24 March 2008
19 March 2008
I am excited! I am ecstatic!
As I was driving from Manila through the stretch of road from Dinalupihan to Subic in the wee hours of the morning today, I noticed that the new Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway's (SCTex) lights were all open. I took it as a sure sign that the new Expressway would soon be open to traffic. The declared deadline of March 15 may turn out to be true after all...finally.
That would, of course, mean that travel time to Clark from Subic would be cut in half-- a total travel time of just 30 minutes. The impact is that I anticipate a trip to Manila to last a mere 1 hour and 30 minutes under most traffic conditions as compared to the relatively unpredictable 2-3 hours it currently takes just to get from Subic to Balintawak, mainly due to the slow pace of vehicles along the Dinalupihan-Hermosa-Lubao-San Fernando stretch. That leg of the journey alone typically lasts about an hour and 30 minutes, starting at the Petron station in Subic Bay.
And why shouldn't I be excited?
That means SM Clark is just a stone's throw away, as well as all the destinations that are accessible through the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. And I am talking about Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Macau, Kota Kinabalu, Cebu, Davao and all the other great destinations that can be reached via transfers from these places such as Australia, India, Bangkok, etc!!!
For my business, that means greater market reach and breadth, convenience and of course, cost savings. For my personal life, that means greater flexibility to get from one place to another, in this country or outside. I get to be more effective and efficient in so many facets of my life. No traffic in Subic, no traffic to Clark, no traffic in Clark, no traffic to Manila via the NLEX....
...but ah, Manila is another story altogether. India instead, anyone?
The new expressway (SCTEx) will be open this Holy Week, and as of this writing is already passable to light vehicles. It will, however, be closed to traffic again starting March 25 in order for the contractor to make some "corrections" to the expressway. It will operate only from 5:30AM to 5:30PM until then. Absolutely no fees will be charged until the 25th! It will finally re-open to the public, permanently, sometime mid-April. It is a pity it will not be open for me when I drive over to Clark next week to fly to Kuala Lumpur via DMIA.
A friend of mine drove through the new expressway from Subic Tipo Highway yesterday, all the way to the Clark Logistics road, directly off NLEX, then all the way to San Fernando. He timed the run from Subic Toll Plaza to the end of the new expressway, as he turned off to NLEX, at just 22 minutes! Does this mean I can get to Balintawak in just a little over an hour?!
He was also raving about the beautiful road, which he thinks is the best in the Philippines at the moment, similar to one you would find in Japan; and the view, he excitedly strresses to me, was just magnificent!
For those coming from Manila, there is an Exit just after DAU and before Sta. Ines, which takes you directly to the SCTEx.
No reason not to take the new expressway unless you're travelling after 5:30PM!
I'll be going to Bustos, Bulacan on Friday to help parade our centuries-old family karo. I'll take the new 'freeway', shoot some pictures and post them here! ;-)
16 March 2008
Having gone to Bangkok for business, and my operating sphere limited only within city limits -- actually, just the vicinity of our hotel -- I still had the opportunity of visiting a beautiful temple compound, which I was told by the tuktuk driver was that of the "Lucky Buddha". My wife and I bought some flowers and incense at the entrance and offered this to the Buddha. We were also instructed to stick a small gold piece of paper that came with the flowers, on the knees of the Buddha's statue for good luck.
Of course, in spite of the busy schedule, no trip to Bangkok would be complete, according to my wife, without the usual shopping spree. We were told that the best time to go shopping on that particular day was at 1PM. Hence, past noon, our shopping adventure began.
I must say, merchandise there was really cheap. Not only were the apparel fairly priced, but also the food, transportation and accommodations. Sure, some items cost just as much as in the Philippines, but most things I saw were priced relatively lower.
We managed to get around with relative ease, thanks to the wonderful transportation system in Bangkok. We were able to try their MRT, Tuktuk and Taxi and even did a fair amount of walking, just to enjoy the sights, smell and sounds of the city. No hassles whatsoever, except for the time we inadvertently got on the wrong MRT coach which veered away from our intended destination just as we were approaching the station.
I love hot and spicy food, but this dish, I almost couldn't handle......almost! In the end, I was victorious, but that simple noodle dish with papaya salad really put up one helluva fight! Foolish me thought that a dish of just noodles and vegetables would be a walk in the park, in spite of the reputation of Thai food. I was wrong. The Thasiam Hot Noodles and Papaya Salad were definitely worthy adversaries. ;-)
In the background of the shot below, you can see the Amari Watergate, which is the hotel we were billeted in for the trip. The shot was taken from the CentralWorld Mall, which is just a stone's throw away, which is where we had our Thai meal. Our host, my partner, refused to allow us to eat traditional Thai street food. Besides, he said, I would have a hard time finding vegetarian fare, and the food would definitely be double the hot-and-spicy level of the food we had just taken. This was validated by the locals. I felt like my bravado for being able to handle spicy food had just been doused. I was a cub amidst all the lions.After a whole day and night out on the busy streets of Bangkok shopping and sightseeing, it was nice to sit at the hotel lobby, a drink in hand, enjoying traditional Thai music.
Each time I visit a foreign country, I approach the place with an open heart and mind, for it is the only way you can appreciate everything new you see, without biases and pre-conceived notions. This has worked to my advantage on several occasions. On this particular trip, I was approached by no less than three people, all wanting to point me in the right direction, without my asking or calling their attention. I was even mistaken for a local, yet these kind souls offered to help me get around, and specifically visit the Luck Buddha temple. All three of them, not knowing each other at all. And so I visited and paid my respects. I felt that I must have been led to the place. I have been told that I should not talk to strangers, especially when you are a foreigner in a distant land. I entertained these strangers for my heart told me to do otherwise, and I was brought to new places we would otherwise have just let pass.
Such is the protection of a pilgrim.
Bangkok is a pleasant place to visit. The streets are clean, sightseeing and food is cheap, the culture is fairly exotic by western standards yet you see quite a number of tourists and where there is a significant amount of history behind the country. I look forward to my next trip to Bangkok.
Please visit my other BLOG, where I share my thoughts on the various systems I observed in Bangkok.