Manila a traffic nightmare

Manila is a crazy place, not my favorite city and just like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, traffic is killing this city and pollution almost killed me. There were moments I had a hard time breathing when walking on a bridge, with traffic going in both ways. Where as in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city you still see traffic moving, in Manila at many places it’s just a stand still situation.
My decision to come to the Philippines and to stop in the capital was just to tick off another country in Asia on my Asian trip. I was in Brunei and wanted to fly to Seoul in South Korea but I saw that it would be a lot cheaper if I would fly to Manila first and fly from there to Seoul. So I might as well stay 2 days in Manila, so I did and I’m happy I didn’t stay longer cause there is not so much things to visit. The places worth seeing in Manila you can tick off in a day, just like I did and the 2nd day, I just spend my time at the Greenbelt mall, cause there was nothing else to do. It made me think about my last day in Panama City where I also killed time at the mall, and I’m not a fan of shopping or walking around in malls, cause in my own country I never go to one.

The places that are worth visiting in Manila such as Intramuros and Rizal park are both in walking distance. I walked from Intramuros to Rizal Park, after crossing roads full of traffic like I was crossing a highway, insane.
Completely different from places like Boracay or Palawan where most people go if they visit the Philippines, the beautiful islands, but then again these Paradise looking Islands are nice places to go with your girlfriend, but if you are single like me it’s not really a place to hang out that’s my personal opinion, just laying on the beach and swimming around in the clear blue water is maybe nice but I’m not really a beach person that’s why I got bored in Belize and had to get out of the islands and do some excursion on the mainland. Will I ever go back to the Philippines to enjoy the beautiful nature and do some Island hopping like some Filipino friends recommended me ? Maybe, who knows but I doubt it.

The Manila Cathedral in Roma Plaza

Where to stay ?

The hostels and hotels where most tourists and backpackers stay would be in Makati, a city on its own in the big Manila metropolis. Here are all the bars and good quality restaurants, malls are in walking distance and it’s one of the safest places in Manila.
It’s  far from the sightseeing places like Intramuros and Rizal Park which are all situated in the old Manila, and to take a cab or even a public bus or jeepneys, forget it, it will take more than an hour to get 8km further that’s how bad traffic is in this city.

jeepneys is the way to get around cheeply but it’s not very comfortable

So how did I get to old Manila ?

The best way is to take the ferry boat on the Pasig river. From Makati I crossed the bridge to Hulo where I took the Ferry at Hulo terminal station. 30 minutes on the ferry where I could enjoy the different views on the city. The only time you can’t take pictures is during the 5 minutes that the boat is passing the Presidents house, the captain of the boat will warn you to put your camera away and tell you when you can film or take pictures again.
I got off at Escolta station. It’s near China town, but I wasn’t interested in going there, it looked a bit dodgy and besides I have been in many Chinatowns around the world already such as LA, San Francisco, London and offcourse China itself, so it was an easy decision for me to skip it.
I crossed the Jones Bridge and by going straight eventually I got to the old city walls of the old Manila.

Pasig River Ferry

Rizal Monument at Rizal Park

Rizal Park

Here I was at Intramuros, walking on the city walls, that dates back from Spanish Colonial times, when Spain ruled the Philippines. The Walled City was constructed by the Spanish imperialists to defend the city from foreign invaders. The Spanish got involved in a war with the British and they lost. I made a stop at the Gallery of Presidents and took a picture of the current president of the Philippines, mister Duterte before going towards the Santiago Fortress. Once I entered the Fortress, there was a small statue of José Rizal at the inner court. Rizal who’s the national hero of the Philippines led the resistance against Spanish rule for what later became a revolution towards independence.

José Rizal at Fort Santiago

Rizal Park is a tribute to José Rizal and there is another statue of him guarded and surrounded by Philippino flags. It’s nice to have a park like this in the middle of this crazy city where it’s hard to find a calm place.

Intramuros entrance gate

The old city Walls of old Manila Intramuros

Canons for defence

Canons lined up on the Intramuros

Fort Santiago Main Gate

Fort Santiago

Gallery of all the presidents of the Philippines from the past and present

president Duterte

 

Bandar Seri Bega what ?

Bander Seri Begawan the Capital of Brunei, what ? Bandar Seri Begawan, yeah it’s a long name for a Capital City, but I think it’s a cool name when pronouncing it.
One of the few countries in the world I didn’t know the Capital of.
It would be a short stay for me in the Sultanate of Brunei, to chill and relax after my days in Vietnam where quit hectic spending my time in to metropolitan cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh where the constant noise of the traffic and drive, literally drive a man nuts.
The capital city of Brunei is much calmer and as a small capital city it’s really easy to visit everything in a day. I stayed 2 days in Brunei, but only 1 full day and it was enough to see the most interesting place of the Capital City Bandar Seri Begawan.

