Tag vacation


I just ended a week in Boracay PH.
From Xiamen, we flew to Manila and spent the night. The next morning, it was about 45 minutes flight to Caticlan Island. From there you jump on a little outrigger boat and 20 minutes later you are on Boracay Island.
First, I found all the Philippines we met were very friendly and helpful. Always smiling and saying hello as you pass by. Great service oriented and seemed quite honest in my opinion. I always felt welcomed by everyone we met.
We stayed at Dave’s Straw Hat Inn at station 3. The staff there is all very friendly and make you feel like an old friend right from the start. It sits just inside from the beachfront, which I prefer for a quiet setting. I would highly recommend it. I found most comments in the Trip advisor to be accurate if you want more feedback on Dave’s Straw Hat Inn.
Boracay certainly qualifies as a “paradise island”. It reminds me of Koh Samui Thailand 20 years ago. While today Boracay is still untouched by overdevelopment and commercialism, the signs of increased development are becoming a reality. Those of you who didn’t heed my advice about Koh Samui, be warned now about Boracay. Put off a trip here now, and don’t whine later about how you missed it when it was still untouched.

The island itself is shaped like a dog bone, with White Beach in the middle on one side, and Bacolod Beach on the other side. The ocean is to die for. Perfect temperature, spotless clean beach and clear water. The beach is amazing with its powder coral sand. It is also kept very clean, and they don’t allow smoking, so you won’t find butts lying about. Well not cigarette butts anyway. I think it can best be summed up as a hideaway location for an exotic tropical vacation.
There are numerous dive shops and boat tours available. They tell me the diving is some of the best in the world. I can believe it, but I didn’t do it myself. You also got all the basic beach activities available. A two block walk puts you on the other side of the island on Bacolod beach. Yes?I did say 2 blocks! It’s like a whole new scene there. This is the extreme kite surfing beach with high winds and white tops for launching yourself high in the air. Boracay’s total draw is the beach scene, not much else here that I could recommend.

What’s the bad? If I had one complaint, it would be the food. Philippine food is just plain terrible…period. Luckily there are many other restaurants, whatever suits you’re fancy. This food is ok at best. Fresh fruit shakes seem to be the specialty of Boracay and they are quite good. At least food and drink are very cheap here. Basically eat to get the job done, and get on with enjoying this beautiful island.

When I left, I had a 2 pm flight to Manila. After checking out, you take a moto taxi to the island’s dock. Then catch a short boat ride to Caticlan and finally a shuttle bus to the airport. It takes about 45 minute’s total. When I got to the airport, it was 1 pm where I discovered I left my passport at the resort. I called Dave’s and they not only found my passport, but then rushed it all the way to me in time for my 2 pm flight. They really saved my butt. That is what I call service, these guys rock!



A 40 minute train ride from Shanghai brings you to Suzhou, the city of gardens. I expected a small to medium size city, but found this city of 6 million surprisingly more of a larger city. I would guess it to be about the size of Kunming.

Many rivers and canals run through the old city where you find hutongs and garden compounds. It is also the city that produces much of the silk in China. No doubt it is a city geared for the tourist and everyone seems quite aggressive to get you into their shops. One a plus side, this leaves for a lot of competition so you can bargain down prices quite a bit. I found the silk products here of very high quality and workmanship very good. Be sure to look closely at what you want to buy and bargain hard. I found a beautiful silk thread picture about 2 ft X 2 ft that was priced at 23,000 RMB. The colors and quality were outstanding and made by a famous artist here. I found it in an art gallery, not a tourist shop. It took the artist 5 weeks to make. I bargained it down to 5,300 RMB, and this was in an art gallery. The silk museum also has a store with some good quality silks, but they will not lower their rather high prices. Many of the items there could be found elsewhere for a lot less.

Tiger Hill Park is a must see. The 1600 year old pagoda there is the “Leaning Tower of China” as it looks ready to fall over any minute. I was assured it has been retrofitted with internal supports and it will not fall down. The public is not allowed inside, but it is quite interesting to see. One of my pictures shows it’s doorway and gives you a good idea of how much it is leaning.

Walking around Suzhou is like a mix between Lijiang and Beijing. Many interesting alleys and river views can be found everywhere. The gardens are quite nice, but a visit to one or two is all you really need to see. They all have about the same design utilizing rocks and water which is a traditional stlye for Suzhou.

