Monday, 9 April 2012

Day 16 - Manila (Philippines)

Well we have successfully made it to Manila. As it turns out, finding one's way from the airport to the actual city isn't simple, but whilst we were endeavouring to piece together the tiny bits of information we could collect from various pamphlets and people at the airport, we met our new and first travel companion. Priscillia from Amsterdam is the most recent and possibly coolest member of our group. Together, the five of us picked our way across town, first in a coach-like bus, then in a "jeepney" (a converted and often elaborately painted army jeep), and eventually on foot, gathering bits and pieces of contradicting directions and instructions from street vendors, hotel concierges, convenience store patrons and other miscellaneous beings we bumped into. Unfortunately it happens to be Easter Monday today, so no travel agency type places were open all day.

As we really had no plan as to what we would do in the Philipines, we wandered around a bit, checked out a couple of hostels (when we eventually managed to find them - Philipino signage leaves a lot to be desired), hummed and hawed a bit, and ended up booking flights to Boracay for tomorrow, where Priscillia will meet us the following day.

In the mean time we checked into Friendlys Guesthouse in Malate, for a grand total of 400peso (approx AU$8) each, and set off to explore the city. The contrast between the classes is incredible, and in many ways devastating. From our hostel we can walk along the street and see children covered in dirt lying in the gutter, men urinating on their own feet and living areas on the pavement made of soggy cardboard. However, a few hundred meters along this street we arrived at the Robinson Centre. This is a shopping centre that puts any that I have ever been into before to shame in terms of size and flashiness, not to mention security. There were enough shiny things to keep Ben occupied for months, and we all enjoyed a thorough frisking on our way in. After walking a little further we entered the old town, which is made up of run down but still beautiful old buildings. The poverty wasn't quite as striking here, but things such as sleeping or peeing on the pavement or in the gutter seem to be regular socially acceptible acitivites. And just next to the old town is a perfectly maintained exclusive golf course. The divide between rich and poor is just so shockingly evident.

We have now reached a juncture in the early part of the evening where we have to decide what to do with our one night in this city. We probably won't be following in the footsteps of the embarrassingly obvious sex tourists. We were recommended a local restaurant for dinner, but unfortunately we accidentally had a huge lunch at 5.30pm so that seems somewhat redundant at this point. Apparently karaoke is a thing to do, so getting our 80's on might be what's on the agenda. That is if we can tear ourselves from the less-than-a-dollar-a-pop beer we're currently enjoying on the rooftop decking of our hostel, from where we can watch all the happenings of the street, without actually having to move.

In other news, our thoughts are withTrevor who should be in Dili by now. We really can't wait to hear all about his adventures when we meet up again in a couple of weeks.

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