Coming back down to earth and landing in Manila

Once again I’m in the process of writing multiple posts to catch up on everything we’ve been doing. It’s strange writing about the three cold weeks in Japan while sitting in a humid 25°C heat trying to remember all the details. We’ve come from a country filled with new technology, big buildings and fast trains, to tropical islands with 6 hours of electricity a day and unfinished roads leading to beautiful beaches.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know there have been some pretty big gaps between posts, followed by a few updates appearing randomly about events long since passed. It’s pretty difficult to keep everything up to date when you’re moving a lot and something always seems to get in the way when you wanted to write. We always think with getting to airports so early (much to my dislike) that we’ll have loads of time to get on with stuff. After dropping bags and wandering to the gate following a loop around the shops, you realise there’s no time at all. You then get on the plane thinking it’s the perfect opportunity, only to have to wait 30 minutes to turn your device on and then being interrupted by a meal and drinks. When you finally get to the stage when you’re completely ready to go, it’s then that you realise you forgot to charge the battery in the mess of packing and you couldn’t have done it anyway.

Our first few days in The Philippines were difficult. We didn’t research the best places to stay in Manila and ended up in a crowded area full of traffic and in the middle of a big religious event. In the taxi on the way to our hotel we were warned to watch our things, especially our phones as there were a lot of pickpockets about. We saw people carrying their bags on their fronts to protect them and others holding side bags tightly on the front. Having spent three weeks with our cameras constantly out, not having to worry about who might be trying to steal from us, it  was hard to adjust to a more suspicious mindset without getting really paranoid.

We had two nights booked at our hotel but we didn’t venture far from it, instead choosing to stay indoors, watch TV and let our Japan experiences sink in before they were shaken from us by a more harsh environment. We also needed to plan where we were heading next, though at this point we were worried we were going to hate our time here.

When we got hungry on the first day we did decide to head out to a nearby shopping mall. On our way in we went through security where they were checking everybody’s bags and patting people down, though we’d purposely left everything but a few small notes back in our hotel room. The checks did little to ease our nerves and instead they highlighted that there were potentially more dangerous people around than we were expecting, though none of them in the shopping mall. After a quick loop of the shops we popped outside to look at some food stalls, but swiftly moved back inside when we became the centre of attention for some kids who were begging in the area.

We bought snacks from the supermarket in the shopping mall and made a second attempt at getting food from the street vendors, though one kid was desperate to get something from me the whole time. My empty pockets didn’t deter him as he continued to tap me and ask for money while I was trying to ask a lady about the food in front of me. The whole situation made me feel really bad because I knew I had so much more than this child who didn’t even have shoes, possibly begging on the street for a boss of some sort. My fear in an unknown city however, in an obviously poor area, kept me from even carrying anything worth taking or giving either.

Back at the hotel I ate my hastily bought bag of meat and veg and Mark ate his shawarma wraps before he crawled into bed for a nap. I took the time to write some posts and the rest of the day was pretty uneventful. We ordered room service rather than venture out again and eventually booked our flight to Palawan to escape Manila the following evening.

On the second day in Manila we were feeling a bit more comfortable and a little less freaked out by our surroundings, so we wandered a bit further around the local market. Again we walked with almost empty pockets to avoid incidents and ended up at the same mall we’d visited the day before. We topped up our snack supplies for the day and ate at a fast food chain selling odd tasting Italian food such as pizza and lasagne.

Our bags were stored at the hotel lobby while we wandered, so we went back to use the WiFi again before moving on to the airport. It took a while to get through all the traffic because of the Black Nazarene, which also could have been the reason the airport was really full too. The queues to drop bags were massive and we had to drop them during a final call for our flight, though we then had to wait an extra 40 minutes to get on it because there were a few delays.

After a tough readjustment period, followed by a slow and disorganised airport, landing in Puerto Princesa during a downpour and arriving to a hostel with a leaking roof wasn’t quite what we were hoping for. Thankfully we were only staying one night and the following day we left for Port Barton, which quickly made up for everything we’d experienced so far.

I’ll write about Port Barton separately because it deserves a few posts, but not before I’ve gone back in time and written about the chilly, calm, comfortable streets of Japan.

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