Thursday, November 27, 2008


Bali is one of the most popular island destinations in South East Asia. It attracts millions of tourists each year and has gained so much fame that a song was written about it for the musical South Pacific. I had never been there before so when me and my buddy Tim were thinking of a good place to take a trip to, we picked Bali.

So last October 18, I flew to Bali and spent ten (yes, ten) days there! And what an amazing ten days it was! The one downside to this holiday was the fact that I left my camera charger at home and my battery died almost as soon I got there, so I had to rely on Tim for all the photos. But my sheer stupidity aside, there were definitely many factors that made this a great vacation:


There are lots of beaches in Bali. We spent most of our time in the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak beach which had decent sized waves that made it ideal for boogie boarding and even beginner surfing. I tried to boogie board a few times but I apparently lack the required amount of coordination in the water to pull it off. It was still fun though. We also spent one afternoon in Dreamland to check out the waves there. Important to note: Dreamland is definitely NOT for beginners LOL.

We hired a driver for a day who took us to Ubud and a few other places in the island. Our first stop was the Monkey Forest, where we spent a lot of time walking through the and taking photos of monkeys that were so used to being amidst people.

We then headed further north to get a glimpse of Gunung Batur.

We then passed by Gunung Kawi on our way back:

Ten days in Bali meant a whole lot of meals, and I got to enjoy a whole variety of cuisines - from incredible flavorful local meals to exquisite Western fare. Three restaurants that stood out for me: Gado Gado (I still remember the prawn and octopus appetizer and the snapper main course I had here!), Rosso Vivo (great food, great location), and of course Ku De Ta. Ku De Ta is THE ultimate chill-out spot in Bali and it's laid out in such a way that you could actually hang out there for hours on end (and then spend a fortune on the drinks they serve there LOL).


I spent my first seven nights in Putu Bali Villa. The cool thing about this resort is the pool. It's 6-feet deep all throughout but it was a small pool so I had no problem moving about in it. But what made this pool really cool was the pool bar next to it. You could sit in the water while having food or drinks. I always had lunch (or, well breakfast coz I always woke up quite late LOL) here. And it was a cool place to have a couple of beers in the early evening before we head out to party at night.

My last three nights were spent at The Conrad Bali. A 5-star Hilton hotel, this resort was absolute quality like you wouldn't believe. Tim was a Hilton rewards member which meant we actually had a few perks during our stay. We had full access to the spa facilities - sauna, steam room, hot and cold plunge pools, and the private pool. It also meant free breakfast and free cocktails at 230pm. And with a swimming pool that covered practically the entire grounds, my last 3 days were spent in total relaxation and luxury!

Of course, it isn't a holiday if there isn't any partying involved. I definitely had more than my fair share of booze and bar-hopping LOL, visiting places like Ocean Beach Bar, Sky Garden, M Bar Go, and Bounty. We did visit Double Six as well but we went there mid-week and there were like five people in the bar so we stayed for just one drink before heading out.

With a great mix of culture, nature trips, food, water sports, and nightlife, Bali is definitely a destination you should visit at least once in your life. Just make sure that if you decide to spend ten days in cool resorts, you save up for it. It’ll take some time before I clear out my credit card debt from this trip LOL. But hey, it was definitely worth it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tennis in 2008

Rafael Nadal finishes the year #1. Yahoo!

He actually clinched the year-end #1 ranking a couple of months back but I wasn't able to blog about it at the time. He didn't do as well towards the end of the year as he did in the middle months of 2008, but he definitely finishes more strongly this year than he has in previous years. getting pretty deep (quarterfinals or beyond) in all tournaments he played after the Olympics. He's never really had those kinds of results in the past, and that assured him of finally finishing the year ahead of everyone else, including Roger Federer.


On the women's side, one of my two current favorite player, Jelena Jankovic, finished the year strongly to end 2008 as the top female tennis player. There are some question marks that come with her top ranking, the main one being that she still hasn't won any Grand Slam title yet, so a lot people thinking she isn't deserving of the top spot.

The thing though is that this year, with the sudden retirement of Justine Henin, the doors were wide open for any of the top players to make a stand and take the top ranking. And when that happened, none of the top women seemed all that interested, all of them succumbing to the pressure and losing to players they should've beaten. Somehow, towards the end of the year, Jelena decided she wanted the top spot more than anyone else and fought hard for it. And prior to the season-ending championships, she clinched the year-end top ranking as well.

Here's hoping Jelena can nab a Grand Slam title next year.


My other favorite female player, Venus Williams, had a pretty damn good year too. Not only did she win her fifth Wimbledon title, she also won the year-end championships without dropping a match (and earning a pretty hefty bonus for doing so). It's the first time Venus won the season-ending championships, which is quite surprising because she did dominate women's tennis for a couple of years early this millennium. So now she has it. Would be great too if she can win another Slam next year, one that isn't Wimbledon or the US Open.


