Tuesday, February 28, 2006

If you're looking for me, you better check under the sea...

Before I get my flickr pro sponsorship from Noel (payable upon his arrival in the country) , I though I'd post the underwater pics through Shelley's flickr pro account. I took them using my Canon Powershot S80 with WP-DC1 Waterproof Case. I bought the case from Hong Kong. I just kept snapping and snapping. Here are the shots we took. We fed the fish some bread and generally had some fun snorkeling.

I had to do some auto-leveling before I posted them which brought out more color in the scenes. Hope you like the pics!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Puerto Galera!

With all of these things happening around the metro, we thought we'd have our Puerto Galera outing cancelled or postponed. Of course, I was one of those who vehemently objected to having it held at a later date other than Feb 25-26. We had planned this early in January. I had also been eagerly waiting that long.

To make the long story short, the original count dwindled down to just eight people from around eleven. So, no problem. The trip was excellent. We got to beach hop, snorkel, take pictures underwater (!!!), have a taste of Mindoro Sling, and have henna tattoos drawn on us. I'd love to post the pictures in flickr, but then I'm trying to find a way to pay through credit card (since the drop down box of the country for the billing address doesn't include Philippines) to get a pro account. Little help, anyone, anyone?

I'm so excited to upload pictures like these:

Thanks to the group for still continuing on the vacation despite the situation. Thanks to Shelley, Lory, Darius, Lara, Toberts, MJ and Marjay! That was a good one!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Important Haggling Points

I managed to do some haggling in Hong Kong for my Waterproof Case and Battery. I don't remember If I ever did that here, but I'm pretty sure, it wasn't for something as expensive. I don't claim to be of any authority on haggling, but then it's part of being Asian to bargain (or so the rest of the world thinks).

Anyway, rule number one is: Do your homework. Find out about the retail prices so that you can gauge how much more expensive they're charging you. For the Waterproof Case, I had it pegged at a retail price of HK$ 1430.00, and the battery at $400 from Canon HK website. The guy at the Wan Chai Computer Centre ("Sam") is selling it for HK$ 1450.00, but is selling the battery for only about HK$350. I told him about the website price of the Waterproof case, and we brought down the price to HK$1400 for the case, and $350 for the battery. I saved about HK$ 80 total, which wasn't so bad. I didn't really know if I could bring it down even lower, but I thought I should close the deal since I already had saved some money right then.

Rule number two: Take the time to have a look around first. Barring some sort of cartel in the area (much like what they do with Mazda parts along Banawe Ave.), the prices you are looking for should fall in some range (see rule #1). The 512MB iPod Shuffle went from the suggested retail price of HK$550 to as high as HK$ 780 in some stores in the same area. Never discount the fact, though, being in some foreign country, that there could be miscommunication (like giving the wrong price for that product). For brand name products like the iPod, it's almost impossible to get it lower than the suggested price unless you're buying bulk or the store is having some promo. The same also holds true for already discounted items. Anyway, the point was to not pay more than you should.

Other than these two, is the fact that the product you are buying is the product that you want to buy. Check for product defects, incompatibilities, non-international warranties, return policies, and such.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

iPod prices across the world

The iPod's still generally cheaper if you get it in the U.S. Next best deal is in Hong Kong, then Singapore. Try not to buy it in the U.K. Here is a comparison of prices using the currency converter from Yahoo. The prices are compared against their Philippine peso converted values as of today.

iPod Nano 2GB (P 11,990.00)
£ 139.00 = P 12,530.067
S$ 348 = P 11,032.769
HK$ 1550 = P 10,338.9251
$ 199.00 = P 10,302.230

iPod Nano 4GB (P 14,990.00)
£ 179.00 = P 16,135.841
S$ 438.00 = P 13,886.072
HK$ 1,900 = P 12,673.5211
$ 249.00 = P 12,890.730

iPod Video 30GB (P 18,990.00)
£ 219.00 = P 19,741.616
S$ 548.00 = P 17,373.441
HK$ 2400 = P 16,008.6582
$ 299.00 = P 15,479.230

iPod Video 60GB (P 24,990.00)
£ 299.00 = P 26,953.165
S$ 728 = P 23,080.046
HK$ 3200 = P 21,344.8776
$ 399.00 = P 20,656.230

