A Real Filipino Pool Hall

Anyone who knows about pool, more specifically 9 ball pool, knows that the Filipino’s dominated the pool scene in the late nineties. As a child I would watch in awe as ‘The Magician’ Efren Reyes would effortlessly destroy his opponents. Maybe that was another reason why I subconsciously wanted to go to The Philippines…

After travelling through various villages to get to a small ex-Spanish colonial town called Vigan, we ended up in a small village called Cervantes and was told by the bus driver that we were stuck there for a few hours, so we went to explore. The Canadian I was travelling with found an internet cafe that didn’t have any internet, and after half an hour of trying to figure out the complex PC controls for GTA San Andreas I gave up, and went to explore the village.

Just as I’d done a lap of the village I heard the unmistakable clash of pool balls smashing against each other. I said to myself, “Game on!” and ran up the stairs to where the sound was coming from.20150918_160958

As you can see they are very humble, but don’t let the state of the tables fool you; these Filipino’s effortlessly smashed in the balls. I then asked one of the guys who was playing by himself if I could play. “No…” Was the blunt response…

Then on the other table a crowd was gathering because a white boy was in the pool hall, and they asked if I wanted to play of the guys who looked about 16 for 10 pesos (about 15 pence) a game.

“He’s going to destroy me…” I thought to myself smiling as I said yes. I played him twice and somehow beat him both times. Then I thanked everyone before going on my way since the bus was about to leave.

So on my death bed I can proudly say that I have beaten a Filipino at pool. I bet my grandad (an ex-amateur snooker player) is dead jealous…

Advertisements

The Adventures of Flat Stanley: Bangkok and Northern Philippines

So our journey has begun! I got in the back of a song tao (a Thai red truck that is a cross between a bus and a taxi) with Flat Stanley and we both took a selfie to celebrate. Stanley passed his Thai lessons with flying colours so I thought I would throw him in the deep end and see how his negotiation skills were. He didn’t disappoint, and effortlessly got us the song tao for 50 baht (£1)

20150911_174457

Next was the train to Bangkok; Flat Stanley was really tired so he went to sleep early. I decided while he was sleeping to get stuck into Richard Branson’s autobiography. I haven’t finished it yet but so far it is a very entertaining read!

Bangkok proved to be a bit more tricky; Flat Stanley managed to find a nice hotel for only 600 baht (£12), but unfortunately they were full when we got there. So I took over and found a posh hotel for 1100 baht (£22) and even managed to get the price down to 750 baht (£15) by booking through their website.

20150912_194520

Flat Stanley enjoying the view from our penthouse room

20150912_194701

The man himself curling up with a good book before we embarked on our plane ride the next day

The plane ride was pretty good. Stanley managed to bag himself an aisle seat with plenty of legroom so he was happy. I sat next to 2 Norwegian guys who were singing the praises of The Philippines. They told me that the people in The Philippines love their music so we would have a great time there. Especially Stanley because the Filipino people love people made out of paper, I must admit I felt slightly jealous…

20150913_092407

Stanley making sure he has his seat belt on before we took off

We then spent 2 days in a town called Baguio to rest up and get our bearings. After that we took a bus to a mountain town called Sagada. The views were simply breathtaking and you should have seen Stanley’s face as he looked out at the rice fields situated on the mountains.

20150915_124014

Stanley was a little bit thirsty, so I bought him a larger than life sized bottle of water for the bus ride up to Sagada

And that’s it so far. We are currently in a old Spanish colonial town called Vigan and Stanley is catching up on some sleep while I write this. Next time you’ll hear from us we should be making our way towards Central Philippines. I suppose I’d better wake him up actually, since it’s nearly midday here, so it’s ciao for now!

My ‘No-Flying’ Rule Lasted All of 2 Days…

Erm… What?

The trip that I have been planning for nearly a year now was to go from Thailand back to England by land (and sea, but no planes) I’d always wanted to go to The Philippines, there was no particular reason why, but it had always appealed to me. Living in Thailand meant I was working seven days a week for hardly any money, so travelling whilst living in Asia was out of the question. As I was researching The Philippines I soon realised that to go there you had to have an exit flight or they wouldn’t let you in, unless you came in from Brunei on a cruise ship, stayed there for a day and went on to Taiwan or mainland China. I didn’t want to do this because I wanted to explore the country rather than be in and out in a day.

I told my friend Xavier that I was going to have to miss The Philippines because I couldn’t get there with flying and he bluntly replied, “So what? Who the fuck are you trying to impress? Just fly there…”

He was right; I knew I could fly back to Thailand and start from there. But then I thought it would be pointless to fly back to Thailand and start there, so after contemplating for a while I eventually settled on flying to Vietnam and working my way up north from there.

So there it is: I was in Bangkok for a day before promptly breaking my ‘no-flying’ rule after a grand total of 2 days. Once I get into Vietnam I’ll start my ‘no-flying’ trip from there.

