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Philippines – Trackchasing Country #49

 

Philippines – Trackchasing Country #49

 

 

 

Trackchasing Country #49

 

 

 

Greetings from places on the way to Batangas, Philippines……

 

 

Click on the links below to read about and see the photos and videos from my first-ever visit to the Philippines home to almost 101 million people. ……trackchasing country #49.

 

 

HighlightsPhilappines - Advanced PreparationsPhilippines - Part 1Philippines - Part 2Philippines - Fast FactsVideosPhotos

 

 

 

 

Get well soon!

I get a chance to meet so many folks across the world through the hobby of trackchasing.  One of those great people is Frans Deguara from the country of Malta. Frans was most gracious to Carol and me when we visited his country earlier this year.  He even took an entire day out of his time, to chauffer us around the island country.

 

 

Frans is the President and General Manager of the only road course track in all of Malta.  Recently, I learned that he had suffered a very serious accident.  Frans was standing at the starting line at one of his events.  The aligning rope broke unexpectedly knocking Frans to the ground and breaking his hip.

 

 

I’m happy to report that Frans, after a few months of recuperation and healing is doing much better.  He’s not perfect yet but is on his way.  Here’s a big “GET WELL SOON” for Frans.  We hope you keep feeling better and better every day.

 

 

 

Greeting from the United States and then the Philippines

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note #1

Everything written in the “Advance Preparation” section of this Trackchaser Report was reported before I ever landed in the Philippines.  In order for a trip like this to be successful a good deal of advance preparation must be done.  Remember advance planning beats hard work.  That planning takes place at the world headquarters of RLR – Randy Lewis Racing in San Clemente, California.

 

 

Trackchasing in the Philippines will increase my lead in the all-important “most countries” seen category to 49-46 over Belgium trackchaser Roland Vanden Eynde.  That means he must see FOUR MORE countries in order to take the lead.  This should allow me to relax on the international front for at least a few months.

 

 

  

Like to know more about the Philippines? 

If you’d like to learn a little more about the Philippines the country, check out the “background” information I prepared for you.  It appears within a separate tab of this report.  I have condensed this section so you can get a good “feel” for this Asian continent location.

 

 

 

TODAY’S HEADLINES

 

 

What does the rest of your day look like? …………..details in “The Trip Begins”.

 

 

Should I drive in the Philippines?…………….more in “The feedback I was receiving worried me”.

 

 

I wanted to see a movie in the Philippines …………..details in “Harry Potter or Harry Potter?”.

 

 

 

 

ADVANCE PREPARATION 

 

 

 

THE RACE

 

There must be a race. 

My first plan to come to this country got “erased”.  That’s right, the Formula 1 event in South Korea three weeks ago trumped the Philippines. This was for no other reason than they race just once a year at the F1 South Korea track.  The Philippines has more than one track and holds countable racing frequently.  I figured I could always find a race date in the Philippines.

 

 

I was lucky to find a wonderful website for the Batangas Racing Circuit (Batangas Racing Circuit). One of the things that made this website so great was it was in English!  I soon began making inquiries of any and everybody connected to the Filipino racing scene.  I call this “phishing”.  Would I catch anything?  I didn’t know.  That’s why I call it “phishing”.

 

 

Soon I would come across Mr. Mark Desales. Mark would become my primary contact. He arranged for my transportation around the Philippines.  I’ll tell you more about him in my next report.  Based upon my conversations with Mark as well as reading the Batangas Racing Circuit website I was convinced there would be a race.

 

 

  

THE VISA

 

 

Just your passport, please. 

That’s right.  All I needed to do was show up with a valid U.S. passport and getting into the Philippines would be easy.  No visa required.  It’s a lot less hassle and less expensive to visit countries where only a passport in required.

 

 

 

THE TRANSPORTATION

 

Orange County to San Francisco to ????? to Manila. 

A few weeks ago I flew from Orange County to San Francisco on then onto Seoul, South Korea.  This trip would require all of that travel and more.  Once I got to Seoul, or maybe Tokyo, I needed to fly four more hours to Manila in the Philippines.  No, the life of an international trackchaser is not convenient but it is lots of fun.

 

 

 

TIME ZONES

 

 

What time is it? 

Manila is 16 hours ahead of Los Angeles.  I would leave on Thursday morning and arrive into South Korea on Friday AFTERNOON.  Of course, it would only be Thursday NIGHT back in Los Angeles.  If I were “lucky” I would catch a flight to Manila shortly after I landed and get a hotel in the Philippines.  If I wasn’t lucky, I would stay the night in South Korea or Japan.

 

 

I was going to be busy traveling from point A to point B to points unknown.  I was hoping the “adrenaline rush” would keep me from thinking what time it was “back home”. I did know this.  I would be gone from home for at least four nights.  I was only planning to sleep in a hotel on only two of those nights.

 

 

 

CURRENCY

 

 

This might be a problem. 

The official currency of the Philippines is the peso.  One U.S. dollar buys about 44 of those pesos.  I also planned to spend some time in South Korea or Japan.  The official currency of South Korea is the won and Japan operates with the yen.  How many different currencies would I need?  I’ll try to use credit cards whenever I can.  Maybe some folks will take U.S. dollars.  I will try to use “local currency” as little as possible.

 

 

 

WEATHER

 

 

I don’t care if it rains. 

The 10-day weather forecast calls for a 60% chance of rain EVERY day in Manila.  That doesn’t bother me in the least.  They race in the rain here.  The high temperature every day will be 85-87 degrees.  The “low” will be 75-76 degrees.  This is a warmer climate than Hawaii!

 

 

 

OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS

 

 

It will all work out, won’t it? 

When I land I don’t even now what country I will stay overnight in.  It could be South Korea….or Japan….or it could be the Philippines.  This doesn’t bother me in the least…..either.  When you can sleep on an airport floor what does it matter which country the airport is located in?

 

 

 

THE RENTAL CAR 

My friends at Tripadvior.com have advised me against driving.  I have hired a driver for race day.  I’ll use buses and taxis everywhere else.

 

 

 

NAVIGATION

 

No need for GPS on this trip.

 

 

 

THE TRAVELING COMPANION 

Although Carol was scheduled to go on the first part of this trip, I will be traveling internationally alone.  The plan was for Carol to come as far as Seattle…..and then turn back.  Just hours before we were to leave that portion of the trip was canceled.  The only thing certain about these trips is the uncertainty.  Carol will return to the international trackchasing trail after the holidays.

 

 

I will tell you this about international traveling.  When Carol doesn’t come along I don’t “linger” in the country I’m visiting.  Luckily, I am retired.  You may read about me being gone for 3-4 days without my bride of some 38 years. However, since I don’t work any longer I can devote my days at home to giving her my full attention.  After a few days of that, she’s ready for me to “hit the road”!

 

 

  

THE SUMMARY

During less than eleven months of 2010 my travel schedule has been daunting.  I’ve made trips to Malta, Canada, Finland, Japan, Chile, Morocco, Brazil, Estonia, Latvia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Romania, Bulgaria and South Korea.  Now I hope to add another exotic country to my list. Additionally, I’ve see racing in 30 different U.S. states.  Mind you, I’m “cutting back” this year!

 

 

However, there are still MORE countries to see.  I plan on seeing them.  I can’t tell you when (for security reasons) or where (again, for security reasons) but I will be adding new countries to my trackchasing list.

 

 

My “world map” has filled up surprisingly quickly.  However, there are “agents” working as you read this on new trackchasing countries to visit.  I appreciate every one of their contributions. Here’s where I’ve been so far.

 

 

 

RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Lifetime Trackchasing Countries

 

# 1 – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Peoria Speedway – Mt. Hawley (oval) – Track #1, Peoria, Illinois – circa 1955 

# 2 – CANADA- Cayuga Speedway (oval) – Track #174, Nelles Corner, Ontario – 1988 

# 3 – AUSTRALIA– Parramatta City Raceway (oval) – Track #180, Granville, New South Wales – 1989

# 4 – UNITED KINGDOM– Northhampton International Raceway (oval) – Track #378, Northhampton – 1999

# 5 – NETHERLANDS– Driesum Racetrack (oval) – Track #839, Driesum – 2005

# 6 – BELGIUM– Bellekouter oval (oval) – Track #841, Affligem – 2005

# 7 – FRANCE– Circuit de Croix en Ternois (road course) – Track #843, Saint-Pol sur-Ternoise – 2005

# 8 – GERMANY– Nurburgring (road course) – Track #844, Nurburg – 2005

# 9 – NEW ZEALAND– Western Springs Speedway (oval) – Track #1,134, Western Springs – 2006

# 10 – MEXICO– Triovalo Bernardo Obregon (oval) – Track #1,281, Tiajamulco de Zuniga, Jalisco – 2007

# 11 – BARBADOS– Bushy Park Racing Circuit (road course) – Track #1,296, Bushy Park- 2007

# 12 – THAILAND– Bira Circuit (road course) – Track #1,300, Pattaya – 2008

# 13 – SOUTH AFRICA– Durban Grand Prix (road course) – Track #1,315, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal – 2008

