The trip started out with a lot of flights. We flew from Calgary - Vancouver - Beijing - Manila. This was Steve's first time on such a long flight (11.5 hours to Beijing) and he is happy to report that he survived! We managed to get seats together, and bought a new luxury travel pillow in the Calgary airport, so with his legs in the aisle he managed to get about 2 hours sleep he thinks. I managed to get about 3 - maybe even 4 - despite sitting in the MIDDLE SEAT, because I am a very nice girlfriend. Our layover in Beijing was supposed to be 3.5 hours, which was ok, since we thought we would grab some Chinese beers in the lounge and walk the terminal to stretch our legs. Note that we managed to walk 7 km on a travel day (travel days, since it was really 30 hours of travel). However at hour 3 of the layover we were informed that our flight was delayed out of Beijing due to horrible fog (smog?) so it would actually be 8 hours of layover. We passed the time drinking more Chinese beers and trying all of the pre-packaged snacks in the lounge despite them having no English to tell us what they were. For those who care, black rice soda biscuits win hands down for best snack. I made sure to take a couple extra packs to enjoy this past few days, and am already waiting anxiously for our (hopefully only 3 hour) layover in China on the way back to stock up on more biscuits.
I'm not sure this makes up for an 8 hr layover, but on our last flight (4.5 hours to Manila), I somehow managed to get us upgraded toAir China Business Class! This was also Steve's first time in Business Class, so that was fun. Although let me just say that all Air China meals, regardless of what class of service you are in, seem to be "rice and some kind of meat". Rice and chicken, rice and pork, rice and fish. I ate more rice the past week than in the past year at home I think.
Finally we got to Manila at 5 am. You may have heard horror stories about Manila traffic and you would be correct! It was crazy busy at this time of the morning, although after having later traveled in traffic during the day, it gets worse! Steve quickly experienced the way of the driving in Asia - lane lines mean nothing, horns are the boss. Honk to pass, honk to tell a pedestrian to get out the way, honk at the stray dog on the side of the road, honk to tell the giant truck he is coming to close, honk if you are angry, hey, just honk some more! Even though our Airbnb apartment was on the 37th floor we could still hear alllll the honking, and we were in a much lower traffic area than some. It took us an hour by taxi to get from our apartment in Makati, to the more touristy area of Intramuros, which was about 15 km away. No pedestrians got killed on any of our journeys, which was lucky and surprising from the amount of close calls!
Our first couple of days in Manila were very chill. After arriving at 6 am we had to sleep. Thank goodness for instant Starbucks coffee and leftover Halloween candy we packed as snacks, cuz we were too out of it to leave the apartment for anything else for breakfast. Every night were were in bed by 8:30 pm and that was a struggle. The sun rises at 5:30 and sets at 5:30, so you want to be sleeping early (Maui Midnight Jill!). The first full day there I was awake at 4 am, and the next we had to be up at 4:30 to make our next flight to our next island, so we were groggy and foggy to say the least. The area that we were staying in, Makati, is the business district of Manila, so its very Western, has lots of good restaurants, and is very clean. We were like 3-4 blocks from a couple giant malls. The first day we just went to the Greenbelt Mall for a few hours for air conditioned beers and wandering! I had a packing fail the first day and so we even got to experience Philippines Old Navy (exactly like at home, nothing different at all!) so I could get a tank top. We also had to get Steve's SIM card up and running on his phone.
We went to a farmers market in Makati (Legaspi Sunday Market) on day 1, which was pretty much exactly like a farmers market at home except for a few extra stands selling raw meat and raw fish with melting chunks of ice in the pan. Jill, I almost brought you back home some Monkey Butt Jam, except we remembered that China had signs about NO JAM IN YOUR LUGGAGE, and since they already stole my portable charger out of my checked luggage on the way there, I didn't want to take any chances that after hauling jam around the Philippines for 3 weeks it would be confiscated in China.
The weather is hot and muggy. Like 95% humidity. I was having a particularly hard time adjusting the first few days, and alternated between complaining that Steve didn't look as sweaty as me, and seeking out air conditioned pit stops. Steve was very patient although I was incredibly annoying I'm sure. Note: eating hot soup is NOT the best way to stop sweating. We spent our only full day in Manila touring around Intramuros, which is an old walled city (Steve would know how old) and the oldest part of Manila, built to protect the city in the early days. We went to Fort Santiago (the original fort, knocked down and rebuilt a couple of times, the walled city, and Rizal Park (so named for the father of Philippine independence, Jose Rizal). Steve was very happy to get some history in. I was very happy when we got to sit in the shade. We drank Buko juice (basically fresh coconut water) and ate more leftover Halloween candy and stolen black rice soda biscuits by the pond in Rizal Park.
We did not eat a single bit of traditional Filipino food in our first couple of days in Manila, which I am sad to report. We did however eat amazing sushi, tried Oysters Rockefeller for the first time (they were pretty yummy, even Steve thought so), drank local craft beer (so maybe that counts?) and had some fantastic coffee. We are trying to hard to stay on a budget so we will see how that goes. We will do better with the local food in the next destinations.
Next stop - the island of Bohol!