In keeping with the fact that I have no money, and that I still pursue travelling expeditions which incur more money, I took an Air Asia flight to Clark Airport because it was cheaper than going to the main airport in Manila. The aeroplane landed and as I was seated fairly close to the front, I eagerly waited for the doors to open so I that could quickly get out. The doors opened, and I could feel the humidity that awaited outside. I took the steps down and accepted guidance from a security guard pointing me towards a broken door. I walked through the door only to end up in the luggage area. Did I miss something? Was it possible that this particular airport didn’t require an immigration point? No. Another security guard came over and started yelling at the small group of us who went the wrong way on the advise of another. We all groaned our grumpy groan and headed back towards the tarmac, where we saw the last few people leave the aeroplane and walk towards what was presumably the actual route to the immigration point. We were now at the very back of the queue… Sucks.
With the help of a friendly New Zealander, I found a bus that took us into the heart of Manila. When I got on the bus, it was quite evident that there was no bus driver. Were we required to drive this ourselves to Manila? I was pretty sure that would end up in an unfortunate situation. There was however what appeared to be a homeless guy passed out in the back row. We waited somewhat patiently and eventually the homeless guy walked towards the drivers seat and closed the door. He then blasted some Bonnie Tyler through the bus and hit the highway.
I eventually arrived at an SM Mall, feeling as if I had my year’s worth of eighties music. I had specific instructions to meet my Couchsurfer in front of a fast food joint in the mall. Without any connectivity, I started to worry as Manila looked like a crazy maze of traffic and it was already getting dark – I didn’t think I would be able to find a place for the night if he didn’t show. Thankfully he did, and took me to my bed.
The following morning, we decided to jump on a jeepney and head towards the countryside where we would get more jeepneys which were full, so instead of sitting, I had to hang on for dear life off the back while the driver sped through traffic. We wanted to see the famous Taal volcano island, and we managed it from the last jeepney stop. My Couchsurfer wanted to get closer, so we headed to some park where a young boy of no more than 15 tried to coerce us into getting a ride on a motorcycle to the bottom of the mountain in which we could get a boat across to the island. We agreed. OK, it doesn’t sound too sensible I get it, but where’s the adventure in sensible? We jumped onto the motorcycle and sped down to the bottom of the mountain. Of course there wasn’t a boat, so we sped right back up and had some burgers instead.
The next day, I took to the jeepneys myself and headed to MOA, the 10th largest shopping centre in the world. It wasn’t too difficult to get there as the mall was clearly identifiable by the giant metal globe sitting outside it. I wandered around the mall, not looking particularly impressed. Sure it was nice to be in an air-conditioned place but I didn’t think it was so big to warrant such a title of being the 10th largest mall in the world. Nevertheless, I got bored quickly and headed to the sea where I went for a walk as the sun set, contemplating about life and other big decisions such as what to have for dinner. Eventually I found a jeepney going in what seemed like the right direction. Of course, I got lost and had to walk through some sketchy areas in the dark to find a train back to a different shopping centre so that I could find my Couchsurfer and have dinner.
During my brief stop in Manila, the highlights had to be the food. My Couchsurfer made some sort of coconut fish dish for me that I devoured like someone who hadn’t eaten for weeks because it was just that delicious. I never got the recipe though… We also went to a local place that he liked which had a range of famous chicken dishes. The way it was marinated and succulent was well worth the low price I paid for it.
I may not go back to visit for a while, but I had some crazy, weird, bizarre adventures full of getting lost. Manila is known for being slightly dangerous and sketchy, but if you try to be street-wise, you’ll be fine.