# 14 – JAMAICA– Dover Raceway (road course) – Track #1,322, Brown’s Town St. Ann – 2008

# 15 – SWEDEN– Sturup Raceway (road course) – Track #1,335, Malmo – 2008

# 16 – DENMARK– Ring Djursland (road course) – Track #1,336, Tirstrup- 2008

# 17 – CZECH REPUBLIC– Automotodrome BRNO (road course) – Track #1,381, Brno – 2008

# 18 – AUSTRIA– Lambrechten Stock Car Track (road course) – Track #1,382, Lambrechten – 2008

# 19 – IRELAND– Tipperary International Raceway (oval) – Track #1,388, Rosegreen – 2008

# 20 – GUYANA– South Dakota Circuit (road course) – Track #1,390, Timehri – 2008

# 21 – CHINA– The Guia Circuit (road course) – Track #1,392, Macau – 2008

# 22 – COSTA RICA– Autodromo La Guacima (road course) – Track #1,398, La Guacima – 2008

# 23 – ANDORRA– Grandvalira Circuit (road course) – Track #1,404, Port d’Envalira – 2009

# 24 – ARGENTINA– Circuito Efren Chemolli (oval) – Track #1,406, Buenos Aires – 2009

# 25 – QATAR– Losail International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,408, Doha – 2009

# 26 – BAHRAIN– Bahrain International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,410, Sakhir – 2009

# 27 – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES– Dubai Autodrome (road course) – Track #1,411, Dubai – 2009

# 28 – COLOMBIA– Autodromo de Tocancipa (road course) – Track #1,415, Tocancipa – 2009

# 29 – SPAIN– Motorland Aragon (road course) – Track #1,416, Alcaniz – 2009

# 30 – PORTUGAL– Circuto de Murca (road course) – Track #1,417, Murca – 2009

# 31 – ICELAND– Kapelluhraum (road course) – Track #1,420, Hafnafjorour – 2009

# 32 – HUNGARY– Hungaroring (road course) – Track #1,426, Mogyorod – 2009

# 33 – SWITZERLAND– Hock Ybrig (road course) – Track #1,427, Hoch Ybrig – 2009

# 34 – ITALY– Vighizzolo d’Este Stock Car Track (road course) – Track #1,428, Vighizzolo d’Este – 2009

# 35 – DOMINICAN REPUBLIC– Autodromo Mobil 1 (road course) – Track #1,515, Santo Domingo – 2009

# 36 – MALTA– Ta’Qali Race Track (road course) – Track #1,521, Ta’Qali – 2010

# 37 – FINLAND– Lake Pidisjarvi Ice Track (road course) – Track #1,524, Nivala – 2010

# 38 – JAPAN– Suzuka Circuit (road course) – Track #1,530, Suzuka – 2010

# 39 – CHILE– Autodromo de Interlomas (road course) – Track #1,531, Temuco- 2010

# 40 – MOROCCO– Circuit de Marrakesh (road course) – Track #1,535, Marrakesh – 2010

# 41 – BRAZIL– Circuit de Caruaru – Aryten Senna (road course) – Track #1,540, Caruaru – 2010

# 42 – ESTONIA– Laitse Rally Park (road course) – Track #1,571, Laitse – 2010

# 43 – LATVIA– Bikernieki (road course) – Track #1,572, Riga – 2010

# 44 – GUATEMALA– Autodromo Pedro Cofino (road course) – Track #1,580, Alotenango – 2010

# 45 – EL SALVADOR– El Jabali (road course) – Track #1,582, Quezaltepeque – 2010

# 46 – ROMANIA– Bradu (road course) – Track #1,603, Bradu – 2010

# 47 – BULGARIA– Closed Route – Burgas (road course) – Track #1,604, Burgas – 2010

# 48 – SOUTH KOREA– Korea International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,605, Yeongam, Jeollanam-Do – 2010

 

 

 

 

 

So what’s the best way to use what I will share with you?

Below I will share with you, on a day by day basis, how the trip went. Maybe you will get some ideas and plan a trip to the Philippines yourself. Maybe you will never ever come to the Philippines but will use some of my travel ideas on other adventures. Maybe you will simply sit back in the comfort of your own home and enjoy reading about the travel I do. Whichever way you consume what I provide I simply hope you enjoy the experience.

 

 

THE TRIP BEGINS!

 

 

Why the Philippines? 

The better question might be “Why not?”.  November is a good time to go international trackchasing.  There isn’t much racing in the U.S. during late November.  If the Philippines was having a race and I could find a way to get there then…..why not?  I wouldn’t be gone long……at least I didn’t think I would be gone all that long.

 

 

What does the rest of your day look like? 

Do you know where you’re having dinner this evening?  Do you know where you plan to sleep?  If you do, then you’re WAY AHEAD of me.  Not only can I not tell you where I’m going to sleep tonight, I can’t even tell you what COUNTRY I will be sleeping in!  The only thing certain about these trips is the uncertainty.

 

 

 

The logistics of this trip were……complicated. 

The only thing I knew for sure was that I needed to be in the Batangas Province of the Philippines on Sunday.  I was planning to see the Philippine Touring Car Championship event at the Batangas Racing Circuit then.  Nearly everything else about this trip was “up in the air”.

 

 

 

The original plan. 

The original plan called for Carol and me to fly to Seattle. Once there we would see our UCLA Bruins play the Washington Huskies in football.  From there I would head to Manila and Carol would return to Los Angeles.

 

 

Then I expected to fly to Tokyo from Seattle and onto Manila. However, that plan needed to change. As you know I have some mighty fine airline sponsorships.  If all goes well on this trip Carol and I will pass ONE MILLION miles of flying with our “sponsors” since the program began for us in September 2006.  It’s been a great partnership.

 

 

However, if a plane is full we don’t go.  I monitor various “secret information sources” that give me the best chance of boarding a flight that has a seat for me.  This process is not bulletproof but it’s pretty good.

 

 

My information told me that the Seattle-Tokyo-Manila flight was not going to work.  I would soon learn that any option going through Tokyo didn’t work.  However, I had the option of replacing Tokyo with Seoul, South Korea aka “Korea”.

 

 

 

The original plan needed to be replaced.

We would need to cancel our trip to Seattle.  Carol was already packed.  Despite the fact she would be gone for a single night, she began packing several days ago.  I would be gone for four nights.  I pulled a few things out of our dresser about an hour before I went to bed the night before the trip.  Yes, we do things differently.  One approach is not better than the other.  We just do things the way that works for us.

 

 

Another reason for bagging the football game was the weather. UCLA was playing Washington on a Thursday night.  That’s because ESPN wanted to televise the game.  The weather.com site forecast a “feels like” temperature of 37 degrees for game time.  There was also a 70% chance of rain.  Despite being ardent fans, watching a game in 37-degree weather with rain didn’t sound like that much fun.  We canceled the Seattle trip the night before we were supposed to leave.

 

 

 

It was decision-time. 

Now I had to make some decisions.  By the way never once did I consider NOT going to the Philippines. The first decision I made was to change my departure city.  I switched from “LAX” to the Orange County airport.  I have “parking sponsorships” at both airports.  However, LAX is about 40 miles further from my home than the airport in Orange County. Plus the Orange County flight left 45 minutes later (6:45 a.m.).  This change saved me about an hour and a half of sleep.  The biggest advantage of my airline sponsorships is NOT the money savings. It’s the flexibility to be able to change the plan.  Flexibility is king.

 

 

 

THURSDAY – DAY 1 

Once I arrived in San Francisco I would try to board a flight to Seoul, Korea.  There are no non-stop flights from the U.S. to Manila on any of my airline sponsors. The flight to Seoul was overbooked by three people.  However, I still expected to get on that plane.  You see, for some reason, many folks don’t show up for the flights they have booked. I can’t explain why, I just know that’s the way it works.

 

 

Not only did I get on the plane, I was awarded a seat in business class.  This is a 12-hour flight.  Flying “up front” is huge.  Business class now offers “100% lay flat” airline seats.  Yes, it’s just like a bed.  Don’t misunderstand.  This is not like sleeping on our king-sized Tempurpedic mattress at home.  But, for an airline seat, it’s WAY ahead of flying in coach. 

 

 

Of course, there are free drinks, lots of food and plenty of audio/visual entertainment.  Another big plus, especially on a 12-hour flight is the business class provides electrical power for my computer.  I may not have the budgets of those huge East coast trackchasing teams but at least for a few hours I can feel like a big shot.  For the first time ever I got to fly in the “upper deck” of the Boeing 747-400 plane.  That was cool.

 

 

 

FRIDAY – DAY 2

 

 

Would I sleep in South Korea or the Philippines on Friday night? 

I would use the experience I gained three weeks ago of flying into the Incheon International Airport on this trip.  I would land into Seoul at 4:30 p.m.  Then I would try for two flights to Manila that each left at about 8 p.m.  If I made one of those flights I would find a hotel (at nearly midnight) and stay in Manila. When I landed in Seoul I had no idea what would happen over the next few hours.  That’s O.K.  This is all part of the adventure of trackchasing……..international trackchasing.

