My Filipino Tour: The Flight and Manilla

My job often takes me all across the US but because of one excuse or another over the years, I have never went outside its borders. One thing I promised myself in 2013 was to to travel abroad. Somewhere. Anywhere. There was plans of a trip to Mexico City with a friend, but that fell through at the last minute for reasons I wont discuss here. Suddenly I was left to decide where to go and only four months left to fulfill my ambition.

Like many who want to travel I have a list of places which interest me. I started narrowing the list and checking prices. In the end the destination of choice ended up being the Philippines.

Why the Philippines? Well, I have always had a fascination with Southeast Asia and the country was high on my list. Most people speak English so getting around would be easier. And the big plus was knowing a person who lives there and wanted to travel with me. I booked the ticket for late November.

The traveling to get there is brutal. Looking at your flight itinerary and seeing twenty-three hours can be depressing. It's a long time on a plane. My flight was Fort Wayne to Chicago with a short layover. Then Chicago to Tokyo, a 12 hour flight, with a very short layover. I nearly missed my connection. Then a five hour flight to Manila. Total time in airports was close to 25 hours. I was lucky however in that the long flight to Tokyo was only about half full. There was plenty of room to stretch out . You also get well feed (albeit airline food) and the drinks comes rapidly with free alcohol. Plusthere are plenty of new release movies to catch up on and I did just that in between naps.

After landing in Manila  I actually breezed through entry and customs and money exchange. It took maybe 45 minutes total. I thought it would be longer. Then I went to look my for arranged shuttle to the hotel. As walked out of Terminal 2 to the pick up zone I entered a wall of craziness not excepted. Wall to wall people all searching for their rides or waiting for cabs or shuttles. I have never experienced an airport this chaotic and I have been to every major airport in the US. I could not find my ride who was suppose to be waiting with a sign at the exit point. A gentlemen who works for the airport helped me locate my driver. Apparently I walked right by the driver as he recognized me but in the masses I did not see him at all. By the time he got the car around and we left the airport, it was about an hour later. A short fifteen minute ride and I was at the Nicholas Airport Hotel my stay for the evening.

I got checked in and received a complimentary room upgrade. Nice. It was about thirty minutes before midnight so I headed to the rooftop bar. Unfortunately it was closed. It was supposed to be open. So I headed back to the room to decompress and shower and eventually fall asleep.
Nichols Airport Hotel
The next morning I went down for breakfast. Had a strong Filipino coffee which was great. After a couple of cups the energy surged through me. Too bad that I couldn't find anything good the rest of the trip. Had eggs and toscino (a sweet marinated pork), and rice. All was very tasty. I arranged for a shuttle to take me to the Victory Liner Bus Terminal in Pasay area, where my friend would be arriving. Overall, Nichols had excellent  service staff, with great food, is close to the airport, and all for decent price. Only internet is downstairs though.

I was dropped off at the bus terminal and waited about fifteen minutes before P arrived. This was actually the first time meeting her in person. I met her from a travel website where we got to exchanging message which lead to becoming friends on Facebook which has lead to us talking very regularly. In fact while I was trimming down places to go and told her Philippines was on the list she said "come here and I will join you". That was basically the determining factor.

I had a room booked at the Hotel H20 which is part of a local attraction called Manilla Ocean Park, which is an aquarium type zoo with marine life. A short cab ride later and we arrived at the park. I assumed the hotel was adjacent to this park but instead the hotel lies right in the middle of the attraction.One has to walk through the main entrance of the park to get to the main building where most of the attractions are found. Here the elevators can be found which lead to the hotel on the upper floors. It's a little inconvenient from where you get dropped off.

Hotel H20
I booked an aquarium room which as an wall sized aquarium as part of the wall. How many times will you get that in a hotel room? Not many and it was very cool. I could watch fish swim around for around for hours. The room was adequate size with a large bathroom and free wi-fi access. I would call it an upscale resort and the price reflects it as this was the most expensive place I stayed while in the Philippines. However by US prices, the rate for this room compares to standard hotel like a Hampton Inn. So there is a lot of bang for the buck, so to speak.

The resort has many different eating establishments in it. So we chose one had lunch. We split a dish called congee rice soup, which reminded me more of a rice porridge because it was thick and full of meat and vegetables, and fried squid. Both were good.

We had all afternoon with time to burn, so we bought package tickets to the park which allowed us into four of the attractions. The first was the Oceanarium which turned out to be one of the better aquariums I have been to. They specialize is marine life for the region so I saw a lot of creatures which I had not seen before. There is also a very neat shark and sting ray exhibit here. We spent about 90 minutes touring the attraction.

Ocean Park Manila - Oceanarium
Ocean Park Manila - Shark Exhibit
Jellies Exhibit

Next up was the Jellies Exhibit. It was a space with hundreds of  different jellyfish species. You can watch those things swim through the water. I enjoyed this attraction too as it was very tranquil and beautiful.

We chose the Marine Life Habitat which is basically a sea lion show. We walked in about five minutes after it started. About ten minutes later the show with the sea lions doing minimum interactions with an audience member was finished. Lame. As was the display where the live.

The last attraction we show was Music Fountain Show Revolution. It is an LED light and water spraying show to close out the night. Lots of music and dancers, which was kind of corny, but projecting images on water spray is absolutely awesome. It lasted longer than expected, close to twenty-five minutes.

After the show we wanted to go away from the park for dinner but it was pouring down rain and didn't feel like getting wet. So we picked another of the eateries inside the resort, Gerry's Grill. This time we ordered pork sisig and tinamook and washed it down with San Miguel beer. All items were delicious. With a full belly it was time retire for the evening.

The next day we lounged around for awhile in the morning and opted to head over to the huge SM Mall of Asia. I was surprised to see so many American food chains (McDonald's, KFC, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donut, Krispy Kreme). Also sprinkled in were plenty of Filipino food chains (Max's House That Chicken Built, Greenwhich Pizza & Pasta, Chow King, Shakey's Pizza, Mang lnasal, and Jollibee) plus lots of other restaurants. The usual kind of shops and movie theaters also had residence here.We walked around for a few hours enjoying the air conditioning, ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant called Super Bowl of China, and shopped at the grocery store. Needed some supplies for the trip up North.

I noticed a lot of Christmas decorations up and it was only late November. A little early by most American standards. Come to find out, in case you did not know, the Philippines starts celebrating the holiday in late September. But unlike the US the celebration is more about being with family and appreciation of faith, it is a highly Catholic culture, instead of consumer spending which is how feel America has become. The whole scene is refreshing to witness.

Then it was back to the hotel to pack and do all the necessary things to exit the hotel. A couple hours later we caught a cab to a bus terminal for the over night ride to our next destination, Pagupud. We squeezed onto a bus pulling out of the terminal and was forced to sit in the last two seats in the middle of the last row.

This was going to be a long night.

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Manish Kumar said...

Very nice blog. In summers to cop with the heat we need a good Air conditioners

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