20150913_091401

So how was the flight?

It was really good. I flew with a Filipino airline called Cebu Pacific and sat next to a couple of Norwegian fellas. They told me in detail that I was going to have a great time, and that the Filipinos loved music (so I was set). We were supposed to land at 2:40 but by 3:00 we were still in the air, with no announcement as to why we hadn’t landed yet. My first reaction was that a plane at the airport had been delayed, and that we had to wait until there was a runway available until we could finally land.

We had circled the airport for over an hour before the pilot landed the plane. If I had to guess I would have said that there was a horrific storm outside and we couldn’t land because of it, mainly because as we descended the plane was rocking, but considering the weather the pilot did a very good job landing the plane. So much so that I asked the stewardesses to thank the pilot, who I felt deserved a lot more credit for landing the plane as smoothly as he did.

So, no more planes right?

Unfortunately yes. I think I’m going to fly from Cebu back to Manila and then fly to Ho Chi Minh from there. But after that, no more planes, I promise…

The Hustler at Manila Airport…

I had been travelling for two days straight until we finally arrived at Manila. We had circled the airport for over an hour before the pilot landed the plane. So at 3:30 I had gone through customs and it was safe to say that I was cream crackered.

However my journey wasn’t over yet; I still had to take a night bus to Baguio before I could finally relax. I saw a Burger King at the airport and thought it would be a cracking idea to refuel with processed meat before trying to find the bus station.

After taking several bites of my burger a guy asked if he could sit next to me. He said he was half Kenyan and half English and introduced himself as ‘Aswe’ (I think). Whilst talking to him for a minute I realised that he spoke very eloquently and was a very engaging fellow. So much so that I kept looking at my bags every 5-10 seconds in case someone was going to swipe my bags while he had my attention. I then wondered if he thought I was being rude and/or racist by looking at my bags all the time while he spoke to me, so I put my bags between my legs so I could concentrate on what he was saying.

He told me that he had spent most of his life in Asia, or more specifically, Hong Kong, and was over here looking to see if he could buy some property. I told him that I was a writer and showed him my book. He was amazed that someone so young had written a book.

We ended up talking for over two hours. Like I said he was very engaging and intelligent. He mentioned that if I was to go to Hong Kong to send him an email, I agreed because I felt we instantly got on really well. Then the conversation slowly drifted towards why in fact he was at the airport and not seeing the country in it’s beauty:

“I went out with some Filipino guys up north and we were having some drinks together, one of them must have put something in my drink and the next thing I know they had stolen everything; my wallet, my passport, my cards, everything…” He said solemnly, “Now I’m waiting at the airport to get my cards sent to me, they should be here by tomorrow.”

I apologised saying that he was unlucky, and it could have happened to anyone anywhere, and that he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then I offered to give him one of my books to read, since he showed genuine interest in it. I said that it’s not much, but hopefully it will kill a few hours and take you on a journey. He thanked me profusely.

Unfortunately it didn’t end there. He told me his predicament was a catch 22 and he needed some money. I knew where he was going with this so I deliberately didn’t say anything to show how uncomfortable it was to ask someone for money you had just met. Then he asked me for an amount of money ‘that was just less than 10 English pounds’ which made me instantly stop listening to him. I told him that I felt uncomfortable giving out money but he wouldn’t drop it, saying to me “Let me ask you a question; if you saw a starving child in the street would you just stand there and watch them die?”

This really irked me, because he was clearly trying to make me feel guilty now (and it was working) I told him about the story in India when dirty children, sometimes with hardly any clothes on would beg for money and you would instantly give them a few coins, only to watch them run to their mum and dad’s shop and give the coins to them, and said unfortunately you just don’t know, and that’s what has hardened me over the years.

He then started to get visibly annoyed and said “Do you really think I would come all the way from Hong Kong just to ask you for money?” Which was when I realised that I didn’t KNOW that this guy was from Hong Kong; just because he said it didn’t make it true. I then excused myself and said I had to go. I left the book with him just in case he was telling the truth.

I don’t know if this guy was a hustler or not. At times he was ‘Kaiser Soze’ing me by pointing at random people in the shop saying they lent him money or gave him a newspaper to read. But of course it could have been true. In a bizarre way I’d like to think he wasn’t a hustler and a genuine guy in need who I didn’t help because I was worried it was a scam. As I got on the bus to Baguio I began to think more and more that he was a hustler purely due to his reaction when I wouldn’t give him any money. I’ve been scammed before, and I’m sure I’ll be scammed again on this trip, but I’ve noticed when intelligent scammers don’t get what they want, they tend to be loud and aggressive.

I actually lost his email address that he gave me so I can’t email him to tell if he was legit, but I’ll always wonder whether I didn’t help out someone in need or whether I played it smart and didn’t part with my money.

