Destination: Vietnam - Situation: Aaarghhh
Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
52Trip End Ongoing
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Upon checking out, the ever-smiling Sunny informs us that the boat won't be leaving Malapascua for at least an hour later than we had planned. We are screwed. Even the blinding white light from Sunny's smile can't put a shine on this lump of bad news. There is no way we will make it to Cebu airport on time now, even if the local bus leaves as soon as our bums hit the seat. Starting to feel mild panic rising in our stomachs, Sunny says he can try to organise a taxi or private minibus to drive us directly to the airport. But it'll cost us maybe four times more than the bus. We have no choice and curse ourselves for not getting off the island yesterday. So in the end we cough up the money and hire the minibus, it's much cheaper than buying new plane tickets! Ah well, at least we get a comfy ride to the airport.
Okay so one problem solved, at least we are going to make the flight to Cebu. Once we arrive at Cebu airport we spot an internet cafe and log on to our e-mail. We hold our breath as it loads... please let there be a visa approval letter or we go no further than Manila... We sigh a huge sigh of relief as the mail has arrived! It's one step closer to Vietnam. We will have to print the letter at Manila airport though as we don't have enough money to print here. Our shortage of money is a rapidly growing problem and our cards are refusing to let us withdraw any money. We try two ATM's but no joy, so we count up all our change and scrape together enough money for the terminal fee and some lunch. Let's hope Manila has a working ATM or we won't be able to pay the departure tax and will once again be stuck in Manila. On a positive note, once we land in Manila, we will have four hours to find an ATM and print out our approval letters. Shouldn't be that difficult.
We land in Manila and claim our backpacks before finding an ATM. After trying two cards we finally squeeze some money from the damn machine. It's another small victory. So now we have money and can pay to leave the Philippines, our only job left to do is print our visa approval letters. Manila airport is massive, there has to be somewhere we can print. Cebu airport was the size of a small shoebox and it still had an internet cafe. This is going to be a breeze.
Wandering up to departures, we have a walk around the restaurants and shops, looking for an internet cafe and somewhere to have dinner during our wait. Only after a full lap of shops, cafes and restaurants does it become apparent that there are no internet cafes. In the whole of Manila airport. Nothing. We ask a security guy and then a tourist information guy who both confirm that there is nowhere to print inside the airport. We are given two choices, head out of the airport to a cafe outside or beg the airline to let us use one of their computer terminals.
We decide to head out of the airport. It sounds like there is a cafe just outside the gate so off we trot. It's dark, warm, we still have our packs on, and the airport is so big we can't even see where the 'outside' is. It is just a huge labyrinth of car park as far as the eye can see. We ask a security lady who points vaguely towards a few buildings in the far distance. Hmm not very useful but it gives us a direction. Off we walk. As we get closer to the exit, more and more people tell us to be careful out there with our bags on. We are told the internet cafe is in a slum area and everyone shakes their heads at us worryingly. Finally we decide to turn back. We are defeated but it would be stupid to venture out into a slum area, after dark, carrying all our worldly possessions. Its time to beg the airline for help.
We find the Cebu Air Ticket office and take a waiting-ticket. We sit there for an eternity waiting for our number to be called out. They never call it. We think we may be the only ones who are using the ticket system as people just seem to come in and force their way to the front. We lose patience and Ian gets the attention of some Cebu staff to help us. They don't. Even though we can't board their plane without the letter, they can't/won't let us print. Okay, we are screwed again. The only thing we can do is find a baggage storage area, dump the bags and head back out into Manila to find this internet cafe. Not an exciting prospect.
Thirty minutes later and we have found our way into the heart of a slum shopping centre. It's a few intensely busy streets with shops upon shops and we are standing out like the neon surrounding us. We spot a cafe and burst in. The woman behind the counter stares at us blankly. We ask for a computer to print. She says no. We ask if there is anywhere else we can go but she continues to look at us blankly. A nice older man comes to our rescue and points to another cafe across the road, which we would never have seen as it is in the back of another shop. We walk over, being stared at the whole time, and enter. We again ask for a computer to print an email. She says no, full. Arghhhh! Time is starting to run out, we only have a couple of hours left. We decide to stand and wait, and wait... then our saviour shows up again to save the day. The old man from the first cafe walks. He sorts out a computer for us and soon we have an A4 bit of paper with our names on it. Success at last. We get out of there sharpish and make it back to the airport with just enough time for a quick meal before it's time to board. It has been a struggle but we've done it, and now we're off to Vietnam and the city of Hanoi.
The Philippines has given us some hard travelling and disappointing times. It has been frustrating and difficult, but ultimately it has also given us some truly wonderful, unforgettable experiences and memories. We have witnessed some jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes, swam with sharks, explored hidden coastline and marvelled at the strange wildlife both on land and in the sea. Thanks Philippines :)