Sunday, April 28, 2013

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 3/Episode 5

3.5 Kissed by Fire
Ygritte leads Jon Snow into a cave where they become a couple after consummating their relationship. Arya watches in anguish as the Hound wins his duel after slicing his enemy in half, except that the said enemy comes back to life, claiming to have been resurrected by the God of Light. Olenna and Tyrion discuss the expenses of the royal wedding, and she pledges to pay for half of the amount. Robb beheads an important ally after the murder of the Lannister captives, endangering their cause with the loss of such alliance. Jaime and Brienne are brought to Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) where they are welcomed as guests instead of prisoners. He tells her his story after having his severed forearm disinfected. Loras flirts with his new squire, Olyvar (Will Tudor), who is actually a spy under Petyr’s employ. Tywin discovers the Tyrell’s plans to have Sansa and Loras marry each other and decides to strike preemptively by telling Tyrion that he will marry Sansa. Cersei enjoys her brother’s torment, until her father announces that she will have to marry Loras.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 3/Episode 4

3.4 And Now His Watch Is Ended
Varys gives Tyrion advice on revenge and how going slow is the way to go. Cersei warns her father about the Tyrells being a threat, but he would not hear her complaints. Varys and Lady Olenna discuss a pairing between Sansa and Loras to prevent Petyr from using her to gain more influence. Margaery convinces Joffrey to stand in front of a crowd that once mobbed him, but now welcomes him because of her charisma. After confessing that he didn’t really kill the Stark boys and that he sees Ned Stark as his real father, Theon is brought back to the torture chamber. Jaime is constantly mocked by his captors but gets encouraging words from Brienne regarding survival and vengeance. A brawl at Craster’s Keep leads to the death of Craster and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo). Amidst the commotion, Samwell takes Gilly and flees with her newborn baby. Daenerys hands over her dragon as payment for the Unsullied, after which she orders them to sack the city while her dragon incinerates the slaver.

Have You Ever Been to You?

So I just took the TOPIK. Again. After a year. To tell you the truth, napag-iwanan na ng Japanese at Mandarin ang Korean ko. In the beginning I was very enthusiastic about learning Korean. It is one of those languages that make me smile whenever I speak it or listen to it. Parang Italian. And then I continued my Mandarin studies at Confucius Institute on weekends, tapos Japanese sa Nihongo Center pag weekdays. Needless to say, naubusan na ako ng time for self-study ng Korean, at kahit isang taon na ang nakalipas, I think wala pa ring progress. What I did was stay up until the wee hours early today. Cramming, which is what I love to do and have proven to be an effective method for me. Nakakaaliw, kasi lahat ng inaral ko before na feeling ko nakalimutan ko na, bumalik just like that. After snoozing for two hours, go na ako sa Korean Cultural Center after a quick shower.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 3/Episode 3

3.3 Walk of Punishment
The surviving members of the Night’s Watch make it back to Craster’s Keep, where they are housed but insulted. Samwell witnesses Gilly give birth to a baby boy. Robb and Cat make it to Riverrun for her father’s interment, where the dead body is left to drift in the river before being set ablaze with a flaming arrow. Tyrion is named new Master of Coin despite his initial reluctance, as Petyr Baelish is to be sent to marry Cat’s sister Lysa to forge an alliance with the Arryns. He finds out that Baelish has been funding the extravagance of the capital by borrowing heavily from the Iron Bank of Braavos. Daenerys offers to buy all the 8,000 Unsullied with one of her dragons and also wants slave interpreter Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) as a token of appreciation for the good deal, to which the Slaver agrees. Brienne and Jaime are held as captives and she is about to be raped, until Jaime tells their captors that her father would be willing to pay them a handsome ransom given Tarth’s dominance in the sapphire trade. He then begins to negotiate his own release and is led to believe that he is effectively convincing them, until his sword hand is chopped off with a cleaver.

