Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Ad!

You may have noticed, I have placed an advertisment on my blog. Manlilibre ako kapag pinadalhan ako ng check ng Google. So, click away!
Thursday, January 25, 2007

Doing the Hanoi Checklist

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - check. (Was I really just supposed to walk aroud a tightly guarded building?)
Presidential Palace - check. (How French! But can I retrace my steps back, I wasn't able to take a picture of the actual Palace!)
Temple of Literature - check. (Ah, had to check the dictionary what the frigging hell a stelae was)
One Pillar Pagoda - check.(I think I'll stay right here on the bench, thank you)

I had a hard time finding the Hanoi Hilton, which was (duh) beside the Hanoi Sofitel! How ironic that a prison (turned into a museum) is sitting beside a high-rise luxurious residential complex.

Allow me to segue a bit here. As you can see from the picture below,The Amazing Race did a clue junction in Hoa Lo Prison. Was never a fan of war history, but the prison visit struck a personal chord with me. War is a messy business, a lot of lives are lost for naught, and in an age of technology, diplomacy and greater avenues for communication, agression is definitely not the only available option.

The detention cells were very uhm, demonstrative, as they had actual wax figures enclosed, cased and bound to the exhibition. Creepy, definitely creepy.

Prison Break!

Back to the checklist.

Opera House – check.
Hanoi Hilton Hotel – check. (The real one, the one that Paris has to thank for being a hotel heiress).

I got brought to the last two place by Nguyen Anh Kiet, via his rickshaw. It was a leisurely stroll down the Parisian avenues of Hanoi, but I think I gave his 70 year old legs a tough test. Here he is below, smiling but most probably cursing me under his breath.

I gave an old timer the rickshaw workout of his life...

He even handed me his calling card:

Nguyen Anh Kiet
Deputy Director
Four Musketeers Cyclo and Guide Service
“All for One and One for All”

English spoken and of helpful experience to foreign visitors to Vietnam.
Recommended by Evan Ham, Frank Palmos and Murray Yeoman.

Is my pop culture IQ dropping, or are these guys just not famous?
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Off To Hanoi!

As usual, my flight via Air Asia was delayed - luckily, this time around it was for an quasi-thankful 1 hour only.

So let me comment first on the Viets - they look very Filipino. Remember that commercial where the OFW tosses his denim jacket from the departure area of the airport? The Viets looke like that, complete with buttons (on the denim jacket) as large as belt buckles. If our promdis looked promdi, they looked the part 10 times more.

I land in Hanoi, and it's a foggy place, with January temperatures hovering around 15 degrees Celsius. I love it!

Watch out for people who will tell you that your hotel is fully booked,, and they will recommend you to a new one. Apparently, scam innovation here has advanced much has it? Take the minibus to town, it cost me just 2 USD, and will bring you right to the heart of the Hoan Kiem Lake District.

Two things I hated with Hanoi: first is the never-ending ride-pimping. "YO CYCLO!" is the local term for "Do you wanna ride?" However, for me, the best way of getting to know the city is on foot. Which leads me to hate-point number two.

The road planning around the city just sucks. The roads change names after intersections, and all of them look the same. I remember walking away from the Flag Tower, eastwards, after an hour of walking, I end up at the west side!! Lame, I know, but I took a cab home instead.

Oh, I know someone who has a pet peeve for kids who have rubber shoes that double as roller skates. Vietnamese flutter by the streets in their motorcycles the same way the kids on rubber shoes-slash-roller skates in malls. In a devil-may-care, do-what-you-like frenzy. The Lonely Planet tip? Walk, don't run. Heck, I've done enough walking for the day.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Music From Vietnam

No. It's not what you think. This is the Vietnam soundtrack I packed with me for my week long trip.

Surfacing by Sarah McLachlan

Great album, thanks to a gift voucher, I finally have my own copy. Hey, when is she releasing her next album?

Oh No by OK Go

That novelty treadmill dance aside, give this group a nod for being a credible addition to the music scene. The whole album simply rocks, and my favorite would be Invincible. The album comes with a free VCD, so if you want to see that treadmill video over again, along with documentaries, and ripoffs of their other dance, then this is the summer album for you.

Let Love In by Goo Goo Dolls

Mayller, you were right! It's a fantastic album, and should've bought this one sooner. I have a theme with anthemic songs (Let Love In), or songs that start slow, and those that start to swell up a storm (Better Days), or just something you could bang your head to (Stay With You). Better Days would be my favorite, as it captures the wonderful sentiment of the holidays melded with that hopefulness and optimism.

Beautiful Awakening by Stacie Orrico

So Simple and I'm Not Missing You were definitely the the easy listening songs of the bunch. Well worth it.
TAR10 went here, and I'm enjoying the tunes on my Walkman

No blog post yet, but a little picture should be enough as a teaser.
Friday, January 12, 2007

2007 Australian Open

My first tennis post of the year! I may be on vacation, but it's not stopping me from writing my predictions Oz 2007. Well, it's a little abridged, though.

