US Trip 2008 (Conclusion)

We arrived in Manila last Saturday 6am. Outside temperature was at 26 degrees Celsius, warmly indicating that we were not in the United States anymore.

THAT three-week vacation in the US was really needed, since the last time I had a long break from work was from January to December of 2002 when I bummed-out in Manila waiting for my next contract work to be realized. It was enjoyable to have the missus and my boy go around North Hills, Reno, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, touring around to see the sights and eating the food.

We might go back there again but not in the next 2 or 3 years. Ipon muna uli ng pamasahe and let my boy grow up a little so that he can appreciate Disneyland more. I highly recommend those capable of spending their time and money to see the US. You'll see for yourself why so many people around the world want to migrate there, the land of milk and honey.

It can be tempting to migrate there, but for now, the missus and I are still decided on staying put here in Manila. For nothing beats driving at 7am in the morning with the missus and my boy in tow to our favorite tapsilog store for a pair of tapsi-takeouts for breakfast.


Been There, Done That: Staples Center

Since the missus was in-charge of our US itenerary, I made it a point to watch a live Lakers game during our stay. Lucky enough, there was a home game versus the Atlanta Hawks on Feb19, just 2 days before we were to fly back to Manila.
I was able to get a seat at the upper section (as in taas na taas) courtesy of CV (thanks pare!). G drove me just about 2 blocks away from the Staples Center since traffic was quite heavy during that time. No problem since the weather was cool for walking.

There was a long queue but I managed to get in within 5 minutes. The level that I entered was "m" which I supposed stood for mezzanine. My ticket was marked "u" so I had to find a way to get to the upper level. Good thing there were guides available for lowly first-timers like me.

As I walked onto the upper level, I found my seat had to be reached by passing thru 2 heavy-built Mexicans, 3 normal-built Americans, and a European couple holding a less than a year old infant. They were all kind enough to stand up and let me pass.

When I reached my seat and looked down at the famed basketball court below me with the scoring monitors in clear view, I felt tears about to drop from my eyes. As in every NBA fan's wishlist, it was my dream to watch an NBA game live ---and I was finally there. This is truly on top of my "been there, done that" list.

There were unconfirmed reports earlier that day that Kobe wasn't going to play because of an injured pinky. But he was there, along with newly-signed star player Pau Gasol who's playing his first home game.

The stadium was about 95% full, with all sorts of characters and countless #24 jerseys worn among some of the crowd. When the Hawks' starting 5 was introduced, the home crowd booed as usual, the loudest of which was for star guard Mike Bibby. He was the only star player I know from that team, the last one being the great dunker Dominique Wilkins pero syempre matagal nang retired yun.

Then, the stadium lights all turned off and a long white curtain encircling the scoring monitors dropped to the court which doubled as a large 360 degree screen. It was the Lakers' turn to introduce their starting five. Man, it gave me chills!

Watching the game is totally different when watched from TV. There are no sports commentators but there were instant replays courtesy of the viewing monitors on top of the court. The Laker Girls performance is something to be enjoyed as well, of course (wink wink).

The game ended lopsided in favor of the Lakers, which beat the Hawks by over 30 points. It was expected of course, since the Hawks are no match for the Lakers' firepower.

As I walked off to the pick-up point that G and I agreed on, I felt a smile on my face. Another item checked on my to-do list.
Life is good.


Day15-17: Las Vegas

The drive from California to Las Vegas took us about 3 1/2 hours, thanks to T's F1 driving on the Fed Hway, from 8pm 'til close to midnight. It seems that going 70mph was fast from the backseat so when I had the chance to drive from the Cali-LasVegas stateline to our hotel, I thought of driving conservatively. To my surprise the Rover that we used didn't feel that fast once you're the driver. I managed to reach 90mph (144kmh)!

We stayed at the Excalibur Hotel which is a theme-hotel focusing on the medieval ages. I laughed at the thought that the bellboys will be dressed as knights, carrying our baggages to our room unmindful of their heavy armor-wear.

The next day we headed to the outlet shops which was quite a good deal, except that I couldn't find anything at Nike or Adidas that excited me. That's one downer about outlet shops: they don't sell all products compared to the ones found in their mall-branches.

