My partner and I celebrated our 8th anniversary Cebu this year. We were supposed to go back to Bali but waited too long to book the tickets and couldn’t get any round trip business class tickets on Cathay Pacific. OK, I waited too long. Me. And I waited too long on purpose.

You see, spending our 7th in Bali was so magical, so fantastic, so incredibly amazing that I was afraid to go back. I’m a firm believer that if you ever try to recreate an experience, you’ll fall flat on your ass trying. Why cheapen the initial memory?

If you don’t believe me, rent Ground Hog Day and see how you can end up in hell, or at least purgatory, trying to recreate any experience. Besides, we’ve been in Asia for nearly seven years now. There are still many places we have yet to visit. I figured, why not knock The Philippines off our list?

I had no problem cashing in miles for our tickets and on the exact dates I wanted too. Of course, this was alarming. If it’s too easy…

I also booked an ocean view room with club access at the “best” resort in town, The Shangri-La Hotel. Basically, I went all out for every bell and whistle I could find. It was our anniversary after all (and yes, I’d find another excuse to do the same even if it weren’t our anniversary).

Did I listen to our friends who had stayed there when they said that the hotel was in need of a renovation? No. Did I read up on the fact that this is a child friendly resort? No. Did I bother to stress about the fact that I might have made a terrible mistake in booking this resort. Yes. Every night and every day.

It got to the point where if my partner said, “I think you put too much garlic in the guacamole.”

I’d say, “It’s because you don’t want to go to Cebu, right? You think it’s a bad idea. You’re going to blame me for not being in Bali. You’ve heard what our friends with kids say about it and now you don’t want to go. Right!? Right!!?? Admit it.”

The day before our trip, I stepped up to the plate and let the shit fall where it may. You can’t cry over spilled milk. We booked the damn flight and now there was no getting around that.

As in Bali, when we arrived in Cebu, we were greeted by a man from the hotel at the airport. Unlike Bali, this man wasn’t interested in making us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Unlike Bali we were not greeted with an ice cold peppermint towel, bottled water, fresh juice and a box of truffles. No. We were greeted with a smile (sneer?) and told to get in the back. The towels were lukewarm and the bottled water hot from sitting in the sun.

As soon as we entered the resort compound, we knew, each of us, quietly and with a stiff upper lip (at least for me) that this was not going to be the St. Regis Bali. Incidentally, if you are ever going to Bali for vacation, do yourself a favor and book an Ocean View Room or a Villa at the St. Regis Bali. You’ll thank me later.

We were greeted in the shabby Club Room Lobby Lounge by some headish honcho and several of his minion. I was all smiles and exuberance. I could teach women on how to fake an orgasm, I’m so good at being unfailingly joyful, at least at the start. Again, like a woman.

Our “Ocean View” room was ocean view if you were Plastic Man or had a trick neck and so I kindly requested what we paid for and was told that we could not have it until the next day. Now normally, I would find this unacceptable. You see, after being unfailingly polite and joyful, it is my hope that I’ll get what was promised. When this does not happen, well, I’m not so polite or joyful. But this was our anniversary and I had gone out on a limb to book Cebu and the Shangri-Nah Hotel.

Let me say right now that this experience in Cebu has colored my impression of the Shangri-La Hotel brand. The Island Shangri-La Hotel here in Hong Kong is (was) my watering hole of sorts. I’d sit at the bar and the host or bartender would say, “Grey Goose martini straight up with a twist?” I’d smile and say yes. We have friends who swear by this hotel brand. But now? Now, I’ve started to frequent the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons. Do they have a live jazz band? No. Will I likely go back to the Shangri-Nah hotel for live jazz? Depends on the singer. And there are plenty of nice hotels with live music. It’s too bad that said live music is often hit or miss.

But I digress.

The best thing about the hotel was the beach. The beach and the spa. The food sucked. The pool was overrun with rug rats. The bathroom was mildewy. The balcony furnished by Wal-Mart interiors, but the beach, the beach.

I guess you can’t go wrong with the beach in Cebu. Weak current, clear water, live coral, colorful fish and white sandy beaches. In Bali, the current was strong, the water not as clear, and sadly, often polluted with trash (it’s not in any of the brochures).

The spa was an oasis of kid unfriendly calm in a resort otherwise teaming with expat children and the people responsible for them. The men’s water garden was set amid lush trees, tropical flowers and soothing fountains. My man and I were the only ones there at the time. He was using the indoor facilities so I was able to spend the first fifteen or so minutes by myself, naked with the water jets, the blue skies above me. It was the happiest moment of my trip. I started humming my favorite Jobim bossa nova songs. Hell, I was singing them.

Was it a bad trip? No. Was it a good one? No. Was it a memorable one? Yes. On the one stormy day, I saw the royal wedding live on CNN. And the day we left, President Obama came on the television to say that we had killed Osama Bin Laden. Now, I don’t follow the royals but the weather was crap outside and before I knew it, I was caught up in the whole enchilada. Incidentally, Kate’s brother is a total Mary. As soon as he got up to speak, I thought, “Yeah, Baby!”

On the plane back to Hong Kong, everyone in business class had been staying at the Shangri-Nah Hotel and everyone ignored each other. It’s oddly comforting to know that no matter how far you go in life, no matter where you are, or where you are from, everyone is still a small-minded, middle-school child. Well, at least it confirms my cynical view of humanity. Be kind, be courteous and always insist on what you want. Life is too short to do otherwise.

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