Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Over 7000 Islands and only 16 days - yikes!

Tues 29th Jan - Manila

We arrived at 1am in the morning at Clark Airport which is an hour away from Manila. All pretty knackered so we got a taxi in and then proceeded to search for over 2 hours for accommodation. Everywhere the taxi guy took us to was way too expensive. But after persistent cries of 'we need budget rooms' and 'no more than 1000-1200 pesos', he eventually took us to a pensione house. Checked in at around 6am to a teeny tiny room for 3 of us, and pretty much slept straight through until 2pm. Laura and Paul slept way past me. But I had to get up and go do something as I wouldn’t be able to sleep in the evening if I didn’t. So showered and then went for a walk round the block, which turned into a long walk round the block whilst getting lost, eventually finding my way back, and to the hugest mall ever.

My first impressions of Manila were that it looked a bit like India, with the hanging electricity wires and street children begging but a little more developed, and the general air it gave off was like Thailand. The people were so so SO friendly, perhaps the friendliest people I’ve met on my trip so far. As I was walking down the street everyone that walked by were, ‘hallo maam’, ‘hallo’, ‘good afternoon maam’, all smiley and cheerful! Great sight to wake up to!

There are security guards with guns EVERYWHERE! Perhaps to employ as many people as possible, but they were at our hotel, at the door to every shop, getting into the mall you had to be frisked, at the entrance to car parks, hotels, 7/11 (south east Asia’s answer to Tesco’s), mini-marts, restaurants; you couldn’t walk 5 seconds without seeing another guard!

So on my walk around the block, I went to 7/11 to get a sim card and some snacks, got followed by a guy in a white car asking for my number, so I quickly ducked into a shop (he followed me two blocks - the cars behind him were beeping their horns as he was going so slow, ‘maam, what’s your number?’ over and over out the window). Went to get a hot chocolate from Starbucks, and then regretted it as it was so humid outside. Then I ended up in Robinson’s Mall which was literally next door to our hotel, but totally didn’t notice until now!

It was MASSIVE! I’d heard the Mall of Asia was even bigger so if this mall was big god knows what that would be like! It had 4 levels, 55 restaurants in the food section, a 7 screen cinema, and 5 different wings to it. I got lost, actually! There was a traditional Filipino dance show going on so I was watching that, when I got side-tracked by the endless restaurants for me to try out and ended up walking in a random direction with no idea I was going out of my way, towards a sushi restaurant for something to takeaway, (Tonkatsu noodle curry – it was a massive tub full and delicious). So I ended up forgetting which way I’d come in, and had to walk the entire mall before I found the exit I needed. Always a sucker for food – gets me in some tricky situations sometimes!

Then went back to the hotel, where Laura and Paul were still asleep (by now it was around 6pm), so I went downstairs where there was internet and researched and planned where we could go over the next 16 days...this wasn’t an easy feat! There are over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, and we wouldn’t even be able to touch more than 4 of them if we tried! You have to get flights everywhere (which are more expensive than you’d think!) or the only other option were 30 hour boats to the places that were boat-linked, or overnight buses on each island to get to places of interest. For example the rice terraces are 8hrs from Manila, and Palawan is an expensive £100 flight away from Legazpi with a 4hr layover in Manila. However we only had 16days to see as much as we could so it was essential to just bite the bullet, pay out for the expensive things and cut back when I start travelling on my own in Vietnam. So I planned a rough route, which initially included the rice terraces, but this route changed several times over the next day or so as we began to realise what we wouldn’t realistically fit in. The original itinerary was Manila, up to Rice Terraces in Banaue, then down to Boracay, over to Palawan, El Nido and Coron, ending up back in Manila for our flights out. But it meant only staying in each place for a couple of nights, which, with most of them being islands you have to fly to, would end up becoming mega expensive and would we spend all our time travelling. So we did end up cutting it down each time we looked at it with new eyes!

My head was spinning by the end of it - there’s just no way you can do the Philippines in 16 days/1 visit - and Laura was beginning to get upset about leaving Laith and Andrew and her family (as this was almost the end of her ‘holiday’ before her 2nd year in Australia) and doing things on her own, which in turn also made me stressed and worried about my upcoming travels alone for the next 6 months or so. So we ended up staying in, talking and trying not to think too much about home. Paul got us cakes from Starbucks, then we couldn’t sleep (it was now gone midnight) so we put on a movie, which took us an hour to pick (Finding Nemo) and fell asleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment