Los gehts ✈️🇵🇭
Manila, das waren sogar zu Malaysia-Zeiten immer spezielle Reisen.
Security Philippen war nach den Anschla
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
Time for the museums! After a hotel breakfast, our first stop was the National Museum of the Philippines, just a short walk away across Rizal Park. This was actually a really good museum with some really interesting exhibits about Filipino history and culture. Our favourite, though, was a large exhibit about a Spanish galleon that had sunk in waters just off Manila Bay in the 16th century, and was only recovered in the 1990s. Lots of items and interesting finds, including two samurai swords and suits of armour, leading to a suspicion that there were a couple of Japanese mercenaries on board!
Back outside by 1pm, we had a look around the 3D relief map of the Philippines which covers a big corner of the park. It's a man-made lake with little fibreglass models of each island placed appropriately. Cool little diversion for 15 minutes. Afterwards we had lunch, back to Jollibee's since it was nearby and there just aren't that many non-fast-food restaurants here.
After lunch we went to the national Art Gallery which was adjacent to the museum. Interesting in that all of the works were by Filipino artists - I guess partly to showcase their own artistry, but also because their government likely wouldn't have the resources to build up a collection of expensive overseas art. We had a great couple of hours wandering around, looking through the various galleries of artists we'd never heard of, doing their best to balance between local and outside influences.
Back outside it was by now late-ish afternoon (as mentioned it gets dark quite early here), and there was a thunderstorm looming in the distance. After a short sit in the park, a brief look through the underwhelming Japanese Gardens and a thankfully trouble-free encounter with a pair of would-be pickpockets, we got back to the hotel around 5pm where we relaxed and had an early dinner in the hotel restaurant. This time I had chopsuey, a saucy chicken stir fry which was much better than the earlier meal.
Afterwards we relaxed all evening, and spent a bit of time on Skype with the Cleavers who'd just returned from a week away in Port Douglas. Last night in this hotel, we're checking out tomorrow to move to our conference hotel!Read more
Time to have a day out and about, exploring the city and seeing what it has to offer. After a hotel breakfast we decided to spend most of the day in the Intramuros district, which is basically the Old City - where all the ruins and colonial buildings etc are. Thankfully it was only a 15 minute walk away, so off we went.
First stop was San Augustine Church, the oldest in the Philippines and UNESCO World Heritage listed. Originally built by Augustine monks in the 1580s, it had been variously damaged and repaired several times, and is now in pretty good condition. The last damage to it was during the Battle of Manila in 1945, when the Americans bombed it quite heavily. So the interiors are fairly new, but the exterior is fairly old.
Attached to the church is a large convent for the Augustine monks which is now a museum, and a very good one at that. We spent a couple of hours here browsing around the artefacts, walkways and relics. Though a lot of stuff is missing as well - apparently the British had plundered it quite heavily during their brief occupation in the 1760s.
Since we'd spent quite a while in the museum, it was now lunchtime! So we hit up another fast food place that we'd seen a lot of - Chow King. This one mostly served Chinese food, so I had a wonton noodle soup and Shandos had a pork & fried rice dish. Decent food, though nowhere near the quality that we're used to for Chinese food.
Our restaurant was opposite Manila Cathedral, so we had to head over and check that out afterwards. Again it had been heavily damaged over the years due to earthquakes and wars, so the current building was actually quite new - from the 1960s. It had been ratified as a minor basilica (whatever that means) by Pope JP2, and it's a very large and impressive building. It was also packed with people wearing identical t-shirts, pilgrims of some kind from I guess some far-flung part of the Philippines.
Next stop was a few blocks over - Fort Santiago on the riverfront. It was built by the Spanish conquistadores when they arrived, and had been variously used, built on and modified by all the occupying powers in the meantime (Spanish, British, Japanese, American). It's now a park and ruin, and also houses a shrine to Jose Rizal, one of the fathers of Filipino independence. He was a doctor and poet who wrote some subversive literature, and was executed for his troubles by the Spanish (literally a few months before the Americans kicked them out and handed the country to the Filipinos). His trial and prison cell were inside the Fort, so the area was turned into an interesting museum. A little too much detail, but good to learn about someone I'd never heard of before.
Last stop for the day was Casa Manila, a large mansion in the old town that has been furnished and preserved as it was around the turn of the 20th century. Great insight into how the 1%ers of the time lived, and interesting to see as well the balance between traditional art and furnishings versus some rooms full of European pieces. Apparently the opening of the Suez in 1859 had a huge impact on the Philippines, since a six month journey around the Cape of Good Hope suddenly became a six week journey instead.
We tried to have a coffee at the Casa Manila shop, but after waiting 20 minutes and the waiter twice saying to just have a seat and wait, he'll be right over, we walked out. On the way back to the hotel we walked through Rizal Park (a huge manicured park dedicated to Jose Rizal), which was teeming with locals enjoying their sunny Sunday evening. We walked around for a bit enjoying the atmosphere, eventually ending up along the bay front where the sun set slowly into the mountains across the bay.
Growing dark, we retreated to our hotel where we were both a bit footsore, hot and dusty. But always onwards, we knew we were out of clothes so it was down the street to a laundromat where we spent an hour of our lives we'll never get back.
Decided that for dinner, we'd try the hotel restaurant. Shandos had a grilled pork dish with rice that was quite nice, but my pork soup was totally not what I was expecting. The soup was tangy and sour, and the pork meat was extremely fatty. I struggled through half of it (and ate the entire portion of rice), but could make it no further. So I committed the cardinal sin - we went straight to McDonalds afterwards, where I had a small cheeseburger meal to actually fill me up!
Then back to the hotel and upstairs to read and sleep. I like Manila more now than I did this time yesterday, but I still don't like it that much. Nobody seems that friendly, and after all I've read about pickpockets, scammers and thieves, I find myself on edge constantly because of all the people lolling about. It seems like a place where it's very easy to take a wrong turn and end up in a dangerous slum. And of course it's hot, smelly, noisy and very pedestrian unfriendly. I've smelled more fresh urine today than on the rest of this trip combined.
But I'll cope - only a few more days here until the conference.Read more
You might also know this place by the following names:
Estero de Paco