Gym and yoga

Today was a good day for my health and fitness, not only was I in the gym at 07:00AM but twelve hours later, I found myself in a Yoga studio on the banks of the Amstel river, slowly lowering my bum and straitening my spine into the all so famous “downwards facing dog”.

Gym was great today, my first rep felt like I was superman, I had a lot of energy and performed with exercises with intense explosion and absurd focus but then round two this seemed to waiver.

After doing my second round of ten pull ups, I needed to take a little break as I felt that I might be a bit sick, which is strange as this rarely happens. I mean I did push myself as I always do but never does my body react with nausea. The nausea soon passed and I was able to finish my workout but I could feel that it took a chunk out of me and I left the gym drenched in sweat feeling slightly dizzy.

Work was uneventful and frustrating, as I am working with some really high level concepts where the setup alone requires you to read manuals of 600 pages per concept and then if you dare miss a single line, the chances are pretty good that it is exactly that line that will cause your code to break.

Then after work it was yoga, hence me finding myself in the downward facing dog position.

I left work a little late and had to cycle like a maniac to be on time for the yoga class, which turned out to be a small mistake as the class was super relaxed and we only started a little while after I arrived.

This intense cycling caused me to for the second time that day be drenched in sweat and the already sweaty clothes from the gym the morning caused my clean yoga clothes to also be wet and sweaty.

Let me preface my yoga experience with the fact that whenever I practice yoga, I become really self aware of EVERYTHING. My breathing, my body, the yoga positions, my short pants (is it hanging out?!),  my sweat and my body odours. So in this case where I arrived kind of sweaty already, I seemed to be constantly worried a bit about how sweaty I was and how it smelt.

There was not much that I could do about it and I proceeded with the class as best as I could and it was a very small and intimate class, we were only five participants and the instructor, which made for an amazing experience.

Unlike other yoga classes, where they harp on the physical side of things, I found todays class a lot more meditative and relaxing. One exercise was to compare ones mood before and after the class and I definitely felt a lot cooler and calmer that before I had arrived.

The class was also prefaced and concluded with some breathing exercises, the ending exercises closely resembled the breathing practice that Wim Hof teaches, where one breathes in intensely and then holds ones breath.

Overall it was a great experience and I will definitely go again, I met some really cool people and we had some tea and snacks afterwards. It feels nice to kind of put yourself out there and meet new people especially when you are of a different culture, different continent even.

Tonight is definitely not the last time that I will be attending Julie’s yoga classes. That about covers the fitness part, as for the health part, I consumed a fully vegetarian diet today consisting of lentils, beans, green beans, asparagus, chilli and eggs. This was both my supper and lunch and it was delicious.

I have decided to cut down grossly on my meat consumption and also on all dairy consumption, especially milk. I have always thought that milk is not as healthy as they want you to believe but I will leave that for its own little write up.

Birthday weekend.

My birthday was this past Saturday and we went way for the weekend to celebrate the occasion,  hence the title. It  started off rather rushed as I had overslept a slight bit due to a work occasion the previous night, which was Thursday night as I took the Friday off from work.

On Thursday evening it was a colleague’s last day at work, so we went up to the roof of the office building for some drinks and snacks and the fact that we are an proudly beer selling company, the supply of top quality craft beers were not limited. Hence me missing my normal 7:00 AM gym session and sleeping in till 8:00AM.

Once we left Amsterdam station and were on the train to Antwerp, the rushed feeling and slight stress was immediately replaced with excitement.

Antwerp is a magic little town in Belgium, famous for one of the biggest ports in the world as well as a flourishing diamond trade, which both contribute to the cities wealth. Wealth which one can see, throughout the city and its residence, it has an air of ‘well being’ which is not easily experienced everywhere.

Antwerp is full of little squares surrounded by cafes and restaurants.

We arrived at the magnificent central station, known to be one of the prettiest in the world and quickly made our way to our AirBnb. It was a few minutes from central station and upon arrival we were met by the owner, Grethe, who sat us down for a quick Antwerp information session.

She was very sweet and just meant well but it felt like she was talking forever, elaborating about the history, the people, the food and she eventually called it quits, after sharing several restaurant and specific meal recommendations at the said restaurants.

When we greeted her she mentioned her age, 73, she looked no older than 57, maybe 59, good genes she said.

