Phew! This one was a long trip. I started on 17th Oct, and I am now on the last leg to Kota Kinabalu.
I went to Cagayan de Oro, the Philippines, and after that, a 2-day layover in Manila, then to Jakarta thorough KLIA. So there, I went through 2 of the most mind-numbing chaotic crush of humanity and vehicles anywhere in the world: Manila and Jakarta. Manila is home to 16 millions souls while Jakarta teems with 10 million of them. I have been to many great cities of the world – San Francisco, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Santiago, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, among others – but only Bangkok rivals Manila and Jakarta in terms of the teeming uncontrolled mess of people, vehicles and buildings. It was a relief to come back to the puny jams of Kota Kinabalu city. A Malaysian embassy official told me it took him more than an hour everyday to negotiate the traffic jams along the 7 kM stretch he has to travel to work to the Malaysian embassy in downtown Jakarta.
I was in Cagayan de Oro for the BIMP-EAGA Senior Officers Meeting. The city is located in north Mindanao, and is a relatively a sedate one with half a million inhabitants. It looks like a very fertile region, what with all the lush volcanic soils. No wonder some of the huge pineapple and banana plantations of the multi-conglomerates – Dole and Del Monte – are located here. And, they have fine-tasting durians too. Here’s a picture of the city:
In a big way we Malaysians are lucky: We do not have terrorist problems…yet, and it shows the way we go about our lives. We have very few intrusions in terms of security checks. In the Philippines and Indonesia security is a huge business. You see security guards everywhere. You get frisked for weapons and bombs in every mall and hotel you enter. Heck, there is even a security guard manning the 7-eleven store in Newport, Manila. You get the pat down for entering a pub in Manila. The Marriot at Newport where I stayed had a crash barrier as huge and solid as the ones I saw in front of the British Parliament.
One thing about the Philippines is they have the prettiest girls in the world though, not just in South-east Asia. See below; that’s a typical filipina beauty:
Just next block to the Marriot where I stayed is the Genting Resort World at Newport, Manila. This place is just across the road to the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The casino is a huge place: 2 floors of slot machines and gaming tables with hundreds of mostly (I would say 95%) filipinas working as dealers and croupiers, none older than 25 years by the look of them. So even if you don’t gamble (Crap, I lost a bundle of pesos playing roulette!) it is worth going around just for the eye candy.
I was in Jakarta to attend the Senior Officials Meeting of the Coral Triangle Initiative, of which Malaysia is one of the 6 signatory countries. We just launched a new website at this meeting. Here’re some pics of Jakarta:
Finally, on the way home I happened to use the public toilets at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. I am impressed; MAB have since renovated them to become among the cleanest and posh-looking toilets I have ever seen in airports around the world.