Friday, July 25, 2008


N 14 deg 22.839'
E 120 deg 34.677'

Corregidor Island

Of all things we saw on this trip, Corregidor Island was one of the "must see" spots for my dad. He's a bit of a history guy (that's what he got his Masters in). If anyone has any interest in WWII, then they would definitely have interest in Corregidor. I was very ill educated on the subject of Corregidor until this trip. I do have interest in WWII, but never applied myself enough to learning. When being in a place like this, you can't help but be immersed in history.

When you arrive at the docks, they herd you into a trolley and introduce you to the sperm shaped island. But they call it a tadpole shape. As you drive around, a tour guide will point out the significant sights and let you walk around the most interesting spots.

All along this island are gun stations and bunkers. Really, the whole island was one big military fort.


I had the James Bond theme stuck in my head thanks to this shot.

And you can tell they were not just for show. Some of the ammunition was the size of my wife. Much of it larger than her.

She's the Bomb

Yeah, she's the bomb.

One of coolest things we learned about was about the faux boat the US made. There is a small island off to the side of Corregidor that is roughly the size of a battle ship. They covered the island in concrete and added guns to make us look more fortified. Awesome.

Faux boat

I think dementia has finally set in with dad. Whenever he found a big gun barrel on the ground, he'd crawl on it and yell, "Banzi!" as if he were a Japanese conqueror.



Although heavily fortified, the Japanese wore us out and took over the island. It took four years for us to regain the land. As the island fell to the Japanese, the famous leader MacArthur was given orders to leave. He faced the island before boarding his vessel and said his famous words, "I Shall Return!" I believe he said it just like that. But I think that's only the last half of the quote. "[When it's clear and safe, then I think] I Shall Return!" I have a quote like that of my own.

I Shall Return

"[I doubt] I shall return."

There was so much blood shed here. We lost many of what we call our greatest generation. The Japanese lost many of theirs as well. It's an odd combination of amusement park, tourist attraction and war memorial.

Eternal Flame

The Eternal Flame memorial

Although we rode the trolley through most of the island, it was a tiring day. We arrived back at the docks at diner time. We walked to the nearby mall after our driver dropped us off at the hotel.

This was also time for my parents to say their last good-byes to Anna and me. We swapped pictures and just talked in our hotel room for a while. We said "good bye" and by the time Anna and I woke up the next morning, my parents had left for home. Anna and I have two more days to go.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Island in a Lake in an Island in a Lake in an Island in the Ocean...

N 14 deg 00.560'
E 120 deg 59.780'

It takes some time to wrap your head around this one. Taal Crater is special. As I said in the title of this post, this is where you have an island in a lake in an island in a lake in an island in the ocean. Let's use Google Earth to help explain it.

Ocean, Island, Lake, Island

Here you see the Philippine Sea to the bottom left, then the island of Luzon, then Taal Lake, then the crater that makes an island with a lake in the middle of it. There is a smaller island in the crater lake you can't see from this distance.

Lake, Island, Lake, Island

Here you see the small center island (only takes one pixel) in the crater lake, the crater and then Taal lake with Luzon just to the left.

Ok, so now we understand what were are seeing, I'll tell you about the trip. After a two hour drive, we get to the dock. To get to the crater we commission a boat to the crater island.


Crossing the Lake

Once you get there, the people that live on the island look very uninterested in us...until they have something to sell to us. I don't think I ever felt more fleeced the whole Asian tour than I did here.

As we walk toward the horse stables, we are approached by anyone that thinks we have money to spare. We are asked to buy drinks. Then snacks. Then drinks again. We were led to the "stable" where we mounted the smallest horses I've ever seen.


The dogs horses that we rode to the top.

As we started along the way, people kept approaching us selling things. Mostly, they were trying to sell us disposable masks to cover our mouths and noses. I didn't want one, but one woman insisted I needed one since it was so dusty. I kept saying no, they kept telling me how dusty it was and how much I'd regret it. Of course, It wasn't dusty at all and I only would have regretted buying it.

Just as I get rid of the woman she comes back demanding 50 Pecos. I told her no, I didn't want one, I owed her nothing. And then I noticed Anna in front of me had one on. Anna though she said 15 Pecos. She took one and told the woman to get the money from me. Irk.