After the outlet shop, the missus and I suddenly had a weird, compulsive idea to get married again since we were in the wedding-capital of the US. It sort of came out as a dare at first and then, slowly, excitement and eagerness came into play. So T, who was driving then, turned a few streets until we found the famous Little White Chapel wherein Michael Jordan got married.

The Little White Chapel had several chapels and a drive-thru. YES, you read that right: a DRIVE-THRU wedding option. The missus wanted the chapel option. For those who want to get married, a marriage-license is required but since the missus and I were just renewing our wedding vows, we didn't need it.

So after paying for 144USD for the chapel, ceremony, a white rose, and a 12-shot photo-option from their official photographer (who was a kind Mexican btw), we got married again in front of a Hawaiian chief. At least, as the missus says, "Ibang trip ito. Only a few can say that they toured Vegas and got married there."

We hopped back into the Rover and headed for our "reception" which was at the Mirage Hotel Cravings buffet. Incidentally, it was T who missed our original reception since she had to attend to their Dad who got ill then. So, along with her daughter B, they were the only guests on our 2nd reception which was quite a good meal.

B had a stomach-ache so she and T had to leave me, the missus, and my boy left to explore the Vegas strip. The famed Bellagio fountain, shown at the ending of the Clooney film Oceans 11, was quite a performance. I highly recommend those that would go to Vegas watch it (it's free, so don't worry). We walked from The Mirage, to Caesar's Palace, the Bellagio, Monte Carlo, NY-NY, and then Excalibur. YES, we walked almost half of the strip which was about 1.49miles according to Yahoo Maps. It was a good 30-40 minutes of walking (while pushing my boy's stroller) so at least the buffet dinner I ate had burned (10% of the whole calorie-intake? hehe).

The following morning we checked-out and headed to the hotel's arcade located downstairs. Do you know that game wherein there's a 3-hook crane that you try to get a stuffed-toy? I really find it hard to think that anyone could win that game ---until that day. With the help of the missus panning the z-axis, I measured the crane's x-axis that we got that big big (BIG!) Los Angeles ball for my boy (who screamed in his high-pitched delighted voice, "BALL!").

T and B won a lot of stuffed toys as well while the missus rode a 3-course 4D ride which took quite some time to complete.

We boarded the Rover for our trip back to North Hills. This route took us almost 7 hours(?) since it seemed that the rest of those who spent the long-weekend at Vegas decided to go back to their homes at the same time as ours.

Las Vegas was quite a city. Even though the missus and I lost about 80USD on the slot machines, it was quite an enjoyable trip.


Day11-13 San Francisco

Thanks to Lola Da's prescription of cheese-flavored popcorn, my boy was calm and relaxed throughout the flight from/to San Francisco. The weather when we arrived was somewhat cold as in LA but was more windy.

We stayed at the downtown area wherein we met a variety of nationalities: a Vietnamese taxi driver and quite a number of Filipinos working there.

Notable food was that of Tod's Steakhouse wherein we had a sumptuous dinner of the household steak specialty.

The famous cable car was there as well, which seems to have carved a niche in San Francisco. It will cost you $5 for a one-day pass so that you can tour the downtown area via cable car.

We opted to take the 3-hour Gray-line bus tour which took us around the city:

1. Fisherman's Wharf (although we weren't able to eat the invitingly creamy clam chowder)

2. Twin Peaks (we had a good vantage view of the whole city)

3. victorian houses

4. Golden Gate Park (my boy absolutely loved this one)

5. Gold Gate bridge (of course; we had a good view of Alcatraz from here as well)

I can describe SF as an Americanized version of Singapore (due to the numerous people walking about to their destination which, btw, accounted for almost zero obese people that I saw during our stay) and Philippines (due to a lot of beggars).

If I were still single and wanted to work in the US, then SF would be my city.


US Day8&9

Day 8

Dr. M rented a Chevy Suburban for our Lake Tahoe trip. It was only less than 2 hours from their house so the drive was quite easy especially since my boy fell asleep throughout. We parked at Heavenly Snow Resort and bought tickets for the gondola ride which Tita D was apprehensive about since she didn't like heights. This could've been a nervous experience she had with the Genting Highland gondola when the missus and I were still in Malaysia. Of course being outnumbered, she had no choice but to ride the gondola up to the summit.

