a transient house located somewhere in Wakat which has roads so steep that I almost let go of the idea of running the moment I saw the inclined first hundred meters right out of gate. I summoned enough motivation to continue nevertheless.

Aided by Waze I completed a 10K run to Burnham Park and back that Saturday morning. It was a cold run. I had two layers of clothing and bonnet for my shiny bald head. Every now and then I would see breath vapor or steam forming as I run. I now miss that day.

***

Do I want to return to Baguio. Yes and no.

Yes because it’s cold and good for running. That’s it. Why I might not return has more reasons mostly centered on Marcus’ perspective.

While he enjoyed the sights and adventure during the three days and two nights vacation, wheelchair access was a big issue. Sadly, there are just limitations despite our best in trying to help him out.

At the PMA camp. Stuff out of his COD game.
His first henna tattoo from the Wright Park.

Sanitation was also an issue for Marcus. He’s very picky especially when it comes to toilet cleanliness so his portable urinal was our best friend.

I on the other hand despise litter. More so now that I have to push Marcus’ wheelchair around. Burnham Park was a disappointing sight for one. Trash can be found scattered, people ignored the no spitting signs, and vermin fed on residual food dumped carelessly around the park. On the bright side. Marcus was fascinated that the rats seem unafraid of him staring at them. Well, Baguio’s next tourist attraction? Hope not.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Avocado shake next.)

Not So Eager Participant

Day 2 in Baguio and so far so good than expected. Marcus is able to hold himself from manifesting his bratty side but every now and then it would rear its ugly head. His patience has random limits.

Still he, or we, is getting along well with the rest of the group. Must be his age or must be the new adventure away from his Xbox games or must be my constant reminder for him to behave especially when in front of other people.

I just hope that this isn’t the last time that we get to mingle with our relatives and I really hope Marcus continues to have a positive outlook in life whether he can walk or not.

Here are shots I took at the house of the late John Hay

Fooling around at Camp John Hay.

***

Mood: 5/10 Honks (Sleepy and tired is an understatement.)