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manila

Dragon Air Bangalore flight breakfast meal

Philippines: The itinerary this time around; UP Diliman and Maginhawa

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.

Dragon Air interior Bangalore flight
Last year, the plane I flew was old, the in-flight entertainment sucked and the food was mediocre at best. This year, Dragon Air made flight depart earlier, every seat had a video screen with great entertainment choice and plane was very new!
Dragon Air Bangalore flight breakfast meal
I slept through much of the flight, only to wake up when it was time to eat breakfast

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.

Fersal Annapolis hotel room Manila
It cost me PHP 1020 per night inclusive of breakfast
Spanish mushroom omlette breakfast Fersal hotel
And the breakfast options weren’t bad

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. Continue reading “Philippines: The itinerary this time around; UP Diliman and Maginhawa” »

Khalsa Dewan Sikh temple Manila Philippines

Philippines: Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple; leaving Manila for Hong Kong

Date: June 3, 2013

Today was my last full day in Manila. I had to step out of the condo as Janet had to go for work. I really didn’t have much planned for today as far as sight-seeing was concerned. I packed light and carried only my Canon 7D camera.

I said my goodbyes to Janet and made my way to UN Avenue station. I was at this stop because I was searching for the Sikh temple in Manila. Online, the Khalsa Diwan was listed as being situated on UN Avenue road. I walked down the road a bit, but didn’t find any temple and the people I asked couldn’t comprehend what I was asking about either.

I walked back to UN Avenue station where I was approached by one of the many cycle taxi drivers who asked me where I wanted to go. I told him I was looking for the Sikh temple… which he didn’t understand. So I just said “Indian temple” and then he went, “ah! sure!”

From inside tricycle taxi Manila
The cycle went down the same road I walked on earlier… only much further down
Indian grocery stores Manila Philippines
I guess he was in the right direction when I saw these Indian grocery stores

The name is Khalsa Dewan Sikh Temple and it is the oldest (and only?) gurudwara in Manila. Like a lot countries in South East Asia, much of the Indian population that have been here for decades are predominantly of Punjabi/Sindhi origin. Philippines isn’t that different either.

Khalsa Dewan Sikh temple Manila Philippines
The facade
Inside Khalsa Dewan Sikh temple Manila
It doesn’t appear to be very big
Khalsa Dewan Punjab icons
I went upstairs
Khalsa Diwan Sikh temple floor
The main prayer hall
Khalsa Dewan langar room
I came back down to the langar for a meal. Like all gurudwaras, anybody and everybody is served a free meal — regardless of their faith.
Roti dal thali Sikh temple Manila
After two weeks of “non-masala” food, Indian flavour tasted so good. Even if was just roti, dal curry and semolina paysam.

Feeling full, I left the gurudwara after making a ₱100 donation.

Paco Manila UN Avenue bridge
I crossed the road to get a better view of the temple’s exterior. The temple is situated right after a bridge.

I walked back to UN Avenue LRT station and took the train to Monumento station. I had seen quite a few malls and markets in the area way back in 2011, but couldn’t explore much because it rained heavily that day.

But after roaming around the area for nearly two hours, I didn’t find much of a difference in prices or quality than what you would find even in areas like Makati. So I left.

Pasay aerial view Manila
An aerial view of the Pasay junction from one of the overbridges

I made way back to Ayala because I made plans with Janet to go out for drinks in the evening.

Manila city skyline evening sunset
One final evening sunset in Manila

Janet promised to take me to her favourite restaurant/bar she frequents called Giligan’s at Market! Market!

TV channels camera crew Manila
On my way there, I saw a big gathering of camera crew all lined up
Ayala condo BGC explosion
Just yesterday, there was a loud explosion at this Serendra condos, which claimed the lives of 3 people. The damage was caused by an LPG line explosion.

I met up with Janet and we went to Giligan’s after I picked up a bottle of watermelon rum I really liked.

