Day 115: Time to MoveOctober 8, 2016 on the Philippines
Woke up at the usual time for breakfast on our balcony, and it was looking like a beautiful day, same as yesterday. All the wind and rain had disappeared, and it was just blue skies and nice swimming conditions. Which sucked for us, because we were leaving!
Since I'd gotten ridiculously sunburnt yesterday and we didn't have to leave the hotel until midday, I decided that I was going to stay inside our room in the air conditioning. That was about the only way I could stay comfortable! So that's what I did.
Shandos ducked out around 11:30 to get us some bakery fodder for lunch, and then by midday we checked out and grabbed a trike. Some slight confusion over our destination (we said "ferry", he thought we meant "hotel berry") and a 20-minute jaunt in the wrong direction later, we eventually arrived at the dock. On to a boat which was very heavily loaded (I had both bags piled on my lap and was jammed between the edge of the boat and a man in an army uniform), but thankfully the ride is only 10 minutes and we departed pretty promptly.
On the other side we were told to wait in a waiting area for our minivan transport to the airport, which we did. At 1pm the lady said we'd be leaving at 1:30, so Shandos disappeared in search of food. Less than 5 minutes after she'd left, the lady said everything was ready for boarding now, so I grabbed all our bags and tried to get a good seat, but with no luck. Unlike the minivan a few days earlier which had spare seats, this one was packed to the gills with passengers and luggage. 18 people in a 15 seater must be a new record!
I managed to reserve the seat directly behind me for Shandos, though communicating this took a bit of difficulty. Although it still wasn't 1:30, she hadn't come back, and the van was fully loaded and ready to go. I couldn't jump off and go looking either, as I was wedged in and several people would have to get out for me to get out. After another 5 minutes or so Shandos arrived back, carrying two fried chicken burgers. Apparently she'd ordered them, come back to check on progress while they were cooking, discovered that everyone was waiting for her, ran back to the chicken place and couldn't cancel the order, but the staff pushed the order through as quickly as possible.
As we set off, I bit into my burger to see fairly pink chicken - I guess they'd really done it quickly! Although I'm sure it would've been fine, I didn't want to risk an urgent spewing or spraying disaster with a 90 minute van ride ahead of us. The trip was much quicker this direction - middle of the day meant that schools weren't letting out (it was also Saturday I guess), so the driver was going a lot quicker and there just seemed to be fewer motorbikes and stuff getting in the way. It still reminds me a lot of Bali though, where your average speed is always low because there's just a constant stream of slower vehicles in front of you.
We arrived at the airport just after 2:30, where we breezed through check-in and security as usual. For a small airport with only a couple of gates it was actually surprisingly busy (though a very small terminal). We went upstairs to a deserted mezzanine level and set about using the Wifi as our flight wasn't until 5pm.
I'm generally a fan of Air Asia, but clearly their Philippines branch has a lot of work to do. The aircraft arrived way before our flight was due (like 90+ minutes, normally the plane turns up at the scheduled boarding time which is one of the ways they save operating costs), but apparently nothing got done to it (maintenance, cleaning etc). Eventually our flight was called at about 5pm (due to depart at 5:10pm), but after checking boarding passes and allowing us out on to the apron, we then stood around for about 10 minutes, and nobody seemingly had any idea what was going on.
Finally we were allowed on the plane, where everyone got seated and settled quickly and .. nothing happened. At about 5:20pm the captain told us we'd be leaving at 5:47pm sharp, so a long way behind schedule. So in the mean time, we just .. sat there. Not allowed to use electronic devices of course because the staff consider it in taxiing and takeoff mode, even though you're idle on the ground with the engines switched off. The flight was pretty full, I was uncomfortable with the sunburn, oh and this was one of the first flights we've had with a lot of screaming babies. So they all screamed their heads off.
5:47pm exactly, and we took off. We even sat on the runway with both engines at idle power just to make sure. Finally we were off on a 45-minute flight north to Manila. Annoyingly, after the 20 minutes of climbing and cruising, it was time to descend again which means time to turn off all devices, put your seat up etc. That's fine, except we then were in a holding pattern for another 30 minutes, which again the babies all screamed through. And you're just sitting there with nothing to do but stare out the window at inky blackness.
Finally we landed, then a long taxi to the budget airline terminal. Walked straight through the terminal and found the GrabTaxi counter (Grab is similar to Uber) and waited 10 minutes for a car to arrive. Normally at airports there are large carparks, landscaped grounds and so on, and it can take a few minutes before you actually leave the airport. Not in Manila! Once we got in, it was literally a case of driving 10 metres, turning right and you're on the road - the terminal building is basically against the main road like a bus station or something. It is the budget terminal though (#4).
Heavy traffic getting to our hotel, so another 25 minutes or so. Not much to see in the darkness other than a concrete jungle - Manila isn't known for being a beautiful city. Checked in OK, room is very large and with fairly modern furnishings, it should be comfortable for the next few days.
Shandos wanted to go exploring for dinner but given it was after 8pm and Manila isn't a particularly safe city, I wasn't keen. Eventually I agreed to McDonalds about 50m away on the corner of our hotel's road, when we saw a Jollibee's diagonally opposite. It's a Filipino fast food chain that competes with McDonalds and is all over the place selling a bunch of different foods though mostly fried chicken. I had a burger which was similar to a junior Whopper, while Shandos had a spaghetti meal.
Back to the hotel where we collapsed exhausted after a long and trying day of transit. Manila starts tomorrow.Read more