Things One Sees While Dining in the Red Light District

Sunday, August 5, 2012

In all fairness, I knew what I was getting into.  This was not my first visit to Ziggurat Restaurant in Makati; two colleagues and I dined there one night last year and it was probably one of the best meals I've ever had.

After my last conference call on Monday, I returned to my apartment around 7am and the sky looked unusual; the sun had come out.  No rain, the wind had died down, it was almost pleasant out!

I decided to seize the opportunity and head to Lonely Planet-approved Ziggurat and enjoy food from all over Africa, Asia and parts of Europe.  I contemplated hiring a car to drive me as the restaurant sits in between establishments called "rouge" and "mascara" where I'm sure the girls wear very little more than their employer's name.   But at just under a kilometer away, that seemed silly in the daylight.  While the distance is short, the route is along a very busy road (during rush hour, no less) that intersects another very busy road.  For perspective, it would be like walking down I-235 during rush hour, but everyone is going 35 miles an hour, then crossing the same sized road. 

The walk was easy and traffic wasn't too horrible.  I kept with the flow and crossed at the walkways with a dozen other people.  The restaurant was exactly as I remembered, tucked behind a little 7-11 store.

I started my meal with some hummus and flatbread, then an Indian kebab with Jordanian rice.  I also placed a to-go order of paneer butter masela (an Indian dish) and Iraqi Saffron rice for leftovers this weekend.  I sat on the patio and people watched to my little heart's content until I noticed the sky turn and decided to make a dash back to the apartment.  As I sat there, I made a list of everything I saw, sort of live tweeting the experience.
  • A woman in dire need of dental services shouting at parked cars. I watched her touch some garbage and smell it. It must not have been to her liking as she left it alone.
  • A sports bar called "Cheers" (yes, THAT cheers) opening this month.
  • Japanese and European male tourists wandering the streets. 1 american male for sure - he had a fanny pack
  • A petite woman wearing an over sized T-shirt, grey leggings and last night's make-up
  • A well dressed, older, eastern-European couple with confused/concerned looks on their faces. 
  • Same couple again, walking the opposite direction
  • A 50+ year old Caucasian man walking with a woman who is likely 30+ years his junior, with the body of a middle school student.  I was creeped out by his presence as they walked across the street.
  • A woman in J-Lo-esque club attire. Olympic volleyball style shorts and rap video style shoes, enjoying her smoke break.
  • Young couples walking hand in hand, weaving through traffic, obviously just passing through the area.
  • A man in green skirt, dragging his flip flops as he passed by three times.
  • A man walking very quickly carrying a case of water on his head.
  • A college-aged guy wearing a northface backpack selling viagra to restaurant patrons across the street.
  • Ordinary citizens un-phased by the businesses that surround them as they walk to school or work.
  • A black sedan with heavily tinted windows, circling the block. We'll pretend I didn't see the "For official use" decal (with flag) on the passenger side.
  • Crazy lady is back and has added an empty juice jug to her belongings.
  • Approached (I'm sitting outside) by a man selling DVDs. I consider but send him away, I shouldn't buy until I'm ready to leave - otherwise I'd be swarmed.
  • A woman with 2 small kids begging for food. I hand them my unopened water bottle through the railing of the dining area. The baby is maybe 2. Suddenly things get blurry until I blink away the tears.
  • A man selling stolen/fake nike shoes.
  • The sedan stopped circling; the "official" business must be done.
  • An man resembling an older John Lennon sitting under the awning of a dry cleaners.
  • A van of properly dressed women in their 30s & 40s entering a language school down a side-street
  • A woman selling long-stemmed roses to the Romeo's looking to impress their companions for the night
As the sky turned a grey/green, I paid my bill and gathered my carry-out order and rushed back to the safety of my apartment, grateful for such a delicious meal and even more so for my fortunate life.

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