Thursday, November 09, 2006

We're all somewhere over China, heading east or heading west...



I had a long awaited vacation recently. The family decided to go to China to take in some sights and maybe do a little shopping. We went to Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai. I've never been to China before, and I'm a Chinese guy who's proud of my race, our history, and our accomplishments so this trip was going to be exciting for me.

As a prelude, I went to my friend Brent's birthday party the night before our trip. Our flight was leaving 6:00am so I had to get up around 2:30am to make some last minute preparations. I came home 1:30 am from Brent's party and I wasn't able to sleep anymore. I thought the 3 hour plane trip would have afforded me some time to sleep but no...the backrest of my seat was broken so I couldn't lean back. So much for getting some rest. In the end I managed to go to bed 11:00pm the next day, so I actually went 40 hours without sleep. Take note I was up at 6:30 already the day before because of work.

Back to the trip...our first stop was Hangzhou, which for me was the highlight of the trip. Hangzhou is considered to be one of the richest cities in China. And you can tell by the hoards of people driving 7 Series BMWs and S-Class Mercedes Benzes. We went to West Lake, which is a very nice and clean place. The sights were just wonderful. I honestly cannot find the words to describe the West Lake. It's something that has to be seen to be appreciated. We also catched a theatrical presentation that's been running everyday for the past 10 years. We had to pay quite a bit of money for our stageside seats, but they were well worth it. We then visited the memorial site of legendary general Yue Fei and went up a giant pagoda. As a final stop, we had lunch at Louwailou, a restaurant that's existed for more than 100 years. Their beggar's chicken was to die for.

Photos are in Multiply

Our next stop was Suzhou. I didn't like this place as much as the other cities but our visit to a "replica" ancient city by the Yangtze river was nice. We were supposed to visit 16 houses owned by ancient rich people but due to the lack of time we only visited two houses. We also took a boatride on the canals. It's a shame I didn't have enough time to walk around, there were lots of souvenir stores selling calligraphy tools, scrolls, posters, figurines, amulets, etc. etc.

Photos are in Multiply

Our final stop was the bustling city of Shanghai. We spent around 3 days here as this is probably the most popular spot for tourists. The first night we went on a boat ride along the Huangpu river that separates old Shanghai and the newer Pudong area. Shanghai at night is truly a sight to see. The lighted buildings, busy streets, numerous ferries, and various monuments serve to illuminate the sky and the city in a way that's just breathtaking. Next stop for us was a light show while crossing a tunnel underneath the river. The final stop was the Oriental Pearl Tower. The tallest tower in Asia has viewing platforms at 350m, 267m, and 263m. One of the viewing platforms even had an outdoor portion where you could feel the cold winds blowing.

Speaking of which, one of the things I enjoyed most about China was the weather, at least during this particular season. The lowest temperature when we where there was around 16 degrees, which makes for very nice weather, you won't sweat when walking, but you won't shiver from the cold either.

Our last tourist attraction stop was at the Shanghai zoo. We just wanted to see a Panda hence the decision to visit this place. But we only saw one Panda, apparently the other one had died a few weeks before our visit. We were also unfortunate enough to visit during lunch time so most of the animals were asleep. Lazy bums.

The rest of our stay in Shanghai was spent just walking around. For me I just visited as many shops and buildings as I could. I wanted to take in the majesty of Shanghai. It's a shame that I didn't get to visit any of the bars and clubs that Shanghai is famous for, that would have been a perfect ending to my trip.

Photos are in Multiply

One interesting thing I found out was that I could actually carry on a decent conversation in Mandarin when it comes to purchasing things and general conversation. The one I talk to just has to speak a little slowly hehe

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Porsche World Roadshow 2006

I had the privelege of being invited recently to the Porsche World Roadshow held at Clark Expo grounds. The last event of this kind was held 6 years ago when I wasn't that into cars yet, so I was definitely not going to pass this up. Besides, where else would you get a chance to drive the latest models from Porsche and actually push them to their limits?

The event consisted of several tests designed to highlight the strengths of the Porsche vehicles. These include braking, oversteer/understeer, driving test, off road performance, and a slalom course. I almost got the best time for the slalom, but two other drivers from my group beat me by a few tenths of a second. But overall I am definitely sure that my time would have been in the top 5 of all 20+ participants. However the day wasn't about winning or losing, it was about having fun with the cars and experiencing the pure joy of driving these performance machines.

Which was my favorite? I'd have to give it to two of the cars. The first one being the modified 997 Carrera S with 381bhp (up from 355) and the Porsche Sport Suspension. This particular car accelerated the quickest and was the "rawest" Porsche among all the models available there. Although I'm pretty sure that not everybody can withstand it's harsh ride. The 2nd car I absolutely enjoyed was the Cayman S. Although it did not have the brute power and acceleration of the Carrera, for me it was the best balanced car there. The Cayman was really easy to drive and push to the limit. It inspires confidence whether you're performing sudden braking maneuvers or powering out of a sharp corner. It's a shame we didn't get to drive the GT3 and Turbo.