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hong Kong: Day One

I've uploaded some 200-something pictures on flickr and I haven't even covered half the trip. I took around 700-plus pictures during my Hong Kong Trip . Flickr has a 20MB upload limit per month and I've used it all up. Anybody wanna sponsor me a two-year pro account? :D

So a few days after that lovely trip, after I've given away my pasalubong, I've eased back in to the work-a-day world. With that, the bills are starting to arrive. I've already paid around P2,600.00 for my cellphone usage. I've yet to pay for my share of the plane fare (around P14,500.00), and 2-nights hotel (around P7,000.00). I also used my credit card to buy our Octopus Tourist Pass tickets (around P4,000.00); fortunately, the bill arrives next month. Obviously, this trip cost me a considerable amount of savings.

And yet, the cultural exposure, the experience of travel, and the sense of achievement in preparing for it...you just can't put a price on that. I welcome the next time I can do it again. In fact, I'm looking forward to my next trip. Hopefully, it'll happen in a few months.


Anyway, a quick summary of Day One of the trip. Oh, and once I get the expenses all accounted for, I'll post them here.

Day One: Getting the most out of half a day.
  • We arrive at Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau Island. One of the best international airports in the entire world. Pinoys are usually allowed a maximum of 14 days stay without a visa.
  • We take the Airport Express Train to Hong Kong Central and take the shuttle to our hotel.
  • The hotel, The Wharney Guandong Hotel in Wan Chai District is a four-star hotel on Lockhart Road. Beside the hotel are nightclubs and bars.
  • We ride the MTR to Hong Kong Central and hike through Chater Garden towards The Peak Tram.
  • We ride the Peak Tram up to The (Victoria) Peak, have late lunch at McDonald's and go back to Wan Chai to buy some electronics.
  • We meet up with my friend Len in Shanghai Mian in World Trade Center, Causeway Bay. The idea that we can go to Disneyland without going in was raised.
  • We walk around the streets to Times Square until closing time.
  • Mmm...Mango and Strawberry XTC on Ice Gelatto.
  • Zzz...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Across the Miles

Welcome Christian Anthony D Figueroa

Your membership number 202 193 445
Your membership status Base

Current Balance 1424 Miles
Flight Miles earned this year 1424 Miles
Flight Miles needed to reach Elite level 23576 Miles

Here's a gift idea for me, for any occasion! Buy me miles!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Magnificent Hong Kong!

That's it. That's the word to describe Hong Kong and the entire experience: magnificent. Three days worth of flickr pictures, 1.5 GB in all. Future blogposts about the HK trip galore including planning, budgeting, and carrying it out.

Watch this space!

[Note: We sort of went to Disneyland HK as seen in this picture.] Posted by Picasa

UPDATE: DAY ONE Flickr pics here

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Game. Set. Match.

I'm really excited for the trip. I'm also proud that I did all the booking and reservations and figured out the transportation. Thank God for the Internet. I also did the itinerary for our three-day stay (including where to hear mass on Sunday), and I just hope all goes well.

I also had international roaming activated, which means I can use my mobile phone in HK. Extra charges apply.

It's taking a considerable amount of savings to make this trip as enjoyable as I wish it would be. Then again, I rarely travel and experience foreign cultures. Almost literally, I'm going for broke!

Except for the stuff I'm packing and wearing going there. I'm all set!


It's basketball season again in the office. I'm fortunate enough to be playing with talented people. This means I can almost get away playing "fun ball" instead of "serious ball". Take for example our first game.

