The worst day in the best trip: Manila, Philippines

Sometimes it’s just one of those days. 
Since being on the road for over four months I’ve learnt to accept that days full of bad luck and poor decisions happen, that’s life, and they usually happen after a night bus like on this occassion. 
This floor of this bus stop was my bed for a few hours

My day started when I was dropped off at a rundown bus stop in Manila at four in the morning after a bumpy nine hour bus ride from Sagada, which I failed to get even a couple of winks on. Eric and Janine decided that they would get a cab into the city to find a 24 hour coffee shop with wifi so they could plan the next leg of their trip and suggested I join them, but I was reluctant to pay for an expensive taxi into town when I had to get a ferry later that day from the terminal on the other side of the city, so I decided to stay at the bus stop until sunrise. I laid on top of my backpack on the floor for a couple of hours before it was light enough to walk outside alone. Even though my ferry didn’t leave until 5pm I planned to make my way to the ferry terminal to see where I had to be and then find a local coffee shop with wifi and spend the day blogging. I had the perfect chilled out day planned, just what I needed after a sleepless night. However, it was not meant to be.

Metro Manila

As I walked along the highway carrying two backpacks and a carrier bag full of food and warm clothing (the air conditioned buses in the Philippines require you to wear the entire contents of your backpack), I asked some local people how I could get to the ferry terminal without having to take an overpriced taxi and sit in traffic. After twenty minutes I met a man who was preparing for his nephews birthday celebrations just outside his house and he kindly walked me two blocks to the jeepney stop which I felt awfully guilty about after he told me all about his heart problems and how he wasn’t meant to be active. 

A trike – the most common form of transport in the Philippines

Once I had figured out the logistics of travel by Jeepney and which one to get I jumped on, paid my eight pesos and after around 15 minutes was told to get off and get a tricycle to the ferry port as the jeepney was going elsewhere. This was a pain but it gave me the perfect excuse to try out another mode of Filipino transport that morning. I jumped in a trike which brought me to a rundown area which I believe was the cargo port, not where I wanted to be at all. I refused to pay the fare until he took me to the correct destination but he just wouldn’t budge and got aggressive when I tried to reason with him so I gave up, paid my way and started walking. Uncomfortable in the area I was in at such an early time of day I walked up to a local policeman and explained where I wanted to be. My luck changed when he offered to give me a lift to the correct ferry terminal so I squeezed myself and three bags on to the back of his bike while I held on for dear life as the weight of my backpack pulled me to one side.

Buttered Cassava cake

I arrived at Superferry’s terminal which was packed full of Filipinos and the ridiculous amount of baggage they seem to take everywhere which always seem to include a box of doughnuts. I had planned to leave my bags at the terminal while I spent the day in a nearby coffee shop but I was told that there were no coffee shops nearby and that the area was too dangerous to walk around looking, a word of warning to those making the trip to this area. Reluctant to spend the whole day in the small ferry port or to get a taxi I walked over an hour through the roughest neighbourhood I’ve ever encountered in search for civilisation. Although sketchy I was only met by harmless looks of surprise and I even picked up a buttered Cassava cake from a lovely lady on the way.

Manila’ ferry terminal

Time was getting on and I was exhausted. Carrying three bags through a rough neighbourhood after a sleepless night was not fun and to make matters worse the sun was getting hotter. I arrived at Chinatown but couldn’t find Starbucks anywhere and after an hour, gave up and jumped in a taxi. Hot and tired I just wanted to be somewhere safe and familiar so I headed back to Wanderers Guesthouse where I had stayed on my previous visit. I outweighed the cost of a taxi by the fact I could use their free wifi and kitchen facilities which was a ridiculous idea because A: the wifi only let’s a certain number of people on at the same time and that day happened to be the day when everyone wanted to go on it and B: the lack of aircon in communal areas meant I spent the day in a ball of sweat and was forced to go in search of cooler facilities. 

24/7 wifi at Mister Donut, woohoo!

Defeated by such a tiresome day, I spent the afternoon walking around town trying to find adequate wifi, taking numerous cold showers and spending a fortune on taxis to and from the ferry terminal, with the majority of drivers struggling to understand where I wanted to go. My second time in the city was just as stressful as my first visit to Manila. Maybe I haven’t seen “the real Manila” but what I do know is that my experiences hasn’t made me want to return. They say Manila holds the worst airport in the world and I agree. In my eyes it also holds the worst ferry terminal and the worst transport links, so my top tip is to stay somewhere easily accessible and don’t waste time trying to save money on taxis; just jump in a metered cab, forget about the dosh and get the ride over with as quickly as possible. Then find a good spot under the aircon, sit back, relax and order an overpriced but delicious western-style iced coffee.

Living life, loving travel,

H x


3 Comment

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