So, apparently this is my 300th blog post. Wow.

Definitely not the most prolific blogger by any stretch of the imagination but I am pleased that my blog is still alive and fairly up-to-date. I know a lot of my other friends who have created blogs but haven't really kept them going. I did some math (I'm such a nerd...) and apparently, I've written on blog post every four and a half days on average. That's actually not bad.

So here's hoping I can keep this blog going for another 300 posts...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Getting back on the exercise trail

So, I finally hit the gym again. Didn't lift weights as I initially planned. Didn't run on the treadmill either. Just spent 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer.

I could've stayed on it for more than 30 minutes but I haven't been exercising regularly in a while so by keeping my gym stints fairly short, I reckon it should help me get back in the exercising groove again.

Hopefully I can bring up my endurance to a pretty good level soon. I really want to be in better shape for my marathon next year and I'm dead-set on doing better than 5 hours and 36 minutes. I've also been meaning to resume my tennis lessons again and I probably would have already if it wasn't raining every so often so I'm targeting to start playing tennis again in January. I wanna take boxing classes as well, and the spotty weather isn't an excuse for not doing it, but my current cash flow is LOL.

So let's see how things go. I really wish I could be as close to my fitness 3-4 years ago, and I'm sure if I stay disciplined, I can. Would be great to lose some weight as well. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Capella version of "Fix you" by Exit 245

I heard this version of Coldplay's "Fix you" while listening to the 88.3 radio show "The Blend" about two years ago. Most of the a capella performances that are played during the show are great, but this one stood out for me so I noted down the name of the group - which was Exit 245, an all male a capella group from James Madison University - and tucked it away for future reference.

I remembering searching for this song on youtube before but couldn't find it. For some reason, I decided to search for it again recently and luckily enough, it was already on youtube. So check out this amazing, amazing version of "Fix you" by Exit 245:

video uploaded in youtube by user SnafuOverYou

I'm seriously considering getting the online CD "Limelight" so I can get a copy of this song. I also just noticed that one of the songs on this CD is Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" - one of my favorite songs of all time - so it should definitely be worth it. 'Cept that I also realized that this song is also in the album "Best of College A Capella '07". So I have to think which album I wanna get. Or, of course, I could just get both...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rihanna and Chris Brown Live in Manila!

What a great concert!

And to think I almost missed it. I knew some time ago that Chris Brown was coming to Manila, but I didn't really know a lot of his songs and so if it was just him, I would've skipped it. But then I saw the posters that indicated that he was having a concert with Rihanna. Rihann! So naturally I had to see it. :)

I've been to a couple of concerts in the past but nothing as major as this one. And this lack of inexperience on my part led me to believe that arriving at the Fort at 6pm (concert starts at 8pm) was a good idea. As I later learned, this idea wasn't the smartest. The traffic heading into the Fort was horrible! It was like rush hour on a Monday morning. Vehicles were moving quite slowly and all the roads were full. I ended up parking quite far away from the concert venue because with the traffic, I figured all the good parking spots were taken.

I lost about 30 minutes going through traffic and looking for parking and by that time my friends were about to head into the concert venue. So I decided I would go meet up with them. This meant I wasn't able to have any dinner or even drinks. So at 7pm we were standing at the spot where we would be for the rest of the concert.

The show started promptly at 8pm (thank God!) and Chris Brown was the first to perform. He did a lot of dancing, even doing a Michael Jackson medley where he danced to Jacko hits like "Rock with you", "Billie Jean" and "Thriller". Of course, he performed several of his own major hits like "Kiss Kiss" and "With you", and also sang "No air", asking the audience to sing along with him since Jordin Sparks wasn't there. He closed his part of the concert, appropriately, with his most recent hit "Forever".

The next 45 minutes were probably the most tiring because the stage hands and production management worked on rearranging the stage to get ready for Rihanna's performance. At that point, we had been standing for 2 hours already, and with no fluid or food intake, I had been running on adrenaline. With no music to dance to for 45 minutes, I started running out of battery.

Of course, the moment Rihanna came out, I had another surge of adrenaline that kept me dancing for the next hour. She opened her set with "Disturbia" that got everyone singing "Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum" along with her. The fact that she was wearing a very, er, interesting outfit made her even more engaging to watch on stage. ;)

She went through a slew of her hits such as "Please don't stop the music" and "Shut up and drive". When she sang "Unfaithful", practically the entire audience was singing every word along with her, which must've been great for Rihanna but kinda sucked for me coz I really wanted to hear her voice - which I think is great - and not the voices of the dozens of people around me whose concert I did not pay to watch LOL. It worked for "Hate that I love you" though, because Ne-yo wasn't there so the audience sang his part.