The local food is fish and a special crab, but I didn’t find it all that special. Worth a try, but I liked the local noodles more. Taxi’s are very cheap and the best way to get around. You can use the 3 wheeled bike taxis as well, best for running around inside the old town area. I recommend the Holiday Inn Hotel for it’s location and room quality. It is a 5 star hotel that deserves it’s rating. 50 RMB for a full buffet breakfast including western foods and great coffee. I think 2 nights would allow one to see everything Suzhou has to offer.

Another Shanghai

I just returned from another trip to Shanghai. This time I went up to the top of the new World Trade Center. This building is 495m and 125 stories. It is the tallest building in Asia now. The Jin Mao tower held the record for 1 year before they built the WTC beside it. I also saw the Shanghai acrobatic show this time. It is amazing how they can bend and balance their bodies.

Shanghai is quite a beautiful citywhere the building never seems to end. I would have to label it as the New York city of Asia.



I finally got a visit to Phuket after so many trips in Thailand. Me and my wife’s business partner Chris traveled there to connect with the people that operate the Absolute Resort properties. Absolute has 2 resort locations in Patong alone. We stayed at the Villa Resort location. This is a popular destination where she
sends many Chinese tourists. Frank, the GM there and Chris are friends that go way back in the resort vacation business.Patong Beach is the big tourist area on Phuket. Much like Waikiki, only Thai style. It is full of go-go bars and restaurants, with hundreds of little shops selling the typical tourist things.
Everyday was very hot and the ocean beautiful with clear green water. Patong is a nonstop entertainment venue and without a doubt, the most expensive place in Thailand. Day 2, our host Frank, takes us out on his Absolute Resort speed boat for a tour of the islands. We spent the day swimming and cruising around the beautiful islands. Some 15 or so girls from Absolute, me, Chris, and Frank, spent the day seeing the sights. All in all it was good fun. We were well taken care of and I finally got a good look around the Phuket area.

I could not see any signs of the terrible devastation from the tsunami just 2 years before. I included a pic of the Absolute’s lobby after the tsunami hit. The only evidence I could see now was the Tsunami warning sirens all over the island and emergency evacuation route signs on the streets.

Phuket is a place you should visit when touring Thailand. But as with any major tourist destination, be very careful of petty crime. There is plenty about this area. The best way to get around is to rent a motorcycle and explore the many features of Phuket. This can also be dangerous and you should always pay attention to everything around you while driving. Many people are hurt on bikes everyday. The roads can be sandy, and traffic is on the crazy side. Also don’t forget you drive on the left side of the road here. But if you are up for one, it will cost you about $4.50 a day rental. It is about the best bargin you will find here.

All in all, I found Koh Samui more to my liking as it is not quite so developed as Phuket. And hey, Absolute even has properties there as well! If you go, check out the Absolute property. You can even invest in your own private suite and really live well for a whole lot less. Then you have a good excuse to come to beautiful Thailand every year! Tell Frank Jack sent ya!

1 Year in China!


It’s a few days before the Chinese New Year and I have lived in China for just over 1 year. The time seems to have past so quickly!I thought I would post some general comments about my life in China along with a few pics thrown in for good measure. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…BAM!, something else comes along you see here. In a nutshell, living in China is always full of surprises. It must be that the culture here is so different from Western culture. Chinese people just process information totally different from what we Westerners would consider logical.

I was just reading a news article about an incident that happened in Beijing. This is a good example of Chinese logic. A man called the ambulance service after becoming very ill. The hospital dispatched the ambulance to the man’s house. En route to the man’s house, this ambulance struck and killed 3 people in two different locations. I guess he was a new driver. Anyway, he continued to the man’s house and finally got him to the hospital. It wasn’t long before the families of the accident victims contacted the hospital and demanded the hospital compensate them for the deaths of these victims. The hospital responded that they are not responsible and would not pay. They said that the party responsible is the man who called the ambulance out in the first place! This case is now going to court for review.

