I am finally posting an entry on my first real Asian trip, to Cebu, Philippines. How did I end up in the Philippines? The idea of a nice resort, the Shangri-La, an advantageous price, sun, beach and a short two hour flight was too appealing. Also, when I went in March, Hong Kong was still a bit cold, and I was ending an exhausting week long off-site. So my colleague, friend and travel buddy Cheryl and I hopped an early morning flight to ensure that we got the most bang (i.e. sun) for our buck.
Day 1 was great. The flight was smooth, and the hotel picked us up and drove us directly to the resort. We hit the beach right away, swam in the wonderful pool, enjoyed two delicious meals and slept amazingly well in the large comfortable hotel beds.
Upon arriving at the shopping mall, I immediately noticed there were separate men's and women's entrances, with security guards and metal detectors at each. I contemplated not going into the mall and staying on the shuttle, but it was driving another hour to a different shopping mall. I was not sure I wanted to see more of Cebu or go any further from the safety of the resort. However, we manned up and went in.
Inside the mall, it was surprisingly rather nice. There was a great duty-free store with a good selection of bags, a Haviana store, a Technomarine store, a Sanuk store, a health food grocery store, many jewelry stores and a Fit Flop store, to name just a few. There was also a pretty good selection of Western food, including KFC, Pizza Hut, and Auntie Anne's Pretzels. Immediately, we decided to eat with the locals… at Pizza Hut. So much for trying Filipino cuisine!
We ended up having a good time at the mall. We both bought Fit Flops. I know some of you think they are ugly, but I promise you they are the most comfortable flip flops ever. I also purchased a Bally bag and some tea -- another weird combo. The biggest disappointment was that Auntie Anne's only accepted cash. Neither of us wanted to withdraw Filipino currency.
The mall trip concluded with another ride through the beautiful Cebu scenery. The shantytowns and half-naked men urinating in the street were glorious. We also spotted the local public transportation of choice: the Jeepney. Jeepneys are open buses made from Jeeps left behind by the US Military in WWII. They are all colorfully decorated and very crowded -- so crowded that people ride on the roof.
P.S. As we were leaving, we regretted not using the Spa Services… until we returned to Hong Kong and learned that a coworker spent a week in the hospital after a visit. He was cut while receiving a pedicure with unclean tools and was admitted to a hospital upon returning home.