14th Hot Air Balloon Festival

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spent a great couple of days in Clark Airfield, Pampanga, watching the 14th Hot Air Balloon Festival and airshow – and having a third honeymoon on the side.  As seems usual with our travels, Cat and I don’t have a single picture together.  Again.  But we did get great weather and some very nice and colorful subjects, thanks to DPP and Caltex.  (And thanks to TechTrends for my new memory cards).


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Getting passes for Feb 12, the first day of the festival, proved to be a mixed blessing – though in hindsight, much more on the positive than otherwise.  On the downside, glitches led to the delay of the morning inflation and liftoff of the balloons, so I wasn’t able to get a lot of the dramatic fire shots I wanted.  On the upside, it seems we got the best weather of the four days of the festival.  Bright and clear – and hot! If it weren’t for my lactose intolerance I’m sure I could’ve eaten my way through half a gallon of ice cream by myself.  From shots posted by later photogs, the weekends looked badly overcast.

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This was my first time to see hot air balloons firsthand, and they were impressive.  You don’t realize how big they are until you get close to one. And they look so serene lifting off, reminding me of luminous deep sea jellyfish – but in the sky.  Also reminiscent of sea life were the many advanced kites dancing above the field the whole day, their bright colors against the blue making them like reef fish in the sea.  The commonest design also made me think of a stingray that got too friendly with an angelfish, and the consequences thereof:



The almost uniform blue of the sky also revealed something irritating: I have dust on my sensor.  Grm!

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There were also skydiving exhibitions at intervals throughout the day, and in the late afternoon the powergliders went up for a jaunt.  The `chutes look great when backlighted, so it was a matter of chasing around the field to get a good angle with the sun shining through the fabric.


With our passes for Thursday morning, and knowing we had to be at the site by 4am, Cat and I opted to leave Manila Wednesday morning and spend the afternoon and evening lazing around, rather than do an evening trip and arrive exhausted.  As it turned out, this was exactly the right thing to do as we shot the whole day.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn, inside the Mimosa Country Club.  The room was nice and comfy, and the food at the Mequeni Restaurant was really good – specially after a session of ping pong and swimming.  I of course had to order Sisig, just to taste it the way it was cooked in its home province, while Cat went for a Seafood Risotto that turned out just right.  My only beef with the hotel: apparently they’d just installed new carpeting, and for some strange reason the drying glue had the smell of old socks.  Or as Cat says, kachichas!  (New word for me!)

Also intriguing, though we didn’t get to try it, was the new SCTEX highway and its quick access to Subic.  Specially after all those kites made me think of reef fish and diving.  Wish we’d had the time do do a Subic side trip for another day or two.  And for a visit to Aling Lucing’s for her legendary sisig …

New Bombay Restaurant, Again

Sunday, February 15, 2009

To paraphrase the Broadway title, A funny thing happened on the way to Nirvana …

And next time I get an Indian food craving, I’ll make sure I have cash.  It was the last day of Photoworld 2009, and after a day shooting at Casa Manila with a huge pack of fellow camera buffs (thanks Lito and Mrs Huang!) Cat and I arrived in Makati hungry.  After taking a few last shots at the Canon booth and saying hi to the Kodak people, I told Cat I needed food.  And I was craving Indian. 

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Now there’s a back story to this – and it ties with the Balloon Festival and my apparently acidic butt.  For the past few months I’d been intending to have my credit and ATM cards replaced, as both had acquired cracks and nicks in their magnetic strips over years of use (and being kept all day beside an acidic butt).  Anticipating much use of the credit card on our trip to Clark, I decided I had to go and get it done. So the day before this, I  visit my bank and request the replacements – conveniently forgetting that the existing cards are cancelled once the request is filed. 

So here we are in the New Bombay, and to my great delight the food is exactly the same great quality as before.  We ordered the buttery Vegetable Korma again, plus a plate of Samosas and the Murgh Tikka Resmi.  The samosas were crisp and very flavorful, and to my surprise contained some whole peanuts which added a very satisfying crunch that contrasted with the mashed vegetable filling.  It was the first time I tasted samosas with peanuts.

The Murgh Tikka Resmi was also fantastic, chunks of chicken marinated in yogurt, spices, and cashew nut paste then cooked in a tandoor.  I could’ve finished two or three orders on my own, it was that good (mind you, New Bombay’s servings are on the generous side).  Cat was at first reluctant to order it because it was described as chicken breast, a cut that all too often gets served dry and tough, but the yogurt marinade made the tikka really tender.

Now comes the funny part.  Remember, I’ve neither a working ATM nor credit card.  And the other card I have is one that has frustratingly low acceptance.  Big embarrassment when I call for the check.  So Cat and I wait for the manager, Mihir Khanchandani, and talk to him.  Again, he was very genial and understanding, and allowed us to pay the day after. 

Wonder if he knew I liked the food so much I would’ve been glad to wash dishes for it?  Or do kitchen work.  Then again, I don’t think I can be trusted in an Indian restaurant’s kitchen …