Heavenly's summit can well be described as, well, heavenly. There were a lot of people going about the resort: skiing and snowboarding mostly. My boy and I were able to catch 25 minutes before the tubing area closed. It was a tiring experience for me since I had to carry my boy all the up to the end of the incline while carrying a palanggana-shaped plastic that would serve as our snowcraft for the descent. But it was all FUN all the way down although my boy kept saying his favorite phrase: ayaw na, daddy na lang. But I think he liked it. The missus took a turn with my boy as well. We tried to put in my boy alone for the descent but the missus had to halt the videocam since she panicked when she saw my boy lying down instead of sitting up during the descent. Don't worry folks! No harm done. My boy enjoyed what may have been a dizzying ride to the bottom.

It was about 3pm when the resort closed so we had to board the gondola again going back to the base of the mountain.

We had a late lunch at Appleby's in which my boy liked the salad ("do you want vegetables?") and the ice cream ("ice....cream").

After Tahoe, we dropped off at the Holiday Inn at 6th Street to meet up with the missus' ex-officemate, Tita A which my boy fondly calls Tita Orange since her name sounded like it. They treated us to dinner at Hannah's Casino for a buffet dinner which was quite ok except that the ribs and NY steak could've been better. Well, at least my boy liked the ice cream with oreo and butterfinger crumbs.

After Tita Orange, I scooted alone to meet up with RB who's a highschool friend of mine working in Reno for the past 7 years as an ICU specialist in one of the hospitals here. Incidentally, he showed me a pic of him with the great Don-Don Ampalayo a.k.a. Yellow Liver Man of the Jaworski-led Ginebra basketball team. It seems that Don-Don has been working in Sacramento doing the same thing as RB has. I hope he's doing good here.

RB treated me to two bots at the Grand Sierra Resort bar, occassionally looking at prostitution at work with Russians, fifty (even sixty) year old blondes looking out for possible prey. Yup, prostitution is allowed in Nevada so it was quite I sight I might say.

After drinking he toured me to see the other side of Reno which is not found in your normal tourist brochures. From the looks of it, I guess sex really sells in Reno. We stopped at an adult XXX store to see what could be found. It was quite interesting to see the assortment of sex toys and other paraphernalia being sold there. The store even had cubicles wherein for a dollar, you can watch a strip show although it's only on TV (bummer). If it were live, then I would've spent 10 dollars. Hehe.

RB then took me to a local 7-11 for a drink of those bottled Starbucks frappuccinos to cap the nighht, err, morning since it was already 2am. The drink was not that cold but my body was shaking since we were drinking out in the cold night under 32 degree farenheit (that's ZERO degrees celsius) weather. RB noticed it so we went back to his RAV4 to turn up the heater and dropped me back home.

Day 9

We went to the Little Flower Church for our Sunday Mass at 12noon although my boy had other matters ("play with the baby!") since I had to watch him go out of the church to play with the locals. It's quite interesting to note that my boy is very at ease here in the US since we came. He's really enjoying it. It could be because of the cold weather or the long running-paths in his Tita T's house. Hmmm.

After Mass we had lunch at a Chinese buffet restaurant. The receptionist there seemed to sound like that Chinese-voice in the "Dude, Where's My Car?" film: "AND THEN???"

Notable in their buffet was the buttered-mussles, "Pork Chinese FRI rice," "French FRIED", and mongolian bbq noodles. No need to mention it but my boy liked the ice cream as well.

The flight back to LA from Reno was full of problems. It started with my boy becoming uneasy throughout the flight since his ears seemed to hate the ascent/descent of the plane. He was crying badly throughout that the missus and I just felt sorry for the other passengers who had to hear his constant cries of "go out na" or "go home na."

Second was that the check-in baggage arrived late on the carousel that we missed what could've been a stress-free bus ride to Van Nuys station. Sadly, there seemed to have been a small commotion with the driver and one of the passengers. We didn't know exactly what it was but it caused us about 40mins delay to leave the airport with LAPD and airport police present. Good thing my boy was not as uneasy as when he was on the plane.

We arrived home by close to midnight but not without driving-thru Jack-In-The-Box for a late dinner of Chicken Fajitas for the missus and Sirloin beef sandwich for me. Yum!