We circled Antwerp several times, looking for the perfect restaurant until we eventually settled on the restaurant recommended by Grethe and the food was delicious.

The rest of the day was spent visiting breweries, shops, parks and several historical sights in town. We ended the day with a delicious meal at a French restaurant, I had a steak and it was probably one of the best steaks that I have had in my life. Jytte had the vegetarian lasagne, to be honest, I am not a vegetarian but I would order that lasagne any day!

French cuisine.

We called it an early evening with retired at around 11:00AM. The next morning we were up bright and early and visited the city market. It was an amazing mixture of sights and smells, with the most delicious food and snacks that once can imagine.

What really grabbed my attention was the alcohol consumption, all around the market and surrounding restaurants, people were drinking anything from beer to wine to champaign. This must have been around 8:00AM in the morning and coming from a country where it is illegal to sell liquor before 11:00AM, I was quite surprised.

So I order two beers and a shot of tequila.

Just kidding but what I did order was a delicious Turkish wrap with honey, olives, cheese, sun-dried tomato and artichokes. It really hit the spot. Jytte had a few bites but it was not up to her tastes.

As the day before we spent the rest of the day eating, drinking and enjoying the amazing Summer weather. We also rented two cycles which I would definitely recommend, its so easy to get around on bikes.

Give a Dutch persona bike and the sun and you get that face of pure bliss.
Exploring Antwerp!
Antwerp from the sky!

The evening we decided on a piquant pizzeria looking out over a busy piazza surrounded by several restaurants. We both had pizzas which were equally amazing. I swear the food in Antwerp is just on another level.

Food!!!

We decided to have desert elsewhere and seeing that I am not entirely a desert person, I was in no rush.

At one stage Jytte got frustrated and said that the only reason that she wanted desserts was to ask them to put candles on it and then I could blow it out as it was my birthday. Super sweet!

Eventually we did find a place and Jytte went to place our order, 2 coffees and one creme brule, she also went to ask whether they can put the candles on the dessert.

She can back flustered throwing the candles on the table, telling me that they told her that they don’t do such things here like lighting candles. I almost told her  that we should just cancel the order and leave and she said “No, lets just drink the coffee”. Sure.

A few moments later the lights started flickering and I could hear the loud song ‘Happy birthday…. ” Ah, she got me…

So the staff did not agree to the candles but had their own sparkles! They marched through the restaurant singing happy birthday while the whole restaurant clapped hands. They messed up my name but that did not matter as the table of ten next to us, literally gave a standing ovation and kept clapping long after the song was finished.

It was great!

We returned home after this as we still had big plans for Sunday. The next day we went back to the market for some snacks and soon after left Antwerpen for Rotterdam. It was a great Summers day and the weather was even better in Rotterdam than Antwerpen.

For some city was buzzing with excitement and energy as there was a soccer cup final taking place later the day but for myself the excitement and energy translated to fear and anxiety as we were surrounded by hundreds of screaming, drinking and rowdy soccer fans.

The police detained the entire train whilst they got everything ready to search all passengers upon exiting. It was a scary experience seeing all the police and dogs and people being searched.

Once we cleared the search we headed into Rotterdam which is airy city which felt very green, spacious and modern and reminded me a lot of Pretoria, South Africa.

We walked through the city and eventually came to a street called “Witte de Wit”, where Jytte’s father once lived, many moons ago.

The street was a mix of trendy bars, cafes, clothing stores and restaurants lined with green trees almost forming a roof above the road. We headed over to “Paneke Bar” of which Jytte knew the owner, who I then met and we enjoyed a cold beer. The owner , Wim, was slightly nervous as he was not sure what type of crowds the soccer game would attract and apparently it can get pretty messy.

Our last stop for the day was “Felix Food Factory”. This is a sort of market in a old shipping building right on the water. One can buy all kinds of food and drinks there and then sit on edge of the river enjoying the food and the view.

We bought an amazing cheese platter and two craft beers and sat with our legs dangling over the piers edge. We could see “Hotel New York” from where we were sitting which is an old hotel which looks like it came right out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Jytte’s great grandfather was actually a project manager and worked on constructing the hotel.

So back to the title of this post, birthday weekend. As you can tell I did indeed have an amazing action packed birthday weekend!

