Friday, July 30, 2010

Little Mermaid Finds Another Home at Davao Baywalk

To gain a human soul and the love of a human prince, she chose to suffer the consequences of saving his prince from oblivion. She was condemned and turned into sea foam! She was the Little Mermaid!

In this tale, mermaids have a lifespan of 300 years. Unlike the humans who either go to heaven – or hell, when mermaids die, they turn into sea foams and cease to exist. First published in 1837, Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid’s” sentiment was as raw and compelling 173 years ago as it is now. It caught the imagination of generations – until it was disneyfied into Ariel! These days, the statue of Denmark’s most photographed statue still remains elusive (her face is turned away from the visiting crowd in the old seaport district of Langilinie in the capital of Kobenhavn).

Since the statue was introduced in Denmark (by Beer millionaire, Carlsberg founder J.C. Jacobsen whose son's name was Carl), the hopeless romantics are still in awe of the insurmountable odds that someone would willingly bear for the sake of love. Don’t we all dream of such devotion? Although the Little Mermaid finally left her “stone” in downtown Copenhagen to visit Shanghai (for the World Expo – she never left her portside home for 46 years!), she will be back to stare at the northern seas.

During our last visit to the Philippines’ southern city of Davao, we were literally astounded to find the “Little Mermaid” perched on her very own Davao rock! We were killing time before our evening flight back to Manila when I first noticed a 20 foot statue of Michelangelo’s David right by Davao Gulf. I instructed my driver to head to this seaside park that I belatedly learned was called Davao Baywalk!

I was thrilled!

This was something new that not a lot of tourists are even aware of. The park is still under construction, but much of the major attractions are already in place – a sprawling pond garnishing David’s regal statue, an idyllic seawall without much tourists (excluding the workers, there were probably less than 10 souls), and the priceless breeze from the Pacific! I walked further north until I saw “her” sitting atop her stone, her face turned against any spectators! The Little Mermaid! I was excited!

Davao City's Little Mermaid at the Baywalk (or Seawall).

This would be my third encounter with the girl who loved so much. Each encounter unplanned! First time was in Copenhagen, after witnessing the ceremonial changing of the guard at the Amalienborg Palace (the official residence of the royal family). Second was at a sultan’s palatial mansion they call “Istana” at the princely Bogor Gardens, two hours north of Jakarta in Indonesia. The third one is my great Davao discovery!

The manang by the tindahan (small store) told me that this park was being managed by Queensland (a popular residential village in Davao City) although I have my doubts. There are signs with reminders from Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. This, I am sure, is his brainchild. He must have gone to Denmark! Mayor Duterte (who’s Vice Mayor now) brought the concept of the Little Mermaid to Davao City.

Not content with such feat, he even brought Michelangelo’s David – twice the size of Copenhagen’s David’s – to complete the erstwhile “Copenhagen Experience”! (The original David stands at a museum in Florence, Italy, but has several replicas all throughout Europe, including Copenhagen, and the Americas, and even Jerusalem. More on that in our next post.)

Davao’s Little Mermaid is the exact replica in size, form and hue. The paint is gradually chipping off, but it is a faithful reproduction of the iconic figure. Like its Danish sister, it’s not an easy feat to touch the statue. You’d have to dip your feet in sea water to be able to do so! Carefull with the mossy concrete too, I almost fell. The Little Mermaid traveled a long way (Scandinavia) to get there! ;->

Fancy for a weekend in Copenhagen? Head to Davao!

Fast facts:

Some quarters refer to the place as "David's Edge".

Most taxi drivers would know if you just say “Seawall”. If not, try “Davao Baywalk”. It’s probably half a kilometer from SM Davao! Fare from anywhere within the city proper should be between PhP100-150!

The park has several restaurants in its vicinity, as well as a huge parking space for your car.

Best of all, entrance is free. And if you visit it within the year, I am almost sure you will be sharing the whole park with very few souls.

And as a reminder, Davao has outlawed smoking in public places. If you want to test the political will of the Dutertes, give it a puff, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Davao Baywalk

The gigantic David - must be 20 feet tall or more!

For a full scale, closer view of Davao's David, please check it out here:

The sprawling pond in front of David.

A park in active development!

A seaside town overlooking the Baywalk, the view from where the Little Mermaid sits.

Banana Cake. Looking dry and unpalatable, guess again! This delectable PhP8 cake is a must, courtesy of the nearest tindahan.

