Gold Digga...that digs on me!
Trip Start Dec 21, 2010
18Trip End Feb 05, 2011
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Where I stayed
Landed in KL around 2am before catching the quick shuttle to our airport hotel (Tune Hotel; also owned by AirAsia) for a quick 2 hours of sleep in the smallest hotel room you have ever seen (have to walk across the bed, not around the bed, haha) before heading back to the airport at 5am for our flight to Manila. A good thing the plane was pretty empty so managed to get a window seat each and catch up on a bit of sleep. The flight to Manila was around 4 hours but unfortunately we landed in Clark which is actually 2 hours north of Manila city (always check these things when booking a flight with a cheap airline!)
First taxi after the bus drop was 300 pesos (£4) flat fee, we knew it was slightly more than what a metered cab would cost but were desperate to get to our hotel so just paid it. The first bit of advice the driver gave us was "lock your doors, if people see your bags they will open the door, grab them and run away". Not a great start! The hotel was nice enough (Clipper Hotel), although the staff were pretty useless on giving advice on where to eat and where to spend our 1 afternoon in Manila. We found a local chain called Savory Chicken which was odd; they sure like to mix their food up. Jacqui's lunch for instance was quarter chicken, rice, prawn crackers, gravy and stir fry (pancit).
One of the first things we noticed walking along the streets, apart from the dodgy individuals trying to sells us batons and Taser guns, yes Taser guns, was the number of policemen and security guards. Basically every business has a uniformed, and sometimes armed, guard on the door acting as a bit of a doorman, keeping the riff-raff out
The locals use jeepneys to get around town, they are basically converted army vehicles left over from WW2 with 2 benches in the back and decorated as colourfully and tacky as you like. Think flames, cartoon characters and quite often the Virgin Mary. Apparently they are now actually made new in the Philippines but still the same look as the old ones. We did manage to take a ride in one for a flat rate of 7 pesos (10p / R1), difficult to know where they are headed but the locals were happy to help us.
Rules of the road? Well, they are pretty non-existent. Even though they drive on the right hand side, if there is no oncoming traffic (or even if there is) then they just sort of use both lanes
Now for a truly great story, well we think so anyway! We decided to get a cab across town to the pier area (Roxas Boulevard - pronounced Roh-ha due to the Spanish influences) to visit the old walled fort area of Intramuros & Fort Santiago as well as supposedly pleasant walking along the bay. We hailed a cab and asked him to put on the meter, which he obliged, and I'm not surprised. He had clearly rigged the meter somehow as it cost us 520 pesos whereas the return in another cab was 88 pesos...gotta love these big cities. On top of that the driver was trying to convince us to use him as our personal taxi for the day and night for only 1500 pesos, which seemed like a good deal at the time but luckily we insisted, rather vigorously that we just wanted to walk. He wouldn't take no for an answer so we eventually just put the money for the initial journey in his hand and walked away fighting our way through trike drivers and horse cart drivers also offering us their services.
Anyway, the story, so the driver was quite talkative and asked where we were from, "South Africa" we replied (more exotic than England). His response was delightful, and I quote: "but people from South Africa are all n*ggers, why are you white?"....SAY WHAT GIRLFRIEND????????????????? Oh no you didn't (pronounce di-ent)!!!!!
Anywho, after a bit of sight-seeing we soon realised Manila is not at all a very touristy city, we only came across a handful of other tourists and every local we walked past just blatantly stared at us. Little kids were running up to us to say hello, like we were out of a movie and it was a little uncomfortable. I cannot stress enough just how many people were staring, I think I should have stuck a camera on my head as we walked down the street as proof. As we walked along the boulevard it started getting dark and a little scary as all sorts of dodgies started emerging, generally staring and shouting at us. We came across a policemen on his scooter who said it was safe for us to keep walking but just keep your valuables close to your person. We were looking for the bus stop to get a bus back across town to Makati, which is more of a shopping and business district, but as we walked along it just got worse and worse before we bumped into a well-dressed local who advised we jump in a cab sooner rather than later.
We definitely felt like those tourists who get mugged walking around Hillbrow at night where we just shake our heads and say well what did you expect to happen
As I said, that cab was a lot cheap at 88 pesos and at least this cabbie couldn't speak English (or so we thought) so was not keen to chat. But once we got to the mall he quickly reset his meter, but not before we saw the total, and then proceeded to only give me 800 pesos change from 1000 note. I informed him of his error before he started mumbling in perfect English, saying "tip tip tip". Here's a tip buddy, don't try short change me and you may get a tip!
We ended up at Glorietta mall, which is one of the many huge malls in the city and found some comfort food after a long, strenuous day... pizza! Jacqui had no appetite and was a bit nauseous and just shattered really so she didn't eat. Got a cab back to our hotel for a flat rate of 100 pesos, again overcharged as it's a short trip but as that is only £1.50, I guess it doesn't really matter!
The problem we have with these big cities is they are just hard work, you have to second guess everyone and never let your guard down which takes away half the fun of exploring. Overall, I guess we are glad we got to spend a day in Manila but much like Bangkok, not sure we would go back which is a pity. There is a lot of history there waiting to be told but there is not a big enough tourist scene to make sure the attractions are readily available and easy to get to.
So straight to bed for a 3.45am wakeup call before we head south to Dumaguete (Duma-get-teh) which is one step closer to island paradise!