Hotel New York, straight out of a Wes Anderson film.
Beautiful Rotterdam!

Back in action at Boracay Legacy Gym

I woke up feeling a whole lot better today, my energy levels were still not 100% but I was ready to train. The wind was so loud, it drowned out the roosters, that normally wake me up. I did not think that there will be beach conditioning due to the windy weather, but at 8:00 AM I got ready for it anyway.

Despite the windy weather, the group gathered and we made it down to the beach, where we had another intense session of sprints, jumps, crawls and push ups on the beach.

It was not the hardest session ever, we have had worst but I was thankful as I am still recovering from the flu.

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After the morning session Tim and I went for fruit shakes, I had a banana, peanut and chocolate shake, no sugar. Melissa who runs the little shake and breakfast shop already knows the drill, no sugar and no milk, just the fruit, some cocoa powder and ice, simple but makes for a great shake.

We were planning on doing boxing training after our shakes but training had been cancelled, which again, I was thankful for and took the time to rest before going out a few hours later for lunch.

Lunch was at our old time favourite Na-Meet, we had the usual of rice with a couple of side dishes, delicious home cooked food.

This afternoon I had an interesting training session. We did our warm ups and was immediately told to wrap our hands and put on our gloves. We were paired up with a partner and did two rounds with that partner before moving on to a new partner.

My first partner was great, he is very fit Filipino boxer, who clearly has some great experience, he gave me a real run for my money with his ducks, dodges and side steps, very good session.

After two rounds I moved on to Christiaan, with whom I did spar with before but very lightly. Today it seemed that he had some kind of score to settle up as he threw punches hard enough to take my head right off. Keep in mind, the sparring sessions are supposed to be without real power, therefore I don’t even wear a mouth guard.

So after repeatedly asking Christian to take it easy, the coaches also told him to control his punches from the side, I realised that I have to fight back. One of his weaknesses is his fitness, I definitely have the upper hand when it comes to raw fitness.

So I started dancing around him, staying out of range of his punches and just coming in close when I wanted to attack. I could immediately tell he was frustrated with my tactics as he was hell bent on hitting me even harder.

After dancing around him a couple of times and also hitting back with all the power I had, he stopped me and said, “You are hitting hard.”, I said “Yes off course!” and showed him my bleeding lip where just moments before he threw a straight punch which I could not block and the inside of my lip exploded.

The last few seconds we went very hard, it was more than just sparring, it was a personal little battle but it was still good fun. In the end we bumped gloves and moved on but I am sure that I could take him if we were to have a proper one on one boxing fight.

My third partner was Leah, yes a girl who packs a mighty punch and also knows some pretty wild combos. By the time I sparred with her, I was exhausted and barely finished the two rounds.

It was great. I think to really compete I need to take a private lesson or two which I might do tomorrow or Thursday. That is it for today, here are some more Boracay shots.

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Boracay Legacy Week Two

This is my final week here at Boracay Legacy Gym and also my final week of training before heading back to South Africa. I have a lot of traveling ahead of me.

Firstly I will fly to Manila, from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Dubai and then from Dubai to South Africa.

It is going to be a bitter sweet journey.

I skipped two days of training as I have been ill with the flu. I have noticed a pattern in my body, when it comes to getting the flu, it seems to happen when I travel and when I train really hard. I also got the flu whilst training in Thailand and was out for a few days and before that, I whilst training for the Iron Man, in Vietnam, I could feel a flu developing but I managed to fight it off with loads of vitamin C and coconut water.

I am always very weary to train whilst being sick, as I have a vague recollection of a story told by my grandmother, that my grandfathers brother passed away at the age of 21 from a heart attack caused by over exerting himself whilst he had the flu. If I remember correctly, he played a rugby game and it was the last rugby game he ever played.

So I have no quarrels with taking a day or two off to fully recover and then go at the training harder than ever.

I can already feel that my body has almost won the fight with the flu, by tomorrow I will be back up and ready for action. I waas really hit hard with the sickness and spent the entire Saturday in bed. All the other trainees went out but I was confined to my bungalow.