The Adventures of Flat Stanley!

“So this is a story all about how

My life got flipped turned upside down

And I’d like to take a minute just sit right back

I’ll tell you how Flat Stanley ended up in my backpack”

So my Auntie contacted me saying that my eight year old cousin needed some pictures of this ‘Flat Stanley’ fellow and what he did on his summer holidays. My cousin, if he is anything like I was when i was that age, gorged on chocolate and slept with his legs in the air for five and a half weeks before telling his mum, ‘Oh yeah, I need some Flat Stanley photos, make it happen…’

“Thanks mum!” I’m imagining him shout in the direction of his distraught mum as he skips towards the sofa to watch some more Cartoon Network…

Which led to my Auntie frantically messaging me saying she needs a picture of Flat Stanley ‘doing something Thai’ that she can take in for my cousin.

“I’ll do you one better;” I said in my best superhero impression, “I’ll take him with me around the world and he can see Asia and Europe, before settling in Devon.”

She then told me not to worry, as she only needed some photos for the summer holidays, but by now I was more excited by the idea than my cousin’s teacher was, and insisted that Flat Stanley was coming with me, pretending that I had been roped into it…

Unfortunately I managed to lose Flat Stanley in less than a day (more proof that I should never be left alone with kids…) so this is Flat Stanley Version 2.0. We’ll see how long this one lasts…

So to begin the trip, I felt Flat Stanley needed to pay his way. Being from the Stanley clan I knew that his negotiation skills were quite good, but his English was very minimal (mainly because he is a paper cutout…) So I booked him in for some Thai and Chinese lessons so he can barter his way through Asia and get us some cheap accommodation. Here’s some photos of him in his first lesson with Miss Neung learning basic Thai:

20150826_15461720150826_15450920150826_15462320150826_154507

He’ll need another couple of weeks before he’s ready to take on Rocky, and when he is we’ll be ready to not just take on Rocky, but the entire world! Next stop; Bangkok

Puppies at Education Gateway

20150830_174739

I went to see an old friend of mine whose wife owns a school near the University. Towards the end of the night we saw the dog that normally sleeps by the front door. She was heavily pregnant, so we knew it was only a matter of time before she popped. That night she was breathing heavily and convulsing. Niels thought she was going into labour but I drew on my previous experience with Suzy (the husky) that normally dogs find their own personal space and are not sociable for a couple of days. After waiting half an hour I said to him I doubted she was going to have puppies and he should not worry about it.

It’s a good job I’m not a vet…

20150830_174818

Yep, the next day she had 10 healthy puppies, and a look of “Did you see? Did you see what I did?” spread across her face. So we spent the Sunday checking up on her every hour or so…

20150830_17481020150830_17475520150830_17474920150830_174745

Wait, Why were you visiting this Niels fellow?

I was visiting that Niels fellow because he said he was going to help me print a couple of my books, so when I meet people who sounded interested I could give them a copy of my book to read, and afterwards spread it around like an STD…

Lovely…

Well there’s that, and I can give a copy to people either in the marketing sector or people who feel they could make money from it and have better connections than me. In today’s society all it takes is one person to say they love something and it can snowball. And I can make a mean snowball (The drink AND the weapon…)

Erm… OK. What about the other book you claim to be publishing?

I’m still waiting on the editor and the girl that does my book covers. My old editor has gone back to America and I have no way of paying her unless I decide to stress myself out in terms of learning about international bank transfers, so I got a new editor. Unfortunately he is taking a long time and has already cost me double what I expected to pay, and I haven’t even seen the final product yet. Hopefully it’s worth the money, but I won’t find out until I see it.

First world problems… How’s life other than that?

It’s good. I’m leaving Thailand soon so I feel nervous because I haven’t travelled in a while. I know once I start I’ll be fine, but I’m in that transitional stage at the moment and I don’t know how to feel. I’m not used to not having an income so I’m hyper aware of any money I spend.

I also went out with a friend of mine called Diana. She rang me up and said, “Hey cousin, want to go bowling?” In Roman’s accent from GTA 4. I accepted and threw a few heavy balls down a shiny line. We played three games and I won all three. NO MERCY!!!!

20150827_133755

20150827_133748

Later on that evening I got a message from a friend of mine called Lena (who I actually named a character after in the book ‘Destiny’) asking if she and her boyfriend could take me out to dinner before I left. I didn’t want them to pay for me but one of the downsides of dramatically quitting your job with no plan B is that you don’t really have a source of income. So I reluctantly let them pay. It was a great meal; a great meal with great people. People who in truth I’m going to miss…

20150826_194449

So to sum up the life of Lewis; No book yet, maybe this week. I have a book in the form of a print out that I’ve been looking at, reading and smiling as I do so for the last few days, and I caned a Kazakh girl at bowling. No biggie. Tune in next week for most likely more emotional goodbyes…