The original Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was hard to get a great photo of this little lady. Most time, her face casts a shadow - and she is turned against the crowd! I had to come back 3x for a decent face photo - check out our post from way back about the Little Mermaid. As the song goes, too much love, in fact, will kill you!

The posh Amalienborg Castle in downtown Kobenhavn where I started my walk! Witnessing the ceremonial changing of the guard is nothing different from the more touristy Buckingham Palace in London, but I like their "black" uniform! Very stately! From here, I took a walk with no specific itinerary. I first found a replica of Michelangelo's David. Further on, I reached the old seaport where I saw the "Little Mermaid". Some surprises are the most amazing finds!

Edmund Dulac's painting of the Little Mermaid and the Prince!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mum in Singapore

Singapore, humorously tagged “the only shopping mall with a seat in the U.N.”, is a wonderment. It’s a macrocosm of everything a concrete jungle should be. With a population of just 5 million, it’s a densely populated city-state (just second to Monaco). The Merlion (Singapore’s trademark) was designed by Fraser Brunner in 1966. It is also a “he”, with its body made of cement, its skin of porcelain, and its eyes from small red teacups! Is he a surrogate dad to the cub beside him? Rumors abound on why he is spewing liquid. Is he bulimic? Or just spitting that chewing gum to avoid prison? I shiver at the thought! My lips are sealed and I am mum in Singapore!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Singapore's skyline. This photo only courtesy of wikitravel's Jeff Chan.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spicejet Over India - Arriving at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International

Flying over Delhi.

I flew India’s Spicejet last November. From Tamil Nadu’s capital, Chennai, I took my luggage to its domestic airport (which was undergoing refurbishments). Unlike Trichy’s airport, Chennai has a more urban standard – new xray machines, gleaming interiors, and an orderly system of receiving clients.


After checking in, as it was boarding already, a 20’ish guy kept egging me to “just go” – and this was a queue where airport officials would frisk you before heading towards the door. I didn’t wanna go beyond demarcated lines before it was my turn – regardless of who’s in desperate rush! You see, we had to take the bus to get to our plane. “Just go, man,” he emphatically ordered me once again! I looked behind me and gave him dagger looks. No one was going to order me to buck standard procedures! “Stop ordering me around! Wait for your damn turn!” I shot back! Since it was my turn for the frisking, I told the guard about this impatient shmuck!

The guard stopped frisking me and waved his head, telling me to go. I did so, but not before looking back. I heard the guard shout to the man behind me - “Wait for your turn!" <Indian gibberish…yadda yadda yadda> And not only did he frisk him! He also made him turn back behind the xray line, while I made it to my bus - the last of the 3 transfer shuttles for my Spicejet flight!

The flight from Chennai to Delhi was relaxed, though it took almost 3 hours! It’s like flying from Manila to KL. And I am just flying from south India to somewhere-in-the-middle India. Such is the gargantuan landmass of this fascinating land! I kept looking around if Mr. Impatience made the flight – but I didn’t see him! That should teach him a lesson!

Lobby of the Indira Gandhi International Airport's domestic wing (Terminal 2).


Later that day, I arrived for the first time at the Indira Gandhi International Airport – India’s mother airport, once tagged as “one of the worst airports in the planet”! I expected everything in disarray, but it proved otherwise. There was a buzz of electricity shooting through my spine. I was excited – and a little scared!

Even the taxi ride was much like my surgeries, uneventful! It was an easy pick! I expected riot, and taxi wallahs, but there was none of that!


Dusk enveloping the nation’s capital. I was also anxious. Would I find my street? (Yup, the driver took me to the edge. I had to walk from the stop.) Would I find the same hotel where I used to stay? (Nope, I didn’t even see it within the next 2 days in Delhi! Haha)


Paharganj (the city’s well appointed backpacker joint) - which literally means "Main Bazaar" -was abuzz with manual traffic and the usual bustling commerce a la Divisoria, but crazier. It was hard walking through the chowk without bumping into someone. Peddlers were selling every imaginable stuff. I reached down my pocket to get something to fill my grumbling stomach. Fellow backpackers were in every corner – looking lost, tired, amused, unshaven, delighted to be at the heart of chaos! My muscles were flinching from carrying my 8 kg baggage. I agree. Visiting India, Delhi in particular, isn’t just like watching a movie. It was being in this fascinating, mind boggling, sense-overloading movie! In a matter of hours, I were to celebrate another birthday alone – in a foreign land! Little did I know that this would make into a “most unforgettable birthdays” list!

