Five years ago, I posted photos from my very first trip to Europe on Facebook. I had my handy Canon Point & Shoot and when I managed to find a hostel with a computer or an Internet Cafe, the upload would happen. It was rarely just a couple of photos, bur rather a dump of everything I had shot for a few days. Ten shots of the Mona Lisa, fifteen shots of some random canal in Florence, six different angles of my gelato and one sad photo of the Sistine Chapel. It was what most of us had at the time to communicate and it worked.
Fast forward to 2013 (almost 2014!) and there is absolutely no need to wait! Not only can travel experiences be shared right away, they are selectively filtered, figuratively and literally. Don’t get me wrong, I love to share (mostly) everything as it happens, but now with a blog, I realize the balloon has been popped for many of my adventures. However, I have a few stories and photos that have yet to be shared! I made myself a couple of promises before my trip and I have stuck to them. The first promise was my DSLR photos would not go on Instagram. It’s a matter of opinion, but I feel Instagram photos are meant to be taken by your phone. That was its intended purpose and that’s the point of it being “instant.” I don’t know about you, but for me, the thought of taking a photo with my DSLR, uploading it to my laptop, editing it, sending it to my photo, saving it to my phone and finally posting sounds exhausting!
My second promise was that I wouldn’t be that guy who posts twelve consecutive photos to Instagram. We’ve all seen it in our feeds and usually by the third photos, you scroll without looking just to get through it all! I get it, you’re traveling in a foreign country with no cell service and you get back to the hotel or stop for a coffee and it’s “OMG, I need to share EVERYTHING I saw today!” At the end of the day, I just don’t think anyone needs to see that many photos of mine. If that’s your thing, good on you!
For better or for worse, I unlocked my iPhone before leaving and my first stop in each country is to get a new SIM card and some sort of data package. To be honest, it’s more to have access to Google Map than anything else (and I’m still getting lost), but a great by-product has been able to post from wherever I am which has been amazing! So I eat and post, watch a sunset and post, visit a temple and post, you get the point!
So with those two promises to myself, this is a DSLR & “best of the rest” type post with a few repeat performances tossed in for good measure! So with all that said, this post will wrap up my first stint in the Philippines (I’ll be heading back in January 2014).
So why did I even begin with the Philippines? Back when I lived in La Belle Province, I worked for the Montreal Canadiens as their retail buyer. I shared a 10×10 office with a colleague and when you spend more than 70 hours in an office with someone, you either have a massive blow-up or you become good buddies. Luckily, it was the latter. Jonathan moved to Cebu City in the Philippines a while back and founded Clicking Labs with a couple of friends. Over the last couple of years, Clicking Labs has grown from their apartment/office to a thriving online marketing start-up that is providing tremendous job opportunities to students and recent graduates. The offer has always been there to visit and my newfound flexibility allowed me to finally book that ticket and turn it into a SE Asia adventure!
An added bonus to the Philippines was seeing Foster the Cat. As the name implies, Jonathan had adopted him in Montreal, but Foster went to live in Ottawa for a couple of years with Jonathan’s sister. Only a recent visit by his sister to the Philippines allowed Foster and Jonathan to finally reunite. Even with air conditioning and fans, it’s got to be pretty warm for Foster. He’s got a few go-to spots in the living room where he can get a good breeze but still keep an eye out on everything!
In addition to the comfort of home accommodations AND chilling with Foster, I’ve been able to pick up some Filipino cooking lessons along the way. One of the many cool things about Clicking Labs is they provide lunch for their employees. Every morning, a cook comes to Jonathan’s house and prepares lunch for about 60 staff. It’s not the most ideal situation, but she prepares it there and then takes it to the office by taxi. Without a fully functional kitchen (yet) in the office, it’s the best way to go about it. When I asked her if I could help, she definitely looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. I explained that I liked to cook and wanted to learn. I’m not sure she totally understood why I wanted to learn, but she put me to work (sorta). We were making chicken adobo and while I wasn’t given the responsibility of handling any raw chicken, I was tasked with putting the marinade together. It’s essentially a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar and various spices brought to a boil and then let it simmer. I have the recipe for 60 pieces of chicken, so I will need to do some tinkering when I get home! But it’s a very simple dish with great flavour and of course like most things in the Philippines, it’s served with rice!
Speaking of food, let’s talk fruit. I was warned but no one can really prepare you for the bounty of fruit that is available in SE Asia. I’ve seen all sorts of incredible treats that I couldn’t identify. Some I’ve sampled (the ones that you can peel), some I’ve looked at from a distance with curiosity and many I still have to try. What I’ve absolutely fallen in love with is eating my fruit with chili salt. Some fruit vendors will provide a small bag of their own chili salt concoction to use for dipping or just to dump into your bag of pre-sliced fruit or they’ll have a station set up in which you can make your own (think condiments for your hot dog).
My first experience with a green (sour) mango was quite shocking! For whatever reason, I just hadn’t tried one yet before coming to the Philippines. The very tart sour taste is certainly quite a shock if you’re not expecting it! And I certainly did not expect it to be so hard when I bit into it. Although it makes it perfect for dipping into the salt. When I get home, I will be eating all my fruit with varying combinations of chilies and salt.
Calories, let’s talk about those pesky things. Between walking and shvitzing (sweating), I thought I might be able to balance out all the eating I was planning on doing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the eating has literally outweighed the walking/sweating combo. I’m alright with that and thankfully at 6 feet tall, I can spread the travel weight around! Luckily, basketball is a huge deal in the Philippines and there are courts everywhere. Some are in pretty bad shape, but I did ball it up at this great open air court that would be a perfect setting if there was ever a remake of White Men Can’t Jump!
And lastly, as I say goodbye to the Philippines for now, I leave you with a buko juice selfie. It’s water from a young coconut blended with milk, sugar (I’ve learned to ask for half or none since it’s already way too sweet) and ice. It’s beyond refreshing as my body is still getting to the warm weather although it’s “winter” here right now. And as an added bonus for you all, I’m going to track the length of my beard while I’m traveling. You’ve been warned!
Next stop, more stories and photos from Cambodia!