 

 

 

I had some choices; I just needed one of them to come through. 

If I couldn’t get on those Friday night flights from Seoul to Manila I would stay in South Korea for the evening.  Then on Saturday morning I would begin trying to get to Manila. There were four planes leaving from Seoul to Manila on Saturday.  If I didn’t get on any ONE of those flights, then my trackchasing trip to the Philippines would have to be aborted.  At that point, I could not get to the racetrack on Sunday in time for the race. I didn’t want to think about that possibility.  I expected to make it but there were no guarantees.

 

 

 

Secret international agents rule…..usually! 

I still maintain contact with the very best “secret international agents” available to any trackchaser. They reside all over the world. It’s just that none of them has much expertise in a place like where I would be visiting.

 

 

 

One more Asian continent country? 

If successful, the Philippines will be my eighth Asian continent trackchasing country.  The current list looks like this:

 

Bahrain

China

Japan

Qatar

South Korea

Thailand

United Arab Emirates

 

 

 

The devil is in the details. 

When I’ve traveled in other Asian countries (Thailand, Japan, China, South Korea) where the road signs are indecipherable I have opted for public transportation including taxis, buses and trains.  Once again, that seemed like a good option.

 

 

 

The feedback I was receiving worried me. 

The folks over at Tripadvisor.com were unanimous. “Don’t drive in the Philippines” they told me.  Hey, I like to drive in foreign countries.  However, it didn’t take many messages from these unbiased observers to convince me otherwise.  I needed to find someone to drive me around the country during my short Filipino visit.

 

 

 

I had to get home in time to eat some turkey. 

I was concerned about getting home from the Philippines.  I hoped to return the Monday before Thanksgiving.  You all know that the heaviest airline traffic of the entire year surrounds this holiday.  What if I couldn’t make it back for Thanksgiving?  What if?  You can’t run your life based upon the fear of “what if”.

 

 

My primary concern was GETTING to the Philippines to see a race.  Once that was done I would worry about getting home.  Surely I wouldn’t be stranded in the Philippines over Thanksgiving. Surely.

 

 

I have to react when I come to the proverbial fork in the road. 

It gets dark early in Seoul, Korea during this part of the year.  It was Friday night.  Christmas decorations are up in the airport.  It seemed funny to be hearing “Jingle Bells” such a long way from home while I had a “seafood with cream spaghetti dinner”.  The restaurant was on the second level in terminal three of the Incheon International Airport.  This airport is right up there with those in Bangkok, Tokyo and Hong Kong for best ever. In fact, the Incheon airport has been voted “the best” airport a few times since it opened in 2001.   See “World’s Top 10 Airports”.  By the way, there are no American airports ranked in the world’s top ten.

 

 

I had two airlines, Asisania Airlines and Korean Airlines that might take me to Manila tonight.  Both planes were overbooked.  They also departed within 15 minutes of each other.  I had nothing to lose.  I put my name on both “wait lists” and came back at the time I was directed.

 

 

 

Jackpot! 

Jackpot!  Asiana had a seat for me.  I would be getting to Manila tonight exactly one day ahead of my original schedule. If I KNEW I could have made this flight TOMORROW night we could have gone to the football game in Seattle. However, I never know in advance which flights I will make.  I had to come a “day early” to increase my odds of getting here in time to see racing in country #49.

 

 

On Thursday morning, I was on the plane for three hours due to a fog delay in Orange County and then a FLOW delay in San Francisco.  My next flight had been a 12-hour one-way shot from San Francisco to Seoul, South Korean. Now I was flying another 3 ½ hours from Seoul to Manila.  Folks, that’s a lot of airplane riding.

 

 

The flight to Manila was uneventful and almost seemed quick.  I had heard good things about Asiana Airlines.  Despite an 8 p.m. departure, they served us dinner.  Foreign airlines frequently offer more service than their American brethren.  Since it was about 3 a.m. California time I slept most of the way.

 

 

 

Everyone had a different lifestyle. 

I did sit next to a Korean woman who was the only other passenger flying standby.  Her American name was “Susan”.  She lives in Seoul as a high school English teacher.  Her husband works for the airlines in Manila.  They only see each other once a month and this was their “weekend”.

 

 

Susan reviewed my touring plan for Seoul planned for my return on Monday morning.  I got the plan from Tripadvisor.com.  Folks, I rarely come up with my own plan for just about anything. I am pretty good at taking other people’s ideas and modifying them to my own tastes though.  I find I can get so much more done by using other people’s ideas on any number of subjects.  As luck would have it, Susan was scheduled to be on my midnight return flight to Seoul on late Sunday/early Monday morning.  She volunteered to help me get on the right bus to downtown Seoul.  It pays to keep one’s ears and eyes open.

 

 

 

I slept through this test. 

However, I must have had my eyes shut when they handed out the customs paperwork on tonight’s flight.  I didn’t get any.  Susan and I were in line waiting to clear the Philippines passport control when I noticed by deficit.  Oh, my. I scurried about to get the right paperwork while Susan kept my luggage moving forward in the line.

 

 

The wait at passport control was about ten minutes. That’s about as long as I’ve waited in recent memory.  Once we were in the baggage claim area Susan went her way and I went mine.  Manila had “free Wi-Fi” in the airport.  I like that.

 

 

 

Communication is not as convenient in foreign countries but it is still doable. 

I used the Wi-Fi airport connection to use my iPhone.  I can make international phone calls with my iPhone using the “TruPhone” app.  I did just that to call “Roger’s Hotel”. I had a reservation with them (recommended by TripAdvisor) for TOMORROW night.  The woman I spoke with didn’t speak much English.  She wanted to know where I was in the airport and I didn’t know. I told her I would call back with more information.

 

 

 

What’s a ‘transit’ room. 

In the meantime, an airport official had mentioned something about “transit rooms”. I would learn that these were small “hotel type rooms” that were available for passengers who were “transiting” or connecting through Manila overnight.

 

 

Although I was not technically a transit passenger, I figured a room like this might fit the bill.  It was midnight.  I didn’t need to be scouting out a motel room if there was one right INSIDE the airport. I inquired further.  I would have to walk back into the secure area of the airport where I had just left before clearing passport control.  With some maneuvering I did that.

 

 

I was soon being exposed to a “day” room.  I don’t know why they call it that because you can use the room at night too.  In terms of size my room would be similar to the “capsule” hotel I had stayed at in Japan.  The rooms were inexpensive.  One night’s rental was just $19.30 U.S.  I couldn’t beat that!

 

 

 

This ‘hotel’ room was tiny! 

The room was small.  No, it was tiny.  It was about half the size of my college dormitory room when I was a freshman.  Of course I shared THAT room with Chuck Lizak. Tonight’s room was exactly five feet wide and eight feet long.  The bathroom and shower were down the hall.

 

 

The room did have a large window that faced out to the airport’s tarmac.  Although the room was small, it fit the bill given the time of night and the price. It was terrifically convenient.

 

 

I was in Manila.  I was in Manila a day ahead of time.  This would give me a full day of touring here.  That would be great.  Then on Sunday morning, as per the original plan, my race contact would have me picked up at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning for the drive out to the Batangas Racing Circuit.  If all of that went according to plan then country #49 would be in the books.  I’ll tell you if that happened in Part 2 of my Philippines Trackchaser Report.

 

 

 

SATURDAY – DAY 3

 

 

I loved my ‘transit’ room. 

My small (8’ x 5’) “transit” room at the airport worked out perfectly.  I had not arrived until nearly midnight. Therefore, other than sleeping, I didn’t need the “ambience” of a nice hotel room on this evening.  The price was right (less than $20 U.S.) and the place was quiet.

 

 

The bathroom and shower were “down the hall”.  Hotel rooms without baths are popular in Europe.  I guess they are here as well.  I would definitely stay in a transit room again if I had the chance.

 

 

 

Where did all the people go? 

Last night about 300 of my Filipino friends and I had cleared customs from our late night flight.  It was a zoo in many ways.  Today when I walked out of the transit hotel, there was NO ONE clearing customs.  As a matter of fact there were no customs officials whatsoever!  That was going to be problematic.

 

 

It was 8 a.m. and a beautifully sunny day. I wanted to enjoy Manila. However, I might not be able to get from the transit hotel INTO Manila.  I felt like Tom Hanks in the movie “The Terminal”. If you’ve seen that film you know Tom was in the airport but couldn’t get into the country.  Fortunately, I talked a security guard into “letting me into Manila”.  Then without any paperwork whatsoever I simply “walked past” the duty declaration guards.  Carol would have been impressed but with a healthy dose of skepticism.

 

 

 

Every Filipino I met was extremely nice. 

The more I traveled today the more I noticed how truly nice the Filipino population is.  Everywhere I turned they were going out of their way to be helpful.  The taxi drivers were very friendly and real hustlers. My first driver was “Victor”.  He took me from the airport to my hotel in Pasay City.  The 10-minute ride cost just $5 U.S.

 

 

Manila:  Night #2. 

