Friday, August 31, 2012

HANOI: 03 - An Afternoon Stroll, Part 2


Luckily, Bookworm was not that big. It is just a small hole in the wall kind of shop but has an impressive collection of used and unused books that got me busy but nor for more than an hour. The time I spent to walk there actually took more time. There is another lake, this time bigger and situated up north. I passed by more interesting stores en route, and I still could not shake off the Quiapo vibe. Once in a while you find some stalls and buildings with large Vietnamese labels that seem so familiar yet so unintelligible. This is one of the amusing things about this language. It gives you the illusion that you know it because of the Latin alphabet used, until you ask a local to pronounce something for you and then you wonder how the heck they ended up with such a spelling convention. And of course, the diacritics! How intimidating could those squiggles be!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

HANOI: 02 - An Afternoon Stroll, Part 1


To take a cab or not to take a cab, that was the question. To fall prey to another potential taxi scam would be shameful, and so I explored other options. Walking? No. Hostel transfer! The good thing about the accommodation I got in Hanoi is that they offer airport transfer which seemed steep at first but turned out to be just right when compared to published rates on Wikitravel. At least there would not be any hassles. And so I arranged for that service a few hours before my Jetstar flight left Ho Chi Minh. Oh, Jetstar. They changed the flight schedule twice the week before I left for Saigon. For my flight to Hanoi that night, we were delayed, but I was no longer surprised. I guess all low cost airlines behave like this anyway, so what is the point of getting upset. You get what you pay for.

HANOI: 01 - May de Ville Backpackers Hostel


May de Ville Backpackers Hostel looks like a hotel, except that it really is a hostel, or maybe it is also a hotel? Wait up, it is also a hotel because I saw private rooms for individuals and for families, but for a more expensive fee, of course. The building is located in a narrow alley, so finding it might seem like a challenge at first. It has ten floors. Every floor has this six-bed dorm room, kind of narrow, located by the staircase and fire exit. Inside, you find the bathroom first to your left, a common one for all six and it has no lock, but easy to know if someone is inside because the glass is translucent. The three double bunk beds are lined up next to the wooden lockers, which are big enough for a huge knapsack but you have to provide your own lock.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

HO CHI MINH: Budget and Itinerary


SUNDAY: August 26, 2012
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 147.50
Travel Tax (NAIA 3) - 1,620.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 550.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Ho Chi Minh) - 733.75
PhP3,051.25

HO CHI MINH: 04 - Lofi Inn Saigon


Lofi Inn Saigon is a five-story townhouse of sorts located at that road adjacent to Pham Ngu Lao, the main backpacker’s area here in Ho Chi Minh. You only have to walk less than five minutes to get there, so location is not really an issue. Just like the other accommodations next to it, this guesthouse chose to go higher than wider, which means there is a high possibility that you will get a room on the upper floors. They have no elevator, by the way. If you have restrictions in relation to this, you might want to reconsider.

HO CHI MINH: 03 - Cu Chi Tunnels


And so, the question: Why should you go to Cu Chi Tunnels? The answer is simple: because there is nothing left to do in Saigon. There will come a time when you would just have to look for alternatives outside of the city, and what better day to do it than on my day of departure. Having a flight bound to Hanoi at around 9 PM, I needed a day trip that would bring me back to HCMC to prepare for my departure early that afternoon. After choosing one of numerous travel agents in Pham Ngu Lao, I decided to just do the half day tour of Cu Chi Tunnels for around USD6. Apparently, my guest house was also offering the same tour for USD5. And all I had to do was ask. Oh well...

Monday, August 27, 2012

HO CHI MINH: 02 - War Remnants and Water Puppets


It is an odd combination alright, but I still recommend this pair if you plan to do it in one day. You absolutely need something to cheer you up after the rather depressing trip to that museum. Well then, let us begin with the prologue.

HO CHI MINH: 01 - Why Saigon is Just Like Manila


In as much as I do not want to be controversial or anything, I just have to say this because according to my observations, it is true. Let me argue my case by starting at the airport. We could always say that any airport around the world would be infested with opportunistic cab drivers trained by Lucifer himself. They would tirelessly try to call and usher you into their taxis, after which you would realize how you have been charged with an astronomical amount faster than you can say SCAM! This was what welcomed me in Vietnam, and if you are a tourist in the Philippines, wait, scrap that, you do not have to be a tourist in the Philippines to be scammed by taxi drivers, so yes, it would also happen to you. The difference is that I live there and I know their game. It is my first time in Vietnam, and this incident just makes me feel as though I never left my country at all.