The day ended with a huge smile on everybody's faces. The drive going home was not pleasant though, I mean after driving these Porsches all day, driving any other car seems pale in comparison.

Me with the 997 turbo
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997 GT3 (white) and turbo (black) side by side
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Offroading in the Cayenne
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fish and Feng Shui

One of our Japanese Koi died last night. We found the lifeless body floating in the pond at around 10:30pm. We had to dig a grave on the empty lot beside our house as we did not want to give away the fish only to have someone else make it into a meal. This particular fish has been with us for more than five years already and had grown to be quite a beast. My brother said it looked like organ failure was to blame as the body was a bit bloated. Our other fish seem to be fine.

Some pictures:

The colors are still very nice as this is an original Japanese Koi, not one of those cheap local or china-bred ones. We asked someone to estimate it's value a few years ago and it amounted to approximately 20-30 thousand pesos. Since prices of Koi have increased tremendously over the past few years, I have no doubts that this fish would be worth more than 50k today.
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Here's a comparison shot to see how big it has grown. My red slipper on the side is size 8.5 if I'm not mistaken.
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For Chinese people, we don't really treat the death of a fish as something very tragic, as you would normally the death of a dog. There is an ancient Feng Shui belief that fish would absorb their keeper's misfortunes/bad luck when they die. I don't know if this is true as the only fish I've ever taken care of were ferocious piranhas and other carnivores. In contrast these Japanese Koi were friendly and docile creatures. They would swim up to greet you, especially during feeding time. Although it doesn't feel good to lose a fish whom we've considered a significant part of our lives for the past few years, somehow deep down I think that maybe, just maybe, it took away whatever misfortune we've experienced or are about to experience in the near future. I have heard many stories from close relatives and there just might be some truth to this ancient Chinese belief.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fun Run!

I went on a fun run with the Autoplus boys yesterday morning at NLEX. Although the prospect of waking up at 4:00am on a Sunday does not excite me, the thrill of riding shotgun with exotic supercars does. We had a good turnout with several exotics mixed in with high performance Japanese machines. I rode passenger in my friend's Mercedes Benz SL55 AMG. That car was wonderful. It didn't have the kick-in-the-pants acceleration that a boosted car has, but the power in that thing just seems to go on forever. Since the owner was still getting used to the car, fastest we got was around 220-230kph, but the car made you feel as though you were only cruising at around 100kph.

One of the highlights of the day for me has got to be hearing the amazing Ford GT at WOT on the freeway. That amazing supercharged V8 was absolutely noisy, in a good way of course.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the run:


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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Teach me to drive like Colin...

One of our website members just posted this video of champion rally driver Colin Mcrae flipping his Subaru STI in the ESPN X Games rally event. What's amazing is not the flip but the fact that Mcrae was able to recover immediately from it and still take second place.



I am by no means a rally driver, but anyone can tell that was one hell of a drive. Mcrae said in an interview that they probably lost only 1 - 1.5 seconds because of that flip. Considering also the fact that bumper was almost ripped off and the front left tire was shredded off from the wheel, it is truly an amazing drive. I've had a little experience with dirt, tarmac, and gravel rallies. The worst I ever encountered was when I spun out and nearly fell on a ditch. That one took me at least 10 seconds to recover from.

I hope somebody can teach me to drive like Colin :)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Almadrava

These are the lyrics to a song I've been listening to for almost a year now. The song is titled "If You Could See My Eyes" by Almadrava. I first heard it when I got the Chillout Project Sisters of the Sun album last Sept. 2005. I don't know why but I don't seem to get tired of listening to it. Maybe it's the lyrics or how the melodies are strung together.

The air will never have the same smell,
the sun will never get to shine so bright again.
How they hurt my eyes, god! they hurt my eyes,
now that you're leaving.

My past is travelling on an airplane,
who will be there the next time I need a friend,
and I close my eyes, now I close my eyes
because you're leaving.

And the telephone is ringing in my hand,
I have to cheer you up, and you still don't understand
why did you say goodbye, how did you say goodbye?
it's me who did it ...

I have my life right in front of me,
my past seems one minute, present seems eternity.
I want to freeze the time, so I close my eyes
but you're still leaving.

With any problem I did lean on you.
You are now my problem and I don't know what to do.
I see you fly away, god! they hurt my eyes
now that you're leaving

And you still wonder how I didn't cry.
Of course I love you, but somehow I had to lie,
beause you had to go, yes! you had to go
although you need me.

Because your future is so far from here
and from the distance I will help to fight your fears.
I'll have to be strong, yes! I will be strong
because you need me.

And the telephone is ringing in my hand
I have to cheer you up, and I don't know if I can.
If you could see my eyes, if you could see my eyes...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It's over...

After two years of waiting, hoping, and persevering to make this work, I have finally decided to drop it and move on. I guess I have just come to the realization that how I feel is not really important in the grand scheme of things.

Was it worth all the emotional pain and hardships that I had to go through? Of course. I have learned a lot about myself and about life during these times. But more importantly, the hope and optimism of this eventually working out certainly cheered me up when I was feeling most vulnerable and alone.