Day 6&7 - Reno, Nevada

Reno is a small town in Nevada where we went to visit the missus' cousin who's a doctor married to a nurse (quite comforting to know that while staying in their place, just in case).

The house is soooooooooooo beautiful that it could've have been taken from those interior design magazines. American style, it boasts of fine furnishings amidst its butter-yellow walls.

The village is surrounded by snow-capped mountains although the place itself has only small packets of ice left from the winter.

I just love this house's interior design. Kudos to Dr.M and Nurse M for having such a wonderful home!

We won't go out tonight since the missus is still recovering from a light flu. We're going to have In n' Out Burger for dinner which Dr.M boasts of being THE best burger he's ever tasted ----better than McDo or Jollibee.

Tomorrow, we take a trip to Lake Tahoe where my boy will definitely see lots of ice and snow. I hope (and pray) he's done with the jetlag and sleeps early tonight.


Random Notes: LA Day5

M writng dis frm my fon via wifi so pardon d txt shortcuts.

We spent d day at Universal Studios, a must 4 any1 who's into Hollywud. D studio tour was gr8, taking us 2 d set of movies/tv-shows such as Jaws, Psycho, Desperate Housewyvs, and even Heroes!

My boy liked d amusement park as wel since he was able 2 meet Shrek, Spongebob, and Dora. He got real scared though of d Waterworld show so he & d misus had 2 go out early.

It was 42nate dat C.A., d misus' frend frm Glendale, was wid us 2 show us around dat day. D misus & i wer able 2 go 2 d main atractns:

1. Hous of horors (teribly scary. A walk thru horor xperiens)

2. Terminator 3d (as d hostes has said, 'SUPER!')

3. Jurasic Park boat ryd (got slytly wet)

4. The Mummy Ride (a speed ryd w/c d misus lykd so much she rode it 4 times! I did it 2x only)

We had dinner at Tony Roma's (yummeh ribs!) and kofi at Starbucks wherein my boy liked d choco cookie. Even by d folowng mrng he finishd d cookie dat we brought home.

Nex stop: Reno.


Random Notes: L.A. Day 3&4

Day 3

It was my first time to drive ---in California. The directions to the Northridge Mall was quite easy: left, left, right, then straight all the way until you see the mall. It was easy although I think I overexaggerated at stopping at the intersection. It's required you make a full stop at an intersection if there's no traffic light. I think I stopped for 5 seconds too long each time (grin).

The missus had the usual chinese food combo while I ventured on mongolian bbq. There was no rice for the mongolian, only noodles that looked like spaghetti noodles. Needless to say I didn't finish much of my $8 meal.

I was able to buy my two NBA T-shirts: one Arenas and one Kobe. The shirts are cool since the logos and names were all rubberized. Pwede panlakad or panlaro. Kahit sa porma man lang, panalo. Hehe.

My boy liked the playground mall so much that it was the 1st time we saw him take the slide. It was funny to watch that we recorded a video (to be uploaded soon on my boy's blog).

In the evening we needed to check-in at Tropicana Hotel which was in front of Disney Anaheim so that we can maximize our one day there easily. Along the way we stopped at Denny's for dinner. The hamburger was huge (as any other food served here). I ordered a choco milkshake, which, without A doubt, was THE best choco milkshake I've ever ever ever (ever!) had.

Day 4

It was not as cold in Anaheim as it was in North Hills. But still, it was chilly. It was a cold walk from the hotel to the Disney park which actually had 2 parks: California and Disneyland. California had more wild rides while Disney was, well, everything Disney.

I liked the motto that the missus read on Disneyland: Where you meet old friends for the very first time. Yup it was truly a wonderful experience for me to meet Mickey & Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Pinocchio, Winnie The Pooh, Eor, and Tigger for the first time when the only times I've met them was through the TV. Hmm, I didn't catch Donald Duck though. Maybe he flew south? Grin.

My boy loved it too. He liked Winnie The Pooh that he smiles cheerfully whenever I show him our pic with the famous Pooh. Although Barney was not around though coz I think he's (she's?) under another label.

We rode a lot of the rides as well:

1. Star Tours (Star Wars theme wherein you ride a simulator flying to the planet Enron. Yup, I know the bugoys would've loved this one. There was even a Jedi Training School.)
2. Pirates of the Caribbean (the missus says this has been updated to include Capt. Jack Sparrow. Quite dark, scary at first, but not so much after the first drop. Wink)
3. Haunted Mansion (I laughed when I heard the guy managing the queue when he said in a kind classy voice, "Please! Move inside a little further. Others are just "dying" to join us!")