I hoisted 14 shots, but making only three. That makes for a terrible shooting percentage of around 21%. For all of you not so familiar with basketball, for 2-pt shots, around 45-50% is good, and for 3-pt shots, 40-45% is good. Anyway, I scored eight points, making 2-for-5 from beyond the arc (see, it's good!). My career average playing in these sportsfests is around 6-8 pts per game, so it's pretty normal for me.

For the second game, which was a few hours ago, as of this writing, I think I attempted less shots, finishing with 7pts. I still hauled a few bonehead shots which I'm not really proud of. But I'm glad that we still got the win, with me chipping in with whatever I can contribute.

The real key to winning (and I don't think anyone can stress this enough) is teamwork. It has been proven that talent alone, or playing 1-on-1, or 1-on-5 won't necessarily win games in any level of basketball. There should be proper spacing, setting picks, boxing out, and dishing to the open man. Of course, making shots is what really wins games. Teamwork is just so that the best shot available is taken. Also important is knowing your role in the team.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Money Matters

Wow, the Philippine Peso is rising fast, already well within 51 PHP to 1 USD. They say it might breach into the 40s by the end of the year. Of course, we can't predict when the momentum will stop. We pray it shouldn't so that the imported goods will get cheaper (basic commodities such as Subway, Mrs. Fields, Baskin Robbins, Auntie Anne's and maybe Beard Papa). I don't know if this will actually happen, but it's nice to hope for the best.

Anyway, any Economics 102 student should be able to tell that it's really the Purchasing Power that's important, as far as daily lives are concerned. It's about how much you can buy with the money you have. Funny how the government proudly pats itself in the back when the peso strengthens, and downplays the occurrence when it weakens. Ok, so it's not even funny at all.

The timing of the strengthening peso couldn't be any better for me since I'm going on an international trip this weekend. Could it merely be a coincidence or is there a conspiracy? Oh wait, scratch that one.

My grandfather went to Manila for a hospital check up again. It's getting a bit harder and harder to talk to him since his hearing isn't as good as before. I told him that my mom and I were going to Hong Kong this weekend. I guess he was happy for me, he was asking if I had any dollars. Honestly, I'd really like for him to give me some money. Not the prodigal son type of money, just some "loose change". I mean, what's he going to do with it just sitting in the bank?

He asked the same question to my mom, who I'm going with on the trip. She gave the "there's nothing to worry, we're all fine" answer. Well, that's my mom for you. One minute she's complaining about how expensive this trip is going to be, and then the next, it's "no problem". Sigh. I understand it's all so that my grandfather shouldn't have to shell out some money for us. But he offered! That means it's OK, isn't it? (Comments, anyone?)

Nonetheless, I'm intent on bringing quite a lot of money for this trip that, so far, will just be the second time in sixteen years. I'm afraid that I might go crazy with spending; but I don't know if I'll regret it later on if I hold back.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I'm (NOT) going to Disneyland!

But I AM going to Hong Kong! Woohoo! I'm ecstatic!

Ah yes, I haven't been there since I was a little pipsqueak, which was around May 1990. The exchange rate then was 1 HKD to 3 PHP. I remember because I made my mom buy a $12 pack of Skittles.

Anyway, I've just finished booking the hotel (The Wharney Guandong Hotel in Wanchai) online using asiatravel.com, and also the flight using www.philippineairlines.com. All that's left is arranging the hotel transfers, and I'll do that after my parents pick up the ticket. Only my mom's going with me. We'll leave on Friday morning and go back on Sunday, late night.

Nope, I'm not going to Disneyland. I don't think we're really part of their target demographic, me being 26 years old, and my mom, 55. Besides, I already went to THE Disneyland, in Florida, back when I could still enjoy it. Recently, there was also that ticketing rampage during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays. Enough with the excuses.

I'm going there mainly for the R & R, and the electronics, specifically, camera-related accessories. Clothes? Not really, but I am packing light.

So, bon voyage to me! Rest assured, I will take lots of pictures.