But that story’s for another day! And this is the Eye in the Sky!

Purana Qila - one of the city's grandiose UNESCO World Heritage sites. Felt fortunate to have finally visited this - on my 3rd Delhi visit!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Melakan Stories – A Rude, Old & Ugly Melakan Stole My Table

One rude Malaysian!

Melaka, West Coast Malaysia – After a satisfying, albeit strenuous climb up St. Paul’s Church (it used to be Our Lady of Annunciation during the Portuguese era circa 1521), I decided to just leisurely walk down the hill and head to the Palahwan Square - Melaka Megamall. Since it was past 2 PM already, I decided to take my lunch there before heading back to the Bus Station.

I was amused with the bas relief display at the indoor fountain, populated with a good number of famished fish – and a cornucopia of historically significant images related to this Dutch-Portuguese city! So was I, famished, I told myself! I headed towards the inviting restaurant/kafe called “Classic Kopitiam” – kopitiam should mean “coffee house” if I am not mistaken. The place was almost full, except for the set of tables near the entrance door.

The waiter was clearing the left-over clutter so I stood before the tables, waiting for the waiter to clear them! Five minutes into my wait, an old pudgy man – ugly as f__ck – made his way between the waiter and me; he started speaking Bahasa authoritatively so I figured he must be an owner or regular customer! Who the fuck cares! Fact is, I was there first and that table was obviously mine! Before I knew what was happening, he pulled a chair and sat where I was to sit! A couple of minutes more, a lady – all covered with a shawl - and some children joined him! Without even glancing my way, this old ugly fart owned up the table that I so patiently waited for! The nerve!

It just goes to show how manners cannot be learned even by old age or decades of being ugly – and fat!


Is there a lesson to be learned from this experience? Not really! Except that I am sure I have several cars back home and that didn’t help me get the table I patiently waited for. LOL. Charge it to experience.

Respect the elders, the senile and the demented? Errr, but respect is not imposed. As Ms. Bea Saw once emphatically said, you have to deserve it!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Classic Kopitiam serving inexpensive but delectable meals.

Exquisitely cooked chicken meal, done "classic" style as they described it at the menu.

Bas relief surrounds this beautiful fountain right at the heart of the mall near the south entrance.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Putrajaya - Visiting Malaysia's Administrative Capital Impresses Once Again

This photo only courtesy of's saeed salem.

Putrajaya - A lot has changed since I first visited Putrajaya a few years ago. There is now a KLIA Transit, instead of the KLIA Express, to service the twin city of Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. The Putrajaya Station doesn't seem ghostly anymore, and there's a long queue of buses that waits to shuttle visitors and commuters to town. Moreover, there are new structures and sites in this federal administrative capital, such as the State Landmark, a glistening structure at the top of a hill where an awesome view of the whole Putrajaya can be seen.

My bus took the route from the bridge near the Prime Minister's Residence, the complete opposite of where Seri Wawasan Bridge is, which was good, since I haven't visited this area the last time. This city of about 50,000 residents is targetting an influx of 300,000 people, but the new residential structures are mostly "empty shells". I am intrigued that there are only 3 self-governing cities in Malaysia - KL, Putrajaya and what was called "an oddball of an island" called Labuan. Fascinating! How do I get there?

From the overlooking promenade which was a bit of a climb from the nearest waiting shed, I took photos of the inspiring sprawl of the new city. I crossed the road then walked towards the PM's Residence - eye-catching with its grandiose facade and blue copula. From there, it's a leisurely walk towards Putra Mosque, with its huge gleaming pink central copula and some half a dozen minarets or more. Improperly attired visitors are tasked to wear a very pink robe! LOL

As the sun was bearing down its heat, I decided to take a taxi to the nearby Putrajaya Boulevard - at just 8 ringgit! Gone are the hundreds of flowers! What used to be a desolate lakeside is now bustling with life! There is - now - a river cruise service at 35 ringgit per person.

To my mind, Malaysia has got to be one of the fastest growing nations in the world. During this trip, I have revisited Malacca and Putrajaya and each one has shown an exponential rate of growth. I am just simply impressed. These cities that I once visited as fledgling metropolis are absolutely new cities to me! There's so much construction, people have come in throngs, and everything else has been made accessible. It is so much easier - and even cheaper - to visit them. And I would like to congratulate the Malaysian people for such spectacular success. I take my hats off to you, guys. If only they take such excellence in their filmmaking skills. Hahaha.