I would be staying at “Roger’s Place” (Rogers Place Hotel) on Saturday night. This hotel was recommended at Tripadvisor.com.  I had contacted the hotel a few days ago.  They emailed back that I had a room.  Of course, there was no confirmation number, no advance payment, no nothing.  They just said “show up” and I would get me room.  Even I was skeptical on that one.

 

 

The room rate was about $40 U.S.  The room was small, not as small as my transit room but it was tiny.  This was the first hotel I’ve ever stayed where the room’s door would not open fully because the bed was in the way!  Oh, my. This room is about 8’ by 10’. Like last night the bathroom is “down the hall”.  That saved me about $20 U.S.  I don’t mind that minor inconvenience.  I’m leaving tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. so I don’t think there will be a huge crowd using the shower then.

 

 

 

I would try to ‘Hop on Hop off’ bus. 

My early morning plan was to take the “Hop on Hop off” bus.  I’ve used this type of transportation in many large foreign cities. Normally, on tours like this, there will be 10-20 stops where I can jump off the bus to look around.  Then, within 20-30 minutes another bus will come by and I “jump back on”.

 

 

 

Would they do this in New York? 

Victor, my airport taxi driver, had waited for me so he could drive me to the “Mall of Asia”. There I would get the “Hop on, Hop off” bus.  The hotel wanted 350 Philippine pesos to make that short trip.  Victor did it for 150 pesos.  When we got to the mall I had only large denomination bills of 1,000 pesos.  I also had 120 pesos in small bills.  Victor couldn’t change the big bills and agreed, with a smile on his face, to accept 30 pesos less than we had agreed on.  I couldn’t let that happen.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out some U.S. cash to more than make up for my peso shortfall.   

 

 

Tomorrow I have a ride from Manila to Batangas. The fee is 8,000 pesos.  That’s about $184 U.S.  Although that might sound high, a rental car was going to be about $70-80 U.S. for the day.  By the time I added in gasoline and tolls as well as the traffic hassle that I would not have to navigate through I was willing to accept this price.

 

 

 

Commitments are important. 

However, my friends at Tripadvisor.com thought I was paying too much.  The race organizer had a friend who had provided the 8,000 peso bid.  Victor, my new cab-driving friend offered to do this drive for 5,000.  Victor was such a nice guy I really wanted to give him the business.  However, I had made a commitment for the 8,000 peso ride. It would not have been right to renege on that deal at this late date (less than 24 hours).

 

 

 

I love dim sum. 

Breakfast was to be “dim sum” at “David’s Tea House” (David’s Tea House) in the Mall of Asia (Mall of Asia)  This mall is huge.  It’s the fourth biggest mall in the world.  We were in the largest world mall, in Dubai.  There had to be more than 50 restaurants in the Mall of Asia if there’s one.  I love eating dim sum.  We’ve got a special place in Los Angeles that serves authentic Chinese dim sum.  Of course, dim sum is normally served only through the noon hour.  Growing up in East Peoria, Illinois I had never HEARD of dim sum.  Don’t miss the photos.

 

 

 

The ‘Hop on Hop off’ bus was not what I expected. 

The “Hop on, Hop off” bus (Manila transportation) was a bit of a disappointment.  First of all, it was not a bus.  It was an older van.  Every other time I’ve used this approach the buses have been double-deckers off with an “open-air” top deck.  I grabbed a seat across from the driver.  At least from that position I could get some good pictures.

 

 

My plan was to ride the van “one complete lap” around Manila.  That way I could become familiar with each stop.  On the second lap I would get off at two or three points that seemed interesting.  The weather was hot and humid.  The van’s air-conditioning system had seen better days.  The driver’s English was not the best.  The all-day fee was a reasonable $12 U.S. but the product wasn’t good. 

 

 

Doing “one lap” around the city lasted about two hours.  I took some pictures.  However, there wasn’t a single stop that looked like it was worth battling the heat for. When I completed my one lap I returned to the Mall of Asia for the balance of the day.

 

 

 

It was time for a late lunch. 

Large foreign malls have absolutely huge “food courts”.  I’ve seen some with more than 50 outlets.  Today the food court alone had 15 restaurants.  They were serving some of the most unusual and local food possible. Most of this stuff was exotic. There were no American fast food places to be found in this food court.  Don’t miss the pictures.  They’ll give you a great idea what local choices were offered.

 

 

 

I’ve never seen so many people in a shopping mall. 

The Mall of Asia was absolutely jam-packed with shoppers.  One of my Filipino contacts told me the Filipinos enjoy going to the mall because it’s air-conditioned!  The Filipino shopping mall population appears to be very young.  It seemed like almost everyone was under 30 years of age.  I scouted out some shopping opportunities for the folks back home.  I got the twins a great gift of wooden puzzles.  I think they’re getting old enough for this.  It’s nice to be able to buy them something other than a t-shirt.

 

 

 

Harry Potter or ….Harry Potter. 

It was only mid-afternoon.  I didn’t want to go back to an 8’ by 10’ hotel room. There didn’t seem to be much touring wise going on in and around Manila especially in the heat of the day.  I figured I would take in a movie at the mall. The mall has seven movie screens.

 

 

However, EACH one was playing the new Harry Potter movie.  How unusual is it to have the same movie on all of a theatre’s seven screens?  By the way, I am NOT a Harry Potter fan.  Carol and I have seen some of the previous HP versions.  I always come out of the movie asking Carol what happened.  No, I don’t like this movie genre at all.

 

 

Nevertheless, I figured the movie theater would be cool and would take up 2-3 hours of my time.  There was even a 3D IMAX version of Harry Potter.  However that venue was sold out until the 11 p.m. showing.  I would be asleep by the time that movie started playing.  Truth be told, I slept through much of the HP movie I did see on the traditional screen. Now I know I can’t follow these stories whether I sleep through the show or not!  The only saving grace for me is that this is supposed to be the last Harry Potter movie of the series.

 

 

 

Fireworks, sleep and then a big day tomorrow. 

I finished off the evening with a fine fireworks show.  Just outside the mall, and over the water, I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Manila during the Christmas season.  Despite the sun having set it was still above 80 degrees.

 

 

Tomorrow’s the big day.  It’s race day in a foreign country.  That’s always a big trackchasing day for me.  It’s only happened 47 times before (do the math) so I can’t wait!

 

 

To be continued………………….

 

 

Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,

 

Randy Lewis

World’s #1 Trackchaser

Filipino saying:  The prepared beats the hard working person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 4 & 5 – “WHEN WILL THIS STOP?” TRACKCHASING TOUR (part 2 of 2)

 

 

 

 

PHILIPPINES – PART 2

 

 

 

Greeting from Bantagas, Philippines

 

 

 

THE COUNTRY LIST

 

#49!!

 

 

 

 

RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Lifetime Trackchasing Countries

 

 

 

# 1 – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA– Peoria Speedway (Mt. Hawley, oval) – Track #1, Peoria, Illinois – circa 1954 (age 5)

 

 

# 2 – CANADA- Cayuga Speedway (oval) – Track #174, Nelles Corner, Ontario, Canada – July 31, 1988 (Dick Trickle winner)

 

 

# 3 – AUSTRALIA– Parramatta City Raceway (oval) – Track #180, Granville, New South Wales, Australia – November 17, 1989 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 4 – UNITED KINGDOM– Northhampton International Raceway (oval) – Track #378, Northhampton – June 26, 1999 (accompanied by Carol, Kristy, Jim)

 

 

# 5 – NETHERLANDS– Driesum Racetrack (oval) – Track #839, Driesum – May 5, 2005 (accompanied by Roland Vanden Eynde)

 

 

# 6 – BELGIUM– Bellekouter oval (oval) – Track #841, Affligem – May 8, 2005 (accompanied by Roland Vanden Eynde)

 

 

# 7 – FRANCE– Circuit de Croix en Ternois (road course) – Track #843, Saint-Pol sur-Ternoise – May 8, 2005 (accompanied by Roland Vanden Eynde – 2ndnew country in one day!)

