Traveling, sightseeing, and adventuring. The holidays have been great.
For my first trip outside of Kabul, we made a short Asia tour first to Manila and Cebu in the Philippines, then Jakarta, Indonesia, over to Hong Kong, and an unplanned return to Jakarta (will have to explain this one in a future post). This may seem like a pretty exhausting trip with this much travel to different places over two weeks, but I think we timed our stays in each destination sufficiently so avoid travel burnout.
My wife had a work meeting in the Philippines so we decided to start my first break out of Kabul in Manila so we could have the chance to explore the country and check it off the list. Manila, in many ways, reminded me of other Southeast Asian countries we've been too in terms of the look and feel. However, comparing Manila to places like Jakarta and Bangkok, we never felt quite as safe from things like petty crime that we do in other places. Poverty is extensive and, similar to other SE Asian countries, there are extensive gaps between the rich and the poor.
My favorite sight of Manila was exploring Fort Santiago in the area within Manila called Intramuros. We were recommended to do a tour with Carlos Celdran and were very glad we did. When we travel and sight-see, I've come to more and more often hire tour guides as it provides much more context and information than we would have otherwise and they are usually very inexpensive sometimes only requiring a gratuity at the end. Carlos' commitment to the development of his country was very evident and his passion for a better Philippines was inspiring. Through his stores and guided tours, he is able to fund his organization's causes (social entrepreneur), which I think, is the ideal method for sustainable NGOs rather than the seeking of donor and grant money like so many others operate. I learned a lot about a country I previously knew very little about and hope there are many others in the country working toward a better future for their people.
After just a few days in Manila, we headed to a popular resort island of the the Philippines called Cebu. We stayed at a very nice resort and spent the time relaxing. The highlight of the stay was a day trip to the Southern Point of the island to swim with whale sharks! Whale sharks are huge and having the opportunity to swim with them was simply amazing. There are though some ethical concerns about the local operators continually feeding the whale sharks to attract them for the tourist business but if the sharks are well cared for, I think it's alright as a tourist destination. We recently springed for a new GoPro camera so we'd finally have the ability to take pictures underwater and I'm glad we did. Looking back, we've missed so many great photo opportunities from places we've been to without having one.
That concludes part one of the first R&R. Next up, Jakarta and Hong Kong.
Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.