Baked cheese oysters Giligans Manila
Fresh baked oysters for ₱138 (Rs. 190/$3/€2.2)  just a plate!
Razon's Halo Halo Filipino dessert
After a pleasant dinner, Janet recommended I try halo halo from Razon’s. Halo Halo is the Philippines’ equivalent of India’s falooda

After that, it was back to the condo for packing bags and an early night’s sleep.

Date: June 4, 2013

I left the condo with Janet after a light breakfast. Janet was kind enough to hire a taxi and see me off at the airport. Much like how my “2011 Pinay friend” Aimee was of immense help on that trip, this 2013 Philippines journey wouldn’t have been the same if not for Janet’s help. It really helps to have a local in a foreign land to help you out.

I was sad to say goodbye to not only her, but also to Philippines. I really like this country and I wish I could travel and explore this beautiful nation at my own pace, but alas, 21 day visa it is.

Flying out of Manila
My Cathay Pacific flight departed on time
Hong Kong airport way to buses
… and landed in Hong Kong an hour later

I had a few hours before my connecting flight to Bangalore, so I decided to step out of the airport and go see an ex-colleague. (Hong Kong gives free visa on arrival to Indians so that’s why it’s easy to step out).

Hong Kong Lantau near airport
I took the high speed train last time, so I figured I would try the bus this time. Bus to Kowloon cost around HKD$38 while the train costs HKD$100
High speed train Hong Kong
The train is obviously faster
Hong Kong longest bridge
Hong Kong’s infrastructure impresses me every single time

Hong Kong city skyline from bus

Kowloon public area Hong Kong
I reached Kowloon in 30 minutes time, but the bus slowed down as we hit traffic
The Peninsula hotel Hong Kong
I got down near the The Peninsula hotel and made my way to a mall where my friend Bikram was waiting for me
Chili crab Hong Kong lunch
Bikram treated me to a nice chili crab lunch. We talked about work and his future ventures.

Post-lunch, Bikram and I parted ways and I took the MTR to Tai Po. I had wanted to see Tai Po market during my 2012 visit to Hong Kong, but I didn’t get a chance to. I had time to kill before heading back to the airport, and I had no interest in wasting time inside malls and amidst the maddening crowds of Kowloon.

MTR underpass Hong Kong
I wasn’t carrying a map so I really didn’t know where exactly Tai Po market was

Hong Kong apartment buildings

Tai Po road sign Hong Kong
I just followed the signs
Tai Po market Hong Kong
Was this it? It was A market in Tai Po, but is this what Hong Kong Tourism Board was promoting as a heritage market?
Tai Po street bus stop
I kept walking
Narrow apartment building Hong Kong
That’s how narrow some apartments can be in tight-spaced Hong Kong
Tai Po road Hong Kong
But after dropping in and out 7-11s to remain hydrated and picking up snacks, I gave up my search for Tai Po market and figured it was time to board a bus and head back to the airport
Bus station Hong Kong
I sat upstairs and looking out the window, I admired Hong Kong’s impressive city planning and infrastructure as bus took around 30-40 minutes to get to the airport
Inside Hong Kong bus
Along the way, it began to rain heavily as the bus neared the airport

I arrived at HKIA two hours ahead of my flight. I already had my boarding pass, so I just walked straight to the security check and completed immigration. I felt hungry so I went up to the food court, which has quite a few restaurants and popular food chains.

Popeyes chicken biscuit meal
I’ve never had Popeye’s before, so I got the chicken and biscuit meal. I really liked it!

It continued to rain outside so we had to make a dash to the bus which would drop passengers at the Dragon Air plane to Bangalore.

Lamb rice meal Dragon Air
My second dinner meal was in-flight. This was a lamb and flavoured rice meal. Pretty okay.

The flight landed on time and I had my younger brother pick me up from the airport.

Although this visit to Philippines wasn’t as “WOW” as my 2011 visit, I look back at the previous few posts and realize it wasn’t too bad either. Yeah, yeah… I couldn’t see many things I had planned on seeing/doing (whalesharks in Donsol, Mt. Pinatubo trek, para-sailing in Boracay) all because I arrived at the tail-end of the tourist season.