 

 

# 8 – GERMANY– Nurburgring (road course) – Track #844, Nurburg – May 13, 2005 (accompanied by Carol, Roland Vanden Eynde)

 

 

# 9 – NEW ZEALAND– Western Springs Speedway (oval) – Track #1,134, Western Springs – December 26, 2006 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 10 – MEXICO– Triovalo Bernardo Obregon (oval) – Track #1,281, Tiajamulco de Zuniga, Jalisco – October 14, 2007 (accompanied by Carol, J.J., Roger Ward)

 

# 11 – BARBADOS– Bushy Park Racing Circuit (road course) – Track #1,296, Bushy Park – December 9, 2007

 

 

# 12 – THAILAND– Bira Circuit (road course) – Track #1,300, Pattaya – January 19, 2008

 

 

# 13 – SOUTH AFRICA– Durban Grand Prix (road course) – Track #1,315, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal – February 24, 2008 (accompanied by J.J. and Will Van Horne)

 

 

# 14 – JAMAICA– Dover Raceway (road course) – Track #1,322, Brown’s Town St. Ann – March 24, 2008

 

 

# 15 – SWEDEN– Sturup Raceway (road course) – Track #1,335, Malmo – May 10, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 16 – DENMARK– Ring Djursland (road course) – Track #1,336, Tirstrup – May 11, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 17 – CZECH REPUBLIC– Automotodrome BRNO (road course) – Track #1,381, Brno – September 13, 2008

 

 

# 18 – AUSTRIA– Lambrechten Stock Car Track (road course) – Track #1,382, Lambrechten – September 14, 2008

 

 

# 19 – IRELAND– Tipperary International Raceway (oval) – Track #1,388, Rosegreen – October 26, 2008 (Carol and I visited this track earlier in the year)

 

 

# 20 – GUYANA– South Dakota Circuit (road course) – Track #1,390, Timehri – November 2, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 21 – CHINA– The Guia Circuit (road course) – Track #1,392, Macau – November 16, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 22 – COSTA RICA– Autodromo La Guacima (road course) – Track #1,398, La Guacima – November 30, 2008

 

 

# 23 – ANDORRA– Grandvalira Circuit (road course) – Track #1,404, Port d’Envalira, Andorra – January 17, 2009

 

 

# 24 – ARGENTINA– Circuito Efren Chemolli (oval) – Track #1,406, Buenos Aires, Argentina – January 31, 2009 (shared with Jerry Fisher)

 

# 25 – QATAR– Losail International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,408, Doha, Qatar – February 13, 2009

 

 

# 26 – BAHRAIN– Bahrain International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,410, Sakhir, Bahrain – February 27, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 27 – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES– Dubai Autodrome (road course) – Track #1,411, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – February 28, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 28 – COLOMBIA– Autodromo de Tocancipa (road course) – Track #1,415, Tocancipa, Colombia – March 22, 2009

 

 

# 29 – SPAIN– Motorland Aragon (road course) – Track #1,416, Alcaniz, Spain – March 28, 2009

 

 

# 30 – PORTUGAL– Circuto de Murca (road course) – Track #1,417, Murca, Portugal – March 29, 2009

 

 

# 31 – ICELAND– Kapelluhraum (road course) – Track #1,420, Hafnafjorour, Iceland – April 25, 2009 (shared with Will White)

 

 

# 32 – HUNGARY– Hungaroring (road course) – Track #1,426, Mogyorod, Hungary – May 8, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 33 – SWITZERLAND– Hock Ybrig (road course) – Track #1,427, Hoch Ybrig, Switzerland – May 9, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 34 – ITALY– Vighizzolo d’Este Stock Car Track (road course) – Track #1,428, Vighizzolo d’Este, Italy – May 10, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 35 – DOMINICAN REPUBLIC– Autodromo Mobil 1 (road course) – Track #1,515, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – December 6, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

 

# 36 – MALTA– Ta’Qali Race Track (road course) – Track #1,521, Ta’Qali, Malta – February 7, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 37 – FINLAND– Lake Pidisjarvi Ice Track (road course) – Track #1,524, Nivala, Finland – February 20, 2010

 

 

# 38 – JAPAN– Suzuka Circuit (road course) – Track #1,530, Suzuka, Japan – March 21, 2010

 

 

 

# 39 – CHILE– Autodromo de Interlomas (road course) – Track #1,531, Temuco, Chile – April 18, 2010

 

 

# 40 – MOROCCO– Circuit de Marrakesh (road course) – Track #1,535, Marrakesh, Morocco – May 1, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 41 – BRAZIL– Circuit de Caruaru – Aryten Senna (road course) – Track #1,540, Caruaru, Brazil – May 16, 2010 (accompanied by Carol, Jerry Fisher and Katina Spencer)

 

 

# 42 – ESTONIA– Laitse Rally Park (road course) – Track #1,571, Laitse, Estonia – July 24, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 43 – LATVIA– Bikernieki (road course) – Track #1,572, Riga, Latvia – July 25, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

 

# 44 – GUATEMALA– Autodromo Pedro Cofino (road course) – Track #1,580, Alotenango, Guatemala – August 15, 2010

 

 

 

# 45 – EL SALVADOR– El Jabali (road course) – Track #1,582, Quezaltepeque, El Salvador – August 22, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 46 – ROMANIA– Bradu (road course) – Track #1,603, Bradu, Romania, El Salvador – October 16, 2010

 

 

 

# 47 – BULGARIA– Closed Route – Burgas (road course) – Track #1,604, Burgas, Bulgaria – October 17, 2010 (accompanied by Lyubomir and Plamen Simeonov)

 

 

# 48 – SOUTH KOREA– Korea International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,605, Yeongam, Jeollanam-Do, South Korea – October 24, 2010

 

 

# 49 – PHILIPPINES– Batangas Racing Circuit (road course) – Track #1,608, Batangas, Philippines – November 21, 2010

 

 

 

 

The ‘International Big 5’ standings. 

During the last 38 months, I have added 40 trackchasing countries to my list.  That’s an average of just over one new country every month for more than three years.

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California USA – 49
  2. Roland Vanden Eynde, Vilvoorde, Belgium – 46
  3. Carol Lewis, San Clemente, California USA – 27
  4. Will White, Quakertown, Pennsylvania USA – 23
  5. Chris Economaki, Charlotte, North Carolina USA – 20

 

 

 

 

I surpassed even my own expectations this year. 

Obviously, I’ve been doing a good bit of international trackchasing. This year I have seen racing in 17 different countries.  Fourteen of those were first time visits.  My country trackchasing total now stands at 49.  I’ve identified about 20 more countries where I could trackchase.  Some are more off the beaten path than others. Heck, some of the places I’ve already been are way off the beaten path!  I figure I’ve got another good two years of international trackchasing before I slow down in that important trackchasing category.

 

 

 

TODAY’S HEADLINES

 

I made the right contacts in the Philippines..…………..Details in “The trip – Sunday – Day 4”.

 

 

What’s a ‘jeepney’ or ‘tricycle’?……………….more in “The Trip – Sunday – Day 4”.

 

 

You wouldn’t believe where I stopped for lunch in South Korea………………more in “The Trip – Monday –Day 5”.

 

 

 

THE OBJECTIVE, THE TRIP, THE PEOPLE…AND A WHOLE LOT MORE

 

 

The Objective

 

 

A visit to the Philippines supported two of my core trackchasing objectives.

The three most important trackchasing categories for me, in order of importance, are:

 

  1. Lifetime tracks seen
  2. Lifetime National Geographic Diversity standings
  3. Total trackchasing countries seen

 

All of my trackchasing activities are oriented toward supporting one or more of these important categories.

 

 

 

The Trip

 

 

SUNDAY – DAY 4

 

 

The most important day of the trip: Race day. 

Today was the big day.  It was RACE day.  If all went well I would see racing in my 49thdifferent country.  At this stage adding new countries gets a little more difficult every time out.

 

 

My day started with a wake-up call at 4:35 a.m. My hotel room did not have a bathroom. That would have been an extra cost. As a small independent trackchasing team operating out of the sleepy little seaside village of San Clemente, California I have to save wherever I can.  However, at this time of day, I didn’t think I would have to fight anyone for the single shower that was located about 75 feet from my room.  I didn’t.

 

 

 

I made the right contacts in the Philippines. 

My main Filipino contact was Mark Desales. Mark is one of the race organizers for AAP, the Automobile Association of the Philippines.  He was very efficient and helpful in my getting this trip organized. 

 

 

It was with Mark that I confirmed the details of this race.  I would be seeing the Philippines Tour Car Championship (Philippines Touring Car Championship) racing event.  I mentioned to Mark that I had to be on time for the races.  Then I asked his what time I had to leave my hotel on Sunday morning.  His response was “five o’clock”.  Ouch!  I guess if you don’t like the answer to a question, you shouldn’t ask the question.

 

 

Therefore, I was scheduled to meet my driver at 5 a.m. I was down in the lobby precisely at five o’clock.  My driver was just a few minutes late.  He was driving a nearly new van with air-conditioning.  With the heat and humidity of the Philippines that was important.

 

 

 

I owed the money; I just didn’t have the money. 

As soon as we boarded the van, my driver handed me an invoice.  He explained, in broken English, that I needed to pay a 50% deposit in advance. I didn’t have it!  Well, I had the money just not in the currency my driver wanted.  I was hoping to pay in U.S. dollars, which are accepted in many Filipino locations. However, my driver wouldn’t take U.S. dollars.  He mentioned something about gasoline.  It was my impression that both tolls and gasoline were included in the price for his services.

 

 

A short time later it dawned on me that part of the 50% down payment would be needed for enough gas to get us to the track. I looked over at the gas gauge. Near empty!  I did have 25% of the total fee in Filipino pesos.  I gave that to the driver and we pulled into a “Caltex” gas station.  Then off we went to the Batangas region (one of sixteen Filipino regions).  The entire drive took nearly three hours.  The sun came up during the last hour of the drive.

 

 

 

My Filipino friends at TripAdvisor.com had some advice for me:  Don’t do it! 

As I was planning this trip, I had asked my friends over at Tripadvisor.com whether it was a good idea or not to drive myself.  Here is a sliver of the feedback I received.