Have you seen this new comedy film called "Zoo"? Though the visuals are top notch, the story is a potpourri of tired slapstick jokes about talking animals and kidnapping villains. This is a film that heavily employs contorted faces, diarrhea jokes, bad Michael Jackson impersonations, and all the triteness dated 1970. The four movies I have seen early March and April this year were also horrible fodder. What's the big deal? Why can't impressive Malaysians make good movies?
A bus ride from Putrajaya Sentral (take Bus no. 100 or 300 - and tell the driver where you plan to go) will cost you a measly 50 cents. Just be sure you have adequate change - as they do not give change!

Next time, it will be Cyberjaya, Putrajaya's twin city.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Seri Wawasan Bridge, one of the crowning glories of this 9,400 hectare city!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tales from Cameron Highlands - Brinchang Stasis and Tanah Rata Lethargy

This photo only courtesy of www.trekearth's chris jules.

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia - After a debacle at the bus terminal in Bukit Jalil, finally made it to my bus. It left the station at 10:30 AM and by 3 PM, I was back in Cameron Highlands. I am finally able to stay here for the night - amidst light teasing rain and dramatic fog. I was so pleased having chosen Hillview Inn which is one of the most beautiful guesthouses I have ever been to. Took the 150 ringgit room - without the balcony, since I didn't feel like taking my shoes off just to get to a room at the 2nd floor (Otherwise, it's 200 ringgit for a room with a balcony.) It's a good for 4 people - and with a wifi service to boot. I booked for a 25 ringgit sightseeing tour tomorrow morning. That should cover most of what I want to see.

Tanah Rata is exactly as I remembered it last time I was here, though there's less flowers. I finally made it to Brinchang, a good 3 kilometers north from TR - through a 6 ringgit taxi. If you're in a group, taxis charge 2 ringgit per person which is - still - a bargain. Nothing much to see in Brinchang although there are more shops and hotels.

Cameron Highlands - in the state of Pahang - doesn't even have a movie house to amuse its people. I indulged on what I have been reading from travel forums - the Steamboat - which is what we call hotpot in the Philippines. (At main strip's unassuming Hong Kong Restaurant, at 14 ringgit per person.) The difference is, they offer more variety to dunk on a bowl of boiling water - then feast yourself to gluttony. I am thus walking back to my room with bloated stomach. But the mysterious, dramatic fog envelopes my consciousness with smug sleepiness.

Evening now and I ventured across dimly lit shops. There was a "salon" - really a barber shop with a single customer at 9 in the evening. The night market is also winding down, and people looked tired. But one thing noticeable about the highlanders is their good natured demeanor. They offer a huge smile for a 1 ringgit sale of breaded banana. A taxi driver even returned a 50 ringgit bill when I mistook it for a fiver. Earlier, while on the road, during a bus stop before arrival in CH, I knew I gave a 6 ringgit fee for a 4.50 bill, but the idiot girl pretended it was the correct amount. I knew one day she would never find success in whatever she sets her heart to. I can't wait for the tour tomorrow though. 7 stops within 4 hours. Charmed, I am sure
This is the Eye in the Sky.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Melakan Tales - Progress Faster Than Reciting the Alphabet

This photo only courtesy of flickr's The Bugz.

Melaka - So a royalty's hunting dog fell down the river and drowned when it saw a mouse deer, inspiring the prince to name this city from the site this actually happened - beside a melakan tree (Indian gooseberry)! So goes the legend. On my 2nd visit in this hybrid of Portuguese and Dutch city, I was just floored! This wasn't the city that I visited just a few years ago! It has amazingly grown exponentially!

First off, there is already an Eye of Melaka (their answer to the London Eye); a revolving restaurant that amazed me no end (at 20 ringgit per person); a hop-on,hop-off tourist bus service that perplexingly riuns from just 9AM to 12 PM; a more frequent and voluminous river cruise business; a better planned public transport with a more comprehensive itinerary (their town bus service now runs directly from the city center to the main terminal, you'd get there in 15 minutes; it used to take an hour!); a very much alive Jonker's Street that used to only come alive at night, but is a heavy bustle of activities and tourists now - even at daytime; and a tourist set that has more than quadrupled! I am not exaggerating!