Once the woman got tired of walking along our horses the ride became more peaceful...for a moment. Then my guide started talking. Rather than let me guide the horse or ride one along side me, he was hiking up the volcano holding onto the, horse's reigns. He was telling me that he'd never gone to the crater before and this was his first time taking a tourist up on his horse. I knew that to be a lie right away. But he thought if he looked more sweaty and tired and was new and out of shape that I'd tip him better. He does not know how cheap my blood runs.

When we reached the top we were again approached by people insisting we buy drinks. I brought my own water knowing I'd be thirsty. So they didn't bug me too much about buying a drink for myself. Instead, they insisted I get a drink for my guide. He was pretty sweaty and and I'm not totally heartless, so I got him a drink and gave him the change from it. He put his hand out to accept the change. Afterward I realized he had his hand out for the change before there was any indication that I would even give it to him.

After the change was in his hand he looked down at it and said, "Tip."

I told him, "Yes, this is your tip."

"No, no, I need tip."

"Um, that IS you tip."

He gave me stink eye. "No, tip, tip."

"We are only half way, you haven't even gotten me down yet."


I walked away and made my way to the lookout of the crater and saw the tiny island below and yellow sulfur floating in the water.

Center Island

I was also approached by a cop asking me if I've ever shot a gun before. I though this was odd, but I answered that I have. Then he asked me if I wanted to shoot some guns and guested to his sidearm. I knew right away he wanted to have me shoot a few bullets and pay him handsomely for it. I grew up in Arizona. Riding horses and shooting guns for me is like eating coconuts for Hawaiians. I declined.

I got back to my guide and he was less than thrilled with me. The entire way back down he couldn't stop talking about his tip and how he deserves more. He was saying how it's not just him, but money for his horse and to feed him, etc. I told him I was no stupid tourist and I knew that he gets paid and does not just work for tips as he tried to lead me to believe. He again didn't know what to say to me...for a few minutes.

Finally I got tired of it and told him if he wants any tip, I'd like to enjoy the rest of my ride down. I also told him how he was rude when I was offering to give him a drink and the change at the top. He should have at least thanked me. He got the hint. But once in a while he tried to drop subtle hints.

We got to the stables again and he kept eying me. It went from desperation and sympathy for a tip to a murderous give-me-your-money-or-die look. When Anna arrived I pulled out some money and gave it to him. I pretty much threw it at him, said he should be more thankful next time and he might get more.

I went to Anna's young guide (about 10 years old), gave him some money and he was elated. The thanked me and put the money in his pocket with a smile. Literally, 60 seconds later he came up to me and then asked for more. He said that money was from me, but he didn't get a tip from my wife. I told him that was the tip from my wife. So then he asked where my tip for him was. I had nothing to do with him on this hike, there was no way I was giving him more.

As we walked back to the docks more people wanted us to buy drinks. We just ignored them. As we were boarding our boat some guy came up to my dad and insisted that my dad pay 60 Pecos per person as a fee for using his dock. His "dock" was a wooden board from the sand to the bow of the boat. My dad was probably as sick of being swindled as I was. He just completely ignored the guy and sat on the boat.

The trip was neat, the sight was cool but I will never return there again. I took a lot of pictures and video so I won't have to. I know they live in meager circumstances. I know they do have a need for income. I know that we are comparatively rich. But the attitude of entitlement and persistent attempts to squeeze every last Peso out of you puts such a sour taste in the mouth of the tourists. I wouldn't recommend this destination to anyone. It would suit them right to chase off all of the tourists and then they might have a change of heart. If they want to make a living off of tourists, they need to learn how to treat them.

But, griping aside, it was a pretty cool tip. And I can now say I've been to the the island in the lake in the island in the lake in the island in the sea.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Around Manila...

After the temple trip and we moved into our hotel, we started being tourists again. Through my co-worker's travel agency we booked a 3 day combo tour that'd give us the gist of what there was to see in Manila.

We battled traffic all day. I was disappointed in the jeepneys we saw. I was hoping the ornate decoration would give me something to look at while we were stuck in traffic. The jeepneys have become much more subdued than they used to be.


First, we saw some of the monuments. Except for the newer WWII monument in Washing DC between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, this is the the only US made WWII memorial. It's also unique in that it's out of the United States.