 

 

“I would not advise any non-Filipino to drive in the Philippines (and not just there, but generally in Asia.)  If you do have a collision, you may be blamed irrespective as to the true cause.  You may be viewed as a “money tree.”  Bottom line:  hire a local to driver.  This gives him employment and delivers peace of mind to you the visitor.  Let the driver deal with the traffic police.”

 

 

“Personally I wouldn’t drive myself, in Manila anyway.  To most Filipinos road rules are just guide lines, only to be followed if a traffic enforcer is watching.  Also, in the event of an accident, you will probably be deemed at fault, even if you are not, because you are a rich foreigner.  I was reading online of the results of several court actions between Filipinos and foreigners in regard to motor vehicle accidents.  In at least 2 court cases, where the foreigner was not at fault, the judge sided with the Filipino saying there would have been no accidents if the foreigner had not been in the Philippines”.

 

 

I like to take good advice.  This seemed like good advice.  I used my contacts on the ground to reserve a driver for me before I ever arrived.

 

 

 

I wish you could come with me. 

I wish everyone reading this could go on just one of these trips with me.  They are exciting.  Sometimes there is an element of danger.  Often times I’m not sure what is going to happen next.  Here we were flying down a darkened city street in Manila at five o’clock in the morning.  By the way, Manila is the most densely populated city (Most densely populated city in the world) in the world.  Even at five in the morning the city was teeming with activity. Heck, this was Sunday morning! What did all of these people need to be doing at 5 a.m. on Sunday?

 

 

I was hoping we could stop somewhere for breakfast.  We did see several McDonalds along our route.  However, I did not fly 18 hours to the Philippines to eat at Mickey Ds. We did pass a few Jollibee’s (What’s a Jollibee?).  This is the #1 fast food chain in the Philippines.  However, each one we passed was closed.  When my driver stopped to make a phone call, I quickly picked up a couple of pastries at a local bakery.  Then we were off again.

 

 

  

Our drive let me see nearly everything. 

The first part of our drive had us getting out of Manila.  The second of three parts found us on a toll road out in the countryside.  By the time the sun was rising we were back in city/small town traffic heading toward the track.  Remember, just 14% of the roads in the Philippines are paved.

 

 

 

I saw plenty of jeepneys and tricycles. 

In the small towns, the “jeepney” (What’s a Jeepney?) moves people around.  There was also a heavy presence of Filipino “tricycles” (What’s a tricycle?). Check out these links to learn more about these unusual but effective pieces of transportation.

 

 

At just before 8 a.m. we pulled into the Batangas Racing Circuit (Batangas Racing Circuit). This would be the site of my 1,608thlifetime track located in 49 different countries.  My contacts told me the track was constructed in about 1995 and held a Formula 3 race during the past five years.

 

 

 

The cheapest race ticket I had ever bought. 

When we arrived, a ticket seller immediately approached us and demanded 50 Filipino pesos “per head”.  I noticed they used the “per head” phrase rather than “per person” several times during this visit.  Fifty pesos are about $1.15 U.S.  At my last foreign trackchasing visit in South Korea I paid $200 U.S. for my ticket. That was the most I had ever shelled out to get into a race.  Other that where admission has been free today had to be the cheapest race track admission I have EVER paid.

 

 

Although the weather forecast called for a 60% chance of rain, it never rained all day.  The weather was both hot (upper 80s) and humid.  However, in the shade the breeze made things feel quite comfortable.

 

 

 

My Filipino friends gave me the V.I.P. treatment. 

Just after I arrived, I ran into my contact, Mark. He would insure I received “V.I.P.” treatment all day.  First he took me into the race control room.  Here I met several other important race officials. English is spoken as a second language in the Philippines.  It was great for me that each of the people I met today spoke English very well. During my seven hours at the track I had several in depth conversations with these fine folks.

 

 

I had full run of the place.  I spent some time sitting in the track’s grandstand. This type of racing appears to be similar to SCCA racing in the states.  Today wasn’t much of a spectator event.  There were less than ten people in the grandstands.  However, I did have a good time with four little Filipino kids.  I must have looked like the “great white hunter” to them.

 

 

 

A ride in the pace car. 

I wish I had thought to write down the names of everyone I met.  I’m sorry, but I didn’t.  The highest ranking Filipino racing official in the country was at today’s race.  He took me on a ride around the circuit’s layout in the pace car.  That was fun. You can see how that went by viewing the YouTube movie of today’s action.  As always try to view it with “full screen” and keep the volume up.

 

 

 

What’s to eat? 

By the time I reached the track, I realized I had not had much to eat.  The track’s concessions were somewhat limited.  There was a hamburger/hot dog stand and a stand selling drinks and salty snacks.  Yes, “salty snacks” is the official business term to describe the sales of potato chips, tortilla chips, etc.

 

 

 

Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

I went with a cheeseburger for 40 pesos. That’s less than a dollar U.S. They say “you get what you pay for”.  I don’t think I have ever seen a thinner hamburger in my life.  Feel the width of about five pieces of typing paper together and you’ll know the thickness of today’s burger.  Nevertheless, it was cooked fresh off the grill with the buns slightly toasted just like I cook them back home.

 

 

Later, on the foreign cuisine front I was rescued. I was invited to join race officials and drivers for a beautiful and delicious buffet lunch in one of the track suites.  The food was good but the conversation was better.  I had several minutes to learn more about Filipino lifestyles and values. In the end, I value these conversations the most.

 

 

 

This was a good track to watch road racing at. 

The racing was good.  Today’s event had started off with qualifying.  There were two race groups based upon engine size and driver experience.  The less experienced group brought 11 cars for their two races.  The higher power cars had six in their division.

 

 

I enjoy road racing when I can see all or nearly all of the track.  Today I could do that.  That isn’t much elevation change at the Batangas Racing Circuit.  However, the viewing areas are elevated.  The BRC sits in the shadow of a large mostly dormant volcano.  It’s a beautiful sight.

 

 

Racing went from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a break for lunch.  There was one American driver who won both of his races in a Chevy.  I didn’t get a chance to meet him.  He did qualify fastest and lead each race from the pole. I would have liked to have seen them invert the field for the second race based upon the first race finish.

 

 

 

The track officials from the PTCC group were great. 

For the final race, I sat up in the V.I.P./scoring tower.  It’s up here where a fan can see what it takes to make the races work.  There were plenty of computers, scoring monitors and the like.  This was also a wonderfully elevated position where I could see 90% of the track.

 

 

I had a nice interview with today’s announcer. All announcements were done in English. The track announcer did a very nice job of “calling” the races.  It was fun learning more about the operation from my primary contact, Mark as well as “June” the race director. I could not have asked for more support than everyone at the track provided today.  Thank you!

  

 

It was time to head home……

 

 

 

It’s a cultural experience to make these three hour drives in foreign places. 

When it was time to leave I found my driver waiting for me at the van.  He didn’t speak much English.  That was O.K. I was tired from getting up so early and being out in the sun all day.  The scenery as we drove along in the rural areas of the Philippines and then Manila was outstanding.

 

 

Traffic in Manila is heavy.  I live in the Los Angeles area so I feel qualified to make that statement.  I was glad I wasn’t driving.  Manila has a population of 20 million people. We stayed on the main road getting back to the city.  However, I could catch glimpses of several slums where folks lived in nothing more than ramshackle housing.  I can only imagine what those areas were like after dark.  We crossed a bridge over one river that had more debris (paper/bottles/trash) floating on the surface than I had ever seen before.

 

 

 

I had to pay up at last. 

We arrived back into Manila at about 8 p.m. My flight would not be leaving until 12:30 a.m.  I figured the best place to hang out for most of that time would be the gigantic Mall of Asia.  There was one really big reason I had to stop there.  I still owed my driver 6,000 pesos!

 

 

Our area malls get really busy during the Christmas season.  However, I have never seen a shopping mall with as many people roaming around as today’s shopping area.  My driver “drove around the block” a time or two while I scouted out an ATM to get the pesos I needed.  He had my stuff so he didn’t have to worry about me making a “run for it”.  When he was paid I went back in and had another dinner of Chinese dim sum at “David’s Tea House”.

 

 

 

I would be traveling for the next 25-30 hours. 

A little bit later it was time to head to the airport.  My day had started at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning.  I had traveled 6-7 hours by van getting to and from the track.  I had been at the track for another 7-8 hours. Now I would be flying overnight from Manila to Seoul, South Korea.  It was a busy day!  Monday would not be any less busy.

 

 

 

MONDAY – DAY 5

 

 

I got a good deal on my hotels.  

I will tell you this.  My travel schedule is the most unusual of anyone in this hobby by a factor of several.  This is day five of the trip.  My hotel expense has been kept in check.  I’ve spent only $60 on hotels.  That’s right! This five day/four night Asian vacation has averaged just $15 per night for hotels.

 

 

Of course, two of those nights were spent on airplanes.  The other two were at budget locations with a “bathroom down the hall”.  Each hotel I did use was clean, quiet and safe (as far as I knew).  In fact one of my hotel nights was spent INSIDE the security of an international airport.  I don’t think you can get much more secure than that.