One still has to eat even though one is sick, here are some of the munchies from the island:

This is another local Philippines dish but I forgot the name.
This is another local Philippines dish but I forgot the name.
Rotisserie chicken sold on the side of the road, also one of my favourites.
Rotisserie chicken sold on the side of the road, also one of my favourites.
This is Chicken Adobo, a Philippines special. Very tasty.
This is Chicken Adobo, a Philippines special. Very tasty.
Close up of the Chicken Adobo.
Close up of the Chicken Adobo.
This is Namis, where we eat most of the time. It is great food for a great price.
This is Namis, where we eat most of the time. It is great food for a great price.

Skewers at Namis.

Nami's skewer.
Nami’s skewer.
At Nami's you order some rice and they cook different meals each day. This is the closest that I have come to a home cooked meal in all my travels.
At Nami’s you order some rice and they cook different meals each day. This is the closest that I have come to a home cooked meal in all my travels.
Tis guy fries an assortment of goodies on the  side of the road.
Tis guy fries an assortment of goodies on the side of the road.
Assortment of fried goodies by said guy.
Assortment of fried goodies by said guy.

 

Boracay Legacy Training Day Two

Another day has passed in the Philippines, so that means two training sessions and my first day of doing a complete morning and evening session. Tuesday our morning beach session was cut short due to the high tide.

Needless to say it was tough, really really tough. The morning session kicked off with the warm ups and was followed by high intensity fitness exercises. Once we were all moaning and groaning, we had to to partner up and practice several different techniques during several rounds of boxing. We also did two rounds of sparring where I was beat down by an experienced boxer from the States. I am still struggling a bit with my flinch reflex but it is getting better.

Here at Boracay Legacy Gym, the focus is on Western boxing and not Muay Thai, making the training very different to the training at Suwit gym. It is very hard to compare the two places as both are very different and focus on different types of training. Both are excellent choices to do training at but it really depends on what you want to work on.

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I almost went to bed after the morning session but my hunger kept me going. For breakfast, myself and another two trainees went down to Melissa’s which is the go to spot for post workout shakes and meals. I had just that, an avocado and banana shake as well as some garlic chicken with rice.

After the meal, I went back to my bungalow, which is both my bedroom and office,to get some work done. The bungalow is really growing on me, apart from the mosquitos and the REALLY loud geckos I could actually live in one of these. If you do not know how the geckos in Asia sound, listen here. It is amazing that such a small lizard can be so loud.

I went down to the beach for a quick swim, where I bumped into Nic, another guy who trained with me at Suwit. Nic spotted me as I was doing handstands on the beach, he saw some guy doing handstands and thought to himself, “that must be Siegfried.”

It was good catching up, he was supposed to train with us but injured his knee. It has been giving problems for the last few years and with the high intensity boxing exercise, the problems just got worst. We will be going for a run before the beach conditioning class tomorrow.

I barely made it back in time for the afternoon session. This session our fitness exercise consisted of doing a circuit of various ab exercises, jumps, lunges, push ups, pull ups and a lot more. All in all it was around 16 exercises lasting two minutes each with one two minute break in between. It was absolutely devastating but great exercise.

In all honesty, fitness wise, I could handle the exercises really well but energy wise not so much. After a few minutes into the circuits, I was completely drained but I willed myself to go on and finished with the circuits.

I will make sure to eat a banana or two before training just give my body some fuel to work with. I did eat some boiled eggs before training but I have never heard of some one eating eggs for energy 🙂

For dinner, a bunch of us went to a restaurant part owned by a trainee who does the beach class with us. The view at the venue is insane, providing you with a 360 degree view of the island. Once you see the island from this view, you realise how small it actually is.

I had some BBQ chicken, rice and veggies and washed it down with a banana/mango shake, a light beer and a bottle of water.

BBQ chicken and rice, the flower was decorative.
BBQ chicken and rice, the flower was decorative.

Boracay Legacy Training Day One

Today was my first day of training at the Boracay Legacy gym, it was insane! The training is a lot tougher and stricter than the previous gym, Suwit in Phuket Thailand.

Suwit was great but it had a kind of laid back attitude, we would stretch, then do our own thing for a while and then spend some time with the coaches, no one really drilled you. A lot of the times I made it harder for myself by adding more exercises but trust me, that is not necessary here at Boracay Legacy gym.

