Watch Out Ocean Critters! Newly Certified PADI Open Water Diver Here!

Please, please you can stop clapping. Just kidding. The hubby and I got our Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Open Water Dive certification the first weekend in February in Anilao, Batangas, Philippines after:

  • Reading a 250 page manual and remember how not to get myself killed in the ocean
  • A few hours of classroom lecture
  • Four quizzes (10 questions on each quiz)
  • Final test (50 questions)
  • Float and/or tread water for 1o minutes
  • 30 laps in the pool
  • Four Confined water dives in the pool at Dive Buddies in Makati (consists of skills tests)
  • Four Ocean dives in Anilao (consists of skills tests)

So after all of the above what does obtaining a PADI Open Water Dive Certification mean? Well it basically means we are certified to go scuba diving without an instructor up to 60 feet deep. The certification is recognized globally and is good for life.

I never realized how AMAZING diving would be. It is literally like swimming in an aquarium. The beautiful fishes, coral, clams, ocean floor, etc. It’s hard to explain. You just have to experience it yourself. Check out some of the photos for a glimpse into how our experience was.

The Manual and Dive Log

The Manual and Dive Log

PADI

PADI

Before our confined water dive

Before our confined water dive

The pool at Dive Buddies in Makati

The pool at Dive Buddies in Makati

I think the barb wire is used to keep people from jumping over the fence and using the pool in the middle of the night. I hope :)

I think the barb wire is used to keep people from jumping over the fence and using the pool in the middle of the night. I hope 🙂

Our gear

Our gear

793797_10151256361024072_454951886_o

Just got on the boat that will take us to Dive & Trek

Just got on the boat that will take us to Dive & Trek

On the way to Dive & Trek

On the way to Dive & Trek

Dive & Trek - Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Dive & Trek – Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Dive & Trek - Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Dive & Trek – Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Dive & Trek - Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Dive & Trek – Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Dive & Trek - Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Dive & Trek – Anilao, Batangas, Philippines (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Preparing for the ocean dive at Dive & Trek in Batangas, Philippines. (Photo Credi - Mich Calma)

Preparing for the ocean dive at Dive & Trek in Batangas, Philippines. (Photo Credi – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

843787_10151270663609072_2082950980_o

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Exhaling so I won't float to the top (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Exhaling so I won’t float to the top (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Me and the hubby (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Me and the hubby (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

The hubby and I diving together (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

The hubby and I diving together (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

(Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Parrot Fish Photo Bomb! (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Parrot Fish Photo Bomb! (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

60 Feet Dive (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

60 Feet Dive (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

The hubbies ghetto wet suit with the hole (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

The hubbies ghetto wet suit with the hole (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

After the final dive on the way back to Dive & Trek (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

After the final dive on the way back to Dive & Trek (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

Me getting my temporary (it takes a few weeks to get the real one in the mail)  PADI Certification from my instructor Sean Calma (Photo Credit - Mich Calma)

Me getting my temporary (it takes a few weeks to get the real one in the mail) PADI Certification from my instructor Sean Calma (Photo Credit – Mich Calma)

The graduates!(Photo Credit: Mich Calma)

The graduates!
(Photo Credit: Mich Calma)

Thanks to Sean Calma, our instructor, and his wife Mich Calma, the photographer. Check them out if you are either in the Philippines or will be at either their website http://divers.ph or Facebook page or their https://www.facebook.com/divers.ph Sean is really good at responding quickly if you have questions.

To learn more about PADI and the different certifications you can visit their website:

http://www.padi.com/scuba/

~Today’s Thoughts…

Advertisements

Good Morning Vietnam!

And good morning friends. It’s been forever since I have posted. I promise to post more often even if it is out-of-order as I haven’t told you about so many things that have happened in the past few months. So here is the beginning of my Vietnam story…

The hubby and I took our first trip outside the Philippines on June 8th to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (or also known as Saigon). We flew out late Friday night on Cebu Pacific airlines. The plane had the tiniest seats ever which made the flight very uncomfortable, but luckily the flight was only a little over two hours. I finally got about 15 – 20 minutes of sleep as the hubby leaned on his tray table and I leaned on his back for my makeshift pillow. 

We landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport at around 1 AM. This airport is about 4 miles north of the center of District 1 in Ho Chi Minh, where we stayed. Luckily our hotel bell boy was outside waiting with a sign with my name.  I was so worried that our hotel pick-up wouldn’t be at the airport that we forgot to get our money exchanged to Vietnam Dong (VND).  So I was a little freaked out being in a foreign country with no local currency. Plus we had no USD, but only Philippines Peso’s which, is not a world currency so we weren’t sure if we would even be able to exchange it in Vietnam.  The bell boy and mostly everyone we encountered in Vietnam during our stay there didn’t speak much English at all. I asked him if there was an ATM at the hotel and he said something which I couldn’t comprehend. I had read on the internet that there were usually ATMS either at the hotels or close by where I could get VND. I was hoping they were right.

We stayed at Tan Hai Long Hotel & Spa in District 1 during our time in Vietnam. The location was perfect, but the hotel was not. I’m not sure I would stay at the hotel again. We were on the 1st floor and we were awoken every morning at around 4:30 AM by a rooster and some kind of parrot living somewhere next to the hotel. Also our room was one of those adjoining rooms and I swear the people in the room next to us were smokers because our room smelt like smoke all the time! Ugh! There was also this weird hatch window in the bathroom that led to some opening outside that went behind the elevators. The latch that was used to secure it was not really secure at all. Besides that the room was clean and Bathroom at Tan Hai Longthe breakfast buffet was pretty decent. Just as long as you got to breakfast early to get a table. The hotel also had free wi-fi which was helpful to do searches online through my iPhone.  I think they need to think about changing their secret password though as it is the most predictable password ever (12345…).  I don’t think the hotel was horrible; however, I think I would prefer to stay on a higher floor and maybe we wouldn’t have had so many issues.  Anyways I digress.

When we arrived at the hotel they informed us there was an ATM on the other side of the street. They gave us this black and white map with the historical attractions on it.  The hubby tried to venture out at night to find the ATM, but came back a few minutes later saying he would go back in the morning as he wasn’t familiar with his surroundings and didn’t want to be out just yet without really knowing the area.

Another weird thing that happened when we checked-in was that they kept our passports. We were very leery about this.  They said you only need a passport to go to a bar or casino in Ho Chi Minh. I didn’t understand why they needed to keep our passports since we had a safe in our room, but we obliged anyways.  I seriously felt like when we went to check-out that I might be escorted to some Vietnam prison or something as I’ve seen crazy movies like Hostel and just don’t like not having my documentation with me that proves my identity and where I’m from. I have to admit that everyday I was there I thought about some horrific scene when we were going to check out where we would be dragged to some crazy warehouse where we were blindfolded and interrogated. Let’s just say upon check-out they gave us back our passport. Who knows if there are some other people out there with my information as they had enough time to take my documentation and do God knows what with it.

Anyway’s that was the start of our trip into Vietnam. To be continued…

I’m Home Makati

So after a cheap suitcase that I had to return and buck up and buy the Samsonite and decreasing one of my suitcases by 30 pounds in order to make the 70 pound bag limit I made it to Manila! Check out just some of my products that I shipped even though I left a pile of stuff sitting on the bed back in Cali hoping the hubby can squeeze it in his luggage when he comes in two weeks or if they can cram it in the tiny carton they give us to ship air. The sight was rather hilarious as I would take a few items out the suitcase, zip it up then ask the hubby to step on the scale with the bag so that I could see if I was within the weight limit (I think he did this about 7 times). We tried putting the bag on the scale, but you couldn’t see the number so we just would minus his weight holding the bag to figure out how much it weighed. We were hoping our scale was right and luckily it was right on. At the airport my two bags made out at 69.2 and 69.7! Yayyyy us!

