Augustus

Author Archives: Augustus

The Philippine Nail salon

Trust us, we Roamans don't know anything about this one.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover : A Crucifixion in San Fernando. Hey, we at Roads-2-Roam ain’t taking the hit for this one.. It wasn’t us.

The Philippines are an ultra-Catholic country. So it goes then that Easter is one of the THE most popular holiday of the year.

So much so, that some of the pious volunteer to be crucified. Yes, you understood correctly : they put themselves forward to be fully nailed up on a cross and not the Crucifixion-lite namby pamby roped up version.

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Philippines Govt Health Warning. Crucifixions are dangerous

But this is not a small thing done in the local parish. Cities such as San Fernando (NW of Manila), have real life Easter enactments of crucifixions that by themselves are tourist attraction drawing in 10’000’s. From Philstar.com:

Ferdinand Caylao, executive committee chair for Maleldo (Kapampangan for Holy Week), said Telesite company installed CCTV cameras in San Pedro Cutud that would be operational from Holy Thursday until Good Friday. Crucifixion rites annually take place in Barangays San Pedro Cutud, Sta. Lucia and San Juan, but most tourists flock to San Pedro Cutud where “Kristo” Ruben Enaje would be nailed to the cross for the 30th year.

The purpose of the CCTV in such a place of holy reverence is to capture people at ease with their religion catch pickpockets. I see something wrong amiss there.

Not only that but there will be medical crew there. “The city’s health and disaster management officers would also deploy medical teams in the crucifixion sites.” said the Philippines Star.

Nails. Crucifixion. Health and Safety.  I seem to recall hearing about those together before. Now where was that?

Oh yes, back in 2008 where Health officials in the Philippines issued a warning to people taking part in Easter crucifixion rituals. They urged those about to be Flagellated or Crucified to get tetanus vaccination before hand and if being nailed to a cross, to practice good hygiene. Seriously? 

Now to come back to Mr Enaje. He’s a bit of a folk hero where wheresidewalksend has some more details on him. From that page, I just love the picture of the guy self flagellating himself but look at his face mask. Surely it should be Mary Magdalene not Mary Jayne.

Flagellation across de Nation. Man.

Taiwanese triple tales

Betelmania in Taiwan

So farewell to my colleague Albanius who retired today. It made me think about the time that both of us went to Taiwan on business trip over a decade ago. Three things come to mind:

  1. Taxi to our hotel: As many people did not speak English, we were advised to have someone write the name and address in Chinese on paper and take that with us. We handed that paper to taxi driver at the airport and off we went. We sat in slow traffic for a while and the taxi driver turned off next exit and drove us to our hotel. Hey looks nice, we thought and had the valet unload our bags and take us to the front desk. We got a receipt from the driver and because we had sat in traffic, we gave him a good tip. At the front desk, they had no record of us as guests. We protested and handed over our booking documents: That is not this hotel sir. Yep, he deliberately took us to the wrong hotel.
  2. The jade market: On Saturday afternoon, we had time to kill so we have quite a few beers. I did note that Albanius got very merry, very quickly. “Let’s go to the jade market” he said with a bit of a slur and not having a better alternative, I agreed. It actually turned out better than what I expected and I bought some Chinese hand painting. Albanius on the other hand was on a jade hunt for his wife. He liked something but didn’t have enough cash to buy it so I lent him money to buy it.
  3. Betel nuts: For the life of us, we could not work out what the pretty looking girls in bikini’s skirts  were selling in those roadside small shops/ outlets – see the internet picture as an example. We didn’t think a conservative society like Taiwan would permit sex workers to be so openly pursuing business but we remained curious about. We even asked around what was going on and nobody could explain it back to to us. We eventually read about it: they were selling Betel nuts which are a mild stimulant used by many drivers. PS: remember kids, if anyone offers you betel nuts, just say no : It isn’t good for you.

When back in the US, I gently reminded Albanius that he owed me money. Would you believe it that the Chiseler denied all knowledge of ever borrowing money and claimed he had bought it himself: He would have remembered borrowing money he said ! It then occurred to me that since he wasn’t much of a drinker, he probably doesn’t remember much about the jade market anyhow so there was no hope there. Still it was some consolation to find out that the expensive preesent he had bought for his wife with the help of MY MONEY, got broken intransit. Thank you travel gods – Karma.