I Almost Got Scammed By A Happy Tours Taxi in Saigon

And now for the very much awaited sequel of I Almost Got Held Up By Billy Jake UVA 709. Of course, if this was going to happen to somebody, that somebody would obviously be me. FML, yeah? Let us go to the prologue.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Guni Guni

♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Mylene Castro (Lovi Poe) is a nursing student with a past that she would rather keep hidden, but living in a haunted boarding house with tenants harboring their own share of secrets unleashes something supernatural that threatens all of them, as the true stories behind their personas are revealed one by one, including that of landlord Tatay Nanding (Jaime Fabregas). Ghosts, liquor induced hallucinations, or figments of imagination?

The style of horror used is somehow reminiscent of Insidious, in terms of the scarce illumination and jerky movements that create a rather creepy vibe. The only complaint one could probably have would be those ugly eyes that characterize the doppelgangers. They look hilarious, as though they were Shaider’s siblings or something to that effect. White contact lenses and one day of workshop on doing freaky faces would have sufficed, instead of relying on CGI.

The Reunion

♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Four friends discuss whether they should attend their high school reunion or not. Their decision to eventually go leads to a series of life-changing realizations brought about by some of their earlier decisions in life regarding their exes. Cassanova Boggs (Enrique Gil) reunites with Ligaya (Julia Montes), the once outdoorsy girl next door turned paraplegic. Joax (Xian Lim) finds out that he fathered his ex Toyang's (Meagan Young) son. Wannabe celebrity Pat (Kean Cipriano) learns that his manang of an ex-girlfriend (Bangs Garcia) is now a sexy print ad model. Lloyd (Enchong Dee) chases his high school sweetheart Ara (Cristine Reyes) who is about to get married, taking for granted his best friend Ali (Jessy Mendiola) who has always been there for him.

This movie goes out of its way to try to make you laugh. Sometimes it succeeds. Most of the time, it fails. Either way, the attempt is so obvious that it could not help but lose its novelty. The over the top scenarios and one too many cliches guarantee a rather boring time, with some forced laughter along the way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

BUSAN: Budget and Itinerary


FRIDAY: August 17, 2012
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 140.50
Travel Tax (NAIA 3) - 1,620.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 550.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Busan) - 1,404.00
Snacks (Cebu Pacific) - 200.00
PhP3,914.50

Light Rail (Gimhae Airport - Sasang) - 1,300
Light Rail (Sasang - Namcheon) - 1,400
Taxi (Namcheon - Pusan Hostel) - 6,700
KRW9,400

INCHEON: Spa on Air


I have always wanted to try staying at Spa on Air even just for one night so as to satisfy my curiosity. Although I have already been in a jimjjilbang before, I wanted to know how this one differed, it being at the airport and all. It turns out it does not differ that much. I am not sure if there is a sauna but what I did see in there was a thermal pool, one hot (45 degrees) and the other cold (26 degrees), both of which were too extreme for me to even enjoy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

NORTH GYEONGSANG: Budget and Itinerary


MONDAY: August 20, 2012
Bus (Nopo - Andong) - 15,300
Dinner (Korean Style Restaurant) - 8,000
Taxi (Andong Bus Terminal - Andong Hotel) - 7,300
Andong Hotel (1 Night/Double Aircon) - 40,000
KRW70,600

ANDONG: 03 - Masks, All Masks!


Should masks be fascinating? The only thing that they ever do to me is freak me out, which is not cool. So why even bother dropping by the Mask Museum and dropping another 2,000 won for admission? Bus. They have a schedule which they do follow, and ours was not due for another hour. Instead of loitering in the traditional eatery where we had lunch and deprive other tourists of seats guaranteed to fulfill their gastronomic fantasies, we decided to just head out and see what the museum has to offer. It was indeed a learning experience.

ANDONG: 02 - Queen Elizabeth Was Here


One of Andong’s more popular claims to fame, aside from its astounding topography and well preserved architecture, would be Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in the 90’s. It is said that the monarch asked to be taken to the “most Korean” place in the country and they all ended up here. Andong seemed to be more than pleased to receive her and now they even house a collection of items and photos of her visit in a special museum found by the entrance of Hahoe’s Folk Village. It also seems to be the only one with air-condition in the area, so if you are dying of asphyxiation from the heat, you can seek refuge in there and pretend to admire the United Kingdom’s queen. The entrance fee is already included in the 3,000 won admission for the folk village.

