Off to the Philippines

Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hurahay Dream Resort

Flag of Philippines  , Lapu-Lapu,
Monday, January 4, 2010

We were a bit apprehensive about stepping out of our comfort zone after the ease of travelling through Malaysia and classy Singapore. Every time we look on the BBC News website there's a new horror story about the Philippines; typhoons, floods, poverty, terrorism, kidnapped tourists, but the places we plan to see are firmly on the tourist trail (or so we hope).

We made our way on Singapore's MRT to Changi airport, changed our Singapore Dollars to Philippine Pesos and then found our way to the 'Budget Terminal' - an odd building stuck a little way from the main airport - which made us feel very cheap ! But the departure lounge did have free wifi and a payphone, just what we needed as we waited for our midnight flight as I had to call the bank again to reassure them about a recent transaction (tut!).

The flight with Cebu Pacific from Singapore to Cebu airport was uneventful, we tried to sleep and landed at 4am with a mountain of forms to fill out. When we got to passport control the man waved me through in a very uninterested way, well it was 4am, and we later realised he kept our departure cards (hmmm will another scam await us on departure?).

Paul however was held up at passport control for a while. The official asked Paul if he had a visa. 'No because you will give me 21 days' Paul replied. The official then asked Paul if he wanted an extended visa, since we had to show our onward flight to prove that we would leave the Philippines and that was for the 25th Feb. The official scribbled "$50" on a piece of paper and slid it across the desk to Paul, who replied that he didn't have any dollars, 5000 Pesos the man said - Paul replied that he didn't have that much, but the official had already stamped Paul's passport with a 59 day visa and wanted some money. "I'll meet you outside" he told Paul.

After a worried wait at customs the official approached us by the door. We waved him away muttering that our hotel had already agreed to sort our visas for us and fortunately we managed to jump into a taxi before he could do anything. Not a great start to the Philippines. We'd been worried about being scammed by taxis (the taxi actually was a fair pre-agreed price), but we'd not even thought that an official would scam us.

It was 5am when we got to the hotel. The armed security guard gave us the key to a room and we fell into bed for a nervous sleep.

We woke up at around 9am and tried to shake off our apprehension. We had one thing to do today and that was a visit to the Office of Immigration, even more necessary now as we had not only to extend my visa, but to check Paul's stamp was valid. After a dodgy breakfast of something trying to be bacon and the oddest scrambled eggs ever we set off in a taxi across to mainland Cebu. The official in the Office of Immigration was very friendly and helpful, he told us Paul's visa stamp was indeed valid and we'd been lucky to get it for free (we didn't feel lucky). At least it took the sting out of the 3000 Pesos (about 40 quid) we paid for my visa. It was the easiest visa extension in 10 months, it took only 30 mins and they had HBO on tv in the corner!

At this point, despite really wanting to just head to the airport and fly home we decided to stick to plan A. Back at the hotel the female owner talked to Paul and ignored me as her hareem of 'chamber maids' gazed adoringly at Paul. We're not sure that this place is as innocent as the website made out. We'll be glad to move onto another Island and tomorrow we fly over to Palawan.
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