Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taking short breaks and hanging out

I have mentioned before that I seek out greenery on the weekends to relax which is unfortunately in short supply here. In Malaysia, one of the way I relax is take a few hours drive to quiet nearby town or neighbourhood with some trees and grass and walk around stopping for snacks and coffee.  I also do it in Singapore with HDB neighbourhoods. I read an article from Harvard business school a while back that its good management practice to have these 'alone time' to reflect and collect oneselves.   I wanted a short break this weekend before plunging in back to work and missed that a lot.

I tried to think of places to do the same thing here and there just is not a lot of choices. I usually end up going to either Salcedo or Legazpi market on weekends for this. The place I work and live has lots of green space but choices for coffee and snacks is actually very limited unlike in Singapore and Malaysia. I usually end up at a fast food place for some pau and really bad coffee. I recently came across this small chain that serves donut and instant coffee in some neighbourhoods that its not quite the same as the ubiqutous mamak stalls and kopitiam in Malaysia

There is a lot of mall here to go to but its really crowded, the hours are very limited and after all its really about 'alone time'. Its one of the reason I do all my shopping early when it opens (8.30am). I can then go to the big foodcourts and just get some 'alone time' - it does not last long as the crowd comes in. (Did I mention that the malls here are really really crowded almost all the time. The only other place I have ever been that is equivalent are malls in China)

Actually I find it strange there are not more places to hang out given Philippine's Spanish history. Hanging out in plazas, gardens and neighourbood restaurant and tapa bars in Spain, morning, noon or evening, is one of the great living experience I have had. Pinoys certaintly like hanging out in places. Where I live, people hang out in the restaurants to wee hour of the night and during the hollidays.  There is a couple of breakfast/coffee places here on the weekend that is jammed packed every weekend as soon as they open at 7.30am  and people hang out until the sun gets too hot. Why they have not built it in the neighbourhoods, I don't get it.  Our elders in Malaysia and Singapore have been hanging out in neighbourhood coffee shops and markets for generations. The neighbourhood road-side wet market here called Palengke is very crowded early but the sites are usually badly maintained and no place to have a cup of coffee. Even their larger farmer markets have limited offerings early in the morning.

Its possible, its all American influence whose idea of hanging out is at a bar. But even in US, well New York, there is the neigbourhood diner (remember Seinfeld?) where I used to take long breakfast with unlimited coffee on Sunday, read the papers and then check out the local neighbourhoods.  But most of the US is just like here with malls and chain stores.  I don't get the idea of hanging out in Starbucks - the highly yuppie crowd just reminds me all the things I have to do and I keep thinking of work!

There are a couple of places sort of worth strolling around for example in Alabang township which is very nice but a bit far away but the crowd and traffic does not get maddening except near the hollidays. The Ortigas neighbourhood is OK on a Sunday morning but the crowd and traffic shows up before noon.  I walked the Roxas Boulevard by Manila Bay weekend mornings but again its downtown and traffic+crowds shows up pretty quickly. One of the better place actually is Intramuros which is the well-preserved historical Spanish city but I have been told its not safe to walk alone since its surrounding neighbourhood is pretty rough ones. There is Riverside Park in Marikina City which does not have much choices to get a bite. The University of Philippines Diliman which has the best green lungs in the city and the university dining places actually give some pretty good deals for a bite.

Maybe I just have to look harder...

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