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aerial photography

Mayon volcano Legazpi city aerial view

Philippines: Aerial view of Mount Mayon; arriving at Coron

Date: 30th May, 2013

Today was my last day in Legazpi. I had to head to the airport for my 12:40pm flight to Manila.

Backyard Legazpi coconut trees
Woke up to a view of the backyard not too different from what it’s like back home at my village

After breakfast, I checked my e-mails, packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and hired a cycle taxi to take me to Legazpi airport (I could take it easy as I had the time). Legazpi airport, like most regional airports isn’t very big and they weren’t even beginning the check-in procedures 1.5 hours before the scheduled flight time.

Legazpi airport Mayon volcano background
From the departures lounge I got to see Mt. Mayon… cloud-free
Magayon volcano smoke Legazpi Philippines
Still smoking
Legazpi airport runway Mayon mountain
At the time of check-in, I specifically asked for a window seat on the right-hand side of the plane, so that I could see Mt. Mayon at take off
Flight take off Legazpi
To head to Manila, the plane takes off…
Legazpi aerial view
And then turns around
Legazpi city aerial view
Wait for it
Mayon volcano Legazpi city aerial view
There she is!
Mount Mayon volcano full view from sky
Truly the world’s most symmetrical volcano
Magayon volcano full view from sky
I guess seeing it from an airplane is obviously the only way one can see Mount Magayon in its entirety

Here’s a video I shot:

Mount Mayon aerial view from plane
Goodbye epic mountain I had a tough time photographing without the clouds

I landed in Manila at 1:45pm and I had to then make my way to the next gate for my connecting flight to Busuanga Airport (Busuanga is the main airport serving Coron island). I had lunch from the airport itself as my flight would only depart at 3:15pm.

Continue reading “Philippines: Aerial view of Mount Mayon; arriving at Coron” »

AirAsia flight Kalibo airport

Philippines: Leaving Boracay; Kalibo to Angeles City

Date: 23rd May, 2013

I had some fun in Boracay these past three days, but I was kind of happy to leave the island. The humidity, the lack of proper sleep because of the same, and the sand… ugh, my body yearned for a proper shower and a thorough shampoo rinse. It was time to head back to ‘the city’.

I checked out from Frendz Resort, and made my way to boat jetty. I took a tricycle taxi, and for once paid the local fare of 25 pesos for the ride.

Boracay boat jetty
After paying ₱100 terminal fee + ₱25 boat ticket, I was finally leaving Boracay island
Boracay Aklan boat ride
And heading back to Caticlan jetty
Caticlan boat jetty Philippines
Back at Caticlan

Although I flew into Caticlan airport when coming to Boracay, my Air Asia flight to Clark was going to be from Kalibo airport, located in the north of Aklan province — which is an hour plus drive from Caticlan. Not to worry as there are several van taxis just outside Caticlan jetty. Most of them charge the same ₱175 for the journey.

Kalibo bakery Aklan Philippines
Even though the van is supposed to be air-conditioned, it was still kinda hot inside
Kalibo hospital Aklan Philippines
The journey took more than an hour

Still, we arrived at Kalibo airport with enough time to check in. I didn’t feel like going in just yet, so I had my lunch from a restaurant right across from the airport. Continue reading “Philippines: Leaving Boracay; Kalibo to Angeles City” »

Philippines Consulate emblem Chennai

The crap I went through to get my Philippines tourist visa this time

I’ve been itching to write this post since I got my Philippines visa stamped back in early May. I was very upset and stressed over the entire ordeal. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I first visited Philippines in 2011. It ended up becoming my greatest trip till date. The photos I took, the places I visited, and the experiences I had made for a series of blog posts that became very popular — especially among Filipinos! So popular that Philippines is now the third highest country driving traffic to my website. I’ve gotten hundreds of comments, e-mails and messages on Facebook from Filipinos thanking me and praising me for giving Philippines a visit.

Philippines traffic to
You will find this stat box on the right column under the ‘Live Traffic Feed’ widget

When I left Philippines in 2011, I knew I wanted to go back and thought about finally doing it earlier this year. The initial plan was to visit Philippines first and then go to South Korea from Manila. I even got a great deal on a Cathay Pacific flight going from Bangalore → Hong Kong → Manila and the return from Incheon → Hong Kong → Bangalore for around Rs. 32k. Unfortunately in April, some idiot in North Korea decided to issue a bunch of threats to their wealthier neighbour and bragged about dropping bombs there and starting a war. Of course, the situation was made worse by Western media, who made a bigger deal out of it than the South Korean media did.

Still, I kept thinking “what if…” and I was considering cancelling the South Korea portion of my journey. I ended up doing so when I began my visa processing work and found out that Philippines has since opened up a consulate in Chennai, and my passport would have to go there first and then go to New Delhi for my South Korean tourist visa. With under three weeks left before my departure date, I called up Goibibo and sadly cancelled the South Korea portion of my flight. I had to shuffle dates, make fresh bookings to Manila and all-in-all I lost around Rs. 5000.

But my misery wasn’t over. In 2011, I got my Philippines visa done through Thomas Cook, who after charging Rs. 1000 as their service fee, got my passport stamped and sent back from New Delhi in just a week’s time. I went to the same Thomas Cook branch in Koramangala, only to be told that all visa applications are now done at the MG Road office. But just to be sure, they called up the Thomas Cook office in Chennai. Then the guy tells me: “Thomas Cook can’t do Philippines visa”. I’m like, “what?!”. I went back home annoyed and decided to visit the MG Road branch of Thomas Cook the next day for better clarification.

When I went to the MG Road branch with all my documents (as specified on the Philippines Embassy website), the Thomas Cook staff told me I may have to provide an additional document. Annoyed that I had to come back again the next day, I asked her if she was sure Thomas Cook could handle the Philippines visa processing. She assured me “of course,” but when I told her what the guy at the Koramangala branch told me, she decided to call up the Chennai office to confirm. She herself was shocked to hear that the Chennai office said they no longer handle Philippines visa applications.

When I asked her what was the reason, she told me they wouldn’t say but it was a blanket “no, we don’t do that anymore” and that the applicant (me) will have to go in person to the Chennai consulate and apply. Which was ridiculous to me, because I didn’t have to deal with all this the last time! Instead, she suggested sending my passport to the Philippines Embassy in New Delhi. When I asked her how long that would take, she told me 7-10 working days. Which was too risky for me because I saw the number of passports the MG Road branch sends to New Delhi every day — it’s in the hundreds, and to various embassies! Add to that, now the service fee for sending it to New Delhi had gone up to Rs. 1700.

I told her I need to think about this because for that kind of money, I can go to Chennai myself and get it done in a day. When I got back home, I felt frustrated over the days lost and all the running back & forth. I called up the Chennai Philippines consulate to check if I needed to apply in person and I was rudely interrupted by a lady who worked there to be told “of course I could use agents like Thomas Cook!” and there was no need for me to come.

But I didn’t feel like wasting any more time, so I packed up my bag, carried copies of every document, carried extra photographs, and decided to go to Chennai by bus that very night.

I reached Chennai at dawn and called up my cousin brother Nitesh, who offered to pick me up and take me to his place to rest before going to the Philippines Consulate on Mount Road. I didn’t want to bother him, but given I barely slept in the bus (due to the nervousness), I accepted his offer. After breakfast, Nitesh dropped me at the consulate and was nice enough to wait for me, thinking that all I had to do was just drop all my documents and come back later to collect my stamped passport.

Philippines Consulate Chennai office
It begins

Continue reading “The crap I went through to get my Philippines tourist visa this time” »

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