So this morning I awoke at 3:32 AM from what I think was a cat hunting a rat on the roof of my bungalow, this woke up all the roosters on the seven surrounding farms, who took it upon themselves to wake up the rest of the island.

My humble abode for the next two months.
My humble abode for the next two months.

So instead of lying in bed, admiring the chorus of crowing cocks, I decided to get up and start working, at the end of the month there is always a lot of admin to see to, like taxes, invoices and payments.

I finished up my work, and met the rest of the team at the gym, we  then headed down to the beach for a fitness and conditioning class. Apparently the tide is the highest that it has been in months, making our route to the beach a rather tricky one as we navigated over rocks knee deep in the water.

The beach class was hardcore, we started with a fast paced warm up/stretching session, followed by an array of high intensity exercises. We then did sprints into the ocean, with the object to get as far into the water as possible. The first five times were great fun but the next twenty five times were energy drenching.

After the beach work out, we went for fruit shakes and Korean soup. I had a delicious banana peanut shake and then some amazing beef brisket Korean soup.

Take away banana and peanut shake for 120 Pesos, which is $2.
Take away banana and peanut shake for 120 Pesos, which is $2.
Side dishes served with the Korean soup. From bottom to top, Kimchi, Omelette with veggies and a sort of potato salad.
Side dishes served with the Korean soup. From bottom to top, Kimchi, Omelette with veggies and a sort of potato salad.
The Korean soup.
The delicious beefy Korean soup.

After the meal we got a Tuk Tuk back to the gym and took it easy for an hour before we started training again. This time it was just Tim and who ran through my body weight routine.

About this routine… It is not an easy one, it consists out of active stretching, which already gets the sweat flowing, followed by several core exercises, then skill work, which is hand stands and holding the dip position on rings, both for 5 minutes and lastly the strength workout which is three reps of pull ups, dips, squats, l-sit, push ups and reverse pull ups.

I have been doing the routine for the last five months, so I am very familiar with the routine but this was Tim’s first time and he handled it like a champ.

A little more about Tim…

He is a big guy, when we started training together a month ago, he had not done any training or exercise apart from playing volley ball, which is mostly a stationary sport, for the last couple of years. So he was not really in shape, since he has started training he has lost just over 12kg, it is amazing especially in a months time!

He stuck with me through the entire set and did not complain once!

We finished up and headed to the beach for a swim, it is just a few minutes walk from the gym and it is an insanely beautiful beach.

Views from the beach.
Views from the beach.
Views from the beach.
Views from the beach.
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Tim the man, himself!
More views!
More views!
Amazing views!
Amazing views!

After the swim, we headed back to the gym and I picked up some eggs, to boil, as I have ran out of protein shakes and you cannot buy it here on the island. I also bought some peanuts, milk and a grilled banana 🙂

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Path up to the gym.

By the time I got back it was already time for afternoon training. I arrived at the gym and we had 15 minutes to warm up, so I did a combination of sit ups, push ups and some leg exercises.

Once warm up was complete we did stretches but unlike Suwit, where stretches are slow and relaxing, here stretching is a work out on its own, we quickly move from stretch to stretch and finish up with various jumps and movements.

After the stretches you rotate between the punching bag and the trainers, spending five minutes on each with short breaks in between and in the short breaks, we do more exercises. The coaches here are very similar to drill sergeants, barking orders and screaming profanities as you lie exhausted on the gyms floor. I was scared that I was going to drown in a puddle of sweat.

The coach announced the final round and I saw a glimmer of hope but this quickly faded as Tim informed me that we end each session with 400 various stomach and core exercises of our choice. Like I said, this is tough.

After the training we went for dinner at a local restaurant, I am amazed at the cost and quality of the food on Boracay. Tonight was like a home cooked meal consisting of a pork skewer, a piece of fried chicken, green beans, beef stew, lentil soup and rice.

Dinner!
Dinner!

I have also setup my work space in my bungalow! It is not ergonomic and with all the chords, it may be a fire hazard, but it will do for the next two weeks, I am very excited!

Planes, Boats, Ubers and Tuk Tuks!

I arrived in Manila, the Philippines three days ago. I am very impressed with Malaysia airlines, my flight had no delays, there was onboard entertainment and I had two delicious meals during my flights.