She left the stage and the crowd started shouting "More" and "We want more". Not with a lot of energy though and who can blame them - it was hot and everyone was hungry and thirsty. But Rihanna came out again and sang "Take a Bow" before closing the show with her biggest hit to date, "Umbrella". And midway through the song she calls Chris Brown to join her and they do the "Cinderella" version of that song. It was great! The crowd definitely went wild.

I won't go into the horrid details of leaving the concert venue anymore, but in a nutshell, I ended up walking for about 45 minutes trying to find a place to eat, which ended up being mini-stop because every restaurant was so full! I manage to leave the Fort at 1am and even at this time, 2 hours after the concert ended, the traffic was still bad.

But at the end of the day, to me, it was still all worth it. A great show with two very popular and current artists sharing the stage. Awesome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A couple of new CDs

I'm probably the only person left on the face of the planet who actually still buys CDs LOL. Actually, no, my friends buy CDs as well. But mainly to be given as gifts to me during my birthday or Christmas since I normally send them a wishlist that contains CDs and DVDs hehe.

But I digress. Just yesterday, I bought a couple of CDs that have been on my wishlist for such a long time. I could have chosen to wait a month and a half and asked my friends to get me these two CDs for Christmas. But these are so hard to find in this country. I was actually planning to order them in Amazon - they've been sitting in my cart for a few months now - so when I saw them available here, I decided to get them.

The first one is "9" by Damien Rice. I discovered Damien Rice a while back (check out this blog post on how I learned about him) and I've been addicted to his music ever since. I also want to get his other album, "O", but unfortunately it wasn't available.

The second CD I got is "So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley", a compilation of Jeff Buckley's music. Of all his songs, I only knew about "Last Goodbye" prior to this year. Then I heard Jason Castro sing "Hallelujah" on American Idol and dug up Buckley's version of it. Needless to say, I was completely blown away by Jeff's incredibly intensity and vocal control. My friend Marco told me to search his other song "I know it's over". At this point, I decided I needed to have a Jeff Buckley album in my collection. So after looking through his albums on amazon, I decided to get this one. Now when I saw this CD in the store, it was the only one left. So I made sure to get it.

So now I have a lot more great music to listen to. And it's even better that I didn't have to order the CDs from Amazon anymore. :)

Friday, November 07, 2008

"Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzalez

I first heard this song in Season 5 of "One Tree Hill" during the Lucas-Peyton scene right after the Ravens win the State Championship. I recall instantly loving the song being played during this scene and thinking that I should find out what it was but apparently I never got around to it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I heard the song again, this time being played in "Scrubs". I was online at the time so I decided to find out what this song was. It's called "Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzalez and here's the video:

video uploaded in youtube by user erg0n

This is actually a cover. the song is originally by "The Knife". You can check out the original version of "Heartbeats" here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Halloween weekend party

My friend Ben spent last weekend in Manila. He arrived on Friday and we decided to go to Embassy. Elaine had sent me an event invitation for the Embassy party on Halloween night, "Into the twilight" and I knew that costumes were required. I didn't really get to prepare anything but then I remembered that I decided to dress up as Justin Timberlake in a Christmas party we had the year before and I still had all the stuff - fedora hat, waistcoat, tie. I figured that would be good enough. Ben had this funny pink hat and bought pink sunglasses to go along with it. So costumes with our costumes sorted, we headed to Embassy.

And man, it was packed! The queue outside was longer than I had ever seen it (although it did move quite quickly, we probably just stood outside for 10 minutes). And once inside, you could barely move. Despite the crowd, the party and music was great. Would've been a lot greater though if Embassy didn't have to close at 230am. Damn the curfew!

We still had some energy to burn so moved to Fiama afterwards. It seemed however that half the Embassy crowd moved there as well. It was just as crowded as Embassy, but the significant difference was that Fiama didn't have the powerful airconditioning that Embassy did so I was sweating like a pig in there! I was struggling quite a bit due to the heat and couldn't really enjoy myself for the several minutes of being there. We looked for a better spot and we luckily found an area right next to an aircon (i.e. it was a whole lot cooler there!) and that didn't have as many people. We found a second wind and partied for about an hour more before deciding we were too tired.

The next day, November 1, we met up with Ben's friend Hanna and her cousin Trish. What I didn't realize until now was that a lot of places are closed on November 1. And apparently it's because most people are either at the cemetery or in the province on this day. We went to Ascend first and the place was almost empty. They were still charging P500 entrance for only one drink so we decided not to go in. Instead we went to Piedra. Trish said that Piedra normally has a cover charge as well but once again, it was practically empty so we ended up getting in for free. We stayed til closing and were hoping we could get to some other club that was open but it seems every other place was closed so we ended up just having some food in Jay-J's in Ortigas.