So after my 14 hour flight (Side Note – I watched two very random movies, Sex in the City 2 and Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix LOL) with a stop in Guam in good ole’ business class (I heart business class) I landed in Manila and breezed through immigration and customs. I was picked up by the manager of the transportation company and my new driver Mackie at the airport. We headed to my new home The Ascott, which is a nice serviced apartment that sits on top of Glorietta 4, one of the malls. They booked me starting at check-in for that day, which should have really been the day before since I arrived at 5:45 AM! So the apartment wasn’t ready. They put me in a temporary apartment until 1 PM. At first I was irritated as I sat around most of the day cause I just wanted to get to my apartment and get settled in. When they called me to tell me my room was ready all my complaints went out the door. The apartment is on a high floor (as requested wih a great view) and the layout is a little larger then the one they showed me when I was here in January. Mainly the kitchen size is increased, which was one of the things I was worried about, but now it is the perfect size.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After doing a bit of unpacking (I need to go buy hangers in order to really unpack) I ventured down to what else but the mall! I wandered around aimlessly, but ended up getting a mani and a serious pedi at Let’s Face It Salon (nail’s, facials, massages, scrubs, microdermabrasion, threading, etc.). When I say serious I mean one where I paid to have a callus gel mask and a foot special cause the bottom of my feet needed a lot of work. I used to get pedis back home in Cali only once every six months or so because any money to save for the remodel of the house is a dollar closer to it being finished. I was there for around 3 1/2 hours and it cost me about $22. Now that my feet are a lot smoother I can get a normal mani/pedi for only about $5 each time.

I kept wandering around and didn’t have any idea where I was. I ended up at one of the SM malls and bought some lechon paksiw (check out a description and recipe to cook it http://panlasangpinoy.com/2010/03/07/lechon-paksiw-recipe/)  and bread to eat for dinner. Luckily I found SM as I found the Forever 21! I didn’t go in, but was happy to see it as I was wondering where it was. Since I didn’t know where I was in the mall I decided to try outside. Boy was that a good idea because I was literally right around the corner from our apartment. Inside the malls confuse me, but soon as I get outside I know exactly where I am. I ended my first day home in Manila eating my Filipino meal looking at the Makati night scene. TTT…

New World Hotel Eateries – Jasmine and CinnaBar

Menu and Free Appetizer

When traveling I always like to try out some of the hotel food as sometimes you can find some really good restaurants at a hotel.  One night I ate at Jasmine Restaurant, which specializes in Cantonese cuisine, located on the 2nd floor of the hotel. The restaurant is nicely decorated in a chic art deco design and more on the upscale side. The food was really good. I ordered fried rice and some spicy shrimp in tomato sauce (one of my hubby’s favorites in the states). The portion size of the rice was really large as it is enough to share with a few people, but the shrimp was just enough for one person. If you are in a group I would suggest ordering multiple entrees as usual when you eat Chinese food.

Spicy Shrimp in Tomato Sauce and Fried Rice

They had a Belvedere lemon drop on the beverage menu in the cocktail section. It took them forever to bring me my drink and when they brought it, it was in a glass that you would drink a scotch or vodka.  It looked just like vodka with a little bWorld's Smallest Lemon Dropit of lemon in it. I said it wasn’t a lemon drop so they had the hotel bar make one that took FOREVER again. When I received the hotel bar lemon drop it was the worlds tiniest lemon drop LOL I just said it was fine as they were trying. They were so sweet and accommodating that I couldn’t bother to say anything. Plus, it actually tasted like a lemon drop, but this really was really just a “drop.” I should have just kept the first one they gave me 🙂  Perhaps a lemon drop here in Makati is something different, though I thought a lemon drop was the same everywhere.

The chef came over and greeted me during the meal and asked if I liked my food so I really can’t complain about the place. You don’t have the chef come out and greet you the majority of the time when you’re eating, well at least not at the restaurants I go to. 

RANDOM THOUGHT:

Interesting menu Item

Menu item at Jasmine Restaurant

The hotel also has a bar/lounge area where you can order drinks and small plates. The hotel only offers WiFi in the lounge so this is an area that is frequently visited. One day after work I went to the CinnaBar and sat outside. They have a Koi pond and most important, ceiling fans that make the atmosphere nice and relaxing. It is a nice place to grab a drink or quick bite to eat in a calm setting.

Key Lime Martini at the CinnaBar

That’s today’s thoughts (TTT)…

Flight Adventures and Day 1 in the Philippines

My first experience even before arrival in the Philippines was on the plane ride over.  I sat next to a man named Dr. Ang who is the President of the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California. He grew up in the Philippines and now lives in the bay area.  He was on his way to the Philippines on a medical mission to one of the provinces to repair cleft lips, throat issues, etc (http://www.pmsnc.com/tmp/Medical_Mission.html). 