ANDONG: 01 - Andong Hotel


It was a toss-up between Andong Hotel and Win Hotel. I no longer had time to search for a guest house so I just hopped on a taxi and decided to stay here. I had my doubts because I have read a bad review on the Internet but after seeing my room, well, doubts be gone! Aside from the usual Sadako or the Grudge inspired fear that I have connected to hotel rooms (because I am always alone), there is nothing else to complain about except maybe the Wi-Fi connection, which does not reach the rooms. Staying by the stairs just to access the Internet is quite a hassle!

Monday, August 20, 2012

SUYEONG: 01 - From Centum to Gwangalli



After what seemed like an endless walk at Centum City and the sudden shortage of places to visit because of some Monday spring cleaning conspiracy of sorts among the main attractions in the area, I decided to walk all the way to Gwangalli Beach. Could you really blame me? The map makes it seem so easy. Well, it is, if your definition of easy is more than an hour of walking. What you are guaranteed to admire about the stroll though are the sights you are bound to see. If not for the sun, it would have been a leisurely walk. And so I recommend doing this before sundown. Sights? What sights?

HAEUNDAE: 02 - Meeting Dongbaek's Mermaid


Please stop spreading rumors that Dongbaek’s mermaid and I are an item. The only bond we share is our common predisposition to being alone. Besides, I do not date people with fins. Wait, erase that. I do not date. Period. As for this mermaid, I really do not know what her glitch is. Seeing that she is somehow stoned, wait that does not sound right, made of stone is the term. I could only infer that she got into a fight with Medusa or something. The only other supernatural being I know who shares the same set of powers was a Physics teacher in my high school, and I am not even sure if she has ever set foot in Busan.

HAEUNDAE: 01 - Haeundae's Parasols Don't Come for Free


I really thought that they were free, until someone saying “You are not allowed to use that” in Korean came over. The good news was that I understood what he said perfectly. I have reviewed that sentence construction before. So yes, it was still a triumphant moment. It was not that humiliating because people simply did not care. When you are sunbathing on a beach under a very angry sun, you would not either. I asked him where to pay and how much. He gave me a figure that was affordable, but it was already a big turn off for me. I thought those parasols were government provided, HAHAHA. What was I thinking! And so I just took a stroll and checked out the Busan Aquarium afterwards.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

GEUMJEONG: 01 - Beomeosa's Temples



Oh no, it is another boring temple blog entry. Why do I frequent temples anyway? An agnostic Catholic like me has no business whatsoever visiting other religious structures. Well, to tell you the truth, I really do not know. I always toss in a temple in my itinerary whenever one is available and on the way. They somehow give me some sense of inner peace that I do not even want to explain. No, I do not want to dwell on this. Come to think of it, it is probably the atmosphere that fosters the said sentiment. If you look at those temples, they all look red to me.

Friday, August 17, 2012

NAM: 01 - Pusan Hostel


Pusan Hostel is hard to find, at least the branch in Igidae. I believe they have a more established branch in a more accessible location, but the one in Igidae is simply hidden and has to be searched with patience and a good sense of direction. It is located at SK View in Oryukdo. Make sure that you stress out “Oryukdo” because there are many SK Views here in Busan, probably the same developer of high rise complexes as such. Located down south overlooking the Oryukdo islets, Pusan Hostel is in building 110 of SK View Oryukdo. That would be the last building at the corner, nearest to the sea. The bus stop is located right in front of the building and is the last (or penultimate?) stop of bus numbers 131 and 27.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣

The chain of events triggered by Jason Bourne's actions leads the CIA to terminate one of their programs involving enhanced human skills through genetic manipulation. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) orders the disposal of every field asset and scientist involved as some sort of damage control to counter media exposure. Fresh out of initiation, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) suddenly finds himself running for his life along with biochemist Martha Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who survives a planned lone gunman shooting incident meant to silence them. In need of a permanent fix in exchange for his medication, he convinces her to help him, but the resources they need are stored in a laboratory halfway across the globe: in Manila.