I remembered having a cheap meal at a makeshift stall just before turning towards St. Paul's Hill - now it is all gone! What used to be small forgettable stores has been transmogrified into a luxurious Carrefour and its contiguous Dataran Palahwan - Melaka Megamall, the smallest megamall I have ever seen. LOL

The Stadthuy and Christ Church (an anglican church) still took my breath away! They even have a Taman Mini Malaysia now - a cultural park - Melaka's tribute to the 14 states of Malaysia as well as its neighbors in Asia. This is Malaysia's version of the Philippines' Nayong Pilipino and Indonesia's Taman Mini Indonesia Indah!

I feasted on their fruits - dragon fruits, balimbing, some anonymous ones - at 1 ringgit each! The Melakan Bus Terminal is such a well planned system of local and interstate transport system that it doesn't matter now that it is actually 4.5 kilometers outside of the city center.

To be honest about it, I cannot wait to be back! One day, soon!

This is the Eye in the Sky.

This photo only courtesy of

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rainy KL Beckons into Luscious Cherry Memories and Petronas Wonderment

Lightnight strikesover KL. This photo only courtesy of

KL, Malaysia - It had been drizzling all darn day! And most of my early start was wasted by supersonic loud old chinese ladies who spoke as though everyone on the bus was deaf. Later that day, my arrogance got the better of me when I actually realized I got lost trying to find Pasar Seni station. When I finally trudged through Jalan Petaling, the place - at 10 PM - was packed with curious tourists. All that crowd and no one was buying. I saw ripe cherries somewhere within Chinatown's chaos - at 25 ringgit per half a kilo - so I bought one. I have missed this sweet fleshy fruit. My London days are gradually turning into cobwebbed memories, but these cherry memories keep haunting me.

Jalan Pudu seemed ghostly and commerce in the area has been greatly affrected by the closure of Puduraya Bus Station which is being refurbished. My dilemma is, where do I get my bus rides to Cameron Highlands and Melaka? I was told by the guy at my hotel that I was to go to Bukit Jalil, just a few stops from the Pudu train station. The usual throng of dazed caucasians were, now, mere trickles. No wonder, business in the area has been gravely affected.

I was actually amazed with the richness of activities that I had partaken. After all, this was my 5th arrival in Kuala Lumpur since January this year. I wasn't meant to get bored in KL.

If the randomness of my thoughts skip by misdirected targets, it is because I am dead tired, albeit smug - and my internet service is annoyingly running out on me.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Lake Titiwangsa. This photo only courtesy of

Petronas Twin Towers - never a tired sight!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Burmese Tales - Crossing U-Bein Bridge to Ancient Amarapura

I was in a rush! I had to see the ancient city of Amarapura, north of Myanmar, at the fringes of Mandalay City. But the main attraction was on my way to the "city" - the U-Bein Bridge.

Stretching 1.2 kilometers, walking along its teak planks had been one of the most serene of experiences. With hardly a sound but the rush of the lake, and the waft of the winds, I trodded on, spellbound. To be honest, It was a considerable gale, I had to hold on to my cap. The leisurely walk to the other side took 15 minutes, but I couldn't help but stop every so often. In the middle of this bridge, I saw a single skeleton of a tree from a distance; a familiar sight among visitors. It was straight out of a painting. One day soon, I'd be able to share that photo here. For now, I had to rush and get to the other side. I had less than an hour for the crossing and back to where my tuktuk was waiting.

I could have stayed longer - but then I didn't want to miss the meal of hundreds of monks at a temple nearby. It is an attraction shared to tourists, occuring once a day - and a highlight of any Amarapura visit! During this ceremony, all the monks - young and old, big and small - would partake on a meal together - while us, curious and ignorant tourists, would watch them from the sides of their dining halls. All the monks must be laughing among themselves. "The idiots come to see us eat," they would say. While they do so, tourists like me take a hundred snaps. Some time during this practice, I was awash with embarrassment. But that pang of guilt was fleeting. This foreigner's folly somehow fuels the local economy. I came a long way to see them eat, what's so wrong with that? LOL

For now, I should be walking back to the other side of the lake. I felt lucky to be stepping on these teak slabs of wood. If you don't know it yet, U-Bein Bridge is the world's longest teak bridge - and without doubt, it was nothing less than magical.

A few meters near the edge, I saw my tuktuk. But wait! I saw dirty ice cream! The eating monks and my tuktuk would have to wait while I devour my scoop of ice cream.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Amarapura's U-Bein Bridge, Myanmar. This photo only courtesy of flickr's davebluedevil.