Well, I did it. I visited Philippines a third time. Why? Well, truth be told, I was supposed to visit Japan in March. I have been longing to visit Japan since childhood, and I was dreaming about visiting Japan around the sakura (cherry-blossom) season for over a year now. But for reasons too long to mention (mostly related to income tax paper work for visa processing) I missed the cherry-blossom season. So I decided to visit Philippines instead, a country that always rewards me traffic-wise more than any other nation I have visited.
This time I would most certainly do the Mt. Pinatubo trek, visit Oslob and finally see whalesharks, fly down to Davao and visit places in and around Manila. Unlike last year, I didn’t face any harrowing experience getting my tourist visa. Although, it did cost me a dear Rs. 7k to get it done quick using Thomas Cook as an agent. I could have gone and applied for it myself, but I’m still scarred by the Chennai Philippines Consulate experience of last year.
Anyway, the trip was planned for 25 days. Mostly because now tourist visas are granted for up to 30 days of stay for Indians, not 21 like before. I also decided I wouldn’t rush around this time. I wanted to relax and take it easy for once. It’s okay if I didn’t go anywhere on a particular day. Plus I still had my freelance work to do while travelling.
April 26, 2014
Like last year, I was going to be flying Dragon Air from Bangalore to Hong Kong, and then catch a connecting Cathay Pacific flight to Manila. Even though the flight was slightly delayed, I was kind of impressed by the fact Dragon Air had remarkably improved its service on this sector.
The stop-over at Hong Kong airport was around 5 hours and I used the opportunity to get some work done. I was feeling unwell, so the freezing cold inside the airport wasn’t helping. The flight from Hong Kong to Manila was Cathay Pacific, and all we were served on the flight was a chicken cheese wrap, of which I asked for one more as they had extras — and I was hungry.
I landed in Manila around 5pm and made my way to Cubao by bus. It was a mistake to take the bus — the journey took over two hours due to evening traffic. I finally made my way to the hotel I would be staying at. I decided to stay at Fersal Hotel on Annapolis Street in Cubao. It’s a budget hotel and I chose to stay here because it was close to where I could meet reader/friend Gale, who lived and worked near University of the Philippines, which wasn’t too far away. Also, most good hostels in Manila are all in Makati and Malate.
The next day, I met up with my friend Gale, who offered to show me around University of the Philippines, Diliman campus — or UP Diliman as the locals call it. It’s also where she works as a researcher.
Funny thing. While walking out, a young boy begging for money called me “Father”. Not as in ‘dad’ but assuming I was a priest. Gale told me Indian missionaries occasionally visit this church (I’m guessing Keralite Christians).
The tour of UP Diliman was brief because I still wasn’t feeling my best. I said my goodbyes to Gale and took a jeepney back as I wanted to rest some more. We agreed to meet up for lunch the following day.
On Saturday, Gale took me to Maginhawa which has been nick-named “Food Street” given the plethora of eateries in the area.
So we walked to Uncle Moe’s shawarma joint nearby.
The next post is my trek to Mt. Pinatubo with Gale (and others), and it’s a big one! My trip begins!
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