Dr. Ang had some fascinating stories. His father was truly remarkable; from running away from China to the Philippines, being an interpreter for General Douglas McArthur (if you don’t know who he is look him up), being a guerilla hiding out in secret passages behind stoves, to meeting his wife who comes from Barangay Batad in Banaue which is home to the famous Banaue rice terraces that many consider one of the most beautiful places in the world. Weirdly, one of the things that I found most interesting was that his father invented the manila folder. Go figure! One of the things I use on a daily basis at work and I met the inventor’s son on a trip to the Philippines.

Besides his stories about his father Dr. Ang specializes in about a gazillion things. His theories on sleep and diet were most interesting. He even invited me to their medical society’s annual dinner next year since I will be in the Philippines this year when they have it.  So I do have to say I had an interesting plane ride over and my adventure started before I even stepped foot in the Philippines.

Day 1 in the Philippines I arrived at 5:35 am.  I do have to say that flying business class does have its perks; first off the plane, first through immigration and first to get your bags is NICE! Believe me, being priority at Ninoy Aquino International Airport is sweet specifically when your plane has over 400 passengers and probably twice as many balikbayan boxes rolling off the conveyor belt.

I arrived at the hotel by 7 AM which was just in time for breakfast buffet.  They have Chinese, sushi, all kinds of breakfast foods and much more to choose from. It’s fabulous! I love the fresh juices, smoothies and fruits.

My view from the New World Hotel

After breakfast I looked around the hotel at the swimming pool and gym and then went upstairs to check email. Luckily I checked my work email as my new supervisor had emailed me and said she would be picking me up at the hotel along with a fellow co-worker I know who works in San Ramon for lunch.

My supervisors driver picked me up and we all headed to the Sofitel for lunch/dinner. The traffic is unbelievable and the fact that stoplights, road signs and pedestrians are ignored is interesting. You really have to be a defensive driver to drive in the Philippines. 

The Sofitel is beautiful and apparently a lot of the nice hotels have amazing lobbies just as the Sofitel does. We sat outside and ate lunch watching the sunset. It was nice although the food was just okay.

For reservations at the Sofitel http://www.sofitel.com/gb/booking/hotels-list.shtml

Sunset at The Sofitel Hotel

After the Sofitel we went to the Landmark Supermart for my supervisor could pick up some groceries. It was good for me to see their markets so that I can have an idea of what to look forward to when I start my assignment. The market was big and clean and busy. They did have my husbands HP sauce, which he was wondering if he was going to have to stock up before we came. It seems similar to our stores in the US except they have a ton of fresh seafood to choose from, which is nice!

Seafood selection at Landmark Super Mart

On our way back the driver stopped in the middle of an intersection when the light turned red and was pulled over by a policeman. They were speaking in Tagalog so we had no idea what he was saying. He was smiling, which all Filipinos do all the time. He spoke to him for about 10 minutes and they kept passing the driver’s license in and out of the window. Apparently the policeman was showing him drivers licenses of people he had taken and saying that he would take his too. The driver sneakily slipped him 100 pesos as to avoid getting a ticket. Its funny because my husband had told me he read about this, but I didn’t think it would happen to me on the first day. I guess that was a taste of things to come for me to get used to my new life in the Philippines.

I joined an expatriate community group online a few weeks ago and they happened to be having their monthly event on the night I arrived. At first when I got back to the hotel from the market I didn’t think I would go, but I decided it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so I might as well take advantage of it. I hired a car from the hotel to pick me up and drop me off. It was at a place called Casa Nami Surf Pub. When I got there it was pretty dead but it got busy just as I was leaving. I was only there for an hour and a half since I was going on virtually no sleep. I met expats from India, US, Australia, etc. It was fun but I didn’t make any serious connections. Then again, I was only there a very short time and only met a few folks. I will go to the next one when I’m here for longer and make sure I go late. I will have my own driver then and won’t have to be picked up at a certain time.

So my first night ended around 9:30 PM and I have to say it was eventful for my first day in the Philippines. Looking forward to Day 2!