The references to the earlier movies would be a bit distracting for someone who has not read a book or seen a movie of the franchise, but through the help of character flashbacks, it is easy to catch up on the main premise of the series, which is that of the operation concerning some genetic engineering thingy that enhances human capabilities. This is perhaps better considered as a spin-off. Although Jason Bourne is mentioned one too many times and the story is linked to the previous films, The Bourne Legacy gets to stand on its own using the perspective of another agent in the program. Luckily, he is also as clueless as the audience in so many ways that his questions mimic ours, and the answers that he discovers suffice for us to also understand.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Dictator

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), the dictator of the fictional North African country of Wadiya, is forced to go to New York to address the United Nations after a US-led NATO air strike threat. A few hours after landing on American soil, he is betrayed by his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley), who hires an American hit man posing as a bodyguard (John C Reilly) to secretly get rid of his nephew. With his beard gone (making him unrecognizable) and a half-wit double taking his place, Aladeen wanders around New York and is befriended by an activist named Zoe (Anna Faris), an anti-Aladeen American activist who is fighting for Wadiya’s transition to democracy.

This is one of, if not, the most insensitive movie I have ever seen. Baron Cohen goes all the way, hitting almost every possible demographic out there. You will find everything here from racial slurs to religious tirades and all the way down to gender biased statements that make up the film’s dialogue. Unlike Borat or Bruno, which used some sort of pseudo-documentary style of storytelling, The Dictator is shot as a feature movie with a plot, glossy cinematography, familiar supporting actors (Anna Faris), and some cameos here and there (John C Reilly, Meagan Fox, and Edward Norton, among others).

The Amazing Spider-Man

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is left by his parents under the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). They never came back. Now in high school, Peter is the resident dork whom some students find weird and some would like to bully. Finding a suitcase that belonged to his father leads him to Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist working for Oscorp who used to be a colleague of his dad. Oh, and he also lacks an arm. Their paths cross as he sneaks into his laboratory, but instead of getting answers, he gets a radioactive spider bite. You know what happens next.

The previous Spider-Man was modern enough to begin with, yet this reboot is even more techie. The special effects are improved, but perhaps a little too much that it becomes detrimental at some point. The movements and fight scenes are well-choreographed but excesses in terms of superhuman ability are stressed too much that in some scenes they no longer look natural, although they do look cool. The plot is similar to the first movie in many ways. The difference is more on the choice of characters and the decision to keep the setting in high school, which gives way to tackling teenage angst and romance in detail instead of going head-on with the boring realities of adult life. It is because of this that everything seems teenybopper, but at least the flow of the story is kept light.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Eight years after the events leading to Harvey Dent’s death, Gotham has enjoyed peace even without the existence of the caped crusader, thanks to a strong legislation founded on Dent’s perceived heroism. The arrival of Bane, a masked vigilante ex-communicated from the League of Shadows, shakes things up as he gains control of the entire city backed up by the threat of a nuclear device he and his henchmen seizes control of from Wayne Corporation. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is forced out of retirement and returns as the Batman, but with all his wealth and armory gone, has he enough power to defend his city? He gains an unlikely alliance from cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who holds more tricks up her leather suit than she would like to reveal. Could the bat trust the cat and save Gotham once again or do they all end up in ashes this time?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Brave

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

All her life, Merida has been groomed by her mother to be a fine young lady eligible to marry one of the princes of three other rivaling clans, all this in order to sustain peace in their realm. Taking more after her father, Merida is more interested in archery and maintaining her freedom rather than marriage. In an act of defiance, she bends the kingdom’s rules and joins the contest to win her own freedom against the three princes in contention for her hand. When this countermeasure fails, she is led to a witch whom she convinces to cast a spell to change her mother’s mind, which ends up with dire consequences that would test their bond as mother and daughter.

Perhaps the puzzling thing is why the marketing slant seemed to highlight the tomboyish twist, when the theme more prevalent throughout the movie is the endearing relationship between the mother and daughter tandem. Perhaps Pixar was trying to woo the male crowd which would rather skip this film if they knew that the story would be more like a mother and daughter bonding chick flick. What offsets this though is the presence of action scenes that are just enough to keep you entertained regardless of your gender. In the end, Merida is still your archetypal rebelling princess given some fiery curls and an Irish brogue for a change. Oh, and a bow and arrow too. At least she is not a damsel in distress.

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