 

 

 

I really don’t spend that much money doing this (at least that’s what I tell Carol). 

I know you may think I exaggerate when I tell you I spend so much less than those big East Coast trackchasing teams.  It’s not an exaggeration.  I DO spend less.  Of course, I get a lot more for the money as my travel itineraries attest too.

 

 

This year I’ve seen racing in 17 different countries and 30 of the United States.  My objective at the beginning of the year was to “cut back”.  Believe it or not, I have!  As an example, in 2006 I trackchased some 115 days.  This year I will likely top out at 78-79 days.

 

 

 

Each year I spend less money! 

Each year since 2006 (when I first started keeping these detailed expense records) I have spent less and less.  Despite so much international travel this year (about 250,000 miles of total travel) I will end up spending about 50% of what I did in 2006.  I find that amazing!  If cost savings are one way to wealth, I should be rich by now!

 

 

 

My third entrance into South Korea in a month or so. 

This morning I landed at the Incheon International Airport (Seoul, South Korea) from Manila in the Philippines at 5 a.m.  I found one thing about today’s entry into Korea truly surprising to me.  During the first nearly 62 years of my life I had never set foot in South Korea.  Now, in the past month, I have entered the customs control area of Korea three separate times.

 

 

For the second time on this trip I have slept on a plane overnight. Yes, this can be a cost control method. However, it’s really the height of efficiency as well.  This way I don’t have to “waste” my time traveling long distance during the day.  I travel while I sleep!

 

 

Of course, any time you “multi-task” some attention to detail is lost.  Sleeping in an airline seat is not exactly like sleeping back home on the Tempurpedic.  Last night’s flight was in a coach seat.  The flight’s distance (Manila-Seoul – 1,622 miles) was similar to flying from Los Angeles to Chicago.  Flights of that distance are considered “warm-ups” by me.

 

 

 

I love the Incheon airport. 

The Incheon airport is one of the best I’ve ever used.  However, like most there isn’t much happening at 5 a.m. I was actually “connecting” in Seoul on my way home to sunny Southern California. However I use the word “connecting” loosely.  My next flight, to San Francisco, would not leave for another 14 hours.  That meant I had 14 hours to tour.  Of course, after flying overnight I was a little bit less enthusiastic about having a 14-hour layover.

 

 

Clearing Korean customs was easy.  My plan for the day was to ride the bus into downtown Seoul. However, I didn’t need to be down there at 6 a.m.  One of the nice things this airport has is seats in the terminal that passengers can lay down on and sleep.  Most airport terminal chairs were designed by a diabolical individual who was/is against passengers using those chairs to sleep on.  Not true at Incheon. 

 

 

 

I had my own security system. 

I used my computer cable security lock to connect my computer, computer bag, camera, camera bag and small clothing duffle bag together. Then I used the duffle bag as my pillow. I have to use the few resources I have in order to assure my personal comfort and security.

 

 

I camped out just across from the Dunkin’ Donuts store.  I kept a wary eye of this store waiting for them to open up.  Finally, I just decided to go to sleep.  They would likely be open when I awoke.  At 7:20 a.m. I woke up and they were selling donuts.  Soon thereafter I was dunking donuts in a hot chocolate cup!  Soon after that I was sending a video of this activity to Carol and the kids.  No, when I was in high school I never could have imagined any of this.

 

 

I had not showered or shaved since Saturday afternoon, California time.  It looked at if I would not shower or shave any sooner than Monday night with my current plan.  I guess it’s all part of the “efficiency” movement.

 

 

  

I had a plan to tour Seoul, South Korea. 

My South Korean friends at TripAdvisor.com had provided me with an entertainment activity plan for the day.  If you travel and don’t use TripAdvisor.com you should do one of two things.  Stop traveling or use TripAdvisor!  I get almost all my ideas from OTHER people.  They have the best ones.

 

 

The travel highlight of Seoul was recommended to be the “National Palace of Korea”.  I would head there.  The bus system in Korea and from the Incheon airport rocks.  I have never used better.

 

 

I paid some 10,000 South Korean “won” for the one hour 15 minutes one-way ride.  No, I wasn’t spending a lot of money.  That’s only about $8.90 U.S.  Doesn’t that seem cheap for a ride of that length?  They use ultra-modern buses complete with live satellite TV.  I’ve now ridden these buses a few times and they have never been as much as half full.

 

 

Today’s weather is “fallish”. That translates to about 50 degrees with bright sunshine.  Despite knowing the low temperature in the Philippines would never drop below 75 degrees or so I brought layered clothing for todays’ Seoul tour.

 

 

I missed the bus stop for the palace.  Not to worry I got off at the next stop and simply walked around the area to see what I could see.  Unless I am in jeopardy of missing seeing a track on these trips a “diversion” is simply an excuse to see more stuff.

 

 

  

My #1 tourist stop would be the National Palace Museum of Korea. 

When it was time I took a taxi for the short ride over to the National Palace Museum of Korea.  My driver didn’t speak much English.  It was a challenge getting his to take me where I wanted to go even though I had a map to show the location.  The short ride cost only about four dollars.

 

 

You can click on this link to learn more about the palace (National Palace Museum of Korea).  As a Trackchasing Tourist Attraction it was only O.K.  The highlight was seeing the changing of the guard.  Otherwise there were no buildings I could actually enter. Tourists used the huge grounds to look at the temple-like buildings from the outside.

 

 

Also on the ground is the Korean National Folk Museum.  I breezed through this place quickly.  With little sleep last night this place seemed a bit to sedate for me.

 

 

 

You wouldn’t believe my next stop; I didn’t. 

When I travel internationally I like to challenge myself to try local foods.  In a place like South Korea, that challenge can be almost more than I feel like taking. I noticed a sign that read “Traditional Korean Restaurant”.  I was up for that.  I wondered what they meant by “traditional”. I figured it would be a little bit like an Outback Steakhouse with a Korean “flavor”.  Wrong!

 

 

The restaurant was located one level below ground.  I took the steps down into this cave-like structure. There I saw a series of long “school lunch” style tables.  The room sat about 50 people and was packed when I entered.

 

 

 

Even I was intimidated and that never happens. 

At first blush I felt intimidated to even attempt a photo. This was definitely a “local” restaurant.  There weren’t any people who looked like me.  That’s the way I like it.  Carol’s always saying she’d like to see me “on an island of Randys”.  What does she mean by that?

 

 

I quickly analyzed the situation.  I saw people serving themselves “buffet” style.  Of course, this was not your typical buffet.  There was only white rice and then some lettuce to choose from.  Diners were filling their plates with these two, less than appetizing to me, items.  At the end of the “line” a woman was ladling out a chicken stew over the white rice.

 

 

I feared I had stumbled across a soup kitchen for the homeless by mistake.  In order to fit in, I tried to act like anyone else.  I was hungry and could see the choices were limited.  I loaded up my plate with plain white rice.  I tried to skip the less than appetizing lettuce “salad”.  However, the “chicken stew Nazi” woman at the end of the line wouldn’t hear of it.  I picked up some lettuce as directed.

 

 

Next up I had to find a seat.  In the entire room there were only two open seats.  One was in the far corner.  That would be perfect.  I could be out of the way and take pictures from there.  However, another inmate…..er diner, beat me to it.  The only remaining seat was in the very middle of the dining room. If a sore thumb could stick out that would be the place to put it.

 

 

Nevertheless, I did get a few photos.  I have a responsibility to you on that front don’t I.  Don’t miss the pictures of this place.  Unfortunately, by the time I got the guts to really start taking pictures much of the crowd had left.  By the time I finished chopsticking the last grain of rice from my plate the room was less than half-full.

 

 

I had to reward myself for sticking this place out.  I honestly can’t imagine anyone else I know, except for our children, eating in a “restaurant” like this.  Of course, I do this for the adventure.  I grabbed an ice cream treat at a local convenience store while I waited for the airport bus.

 

 

 

Just two more flights and 14 hours of flying and I was home! 

The bus ride back to the airport was uneventful.  With my lack of sleep I could have very easily ridden on that bus for hours.  I arrived back to the airport by 3 p.m.  There were still almost four hours to wait for my flight.  I had used my iPhone to check “availability”.  Things looked good.  I would probably get “upgraded”.

 

 

There was time to take a nap.  While I had toured Seoul I stored my bags at the airport for a 7,000 won fee. That was probably better than trying to lug that stuff all over Seoul.  I reattached my “cable lock system” and napped some more.

 

 

At the appointed time I showed up for an “airline sponsor appearance”.  It’s the least I could do for the rewards they give me.  Although I was not surprised I was more than appreciative to get a business class seat.  Folks, business class seats for Asiana flights to and from the U.S. are worth a “pretty penny” if you have to pay for them.

 

 

 

I always make time to get gifts for my loved ones back home.  This might be the most important thing I need to do. 

