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Another trip (Travel)

It has been a while since my last post (I have been very busy working on my Windows 8 project which is coming along great), so it is time to update my loyal followers, friends and family. It is also my birthday today, albeit I'd rather forget it than remember the relentless passing of time. As another editorial note, I have updated my post The Filipina Wife, so you may want to take a look.

Christmas is not the time be in the Philippines. First of all the "season" begins in late August and lasts until Valentine's day -- stores playing "Jingle Bells" and other yuletide favorites non-stop, clerks wearing Santa caps or reindeer antlers and decorations go up for nearly a half a year. Around December 20 or so, the fireworks begin and go on every night well into the New Year. It is a loud (louder than usual), raucous time here. Major roads are closed to all traffic near churches that have "special" services and life is disrupted in many ways.

Perhaps the only times more lively than Christmas are New Year's Eve and the local (city-wide) fiesta called "Sinulog". The place reminded of a war zone during these times: gunpowder smoke fills the air, loud explosions continue throughout the day and night, music blares from wall-size speakers that can make your eardrums bleed -- fun times!

We planned to be away. We leave for Bangkok on December 11 and will return on January 15, 2013. In addition to Bangkok, we will visit Phuket, Ko Phi Phi Don, ride the elephants at Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai (in northern Thailand, near the Myanmar and Laos borders) and may take a little time out to visit Angkor Wat at Siem Riep in Cambodia. If I can find some reasonable air fares, we might hop over to Bali, Indonesia for a change of scenery, but as of now, the fares are really expensive (double and triple the usual) near the holidays. I will post pictures as I have the time.

Long Stay in Europe (Travel)

We have been in Europe now for a month and a half and having a wonderful time. We have explored most of Hungary, spent a couple of weeks in Budapest, visited Esztergom (with a brief peek into Slovakia), Vác, Pécs, Kalocsa, Szeged (twice), the lake Balaton (Siófok), the thermal baths of Mórahalom and Igal -- to mention just a few places.

We have spent an incredible week in France. Four days in Paris is barely enough to get a flavor of the city and we could have easily spent months on the French Riviera instead of just three days. Even though it is the most expensive part of the world, we found a hotel in Nice that did not break our budget but was clean and comfortable, right in the heart of the city. We made side trips to the beaches of Ventimiglia, Italy and to the opulence of Monte Carlo, Monaco. If I weren't lucky enough to win 100 Euros at the Casino Royale, it would have been too expensive. We also visited the historic town of Eze -- stunningly mideval.

We are getting ready for a trip to the German Alps and plan to visit many of Ludwig II's castles (Neuschwanstein, Hochenschwangau, Linderhof, Chiemsee, etc.) and some historical sites around Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen (like the passion play town of Oberammergau and the church of Weisskirche). We will also explore Salzburg, Austria.

Cheche has been posting many pictures on her Facebook page, so I will not upload them here.

Travel Plans (Lifestyle)

It has been some five months since my last post. As I wrote earlier, I am busy finishing up a new project, an exciting new Metro style application for Windows 8. It really is great fun to be working with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and the WinRT class libraries, although I have done most of my past development in C#, XAML and WPF. I found that I can do more and with greater ease in HTML5. I want to become more proficient with SVG (markup language for graphics).

Schengen MapWe are making travel plans. We will be traveling to Europe for a 3-month stay beginning June 2012 (next month!) and we are really looking forward to our second trip there in two years. We will visit Paris, Germany, Hungary and other places as time allows. Unfortunately Qatar Airways has discontinued its direct service to Cebu from Doha, so we will be flying Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and then Qatar to Doha then onward to Budapest. Qatar has excellent service, it is truly a five-star airline.

December and January are challenging times to be in Cebu. The Christmas rush begins here in early September (or late August in some places) and the celebrations culminate in the second half of December. Celebrations do not imply genteel cocktail parties or elegant dinners but massive fireworks with so much noise that cities are turned into veritable war zones. Sleep is near impossible as the explosions continue well into the early morning hours. Even before all the Christmas presents have been unwrapped, the new year festivities begin. Even more fireworks, but not in some public park but everywhere. Streets get littered with the detritus of massive explosions and the air is pungent with gunpowder smoke — sometimes so thick that visibility is reduced to mere inches.

What could possibly follow this kind of mayhem? You would think some peace and quiet would be welcomed by the populace but that is not the Cebuano way. The biggest festival of the year in Cebu is Sinulog which takes place on the second or third weekend in January. Families gather for massive feasts, people travel here from far-away places, there are parades all over the region, people dancing in the streets, major arterials are closed off to traffic and (drumroll, please) enormous fireworks all night long. Last year we were unfortunate to get caught in the midst of all that as we were returning on the fast ferry from Bohol on a Saturday evening. We were wondering around downtown Cebu for hours trying to find a ride — any ride, taxi, jeepney, bus, anything — home, to no avail. We vowed "never again".

So we will be gone for a month from mid-December to mid-January, traveling around Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia. But that trip is far off, so more detail will follow later.

I am getting connected to the local techie and start-up community. This past weekend I was at a Startup Weekend in Cebu at the University of the Philippines in Lahug, Cebu City. It was well attended, had great sponsors and I had a chance to meet some really talented and fascinating people. I hoe to find the time to write about that in another post.