Augustus.

A Royal Flush : Happy World Toilet Day

US-HighTech-toilets

Only in America..

Apparently, today is World toilet day. Did you get a Hallmark card wishing you “Happy number two”? Neither did I but it had me thinking about my toilet experiences around the world.

Let’s start off with the culture shock a westerner will get when you go to places that literally have a hole in the ground. I recall one cafe in Amsterdam having a hole that you’d need the skill of a WWII bombardier to get your aim right. It was better than a bucket but still, it was not what one expects especially after you’d indulged in their herbal products and you’re not too steady on your feet.

Another culture shock is toilet paper : Not all of them flush it away. Many places around the world don’t want the paper in their water system and expect you to put it in the trash which as you can imagine, now stinks. When in such places, you don’t hang around too long to read a book.

That is assuming you even have toilet paper. In some places such as Middle East and India, using toilet paper is considered unhygienic. The protocol is to wash your backside with your left hand from a cup of water. Afterwards you wash  your hand. This is also why you should only eat with your right hand in India. The left is considered ‘dirty’ so careful what you use it for.

A high tech throne from one trip to Tokyo

A high tech throne in Tokyo

At the other end of the toilet spectrum is Japan. Going to the potty can be like the Apollo project. It is a delight to stay in a 5 star hotel in Tokyo just to experience the high tech toilets. They have ones that automatically put a new paper cover over the seat before you sit down. Others may warm the seat for you or play background music so people cannot your movements. Some include built in bidets but good luck in understanding which button does what.

As for toilet paper. Would you believe that many public toilets in Japan did not provide toilet paper until recently: They expected you to carry your own. It may still be the case today in some places but many department stores gave them out for free. For more reading Japan and their toilets, see this Japantoday poll and Japan-talk.

Toilets in Taipai airport

Green Fingers in Taipai airport.

The rest of Asia is also catching up with their obsession with their toilets. When recently in Taipei, I was taken aback by the cleanliness of the public toilet. Look at this, they even had plants in there. By the way, the women cleaners will just walk in so you bladder shy men are pre-warned.


 

Lets move to the US. Like many things in life, there are some bizarre things when it comes to the US toilets habits:

  1. They don’t like talking about them. So much so that toilets aren’t even called toilets. They are restrooms or bathrooms. It is the room that cannot be mentioned.
  2. In bars or restaurants, they will often minimize the numbers to the legally bare minimum. Even then, they may be tiny.
  3. The doors are never full length doors. You will always find a gap at bottom and top and even at bottom of the stalls themselves. Perhaps this is for US Politicians to play footsie with fellow crappers but us Roaman emperors have never understood why you cannot get full privacy.
  4. Public restrooms especially off main highways are nasty. It is always a pleasant surprise to come across a public restroom that is well kept. In Texas, one memorable place well maintained place in Guadalupe County rest stop just west of Seguin on I10. . Colorado County rest stop near Columbus Texas,on the other hand is more basic. Heaven forbid you need to use to use the crapper here as they don’t even come up to chest height. Most people in Texas will stop at Buc-ees instead where Buc-ees are known for their clean toilet facilities so much so, they win awards for it where you’ll even see billboards promoting Buc-ee’s. Of course while there, they will flog you their overpriced food and Buc-ee merchandise but it is an experience.
    An example of a Buc-ee's billboard

    An example of a Buc-ee’s billboard

Which brings me to my favorite toilets of all time: Protea Hotel “Fire & Ice!” in Capetown. Each toilet is individually themed – “Long Drop”, “Stage Fright”, “Out House” and “Tempation”- where it was a delight to try a new one out each time.

Toilets at the Fire and Ice, Capetown.

Toilets at the Fire and Ice, Capetown.

Wishing you a clean and crappy World Toilet day.

Augustus.