Monday, April 8, 2013

HEBEI: Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: 6 April 2013
Shuttle (Beijing - Qinhuangdao) - 140.00
Snacks (Stopover) - 18.00
Taxi (Lost) - 100.00
Green Tree Inn Sun City Hotel (1 King Bed/1 Night) - 130.00
1 pc Chicken w/Mashed Potato & Coke + Fries (KFC) - 32.50

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 3/Episode 2

3.2 Dark Wings, Dark Words
Bran continues to dream about the three-eyed raven. Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster), another seer, tells him that he couldn’t kill it because Bran himself is the raven. In Harrenhal, Robb and his mother receive bad news: that of her father’s death; and that of Rickon and Bran’s disappearance. Sansa is invited by Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) for snacks where they convince her to spill the beans about Joffrey’s true nature. She describes him as a monster. Arya and her crew make their way to Riverrun and encounter the Brotherhood without Banners, who take them somewhere to eat. Later on, another group arrives with The Hound as hostage, who immediately recognizes Arya and gives away her identity. Theon is kept prisoner in an unknown location and is tortured to confess his crimes. A boy comes to his aid and says that he is sent by his sister and that he would help him escape. Jaime manages to grab Brienne’s sword and engages her in a sword fight while still in shackles. Their duel ends abruptly as Bolton’s men finally find them.

[QINHUANGDAO] Where the Great Wall Meets the Bohai Sea

I've been to Beijing several times already but I haven't experienced the Great Wall just yet. Let's skip the I-know-I-Will-Be-Back-Anyway excuse and go straight to the point, now shall we? East of Beijing lies a portion of the province of Hebei by the Bohai Sea. It's called Qinhuangdao which is always compared to Maine because this is where government officials are said to spend their vacation in summer while drafting new laws. The place is littered with resorts and is popular with tourists both Chinese and Russian alike, if we base it on the written Russian visible almost everywhere.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

[PYONGYANG] Budget and Itinerary

THURSDAY: 4 April 2013
Qing Ming Mini Tour (Koryo Tours) - 790.00
Visa Fee (Koryo Tours) - 50.00
Medical Insurance (Koryo Tours) - 30.00

Friday, April 5, 2013

[PYONGYANG] Arirang, Duck Barbecue, and Westlife

We asked Miss Jong to sing a song for us. If those waitresses in pink managed to belt out a chilling rendition of Arirang during dinner, we were pretty sure that Miss Jong could, too. What we did not expect, though, was her preference for Irish boy bands: “An empty street, an empty house, a hole inside my heart.” And I was, like, “Westlife! That is Westlife!” as the rest of the guys only responded with a confused look, as if asking, “What the hell is Westlife?” More than the discovery that Miss Jong and I kind of grooved to the same beat, what made me more curious was how she actually gained access to Western pop culture. Or, perhaps, it comes as a perk for being a tourist guide in Pyongyang? I could only guess. In any case, her English pronunciation sort of caught her off-guard, resulting in something that Simon Cowell would not be very happy about. That is so not the end of the story, though, because Miss Jong proved to everyone on that bus that every North Korean girl could sing Arirang in a way that would give you goose bumps, as she redeemed herself with a performance that could have given her a wild card for another round of North Korean Idol.

[PYONGYANG] Seven Before Noon

I wouldn't know if Mister Lim was just joking around but he kept on telling us that we broke the record for most attractions seen before noon. Seven before lunch. That never happened before according to him, and then he'd crack a joke that seemed to be lifted directly from an Erap joke book, except that the former president was replaced by an American or a South Korean.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

[PYONGYANG] Yanggakdo International Hotel

You do not really have a choice when it comes to accommodation in North Korea because the tour organizer decides where the group would be lodged. Come to think of it, how inconvenient would it be if different members of the group were to stay in different hotels? Yanggakdo is one of only four deluxe hotels in Pyongyang, as your guide would tell you. Situated on an island in the middle of the Taedong river, the 40+ story hotel gives you a good vantage point to view the city, depending on which floor you end up on.

[PYONGYANG] Touchdown North Korea

In some interesting twist which further proves that you could find a Filipino in any part of the world, I was not the only one to land in Pyongyang that day. I already suspected that the two of them were Filipino based on their looks, except that basing it on looks alone does not really prove anything given how generic and ambiguous we Southeast Asians look like. My suspicion intensified when my 20-20 ninja (or stalker) vision found out that one of them was named Miguel Garcia through his boarding pass. My doubts were laid to rest when I finally got to talk to them after crossing North Korean immigration.

