A true Asian megacity
Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
99Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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I had no real plans for Manila. The city has gleaming skyscrapers piercing the hazy sky, mushrooming from the grinding poverty of expansive shanty towns. I am staying in Malate, a known red light district that houses poverty, crime, drugs and trafficking. But all the hostels are in this area.
I woke late and was pretty unsociable for most of the day. Only in the evening did I venture out to find a friendly post office and a small burger joint called machine burger. Two chilli burgers later, I wander back to my hostel and join a group of young travellers. A USA girl called Laura, 20 from Minnesota and a young 20 Dutch guy from Amsterdam. They enjoyed ribbing me for my age. I also met a very cool 24 year old Israeli girl card Neeta. We were talking about all sorts but had the amusing experience of a surfer guy from Australia join us a little drunk and was unable to join in the conversation, so he quickly left. I chatted till late in the morning.
Next day, I met a couchsurfer for breakfast. Arcelle is 24, has studied in Manila for 7 years and was generous enough to give up her time to take me to breakfast and for a short morning tour. We ate a traditional breakfast, oh hang on, I should mention she was late, her life runs 30 minutes different to ours so I gave up on her after 30 minutes, but she found me at my hostel. I think it's her favourite hobby being late, haha! We chatted for a long time over breakfast then she took us to the famous site if Intramuros. We had to catch several Jeepneys to get there, but they only cost 5 pence a ride. She's a very gifted young lady, very intelligent, very self confident and doesn't conform to anything, well, except facebook. If we had all day to hang out, I know we would have talked all day.
Intramuros is a spacious borough of wide streets, leafy plazas and lovely colonial houses, the old walled city of Intramuros was the centerpiece if Spanish Manila. At least it was until WWII, when the Americans and Japanese levelled the whole lot. Only a handful of buildings survived the firestorm; over 100000 Filipino civilians were not so lucky.
We entered Manila's premier tourist attraction, Fort Santiago, which is fronted by a pretty lily pond and rests at the mouth of the Pasig river. Arcelle has great knowledge on the history and in particular about the national hero Jose Rizal. Within the grounds is the Rizal shrine in the building where he was incarcerated as he awaited execution. It contains Rizal's personal effects and an original copy of his last poem, 'Mi Ultimo Adios' (My last farewell).
It was getting past midday and my flight to Boracay was after 230pm so Arcelle kindly helped me back to my hostel and I jumped into a metered taxi to Manila airport (which is different to Clark airport).
As my brother, Dave, regularly says, one of these days I will miss a flight! The taxi got stuck in traffic and we were not sure which terminal to go to. My email said two so after a 45 minute journey that cost 155 in local currency (pesos), I find out I'm at the wrong airport. I jump into another cab and this guy refuses to stick the meter on, saying he was a good man and would give me a fair price. Four minutes later we were at terminal 3 and he tried to charge me 250 pesos! I laughed at him and got out. I offered him 50 and he went nuts. Good guy my ass, luckily there was a cop at the drop off point. My problem also consisted of only having a 1000 peso note. I refused to give it to him until I saw the change. A few times he motioned like he was going to head butt me, then spit at me, then punch me. Between another taxi driver and a tourist I broke my note and ended up giving him 100 pesos. The cop took the money and exchanged it over for us. Little prick he was, just playing his little game to threaten me. Later, while lining up for security to get into the building, the cop asked if I was ok. I've dealt with far more crazy people in my previous line of work. I was fine, but the taxi driver was still gesturing to me like he now wanted to cut my throat, well, how pleasant for a decent man.
The queue to check in for my flight was long and only had one check in clerk. The queue didn't move for 20 minutes, apparently there were delays or cancellations. One guy came up to me and said I had missed my flight. Could Dave be right?? I told him I had been standing there for ages and he should get others to help check us all in. Well, it turns out my flight was delayed by an hour, so I still made it, though I'm not sure if I would have done if it was on time. Point to Tony! However, I got very irritable in the queue, many people pushed to the front and because they had no baggage, got served! Grrr!!
Anyway, I made my flight and luckily, met a great Dutch guy while waiting for our delayed flight.
Next stop, Boracay.