Yup, it's that time of the year again when the Phil. Travel Tour Expo rolls around and i make the annual pilgrimage to SM Megamall. Just the thought of walking through this giant hollow block of a mall already makes me tired, but there's nothing to do except suck it up and venture forth. . .
I take a lot of ribbing from my sisters and close friends, who point out (quite accurately) that i go there and collect all these colorful and glossy brochures and tour packages, but i hardly go anywhere! Sad, but true. Nevertheless, this year might be different. Who knows?
So there i was, paying P50 entrance fee (THIS IS HIGHWAY ROBBERY!!!) and walking inside the Megatrade Hall. This year's theme was "Travel Lifestyle: Experience the Difference", but judging from the usual assortments of booths, promo girls egging you to join their raffle, etc., things were pretty much the same as in years past.
I try to steer clear of all these travel agencies offering Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, etc. packages, as well as the various Boracay resorts. After all, the point is to find something new, something different from the places one has visited before, right? From the looks of it, Angkor Wat (Cambodia) / Hanoi (Vietnam) / Luang Prabang (Laos) are gaining in popularity; even Turkey and Greece and South Africa seem to be more promoted now.
For those so inclined, one travel agency was offering this special alternative tour called "Gay Bali", which included a stay in a "100% clothing optional resort". Hmmm. . .ano ba yan?? [What the f**k is that??]
On the local scene, Buri Resort in Puerto Galera seems interesting, as well as Puerto del Sol in Bolinao, Pangasinan. A very intriguing possibility is this Banca Safari booth, which operates a 70-foot traditional banca boat at Subic. It offers various trips such as their Visayan Safari (visiting Cebu, Bohol and Dumaguete) and West Palawan Safari. I initially thought you'd have to sleep right on the banca, but thankfully their trips include beach resort accomodation per night.
Closer to the metropolis is the Avilon Zoo in Montalban, Rizal. I have friends who have gone here, and their feedback is uniformly positive. And it is pretty reasonable too, at only P208/person ( i don't understand why they don't round it off to P220 or even P250, and make more money in the process. Haha:D). When i went to their booth, i was asked, "Sir, do you have a calling card?"
"No." And that was that.
But as i was moving to the next booth, i overheard their staff ask the same question to this old lady. It turned out that if you give them your calling card, they give you two FREE tickets to the zoo! Duly chastened, i backtracked and sheepishly told the girl, "Ahh, i do have a calling card after all." Thus, yours truly was able to score 2 tickets! [applause, please]
There were some booths selling native food as well, and even one selling all sorts of knives (from butcher knives to balisongs). I happily bought some Napoleones (pastry with custard filling), mainly because the lady selling them said they came from Bacolod (my close friends know Bacolod is one of the places i've been dying to visit. Hehe) But they were quite good (and fattening), so it's money well-spent anyway.
As i turned a corner, i nearly dropped my ten-kilo load of brochures. I couldn't quite believe my eyes. Two men dressed in drag were handing out flyers! Curious, i got one and thus was introduced to Club Mwah, which is basically some sort of cabaret/musical revue place where men in drag perform choreographed dance numbers.
They billed their establishment as the "Philippines' latest tourist destination"; well, i wonder what the Dept. of Tourism and Dick Gordon has to say about that! :D Then again, if busloads of unsuspecting Korean tourists can be shepherded to watch the Amazing Philippines Show at the Film Center (yes, the very same Film Center which is supposedly condemned due to structural weakness; and which is supposedly haunted, due to the workers who were entombed in concrete during its construction, courtesy of our very own Imelda Marcos), then i guess anything is possible.
(For more info, check www.avilonzoo.com.ph and www.bancasafaris.com)