One of the best things about traveling to Manila for Americans is that it is low-cost city, and the exchange rate is very favorable to the dollar (about 49 pesos to $1 today). I've picked up a lot of necessities here for less than $20 USD, and most of my meals (combined with my mom's) don't usually come out to more than $4 USD. However, that isn't to say I haven't picked up a few special items. Before I got to Manila, I found out there are eight TopShops in the metropolitan area alone. EIGHT. It was my second full day here (Saturday) when we were at the Edsa Shangri-La Mall when I first saw it. The promised land. Two words fashioned into one: TOPSHOP. I stood outside for about 30 seconds without moving, my jaw hanging open and my eyes glazed over in wonder. Ok, so maybe this is a little much, but I've been waiting patiently, and now desperately, since I first heard about the first TopShop opening in America (in SoHo in New York) in March. It was supposed to open its doors on October 10, but because of stupid rules and bureaucracy at the NYC Board of Commerce, it's not opening until at least March 2009. They sure know how to keep an American girl waiting. Anyway, I picked up one shirt (even though I wanted so much more) since the prices aren't cheaper here but about the same as the U.K. and U.S.-online store prices. The store was quite petite, not much bigger than the size of my bedroom here, nothing like the ones I've been to in Dublin and London.

Then I saw a Marks & Spencer, so obviously I had to get something there too. I got a dark black and grey plaid top, and although they carry a lot of the cookies, chips and candies that the British stores carry, no strawberry trifles. Sigh. My mom said maybe in Hong Kong they will, but since they didn't at the Prague location, I'm not getting my hopes up.

On the drive to Makati on Sunday, my mom asked if I had a radio or CD player. I pulled out my trusty iPhone, which she didn't realize had an iPod too. I started playing the Mamma Mia soundtrack (Yeah, I had to buy it after seeing the movie on the plane so many times), and she asked if I had any oldies. I said I had a 1960s playlist, to which she scoffed and asked, "Don't you have any Journey?" As if I didn't…

After shopping for my camera at the Rustan's in Makati, my mom and I met up with her best friend, Lourdes, and we went to her brother's new restaurant, Le Régalade. The brand-new French bistro, opened in September, features a Michelin-star chef, Alain Rayé, from Vancouver. Le dejeuner was très bonnes, including a succulent pot of bœuf bourguignon and French onion soup, which I normally don't even care for much, topped off with crème brûlée and the most delectable apple tart I've ever eaten. Not to mention the restroom was the size of a small New York apartment -- and it was absolutely gorgeous with cherry wood walls and giant plush leather chairs in the waiting area. I would live in it.

Since I've had extremely weird sleeping patterns over the last week (which have really thrown my entire body for a loop), I've been watching a lot of television at random hours. I've noticed that if there are two things you can count on when traveling internationally, it's CNN and BBC World News. I won't watch Rachael Ray at home; I refuse to watch it here. Another thing I noticed is while watching NBC's Today, there's a big difference on the international version versus the American one. When Al Roker does his little weather bit and says his token phrase, "Here's a look at the weather in your neck of the woods," it typically cuts to the local weather station. Now, since obviously they don't do that here because of the time change, other shows like CBS' Early Show and ABC's Good Morning America play music while displaying the American map. However, Today does not, and Roker doesn't seem to realize that we can hear everything he is saying. He sure does make fun of Robin Williams a lot. Très bizarre.