I have come to know that China law is a very new concept here. This is all part of the process of China’s development and transformation from a 3rd world country into a major world player. China is on the right path of change, but like any government, change is slow. More important, billions of people in China have to somehow be made aware of these changes. It will take generations before the social awareness in this country updates itself. Until then, you have to be very careful of getting into situations that can go in very unpredictable directions. Things just don’t play out with what I may conceive as a “logical” conclusion. I personally have not had any major issues to deal with, i.e. car accidents, confrontations, or “misunderatandings with anyone to speak of. Still, I am ever vigilant to keep myself out of trouble as best I can. You cannot rely on being able to have the police intervene on your behalf. Another example is I have seen several fights on the street. My guess is they seem to be about someone caught stealing from a store. The process is always the same. Several people beating the hell out of some guy while the police stand and watch. They allow the store employees to pound away delivering “street justice” while more or less providing crowd control duties. After a short time they whip out their notebooks and take down the appropriate data, usually also arresting the guy in question. I suppose this guy ends up in jail somewhere. A traffic accident (of which there are many) is handled right on the street. The police arrive and make a report. Normal enough process. They check to see if anyone was drunk or who may have broken a traffic law. Other than that it is up to the parties involved to reach an agreement as to who and how much they pay each other for the damage. The police help the parties come to some sort of agreement, money is exchanged and everyone goes their own way. Case closed. In defense of the police, they must be careful how they intervene in a dispute. It is very common that people will attack the police. They have no laws protecting them as police officers. They can arrest you sure enough, if there is enough of them to fight off the people involved first. So usually they take a very passive approach to implementing law. Basically one cannot blame the police for their seemingly lack of action in these cases. I learned to not assume that they will come to my aid should I get into a fracas with some locals. That being said, luckily crime is not pervasive here at all. Petty crime is very common and you need to be careful with your bags and pockets. Other than that, it is rare violent crime occurs here. I certainly feel a lot safer in China than I would feel in the US. People tend to leave you alone and the encounters I do have with people here are always friendly. Chinese society does not permit child abusers, sexual predators and the like. People here are just not wired for such behavior. Talking with my Chinese friends, they cannot even begin to understand that there are people who commit crimes like these. Having “face” is all important to people here. They would be outcast from family, work, or friends for even thinking of such things.

On the other hand, most common people here have little to education. They are naïve about the most basic things. One cannot “assume” that the guy walking on the street will not quickly begin crossing the street right in front of your car. They usually won’t look beforehand. In their mind they want to go across, so they just go! When you slam on your brakes, they look like a deer in your headlights. Completely surprised that they were almost hit by a car!

I spend a lot of time observing people here and I think I can sum it all up this way; Each person here truly believes that they are in their own world, with everything around them only there for their own use. They make no consideration for anyone else around them. From the outside one could see this as acting in a very rude way. But really, it is only that they have never been taught to consider other people. This explains why if you are standing in line, at say a bank, they will walk up and stand in front of you. Hey, they want to get serviced, why wait behind you? Or you are talking to the teller and someone will lean over in front of you and start talking to the teller. Better yet, in the doctor’s office, someone will walk in and start a discussion with the doctor like you are not there. I’ve even stopped them and motioned them to wait, where them they politely smile and remain right there not only listening to me talking to the doctor, but also reading my medical papers while they wait!

China is slowly recognizing this as bad social behavior and trying to educate people. Most banks have lines drawn on the floor where people must stand behind while another customer is being helped. Also’ many now have a number machine and you sit in the lobby to wait for your number. In Beijing the government is working hard to educate people on proper conduct before the start of the Olympic games.

The Chinese have a world wide reputation for “being rude”. The travel agencies now give classes to customers traveling out of the country on how to act. Things like spitting and clearing your nose, talking loudly, waiting in line, and table manners are all addressed in these classes. As frustrating as this behavior is to me, I do my best to remember that it is not rudeness on their part, rather it is simply not being educated about what is acceptable to most other countries in the world. The Chinese are really nice people that are being pulled into a new modern world for which they have little experience. Things are changing all the time in China on every level.

I encounter many things here that just don’t make any sense. But I say to myself that the Chinese have been around longer than anybody, and they are still going strong. That says a lot about the way things are here. Maybe we have a lot to learn from them as well. Patience is really the key to enjoying your experience in China. Do not use your Western ideals as a benchmark to comparing China. It is, after all, what makes China unique to anyplace in the world.