[PYONGYANG] All Aboard Air Koryo

Two ladies robed in bright red greeted me as I got onboard. The scarlet hue they were sporting matched the color of the cushion of the plane's seats, which were further complemented by outlines of dull gray. The first six rows of the aircraft were reserved for business class, while our part of the cabin resembled any other Cebu Pacific airplane I have ever been on. The plane's speakers were blaring with music that you would normally hear at a national parade or an election campaign sortie. As more people holding blue passports that said Democratic People's Republic of Korea came in, my initial assumption that we were going to be the only ones on the flight proved to be wrong.

[PYONGYANG] Pre Flight Jitters

With my bag all packed and ready to go, I logged onto Facebook one last time telling my mother and brother that I'd be going to Inner Mongolia for two days and that it would be unlikely for me to get some decent internet connection. Buying my white lie, she told me to take care, to which I replied, "Do not miss me too much, I will be back in Beijing by Saturday".

[BEIJING] Budget and Itinerary (3)

SATURDAY: 30 March 2013
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 147.50
Travel Tax (NAIA 3) - 1,620.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 550.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Beijing - Manila) - 5,821.36
Snacks (Cebu Pacific) - 300.00

[CHAOYANG] Sanlitun

I have been to Sanlitun only once. Arriving late at night in Beijing, I roamed around that neighborhood with my luggage in tow, checked in at Sanlitun Youth Hostel, then left very early the next morning en route to Mongolia. I never really got to explore the place, which was ironic because Sanlitun is where everyone would want to be if you are part of the party party population. I am not, so that is probably another reason. In any case, it so happened that Koryo Tours office, where the North Korean pre-tour briefing would be held, is located on that side of Beijing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

[TIANJIN] Budget and Itinerary

TUESDAY: 2 April 2013
K606 (Datong - Tianjin) - 126.00
Line 3 (Tianjin Railway Station - Yingkoudao) - 2.00
Tianjin Cloudy Bay Hostel (1 Bunk 6 Bed Dorm/1 Night) - 60.00
Bus 901 (to Dongfenglizhan) - 2.00
Bus 901 (Dongfenglizhan - Beianqiao) - 2.00
Vanilla Frap Venti + Cinnamon Roll (Stabucks) - 48.00
Beef Gyudon + Pepsi (Yoshinoya) - 24.00
Bus 600 (Haihe River - Tianjin Railway Station Bus Parking) - 2.00
Line 3 (Tianjin Railway Station - Yingkoudao) - 2.00
Barbecue x2 (Street Food) - 10.00
Pepsi (Street Vendor) - 4.00

[TIANJIN] The Little Italian Tourist Trap

Fine, let's not be unfair to Tianjin. I guess it was just wrong for me to imagine a romanticized afternoon enjoying pizza at a balcony in a make shift Venice. And so I suggest that you do not go to Little Italy with an empty stomach. You go there to take pictures of the place and yourself. You eat somewhere else. Plain and simple. Do not get me wrong though, as Tianjin, to me, is part of my cheat day. Hence, I did everything in a leisurely pace, because sometimes the best itinerary is not having one at all.

Monday, April 1, 2013

[SHANXI] Budget and Itinerary

SUNDAY: 31 March 2013
K1111 (Beijing - Datong) - 104.50
Taxi (Datong Train Station - Jinjiang Inn) - 20.00
Jinjiang Inn (1 Twin Aircon/1 Night) - 165.00
Taxi (Jinjiang Inn - Nine Dragon Screen) - 11.60
Admission (Nine Dragon Screen) - 10.00
Chicken Poppers + Mashed Potato + Coke + Egg Tart (KFC) - 28.50
Taxi (Red Flag Square) - 10.00
Taxi (Red Flag Square - Wrong Jinjiang Inn Branch) - 6.00
Taxi (Wrong Jinjiang Inn Branch - Jinjiang Inn) - 11.60
Taxi (Jinjiang Inn - Mcdo) - 6.00
5 pcs Chicken Nuggets w/Coke and Fries + Vanilla Shake (McDo) - 29.50
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