Men's Singles
Defending Champion: Roger Federer

QF Matches:
Federer vs Gasquet
J. Johansson vs Roddick
Nalbandian vs Davydenko
Blake vs Murray


Women's Singles
Defending Champion: Amelie Mauresmo

QF Matches:
Maria vs Anna (Chakvetadze). The Maria-Ana encounter in R16 should be good.
Kim vs Martina
Nadia vs Shahar. Tough road for Nadia, as she's battling with injury, then Serena, and Jelena.
Nicole vs Amelie.
Friday, January 05, 2007

Surprise Visit

Unlike my SEAsia trip last year, which I have probably planned to death, I am leaving tomorrow for Malaysia. After that, I'm going backpacking again, but this time, across Vietnam. This one, I have no pre-arranged plans, sort of. All I know is that my return flight to Manila is a week later than the rest of my officemates.

I already bought The Rough Guide to Vietnam (couldn't live without a map), and picked out some of the sights I want to go. Here's what I have so far: I have no tickets to Vietnam yet, nor hotel accommodations, but I have a plan!!!

The plan is to fly to Hanoi, spend a day there, then head to to Hue, then to Hoi An. From then on, I have no freaking idea whatsoever. I don't know if I should return to Hanoi and peek at Halong Bay (TAR10 went there), or proceed to Saigon. Take note that there are no cheap flights from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur, so I have to either proceed to Phnom Penh to fliy to KL, or fly to Singapore then bus back to KL. Hmmm....

All righty, my brain is fried from over thinking this one. Any suggestions?


Okay, so I probably think that you wouldn't believe me if I really plan on winging this one. The route I'll most probably be taking is:

Hanoi-Hue-Hoi An-Saigon-Phnom Penh-Singapore-KL. How I plan to travel that much in 7 days, I'm not so sure.

Oh, by the way, I'll be missing the first 3 days of the Australian Open, which probably means I won't be hosting the Fantasy League. But I think I still might have enough time to do the predictions =)
Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Best Songs of 2006 Part II

The top 20 for 2006. All songs here can be found in my Multiply account: monsterboy music and words .

1 Move Along - All American Rejects
Rock on all year long. Also takes the cake for this year's Best Video, next to OK Go's treadmill bit.

2 Catch Your Wave - Click Five
Like I've said before, pure pop for the summer. This one's for you J.

3 Raindrops - Stunt
Picking up pieces from 1997 list winner Encore Une Fois, Stunt manages to update it a decade later with a flourish.

4 Song For A Friend - Jason Mraz
Opera, rock, rap, you name it, Mraz can sing it. Here he belts out a brilliant song with amazing lyrics to boot.

5 Hallelujah - Bamboo
It's very rare for an OPM track (in Filipino at that) to make it to the list. Bamboo truly earned this one.

6 I've Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song) - Fall Out Boy
Perfectly captures that highschool-wallflower-at-the-prom feeling.

7 It Ends Tonight - All American Rejects
Another great catch from AAR. The fireworks in the video does wonders for the song.

8 Talk - Coldplay
X&Y is my favorite Coldplay album. There are a lot of other great songs, including A Message, Swallowed In The Sea and Fix You. Also, it's so much better hearing this one live.

9 Hands Open - Snow Patrol
The best song in the album, Snow Patrol breaks out of their whiny selves and dishes out a headbanger.

10 Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray
A relative newcomer, the groups carries the alternative sensibilities popular during the mid-90s.

11 Forever Young - Youth Group
This year's nostalgia song. Highschool, the 80s, prom, the OC, the works.

12 Open Your Eyes - Snow Patrol
They really should've released this song - I think it's so much better than a lot of the songs from such a good album.

13 Truth - Bamboo
The last riff that goes Ooh child, it's been so good since I last saw you gives me the shivers.

14 Statues - Low Millions
Bought the album on a limb, and did me wonders. Take note that the lead singer is Leonard Cohen's son.

15 7 Minutes In Heaven (Atavan Halen) - Fall Out Boy
Play this song during the summer and go wild!

16 Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
This one gets brownie points for having a wicked remix. Minus points for wrongly used in the season finales of Grey's Anatomy, much more so for One Tree Hill.

17 Thinking About You - Ivy
Old artist discovery of the year. A zesty find, and a refreshing melody.

18 I'm Not Missing You - Stacie Orrico
Much respect for this fine lady for crafting songs without sounding the a pop machine.

19 Nothing In This World (Jason Nevins Remix) - Paris Hilton
Yes, the thought of having Paris Hilton in the list might be cringe-worthy, but Jason Nevins did a great job of de-bimboing the song... Besides, TIME magazine did admit that the album is not as crass as you might think.

20 How To Save A Life - The Fray
Loved the song, but not because of Grey's Anatomy.