There was just enough time to get “Trackchasing’s First Mother” a parting gift.  Despite those that think I am getting, by far, the best deal in my relationship with TFM, I try to do my part of make the equation as equal as possible. I picked up a little “remembrance” for her and the store even gift wrapped it. Now I will be a hero when I return.

 

 

At this point, I was hustling to my airplane gate.  However, I had to stop and admire a procession occurring in the airport terminal itself.  I had seen the changing of the guard at the Korean National Palace.  Now it looked like those very same people were marching slowing down terminal A!  All I can say is, you don’t want to miss the video.

 

 

 

I will pretty much ‘chill out’ during the rest of the year. 

From there it was onto a plane that would take me exactly 5,620 miles from Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco, California.  I would be happy to get home.  I’ve been doing a lot of international travel during the past few months.  It’s time to take a break and that’s what I intend to do.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,

 

Randy Lewis

World’s #1 Trackchaser

Filipino saying:  An intelligent monkey can still be beaten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRAVEL DETAILS

 

 

AIRPLANE

Orange County, CA (SNA) – San Francisco, CA (SFO) – 372 miles

San Francisco, CA (SFO) – Seoul, South Korea (ICN) – 5,620 miles

Seoul, South Korea (ICN) – Manila, Philippines (MNL) – 1,630 miles

 

 

HIRED DRIVER

Batangas, Philippines – 61 miles

Manila, Philippines – 122 miles

 

 

AIRPLANE

Manila, Philippines (MNL) – Seoul, South Korea (ICN) –1,630 miles

Seoul, South Korea (ICN) – San Francisco, CA (SFO) –5,620 miles

San Francisco, CA (SFO) – Orange County, CA (SNA) –372 miles

 

 

Total Air miles – 15,244 (6 flights)

Total Rental transportation miles – 122 (1 hired driver)

 

 

Total air and hired driver miles – 15,366 miles

 

 

 

 

TRACK ADMSSION PRICES:

 

Batangas Racing Circuit – 50 Filipino pesos  (about $1.15 U.S.)

 

 

Total racetrack admissions for the trip – $1.15 U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS 

 

 

There are no trackchasers currently within 260 tracks of my lifetime total. 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 1,608

 

  1. Ed Esser, Madison, Wisconsin – 1,345

 

  1. Guy “The Kid” Smith, Effort, Pennsylvania – 1,327

 

 

 

 

That’s all folks!

 

 

 

Official end of Randy Lewis Racing (RLR) Trackchaser Report

 

 

 

 

 

Philippines – FAST FACTS*

 

 

Provided by my friends at Wikipedia

 

THE PHILIPPINES!

The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is a country in Southeast Asiain the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Straitlies Taiwan. West across the South China Seasits Vietnam. The Sulu Seato the southwest lies between the country and the island of Borneo, and to the south the Celebes Seaseparates it from other islands of Indonesia. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea.

 

 

With an estimated population of about 92 million people, the Philippines is the world’s 12th most populous country. An additional 11 million Filipinos live overseas.

 

 

History. 

In 1935, the Philippines was granted Commonwealthstatus. Plans for independence over the next decade were interrupted by World War IIwhen the Japanese Empireinvaded and established a puppet government. Many atrocities and war crimeswere committed during the war such as the Bataan Death Marchand theManila massacrethat culminated during the Battle of Manila.[44] Allied troops defeated the Japanesein 1945. By the end of the war it is estimated over a million Filipinos had died.[45] On July 4, 1946, the Philippines attained its independence.  Immediately after World War II, the Philippines faced a number of challenges. The country had to be rebuilt from the ravages of war. It also had to come to terms with Japanese collaborators.

 

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcoswas elected president, his wife Imelda Marcosat his side. Nearing the end of his second term and constitutionally barred from seeking a third, he declared martial lawon September 21, 1972. By using political divisions, the tension of the Cold War, and the specter of communist rebellion and Islamic insurgency as justifications, he was able to govern by decree.  On August 21, 1983, Marcos’ chief rival opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr.ignored warnings and returned from exile in the United States.  He was assassinated as he was taken off the plane at the Manila International Airport (now called the Ninoy Aquino International Airportin his memory).

 

 

International Relations.

The Philippines values its relations with the United States.[57] It supported the United States during the Cold War and the War on Terror and is a major non-NATO ally. Despite this history of goodwill, controversies related to the presence of the now former U.S. military basesin Subic Bayand Clarkand the current Visiting Forces Agreementhave flared up from time to time.[57] Japan, the biggest contributor of official development assistanceto the country,[65] is thought of as a friend. Although historical tensions still exist on issues such as the plight of comfort womenmuch of the animosity inspired by memories of World War II have faded.  With communism no longer the threat it once was, once hostile relations in the 1950s between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of Chinahave improved greatly.

 

 

Administrative Divisions.

The Philippines is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. As of March 2010, these were divided into 17 regions, 80 provinces, 138 cities, 1,496 municipalities, and 42,025 barangays.

 

 

Geography.

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands.  Most of the mountainous islands are covered in tropical rainforestand volcanic in origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo. It measures up to 2,954 meters (9,692 feet) above sea level and is located on the island of Mindanao. The longest river is the Cagayan Riverin northern Luzon.  Situated on the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity.  Due to the volcanicnature of the islands, mineral deposits are abundant. The country is estimated to have the second-largest gold deposits after South Africa and one of the largest copper deposits in the world.

 

 

Climate. 

The Philippines has a tropical maritime climateand is usually hot and humid. There are three seasons: tag-initor tag-araw, the hot dry season or summer from March to May; tag-ulan, the rainy season from June to November; and tag-lamig, the cool dry season from December to February.  Temperatures usually range from 21°C(70°F) to 32°C (90°F) although it can get cooler or hotter depending on the season. The coolest month is January; the warmest is May.

 

 

Economy. 

The national economy of the Philippines is the 48th largest in the world, with an estimated 2009 gross domestic product(nominal) of $161 billion. Primary exportsinclude semiconductorsand electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copperproducts, petroleumproducts, coconut oil, and fruits. Major trading partners include China, Japan, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, andMalaysia. Its unit of currencyis the Philippine peso.

 

 

Demographics.

By 2009, the Philippines has become the world’s 12th most populous nation, with a population of over 92 million. It is estimated that half of the population resides on the island of Luzon. Manila, the capital city, is the eleventh most populous metropolitan area in the world. The population of the Greater Manila Areais around 20 million. The population growth rate between 1995 to 2000 of 3.21% decreased to an estimated 1.95% for the 2005 to 2010 period but remains a contentious issue. The population’s median age is 22.7 years with 60.9% aged from 15 to 64 years old. Life expectancy at birth is 71.38 years, 74.45 years for females and 68.45 years for males.

 

 

 

Ethnicity.

According to the 2000 census 28.1% of Filipinos are Tagalog, 13.1% Cebuano, 9% Ilocano, 7.6% Bisaya/Binisaya, 7.5% Hiligaynon, 6% Bikol, 3.4% Waray, and 25.3% are classified as other.  Eventually Chinese, Spanish, and American arrivals intermarried with the various indigenous ethnic groups that had evolved. Their descendants are known as mestizos. Chinese Filipinosnumber about two million.

 

 

Languages.

Ethnologue lists 175 individual languages in the Philippines, 171 of which are living languages while 4 no longer have any known speakers. According to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Filipinoand English are the official languages.

 

 

Religion. 

More than 90% of the population are Christians: about 80% belong to the Roman CatholicChurch while 10% belong to other Christian denominations, such as the Philippine Independent Church, Iglesia ni Cristo, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventist Church, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Orthodox Church.  The Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholiccountries in Asia, the other being East Timor.  Between 5% and 10% of the population are Muslim.

 

 

Health.

Most of the national burden of health care is taken up by private health providers.  In 2001 there were about 1,700 hospitals, of which about 40% were government-run and 60% private.

 

 

Transportation.

The transportation infrastructure in the country is relatively underdeveloped.  Nevertheless there are many ways to get around, especially in urban areas. Buses, jeepneys, taxis, and motorized tricycles are commonly available in major cities and towns.  As an archipelago, inter-island travel via watercraft is often necessary.  The Ninoy Aquino International Airport(NAIA) is the main international airport.

 

 

 

Communications.

The Philippines has a sophisticated cellular phone industry and a high concentration of users.  Out of this growing number of avid text message senders, over five million of them use their cellular phones as virtual wallets, making it a leader among developing nations in providing financial transactions over cellular networks.  There are approximately 383 AM and 659 FM radio stations and 297 television and 873 cable television stations.

 

 

Sports. 

Various sportsand pastimes are popular in the Philippines including basketball,boxing, volleyball, football, badminton, taekwondo, billiards, ten-pin bowling, chess, and sipa. Motocross, cycling, and mountaineeringare also becoming popular. Basketball is played at both amateur and professional levels and is considered to be the most popular sportin the Philippines. In almost every corner of the cities, there is a basketball court.  This is what I saw as well during my short visit to the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racing from the Bantangas Racing Circuit

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Touring the Philippines

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The Philippines pictorial video – Part 1

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The Philippines pictorial video – Part 2

 

 

 

Click on the links below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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