Hong Kong airport is so big you need to catch a train to get to your gate.
Cebu Airlines is good enough for the price – certainly no free extras. The flight seemed quick compared to yesterday’s flight. We landed in Manila and disembarked. Walking down one of the corridors to immigration we were suddenly blasted with a furnace of hot air. “Why is there a heater on like that?” Jess asked. “That’s the outside air getting in” I replied. We were wearing all our jackets and tops to save packing weight, and I thought maybe we’d be ditching them soon.
We were met by Mina’s family, and after greetings we went off to a very fancy hotel that Mina’s niece had comped us for. There are 3 hotels in a new gambling complex, and the best of them, Nuwa, was were we to spend our first night. It’s the best hotel in a complex of three hotels, and service is of a very high standard – which is really the main differentiator at this end of the market. Pulling up to the main door the car was searched underneath for bombs, a bomb dog wandered past, and the rear of the car was inspected. Guard stood by armed with shotguns and AR15s. I’m extremely dubious if they would have have found a nuke strapped to the roof. Of course this level of security is all new to Jess. In New Zealand there is security nowhere except for the airport – and even then only jet-powered flights, and certainly no one is armed, not even the police.
After ditching our stuff we went to check into the apartment we’d booked on AirBnb – a 3 bedroom place suitable for everyone. Manila traffic is hell at the best of time, and I think it’s got worse since I was here last. It took over an hour to travel the 10km or so to the AirBnb apartment. After passing through the usual security rigmarole (scan under the car for bombs, check IDs etc) we finally got into the the complex, picked up the key from the letterbox, and went up to the apartment. Walking in it was definitely not as good as I would have expected. I lived in the area for a year, and while I didn’t expect it to be as nice as the apartment I had then it was definitely several levels worse than I would have expected. The place was very sparsely furnished, torn off decorations hung from the bare concrete walls, the kitchen light didn’t work, and slightly strangely were buckets of water in strategic locations. That point didn’t quite register straight away (Filipinos use buckets of water all the time since the water is not potable), but it niggled away at the back of my brain. Someone used the bathroom and immediately it was evident the toilet didn’t flush. We checked the other taps – nothing. This place had gone from bad to bottom of the septic tank. We called the contact the AirBnb host had provided, who told us there was a water shortage and water ran on a schedule. She rang off a list of times water would be available, but by this time I was not particularly interested. We confirmed with Mina’s family that they didn’t suffer any such restrictions, and the decision was rapidly made to abandon the place, come what may.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was dinner time, having wasted the whole first afternoon on a crappy apartment that was potentially going to have cost me a lot of money if I couldn’t get a refund. We went to Mall of Asia (MOA) which is an upmarket and packed out area full of restaurants and entertainment. After find a few places booked out we went to an Italian place, Italianni’s Restaurant. The food was actually very good, and quite authentic, if a little slow. When it came time to pay though problems started. They had trying to sell us some frequent user voucher – pointless for us. The bill took 10 minutes to arrive, and of course it included the voucher we had refused, and the discounts it would provide. It took the next 20 minutes and a lot of random results on the calculator before we got a number that I thought was probably near what the actual cost was.
We arrived back at the hotel with very mixed feelings. We’d been totally screwed over by the AirBnb place, had a great meal then been attempted to be ripped off by a restaurant, and been treated to the finest service at a top hotel, and we’d been here 8 hours. Manila can really piss you off sometimes, entirely unnecessarily, and it can also really treat you to the best and finest in life. That night I changed into my Philippines’ mode: I adjusted my attitude to one of go with the flow, route around damage, and sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s important not to get frustrated when travelling – it will get you absolutely nowhere.
Next: Day One
Previous: On the Way