Crime of the Centuries

Men dressed as ancient Roman centurions walk during a protest in front of the Colosseum in Rome April 12, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Men dressed as ancient Roman centurions walk during a protest in front of the Colosseum in Rome April 12, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Another Roaman story on Rome where the one with the E, has banned Impersonators of soldiers from ancient Rome that been a common sight around the Colosseum, Forum and other major sites. [BBC news]

Together with Centurions, bicycle-drawn rickshaw drivers and ticket touts:

City commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca issued the decree ahead of the Catholic Jubilee year, an important tourist event starting on 8 December.

He is in charge of the city pending the election of a new mayor and cited security issues as well as protecting tourists from scams as the reasons for the decree.

It spoke of the “inappropriate, insistent and sometimes aggressive” behaviour of Centurions, who charge between €5 and €10 ($5.3-$10.6) for a photo. They can also get tips from tour organisers for persuading tourists to go on guided trips.

There is more.

There have been incidents of “gladiators” attacking each other to defend their pitches at lucrative sites.

That sounds pretty authentic gladiator like behavior to me ! I’d pay good money to see this again. Let’s hope they bring in Lions impersonators as well.

But wait, haven’t they tried something legislating like this before. Yes siree. Back in 2012, there was a protest where a dozen of so centurions clashed with police where they even took over the Colossium.

One ruse of the impersonators is to offer to take a photo for small Euro donation but keep the camera until they get a larger payment. Sounds just like politicians to me.

The Love shack

To promote activity, Facebook offers you “memories” of pictures on an anniversary of when you posted.

Which brings me to the above picture of a hotel room from the Scottish Inn in West Houston that I stayed in while on business. It turned out that my visit coincided with a big conference so as I searched through my corporate travel site for hotels, I found it on something like page 27 of hotels. All others were sold out. Being somewhat desperate – it was that or Galveston – I booked it. What is more, they hadn’t jacked up their rates like the hotels in Galveston had. From memory, I’d say around $70 per night versus $250 of others.

I didn’t know it before booking but it is located just off the busy highway 6 and not a particular nice part of Houston. I wouldn’t say unsafe but just ugly looking.

As I opened the front door, I stood there in stunned amazement at the decor of the room. It was as if the room had been decorated by an 8 year old: A mural of the sea; fluorescent night lights that lit up the stars;  mirrors everywhere.

Eventually I got over the ‘You got to be kidding’ moment and checked the room out : A fridge, plenty of space and excellent Wifi connection. After going out for some food and groceries, I turned in for the night. Being located just off a busy highway, I didn’t hear any traffic and had an otherwise comfortable experience.

The only minor drawback – when I woke up, I felt a bit sea sick !

The Paris Attack

It is now reported as 100+ dead as I type. The attack was on young people enjoying themselves : A Concert hall, Restuarants and Stade de France sports stadium.

You cowardly miserable bastards.

I was looking at visiting France next summer: It is now a definite.

Not responsible for broken windshields? Oh yes you are..

Sneak warning sign to avoid liabilities

Signs of things to come..

Driving home from work, I noted a truck ahead of me which had a warning sign on it. Being curious I came up close to read what it said

Big letters WARNING. Smaller letters “STAY BACK 200 FT” with “NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BROKEN WINDSHIELDS”.

However, the stupidity is that you’d need to be closer  that 200 FT away to read the flaming thing.

This had me thinking about the legality of such a sign especially as you need to be close up to read it and you never entered into any agreement with them. Researching around, I found this reddit discussion. My take away from reading it all : Continue reading..

Taking the Mickey: Disneyland increases prices to over $1000

What to do with 35% ticket increase.

Hmm..What to do with a 35% ticket increase?

It’s that time of year again: The annual increase in Disneyland ticket prices and a 35% increase for an annual pass, has taken it over the $1000 price tag. They are also introducing their version of surge pricing which is one way to cull the sheep keep the crowds down but also maintain profits. The previous price increases have only led to higher attendance.

Disneyland (The one in California) have done away with their $779-a-year, “premium” pass and replaced it with two versions : One – “Signature plus” covers all year ($1049), the “signature” pass covers 350 days (minus coverage for peak periods around holidays) cost a mere $849.

Disney World (the one not in California) has  a “gold” pass with 335 days of access for $549. The full Monty (or equivalent without the Male stripers) is $829. Continue reading..