Philippines

Jeepney
Jeepney

In the beginning of 2015 I had 2 jobs for some months. It was for a limited time only and I managed the stress quite well but of course I wanted a reward at the end of it. Since I had over a week of overtime from another project the year before, I didn’t even need to calculate leave for me. Only my husband with few leave days needed to be considered but at least his boss never lets him not take leave, so we are still very flexible.

I started browsing… having Asia or South Pacific on my mind. My husband kept telling me about cheap flights to the Philippines he heard on the radio. Unfortunately he couldn’t remember the price, the conditions or the airline. But then I found it: Cebu Pacific Airlines – direct flights – 250$ pp return with luggage. Philippines had dropped off our travel plans for some times because it was always so expensive and there weren’t many direct flights. It took us just a couple of hours and that trip was booked.

A month later we got onto that Cebu plane where they charge for everything from blanket via entertainment to food & drink. It was an 8 hour flight before we arrived in Manila and couldn’t believe that we were there. It was nearly impossible to get a taxi at the airport, so we went outside to some hotel and got one which worked it’s way through incredible traffic to our hostel in Malate. We had 1 or 2 much needed drinks at the rooftop terrace and enjoyed the warm evening breeze after leaving cold Sydney.

The next morning I took a pregnancy test and for the first time in my life it was positive. We had to digest that after trying for 3 years. Of course it didn’t mean much so early in pregnancy but a positive test was still a positive test. We slowly started making our way down the Roxas Boulevard along the very dirty shores of the Indian Pacific in quite a heat. We walked until Intramuros, a colonial area with a history loaded Fort. After some food and cold drinks we ventured back to Malate and sorted out the next days.

The very next day we wanted to go to Lake Taupo but completely misunderstood directions for the bus. When we found out where the right place was, it was too late to still go. So we tried to find the bus to go North a couple of days later to book tickets. We completely failed there as well which wasn’t too bad because we decided not to take the overnight bus to Banaue but another route via Baguio.

My husband had made contact with a guy from a metal band for our metal website Metal-Roos and that was next day’s plan. We went to Quezon City which was a bit difficult as well as the train stopped somewhere and we had to get off and find our way. In the end we jumped on our first Jeepney and got off at the correct stop. Jeepney are the usual means off transport you find everywhere. In most countries they are mini busses but in the Philippines they have these long, creatively decorated jeeps which cost close to nothing short distance or not much long distance. In the end we found that metal guy and went to his house where his wife cooked us a delicious lunch. Sorry, I’m not that much into food so I can’t remember it all but it was really good and apparently very typical. There was much time to spend and we hang around a shopping mall where it was nice and cool. In the evening we were invited to the band’s rehearsal which we enjoyed a lot – Pagan Fire is the band. After some beers with the guys (not for me sadly), we headed home.

Now it was time to see something else than big, hot, noisy, dirty and overcrowded Manila. We took the bus to Baguio, a city about 6 hours bus ride north of Manila. Baguio is in the mountains and therefore colder. After we found our accommodation, we wanted to start walking around but it rained that hard that we had to go back to the hostel and stay there.

Early the next morning we got on a bus to Bontoc. That was a very shaky ride for about another 6 or 7 hours. When we arrived in Bontoc we decided not to stay but immediately head to Banaue. We found a mini bus and arrived in the evening. Treating ourselves we chose the Sanafe Lodge with a beautiful balcony overlooking the Rice Terraces and clean rooms. Then we found out that there was no ATM in Banaue and our budget was very tight because we couldn’t access our money.

So we didn’t take a tour to the rice terraces the next morning but did some walking. I’m sure the UNESCO sites were impressive but we were already impressed with what we saw (besides uncountable chicken running around everywhere).

From Banaue took a Jeepney to Solano where we wanted to catch the bus. Since that didn’t come we took the offer of a mini bus… not sure if that was a good decision but we finally made it back to Manila after 6 hours tightly squeezed in the back row worrying how much shaking and knees tucked under the chin positions that tiny new being in my belly can endure. I’m writing this with a big 8 month pregnancy belly, so apparently they can endure very much.

Back in our Malate hostel, we tried another trip to Lake Taupo and the Volcano there. We were more successful but it took a bus ride, 2 jeepney rides and a tuk tuk to get us down to the lake. When we finally arrived we didn’t have time to take a boat tour which was also quite expensive. So we had lunch with a good view instead before heading back to Manila with another tuk tuk and then the bus to Pasay City.

It was surprisingly difficult to get to touristic places. Booking a tour probably would have been the way but taking public transport was an adventure and we hardly saw other foreigners anywhere (except for Banaue and Manila). I guess most tourists head to the islands and resorts which must be beautiful but we had decided against it.

On our last day we went again to the historic district of Intramuros and then hang out in the Malate Robinson’s shopping mall and the hostel. We had a whole day to spend as our flight was at midnight. When we took the cab to the airport we were sad to leave ugly, noise, dirty, overcrowded Manila as we had somehow started to like it.

In general the Philippines were cheap. Not dirt cheap but cheap enough for a budget trip. Double rooms in hostels where around 25$ for the 2 of us. People left us mostly alone and if they didn’t they understood no. Everybody spoke somehow English which was very helpful. They usually minded their own business but were ready to help when you stopped them and asked for directions or information.

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