Image of Hassanal Bolkiah the Sultan of Brunei at the Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien site in downtown Bandar Seri Begawan is where Brunei proclaimed its independence

The national flag of Brunei Darussalam

The country’s full name is Brunei Darussalam and it’s a Muslim state with the main things to visit being mosques. I entered 3 mosques and in 2 of them they asked me to leave since I’m not a muslim. They say you can’t visit if it’s prayer time but in the Ali Saifuddien there was no prayer ceremony going on, it was empty, just one Bangladeshi guy cleaning the carpet and after he asked me if I’m a muslim and my answer was no I’m Christian he asked me to leave.
I got more than once the question “are you muslim ?” and I don’t really think this question is appropriate cause no matter what religion you have you should be welcome to visit a building, even if prayers are going on. I know from visiting mosques in Azerbaijan that it’s not forbidden for a non muslim to enter a mosque when people are praying as long as you don’t disturb anybody. If a muslim would want to visit a church in Europe for example, never would he or she get a question “Are you Christian ?” “No ? then please leave.”
So this is the only small thing that annoyed me about my visit in Brunei.
As I said I did saw the mosques from the inside and outside before being asked to leave so I do can say something about it. The mosques are all really nice inside and well maintained, are they the nicest mosques I have ever seen untill now, not really, that honour I will give to the Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque in Turkmenistan.

I visited the Ali Saifuddin mosque, the Jame ‘Asr Hassanal Bolkiah mosque and the Tamoi mosque. The last one is the one I got in without any question being asked.

Ali Saifuddin mosque

Jame ‘Asr Hassanal Bolkiah mosque

Tamoi mosque

 

Where are these mosques situated ?

Ali Saifuddin mosque : Downtown in Bandar Seri Begawan surrounded by a pond with at one side a bridge that leads to the mosque and another bridge that connects the mosque with a ceremonial stone boat in the middle of the pond. At the other side you have the street with close access to the National library.

The boat of stone in the middle of the pond in front of the Ali Saifuddin mosque

Mosaic image on the outside wall of the national library

Mosaic image of the National Library

me with the Ali Saifuddin mosque

Ali Saifuddin mosque at night seen through the big Canvas

 

Jame ‘Asr Hassanal Bolkiah mosque : Outside the City centre, the largest mosque in the country and you can see it when driving from or to the airport. I got there by hitchhiking and got back downtown again by hitchhiking, some friendly muslim girl gave me a ride in her car.

The Hassanal Bolkiah is the largest mosque

Selfie with the Hassanal Bolkiah mosque

Tamoi mosque : In the neighbourhood of the Kampong Ayer, a settlement of houses on stilts you can get there by taking a 1 dollar boat that can drop you of right at the mosque, that’s how I got there. Every boat ride to cross the river from one side to the other is only 1 dollar.

Tamoi mosque

inside the Tamoi mosque

Here I am inside the Tamoi mosque where nobody cared of my presence

What else did I do in Brunei ?

The day of my arrival I got picked up at the airport by my host who runs a hostel in the capital, the Hostelite Hostel downtown. He also arranges boat tours on the Brunei River into the Mangroves where you can see wildlife if you are lucky. I did saw some monkeys and crocodiles but couldn’t snap a good picture with my mobile.
It was a nice introduction to Brunei’s capital and I can recommend this boat tour, in the late afternoon when sunset comes it’s nice to see the city by night at the river banks.
You see also the different houses on stilts of the Kampong Ayer. The day after I walked around for about 2 hours or more in Kampong Ayer after taking a 1 dollar boat to drop me of at one of the many piers. Some of the houses are nicely painted in different colors, but some of them are old, with rotten wood and dirty. All these houses are connected by these wooden bridges on stilts, as it’s a stilt village on water, make sure you look where you put your feet, there was cat shit everywhere. There are also some little mosques, a school, police and fireman’s office, shops and a house with a Manchester United logo, must be a Man U fan living there. I’m not a Man U supporter but I did take a picture cause it was nicely painted.

boat tour, Saleha bridge

Kampong Ayer

Ali Sufaiddin mosque in the evening , seen from the boat

Moon bridge

Kampong Ayer Village on stilts

Al-Muhtadee Billah Mosque in Kampong Ayer

a man painting

Manchester United house

Manchester United emblem on one of the houses in Kampong Ayer

Just want to end this blogpost by saying the people in Brunei that I met were very friendly apart from the few morons that I met at the 2 mosques, especially that Bangladeshi dude, to him I say go fuck yourself and never come visit a church in Europe, but probably you close minded fuck won’t anyway.

 

Day Trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels

One of the most interesting and popular day trips from Ho Chi Minh City former Saigon is the excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels that where used in the Vietnam war to surprise the enemy from underground. The invisible enemy of the Us troops who used all kind of traps as a resistance in this bloody war. When falling down one of these traps, you were in for a horrible dead.
At the site they demonstrate how these traps work and groups of visitors listen how the guide explains the working of these different traps.
The tunnels where the Vietcong was hiding was a very genieous system with ventilation holes inside termite mouds.
The GI’s tried to find the tunnels with help of german shepherds, but the Vietcong putted pepper at the ventilation holes to mislead the dogs as it made the dogs sneeze.
Other things that theyused where parts of Amlerican uniforms that they took from the soldiers they killed and put that to the holes, so when the dogs comes sniffing it doesn’t get the smell of the Vietcongs hiding under the ground.

The Tunnels are very small and only for skinny vietcong possible to get inside and out.
Now these tunnels are a little bit widened for tourists to go inside and take a picture.
You can also crawl in the tunnels and choose yourself if you only want to crawl 20 meters, 50 meters or 100 meters, as some parts get really narrow and some people can be a bit claustrophobic, there is a choice in distance you want to crawl.

the small tunnel hole

 

example of how it looked like during the war

selfie when crawling in the tunnel

making myself as small as I can

Trap

trap

rolling trap

folding chair trap

painting show how the traps wounded the soldiers

clipping armpit trap

another painting about the horror of the traps

US M41 tank

M41 tank

artillery