WWII Memorial

Out of curiosity I checked for the name "Bodine." There was one, and as it turns out, I am related to him.

We also visited a memorial for a Filipino hero, Jose Rizal. He was instrumental in getting the locals to fight against the Spanish rule and toward independence. This spot is where he was executed and also is the spot where the US gave control of the Philippines back to the locals after WWII.

Jose Rizal Memorial

The guards are as stoic and statue-like here as those at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in D.C. or Buckingham Palace.

We then visited the Spanish fort where Rizal was held prisoner and sentenced to execution. Yes, the statue below is actual size.

Spanish Fort

Statue of Jose Rizal

Not to demean the memory of Rizal, he sure looks like Oddjob from the James Bond movies.

Of course, where there's Spanish rule, there's Catholicism. And that means visiting one dozen and one cathedrals. Due to heavy bombing from WWII there were only a few old enough to be considered historic. We visited two. In the oldest cathedral in the Philippines, I saw the biggest hymn books ever. How would you like to carry this to church every Sunday?


This old church with the white doves flying around give me a real John Woo vibe.

One of the new attractions in Manila is the aquarium. Having been a scuba diver in Guam for two years, much of this was familiar to me. But it was nice to see this stuff dry and without carrying gear.

Manila Ocean Park

Sting Ray

Under Sting Ray

Eel and Sting Ray...and me

Lastly, we attended a dinner show with cultural music. We've done one in every country we went to (almost). Rather than show bits and pieces of each one, I made a video summing them all up.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

For Time and All Eternity...

N 14 deg 36.082'
E 121 deg 04.162'

Distant temple

After my family returned from the south of Vietnam, we packed up again and left for our last destination; The Philippines.

We got into the country in the evening. All we wanted was to do was go to our accommodations and get some rest. One of my co-workers, Freddie, owns a travel agency in Manila, so we booked our Philippine sight seeing and travel through him. We waited on the curb of the airport for the private driver we reserved. And then we waited more. And then some more. After I tracked down his cell phone number I called him and he had no excuse; he was just late. An hour after he was supposed to be there, we got into the van. Maybe it's just me, but if I was picking up personal friends of the boss, I'd be early.

We drove to the Manila Temple as we were to stay in the patron housing. I was warned it'd be rustic. I wasn't aware it'd be prison-campish. Four double bunk beds to a small room that affords no privacy, let alone a place to put your luggage. There's a window AC unit, however, the power cable is just dangling there to taunt you. It won't work. The communal bathroom is as sketchy as you'd guess. Oh, and they do supply a single bed sheet and a single pillow case, but unless you brought your own towel, you'll have to air dry with 30 or so of your closest strangers.

But we were there for a special purpose that kept our spirits up regardless. Although I was hot and trying to squeeze into a bed made for umpalumpas, I woke up the next morning eager to get the day started. It was the day that Anna and I were to be sealed for time and all eternity.

As we walked out of our patron room, we got a glimpse of the temple across the street.

Across the street

This was Anna's first trip to a temple. So she needed to go through for herself first. There was mass confusion trying to get the paper work settled and renting the clothes we needed etc. We also took some pictures waiting for everything.



One of the funniest things I saw was a Mormon Mobile that was unique to the Philippines. If you have been to the PI or know people who have, you might know about jeepneys. They started out as old WWII leftover Jeeps that locals customized to make look unique and attract business for cab rides. Today, jeepneys are a common way for locals to get around. This is more of a bus than jeepney, but on the same theme.

Mormon Jeepney

Brings a new meaning to the term "Gaudy."

After the wait we finally did our session together and got sealed. It was something to look through the double mirrored walls and see a virtual forever with Anna by my side.

This was the third time we were married. First in Arizona, second in Vietnam, and the third time was the charm. The others were only till death did us part. Now, as long as we live as we should, we will be together forever. It's a great blessing and comfort. My mom was crying, my dad appeared to be genuinely proud of me, and Anna and I were beaming. It was a great day.

In front of the temple

We didn't have enough time to do a second session that day. We had to leave patron housing (which we were glad to be kicked out of) and get to our hotel in downtown Makati. We drove away and slowly the we fell out of our "special moment" trance and back to normal. But regardless of how normal we all started to feel and act, one thing would never change. As of now, Anna and I are sealed to each other for time and all eternity. And that is special.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just Eat It...

