A Travellerspoint blog

June 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008

Exit Manila, Enter Saigon

all seasons in one day
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Ok ok, so let me just say, Manila airport isn’t THAT bad…just on arrival there’s no air-con, upon departure, there IS air-con. There seems to be a strange trail of paper we’re leaving behind us here…everyone likes to give you a bit of paper to sign – for instance when we got a couple towels near the pool at our hotel in Manila, the attendant gave me a receipt saying that I had two towels. So I signed it and he was happy…seems a bit unnecessary when they have the room number, but whatever.

So we left Manila airport at about 11pm on Cebu Pacific airlines – which must be the worst airline EVER. Upon first inspection, it looks and feels just like any other airplane, except the fact that it was colder than a meat locker (mmmmmm….meat!). When you sit down, you start to notice little things, like the exit signs that are just a little too brightly lit, and the arm rests don’t have the requisite channel change and volume buttons…there’s nothing there! Luckily, we thought, the seats do recline – no small feat of engineering for seats that are literally 12 inches apart front to back. Taking off on our 3 hour flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), we realize that our particular seats DO NOT recline. Oh well I thought, until the people in front of me reclined, putting my nose securely on the back of their seat. Hummph! Grrrr! Well, at least I can’t fall forward in the event of a “water landing”. I wonder if they really DO have the oxygen masks and floaty seat cushions, or if it’s all for show.

I somehow manage to sleep fitfully, waking up every 10 or 15 seconds saying audibly “Aaaaaoooooooooow(ch)” and then nodding off again.

Did I mention that we’re actually having a good time??? No really, it’s great, just some things – most things - aren’t exactly how I pictured them.

Arriving in Saigon was a treat. The airport is expansive and shiny, very clean, and immigration and customs were a breeze - possibly because it was 1am. Our bags came, once again, faster than they do at SFO. We were met by a boisterous man with a sign bearing my name, who prompted us into a taxi...our kite bags were put into a SUV type car, and we were taken separately in another car, which scared me a bit. My fear wasn't squashed when Mike said "That's probably the last time we see those bags." I didn't realize he was kidding, and went into panic mode until our car caught up with the other taxi containing our bags.

We stayed that night and the following night at Madame Cuc's in Saigon. We arrived very early in the morning, so the gates were locked in front of the hotel, and a very sleepy girl opened them for us. We stood there in the dark just inside the doors trying to figure out what she was saying (turns out it was "passport"). She was gesturing to us, but as it was so dark, we couldn't see what she was doing...it was very frustrating for all, since we were all tired. We finally got the passports out, which they hold at the front desk in a safe until you check out, and more importantly, pay. The hotel was very shiny and clean, and that was comforting. Following the empty-handed girl, we lugged our 50lb kite bags plus our backpacks up what seemed like 5000 flights of stairs, the lower floors having shallow steps. Each floor the stairs got steeper and steeper, which didn't make the climb any easier, and on no sleep and little food. Check out the photo, can you see the bottom floor? This photo was taken from the floor below us, so we were even further up:


Finally, we got some sleep after turning on the air conditioning...ahhhhh.

Posted by kmpossible 21:51 Archived in Vietnam Tagged air_travel Comments (2)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Arrival to Manila through Hong Kong

sunny 30 °C
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Hong Kong was just another big city airport, minus the loud, obnoxious Americans crawling everywhere. It was quiet, even in the middle of the morning when business traveling is at its peak.


Manila’s International Airport was seemingly quite small in comparison. When we entered the concourse, I realized there was no air-con at all, and it smelled like a musty basement. Luckily for us it’s only about 10,000 degrees…yea, phew! It was pretty quiet as well, though there were lots of people waiting to depart in the seating areas as we passed to immigration and baggage claim. There was no line at immigration, thank f*&k. Last time Mike was here with his dad, it took them an hour and a half to get through immigration alone, let alone baggage claim and customs…I think we got very lucky! The bags came about twice as fast as they do at San Francisco Airport – well done, Manila! Customs was very fast as well, and we promptly hopped into a pre-paid taxi (with air!) to our hotel, the Copacabana Apartments.

Passing through areas similar to areas near airports in many other places in the world, I had many random thoughts, including “wow, this is a shit hole”, “these people are truly beautiful”, and “I’ve never quite seen anything like this.” There were people EVERYWHERE…simply EVERYWHERE! "Mercedes" busses called “jeepneys”, tiny little motorcycles, bicycles with sidecars for passengers, personal cars, taxis…all weaving in and out of the lanes around each other. I was surprised at how little horn-honking was happening – these people must have never seen how it’s done in New York City. (I think the car horn is the sacred sound of NYC.) It’s a lot like Tijuana, aesthetically speaking.

The nearer we got to the hotel, the “nicer” things appeared, though very near our hotel are a few really tall, once beautiful, completely abandoned buildings. They look like they were under construction and never quite finished. Right next door is The Heritage Manila, a very large, heavily armed hotel, complete with machine-gunned guards at the doors. Seems a girl can’t swing a fake-Fendi in THIS neighborhood without knocking over at least one militant gun-for-hire.

Next: dinner!

Note: Dinner didn't actually happen since we fell asleep at about 2pm and woke back up around 10pm, only to sleep again for another 5 hours. Oi vai!

Posted by kmpossible 16:12 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

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