Day 53 Feb 26 (Manila, Philippines)

I had no excursion scheduled for Manila so I got on the shuttle and went to the Mall of Asia (supposedly the biggest shopping mall in Asia - or at least Southeast Asia). I wanted to buy some blank CDs and figured I'd get to see some of the city on the shuttle. All my buddies were on excursions so I was on my own (me and about 40 other fellow travelers on the shuttle). I had forgotten to purchase Pesos so when I got to the mall I tried to use an ATM. The first one didn't like my card or something so I tried another nearby one and it worked. I guess I was not quite awake and when offered a choice of 2000, 4000, 6000 or 8000 pesos I chose 8000. It wasn't until I bought 10 blank CDs for only 150 pesos that I realized I had taken about $200 dollars of pesos from the ATM. I really didn't need near that much. Duh! So much for quick mental arithmetic. Traveler's Tip: Do the math ahead of time, not when standing in front of the machine trying to hurry!

I wandered the mall a bit and realized I was hungry so I found the food court. I found it similar to those in any US mall except that the names of the individual food shops were quite unfamiliar. Kimchi, Kamay Kainan, Okuya, Kusina, Chicken Company, Tropical Hut, A Taste of Laoag, Fat Boy's Pizza Pasta, Pinoy Toppings, Wok Yan, Tang City Express, etc. I decided that after wimping out in Brunei and getting pizza that I should at least get something Asian. I settled on Wok Yan and ordered Sweet and Sour Pork with rice and iced tea. I'm sure iced tea is Asian right?

After lunch I returned to the ship with the intention of dropping off my purchases and going into the local area to sight see a bit. That was the plan. What actually happened was somewhat different. A number of factors seem to have been at work but the bottom line is that I took a nap and decided to stay on the ship. This is the first place I've felt a little uneasy about walking about on my own. I had noticed quite a few groups of about 8-10 young men just hanging around without much to do and even noticed them eying me as I passed by (they could have just been curious but I couldn't tell). I learned later that the unemployment rate here is pretty high and that could account for the numbers of them. I had also noticed the area around the ship was pretty run down. I was also pretty tired due to a few things. The bus was very late coming in the morning to pick us up. We stood waiting almost an hour thinking it would be arriving any minute. Another wait before catching the returning shuttle added to the stress and weariness. There were a great many security people in evidence both near the ship and at the mall. I tend to notice automatic weapons when they are worn. Oh, and I forgot that I saw the bomb squad complete with dog. I guess I may have overdone the exercise the day before and that could have contributed to my fatigue. The bottom line is I decided Manila would have to wait for my next trip. Too bad really because I had intended to buy all of you manila folders or manila envelopes for souvenirs. Sorry about that. I can imagine how disappointed you are.

After deciding to stay on ship I turned in my pesos for dollars. (7600 pesos got me $173.32.)

The show this evening was great. The Amsterdam singers and dancers put on their best show yet. They are leaving us in a few days. There was almost a bonus. About half-way through the show a guy got up in front of me and walked across the aisle to tap another guy on the shoulder. I couldn't hear the conversation - right in the middle of a number - but it was pretty obvious that he was trying to tell the guy to stop taking flash pictures (these are always forbidden). I resisted the temptation to do something similar a few weeks ago because I didn't want to make a larger disruption. Well, I saw what that would have been like. The first guy tapped the second on the shoulder and spoke sharply to him. The second guy obviously didn't appreciate the words because he reach out and shoved the first guy back. I (and pretty much everyone near me) held my breath but the first guy realized things were not going to get better and backed off. Apparently not everyone is enjoying the cruise as much as I am.

I may have shared this earlier but it comes to mind now and in case I haven't here it is. I was riding an elevator and someone was cranky about something. When they got off I said to the remaining passengers that I didn't understand how one could be so unhappy while on a world cruise. One lady enlightened me by saying, "some people don't choose to go, they are sent on these cruises". Hmmm. So the vacation is for the caregivers at home. Just when I thought I knew it all....

At 9:45 PM I met Ron and Shiela for late Trivia. We tied for first but lost the tiebreaker.


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