Well, as the title suggests today was not a pleasant day for me. I had put off touching foot in Manila for any sustained amount of time for awhile now but today I spent all day in the city.
The stay last night at my hostel wasn’t great. The dorm room they assigned me was right beside the common room and I was placed in a top bunk.
I hate top bunks!
Anyway, I didn’t have a great sleep and by 8am I was up and just figured I would get on with my day.
My overnight bus to Banaue (8 hours north of Manila) didn’t leave til 9:30pm so the plan was to hang out at SM Mall of Asia (one of the largest malls in the world) and then do one of the famous Carlos Celdran walking tours from 3-6pm. I figured I would just go back to the mall after that and hang out til 8pm when I’d leave for the bus station.
Not an exciting day but at least it’s comfortable and relaxing in the mall. I’m not hounded with people try to sell me things or offer me rides.
My first stop today was to the Ohayami Trans bus station as I had read that you should book your ticket early because the bus sells out often.
I asked the front desk last night how to get to the bus terminal and it was basically: take a jeepney to this transit station, take the LRT a few stops, get off, transfer to another LRT and go a few stops and then walk a couple of blocks.
For someone not used to this city, these instructions were just designed for someone to get lost.
So I took a taxi instead. In fact, I would end up taking 5 different taxis today. Luckily they are pretty cheap as a 1hr taxi ride costs about $5.
Using my GPS on my phone and the navigation app I was able to confidently guide my driver to the bus station. So, at 10am I bought my ticket and went onto my next stop: SM Mall of Asia!
As I said earlier, this mall is huge. It has a ferris wheel, an ice rink, movie theater, and dozens and I mean dozens of restaurants. Oh yeah, there’s stores too for those of you who still go to the mall to shop of all things.
I started off by storing my backpack in the free Package Pickup the mall offers.
Next on the agenda: breakfast!
After walking by countless restaurants I almost gave up and was going to hit up Jollibee again when I saw the perfect place for breakfast – Pancake House.
They had american style breakfasts but I chose to order from the Filipino section.
I had their beef tapa with rice, egg and mango salsa. Oh yeah, I also ordered a side of mini blueberry pancakes cause, well, it’s a pancake house…
I walked around for a bit and bought a fedora to protect my head from the sunlight as I got burned on my face and neck yesterday during my day trip to Taal volcano.
Now, with the fedora, plaid shorts and a tshirt – I 100% look like a tourist!
No socks with sandals to complete the ensemble though. Maybe next year…
I also visited the huge ferris wheel they had outside. I went for a ride and got a chance to overlook the city in a unique way.
It was soon time to take another taxi over to Fort Santiago in Intramuros area of the city for the walking tour that started at 3pm.
Carlos Celdran is wide known as the man when it comes to walking tours. His tours are always highly rated and entertaining. Part theatrical. Part education.
There were over 100 people participating in the walking tour which is a crazy amount of people compared to other walking tours I’ve done.
The reason people rave about this tour is because it’s a spectacle. Carlos comes out with a microphone and starts by having the fellow Filipinos in the crowd sing the national anthem with him.
In fact the whole thing is a show. He changes into different hats and mimics different people who have influenced Filipino history.
There actually isn’t any real “walking” to this tour as the meeting point is at Fort Santiago in the famed Intramuros area of Manila and we basically just do short walks to the different corners of the small fort.
I did learn alot about Philippines history but after awhile I found the show a little annoying. He would constantly take long dramatic pauses and it just felt like the walking tour was taking forever.
I finally left after 2 1/2 hours. I believe the tour goes for 3 hours but I was so done with it and I just wanted to get out of there.
Of course as I exited the area I was hounded – and I mean hounded – by different people asking where I was going and did I need a taxi/buggy/trike/anything else that has wheels. It was so brutal! I just walked as quick as I could to get out of there so I could get my bearings.
The funny thing is I actually needed a taxi to get back to Mall of Asia but at that moment I just needed to get away from all that madness.
A couple blocks away I finally flagged a taxi driver who I will label “the craziest driver ever”. There were a few times where I cringed as I was sure he was gonna side swipe someone but he never did and he got me to the mall in record time.
And then he did the old “I don’t have change scam” which sucks cause I really liked him and I was actually giving him a tip anyway. My fare was 124 pesos and I gave him 200 telling him to just give me back 65. He showed me his money and his smallest bill was a 50 which obviously was a load of crap but frankly I didn’t feel like arguing over 15 pesos which is about 40 cents.
It just left a sour taste in my mouth but as I’ve read about the countries I’m going to visit – this certainly won’t be the last time I’m scammed. Luckily it’s always for a piddly amount of money so no sense in getting my panties in a knot over it. Just accept that it’s part of travelling Southeast Asia.
For dinner I found Congo Grille in the row of restaurants at the mall where I had beef tapa with rice.
I then went to the SM department store and picked up a blanket (160 pesos, $4) for my upcoming overnight bus as they are notoriously known for being freezing cold.
By then it was 8pm so I picked up my bag from where I had dropped it off earlier in the morning and grabbed another taxi to go back to the bus terminal.
Another crazy driver. To be honest, they all are. This one, however, got stopped by the cops as we rounded a corner to the bus terminal.
The cops were standing on the street waiting for cars to come around the corner illegally by using the middle lane. His fine was 500 pesos ($12) which is quite a bit considering my fare was only 150 pesos.
At 9:30 I boarded the bus, bundled up, and was on my way up north to Banaue where I would arrive at 6:30 the next morning…