Whatever — at least I could use this as an excuse for a third visit, if needed.

The biggest highlight of this trip was possibly all the underwater photographs I managed to capture, all thanks to Janet lending me her friend’s underwater camera. I’ve been snorkeling many times before but this was the first time I could give my readers an idea of what I saw with own eyes rather than just describe how awesome it looked.

The other thing that convinces me to continue travelling across the Philippines is just based on the fact my Philippines posts do so well. Even from the newer 2013 series, several posts continue to get hundreds of views every week — and I thank my readers for that. I keep getting friend requests from Filipinos on a weekly basis, and I consider that a sign they like really my blog. Not to mention some of my most shared stories online on social media are my Philippines posts.

Unlike last time, I don’t have a lot to say to wrap up this travel series. I still don’t enjoy Filipino cuisine (sorry), I still find Filipinos to be some of the friendliest people on earth, I discovered the ugly side to tourism development in island destinations like Boracay and Coron, and I realized the best time to travel Philippines is between February and April, no later than that. Oh, and NAIA Terminal 1 still sucks.

Other than that, I ❤ Philippines and I recommend this country to all those seeking adventure, beautiful beaches, wonderful nature and equally wonderful people. But just get out of Manila and Angeles City first.

Until next time…

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2013: Flying from Coron to Manila; visit to Ocean Park

Philippines 2013: Coron island-hopping tour (Part 2) – Twin lagoon, CYC island; climbing Mt. Tapyas

Philippines 2013: Coron island-hopping tour (Part 1) – Siete Pecados, Kayangan lake

Philippines 2013: Aerial view of Mount Mayon; arriving at Coron

Philippines 2013: Lignon Hill Park, Cagsawa Ruins and Mount Mayon

Philippines 2013: Arriving at Legazpi; going to Donsol to see whale sharks

Philippines 2013: Leaving Boracay; Kalibo to Angeles City

Beachfront hotels and resorts on White Beach, Boracay

Philippines 2013: Bulabog beach, Mount Luho viewpoint and sunset at White Beach

Philippines 2013: Boracay island tour, Puka beach and snorkelling

Philippines 2013: Flying from Manila to Boracay, White Beach

Philippines 2013: Taal Lake Volcano and Peoples Park, Tagaytay

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

Philippines: Flying from Coron to Manila; visit to Ocean Park

Date: June 1, 2013

I woke up early to have breakfast before leaving for the airport.

WG Diners Coron Palawan
I ate at WG Diners; affordable and decent food

The staff at the guesthouse booked me a van taxi for a drop off at Busuanga Airport. I packed up my bags, said my goodbyes and left Coron Backpackers Guesthouse when it was time.

Driving Coron island airport road
It was the same road back to the airport
Coron green fields Philippines
There was a discerning lack of cows in the fields this time though
Cattle grid Coron Philippines
A few
Busuanga airport Palawan Philippines
Busuanga airport, paid for by the Koreans

Immigration took it’s own sweet time. This is as basic as a small airport can get, so not every passenger can get in all at once.

Seized coral shells Busuanga airport Philippines
Oh, and don’t even try to smuggle coral shells out of Coron. It’s against the law… but that didn’t stop many from trying.
Cebu Pacific flight Coron Palawan
My ride back to Manila was a Cebu Pacific flight
Cebu Pacific airhostess Philippines
Being a Cebu Pacific flight, in-flight games were in order
Clouds Philippines
The sights out the window on this flight were nothing spectacular

I arrived in Manila at around 3pm. I had lunch at a Burger King at the terminal and then stepped out of the airport to catch the bus going to Pasay. From there I hired a taxi to get to Bonifacio Global City (BGC), where I would be staying a condominium my friend Janet had access to.

BGC apartments Manila
I wasn’t allowed to take any photos of the condo nor allowed to share any details as it didn’t belong to Janet. But it sure was nice to stay here! 🙂

After freshening up, Janet and I went out for a walk around BGC in the evening.

Continue reading “Philippines: Flying from Coron to Manila; visit to Ocean Park” »

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