4. Winnie The Pooh (well, my boy didn't like dark places, "Ayaw naaaaa")

5. Space Mountain (Cool ride. You SHOULD NOT miss this ride if you're in Disney Anaheim)

6. Buzz Lightyear (the ride was great since it included shoot em 'up wherein you zap Buzz's enemies and the score is updated on your dashboard)

7. Peter Pan

8. Disney train (a train that goes around the park complete with underpasses showing different times like prehistoric, the Canyon, etc)

Good thing the missus mentioned about the end-day parade. It was exciting to wait along the sidewalk among the other visitors to wait for the parade. It was fortunate that we found a nice open spot wherein we got a good view. Unfortunately my boy was slept through it, only waking up crying to see the Alice in Wonderland scary flowers in front of him. Well, at least he got a chance to see Simba on the Lion King float.

The day was capped with a dinner at IHOP (Intl House Of Pancakes). This was what the missus had been craving for sooo long ever since we thought of vacationing in California. She ordered the Colorado Omelette which came with 3 buttermilk pancakes. When the omelette arrived, it seemed to be good for 3 people. She finished half of it and just barely finished 1 of 3 pancakes. I tasted the pancake to see what the hype was really all about. Since they're called Int'l House Of Pancakes, I expected something good. It tasted nowhere close to Pancake House's X-factor pancake. Oh well, at least I ordered the Chicken Crepe which was quite nice.

I think all this food writing made me want to go back to Denny's. Maybe tomorrow since today is Ash Wednesday.


Random Notes: L.A. Trip Day2

We went to Six Flags theme park today. It was extra cold today with my hands freezing while pushing my boy's stroller from the parking to the entrance. The missus was still with her sandal gear so she managed to get all of the freezing weather especially when we road the Batman rollercoaster ride.

My boy rode the merry-go-round ---twice. In both instances he shouted "ride the horse" when we were going towards it, cried "AYAW NA" when we were in. Then cried "ride the horse again" when we walked away from it.

The rollercoaster was slightly different cause it's just open seats with your feet dangling. The ride, although lasting a little over 10 seconds, was an exciting chest-pounding experience. My only fault was that I closed my eyes too often. The missus said that I shouldn't so that I can see and anticipate the next turn so as not to scare me more.

I can finally say that I've eaten at Chuckee Cheese. I've heard so much about it in US-film dialogues that I didn't exactly know what it was until today. My boy definitely enjoyed it, screaming and crying "DRIVE!" everytime I had to pull him away from a car arcade game.

I was able to experience home-security the wrong way. Feeling that the room was warm, I slid open the glass window which triggered the house-alarm. Next thing I knew my sis-in-law ran from her room to the garage to disable the alarm. Then the phone rang. It was the home-security company checking if everything was alright. WHEW! At least we knew that the alarm was working (grin).


Random Notes: L.A. Trip Day1

LAX airport's arrival carousel was mayhem. The length of the carousel was half the size in the KL airport. Add to that a full flight, looking for your baggage was quite a task. The stroller, which should've been given when we were at the tarmac, was in the carousel as well. Airport security was tight, complete with K-9 dogs that smell your check-in baggages for food (no wonder the PAL stewardess announced to leave all food in the airplane before leaving it). One British Airline passenger got the dog's attention by bringing in a banned half-eaten banana.


The weather was less than 20 degress celsius. C-C-C-Cold! Good thing for heaters!


The freeway is as it is: a free way for cars to maneouver at speeds of over 70MPH! Take note: MILES per hour, not kilometers.


Food so far eaten: Thai dinner, Filipino breakfast (pandesal), Chinese lunch (Panda Express), and Italian Pizza takeout (Pizzahut) and pancit dinner. Just goes to show how multicultural the US has been.


The body will take time to adjust to the US timezone. My boy, in fact, slept at 3am and had to be woken up at 12noon (LA time).


The missus was able to find the last remaining Bo Bice CD (See The Light) at Wal-Mart North Hills. Finally! (I hope Bo Bice can read this for her benefit)