From the airport I ordered an Uber as I had heard that taking the airport taxis is a rip off. My Uber driver was a student who could not believe that I am his passenger, apparently I was his first Western passenger and also the first person white from Africa that he had ever seen. He said that he had seen black people from Africa in movies and that is about it, so after dropping me, he took several selfies of us, which he later uploaded to Facebook.

My guesthouse was in a suburb called Paranaque, which is a local neighbourhood with virtually no tourists around, in fact I did not see any other Western tourists in the streets. As I arrived at the guesthouse I was greeted by the friendly Dutch hosts with an ice cold beer, which went down superbly after a long day of traveling.

Also staying at the guest house was a tourist from South Africa, who is studying in China and who came to the Philippines on holiday. It was great talking about our home country and our experiences in South East Asia.

The guesthouse was fantastic, nothing fancy but clean and conveniently close to the airport. I liked the fact that it was not in a touristy area but in a heart of a very vibrant Filipino neighbourhood.

More allies.
The alley outside my guesthouse.
Cotton candy vendor on the side of the road.
Cotton candy vendor on the side of the road.
Busy streets of the Paranaque neighbourhood.
Busy streets of the Paranaque neighbourhood.
Allies in Paranaque.
Allies in Paranaque.
Street vendor selling fruits.
Street vendor selling fruits and veggies.
These dogs watched a fried chicken vendor s every move.
These dogs watched a fried chicken vendor s every move.
Streets.
Streets.
Street vendor.
Street vendor.
Colorful streets of Paranaque.
Colorful streets of Paranaque.
There are plants everywhere.
There are plants everywhere.
Next to my guesthouse is a lawyer, which is convenient I guess.
Next to my guesthouse is a lawyer, which is convenient I guess.

My first night in Manila, I decided to take it easy and instead of going out, I spent some time with the other guests before retiring for an early night. At 10:00 AM our host woke me up for breakfast, this msut have been the latest that I have slept in months. After breakfast I walked around the neighbourhood, did some exploring and later had some lunch with the other guests.

Spicy garlic fried chicken.
Spicy garlic fried chicken.

After lunch I headed for the nearest hospital to get my rabies vaccine. I arrived at the hospital and it was chaos. There were multiple people with stab wounds, elderly ill people, ill babies, people with recent animal bites and a variety of issues which were a lot more concerning than my injection, so I got another Uber and went to the animal bite centre, which I should have done in the first place.

There I was quickly assisted and the entire process took less than an hour. The only other patients there were people with animal bites. I spoke to a girl and she told me that she was attacked by a rabid cat as she was walking home after work, the cat appeared out of nowhere and took a bite out of her leg. They think that the cat definitely had rabies.

After my injection, I walked to the Robertson mall, as the Philippines are know for their malls and three out of the worlds top ten malls are in the Philippines. I was amazed at the monstrous size of the mall and the hundreds of shops with every brands and label that you can think of. The prices were great too. I did a bit of shopping and had something to eat and got an Uber back to the guesthouse.

The next day I got my stuff ready, had breakfast and headed to the airport. My flight was for 2:30 PM but I was told to go early as there is a lot of construction around the airport causing heavy traffic delays.

The flight was delayed three times and we eventually departed just before 4:00PM luckily it is a short flight from Manila to Caticlan. This was the first time that I flew in a smaller airplane, it could probably seat a hundred people at most.

I could tell that the other passengers were also not use to the smaller aircraft as everybody whinged and moaned with every little noise that the airplane and every small hint of turbulence. I am a nervous flyer but have forced myself to get it under control as I still have a lot of traveling to do.

From the airport I took a Tuk Tuk to the pier and from their I hopped onto a boat which took me to Boracay Island and from there it was another Tuk Tuk ride to the Boracay legacy gym. I will write more about the gym once I take a few pictures and see the place during the day time as I arrived in the dark.

A quick snap of the pier.
A quick snap of the pier.
This was taken from the back of the Tuk Tuk.
This was taken from the back of the Tuk Tuk.

It was great to see Tim from Suwit gym again and we went with some of the other trainees for dinner. Tim was aching and sore from the training and he guaranteed me that my first day is going to be tough. We have a beach strength and conditioning class lined up for 7:30AM.

Overall I have love the Philippines so far, the people are very friendly and speak great English. Here is also a sort of charm to the place, I look really forward to my next two weeks here.