Ok, so I think I’m a pretty good tourist. I don’t ask stupid questions. I don’t cross the lines we aren’t supposed to. I respect the sacred things of the places I visit. And I always try to enjoy the local cuisine. But at some point I have to say enough is enough.

After three weeks of eating throughout South-East Asia, I have just about had my fill of dishes were I had to ask, “What is that?” I just want something that does not involve second guessing. I have had some dishes I really enjoy, like Pho Bo, which is a beef noodle soup.

Pho Bo

But then there are the other things.


The problem with serving pill bugs is that you can't help but play with your food.

Chicken Head

It's like that duck decapitation scene in A Christmas Story, only they expect you to not waste this head.


Now there's a grab bag of fun. This makes me simultaneously thirsty and hungry.


This is a barrel of snakes. Yummy.

Table of food

While I am grateful for the food I have been provided, I have to admit that meal time in Vietnam is like Fear Factor...every time.

And what you saw above is just the stuff I came in contact with. I had fun taking some pictures of the menu choices at one place. Just look at the stuff of this menu.


This was actually my second time eating eel. It's not as gross as you'd think. But I just can't get past the thought of it in my head.


Thanks to the French, Vietnam has great pastries and cheeses. But that also means Snails and Frogs too. At least they made the frog dish sound Asian with "Sweet and Sour Frog."

Half Cooked Goat

"Half cooked goat with lemon." When a fully cooked meal won't satisfy...


I didn't know there were so many ways to cook pigeon. Someone should let New York City know. That's take care of both the pigeon infestation and starving homeless at the same time.


I don't mind rabbit, but with mushrooms? Forget it.

Trionychid Turtle

A Trionychid turtle is the kind that kids get as pets...and as snacks in Vietnam.


I know that you are thinking that where is says "crub" it's just a typo. Odds are, it's some peculiar creature you don't want to eat. If you ever assume something is a typo you'll be surprised what kind of food you actually get if you order it.

Some may not be that exotic, but all not what you eat every day in America. Don’t get me wrong. I do like to try new things. And I have proof. And now I can say for sure I never want to eat snail again.


When I get home I am going to gorge myself on Taco Bell. Please, don’t tell me how they make it or what the kitchen is like at Taco Bell. I don’t want to know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Perfume Pagoda...

N 20 deg 36.833’
E 105 deg 44.033’

While my parents, their friends and my brother with his Fiance went south to Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An, I stayed in Hanoi with my in-laws. I’d went to those places last year. To ensure I wasn’t bored, Anna’s parents took us to the Perfume Pagoda.

This pagoda is famous among the locals. Every new year (by the Chinese calendar) they flock to the Perfume Pagoda. This is a feat not unlike a pilgrimage. First one must get to a remote rice village. Then board a small shallow rowboat and paddle 2 miles. Then walk up the entire height of a mountain, about 900 feet. From there you go into a crowded cave to pray for fertility and fortune. Anna did this a good few times growing up.

We went during the off season, so I didn’t get the full experience. Anna assures me that it is so crowded you never see any part of the floor. I’ve seen the night market in Hanoi. I believe her.

The docks had only white tourists this time of year.


It started raining on us and we didn’t have any umbrellas. Anna’s mom got us some of the local hats. They say that these hats are natural and based off of natural shapes. I don’t see it.


Anna in the Hat

Once we got to the other end, we started up the stairs. Anna’s dad didn’t feel like over doing it. He got us all passes on the new cable car. It was so much nicer climbing the mountain this way.

Cable Cars

But we still took our fair share of steps.


At the top there is a great green view.


The pagoda is not a traditional building as I expected. It’s actually a cave, a foggy cave.

Perfume Pagoda

Foggy Cave

Anna’s dad reminded me that this is a good place to pray for children. I declined since I am going to the REAL temple next week in Manila and it will do me much more good to pray there.

Afterward we went back down. Again we rode the slow moving boat with a local paddler. I noticed the boats with Americans in them were riding pretty low. Tourists do come here, but it’s clear this is a place for locals. I think these boats were designed with the small and light locals in mind.

Low Boats