I'm also going to try something a bit different with this entry...see if you can figure out what it is.
On the morning of December 26, I get up, grab my luggage and coat (knowing that the only time I'll use the coat is on the commute between Incheon Airport and my home), and head out. After I arrive at the airport, I exchange money and head to a longer-than anticipated security line. Thankfully, I get to the plane, a bit rushed, but with no problems.
The flight lasts an uneventful four hours. As the plane begins its descent, I look out the window and notice forested mountains and a multicolored patchwork on the valley. The colors are made by buildings...hundreds of small buildings crammed together in thin strips of land. It's as if someone dropped a million soda cans into a small stream. I recall stories I've heard about poverty in the Philippines, and the plane goes on.
The plane touches down. I depart with my backpack and carry-on, go through immigration, and am greeted by this:
Just to be clear, they're not there to greet just me. It was just a cool thing to see at an airport.
I've booked a budget hotel for the night, so now I just need to find a way to get there. I struggle a bit with the wifi, so I decide to just go find a taxi since I have the address.
I ask the attendant at the guest services desk where I can find a taxi. He calls a man over who insists on taking my carry-on bag for me. I follow him outside, engaging in friendly chitchat. The view outside includes a Philippine flag and a Christmas tree. Though I would later find out that both of these were in large supply in the Philippines, I take a picture just because.
The woman in the picture asks where I am going. I show her the hotel name, and she pages someone on her walkie-talkie. She writes up a receipt and says "1800 pesos, sir." I dig for some money and give it to her. I figure I ought to tip the gentleman for helping me, so I hand him some money too..,1000 pesos, which happens to be the smallest bill I have at the moment.
Along comes the taxi, and off we go. As I look on at the city, with top class hotels adjacent to shanties, I think, "How much money did I just spend?"
Later on, I do the math. 1800 pesos = ~$40, and 1000 pesos = ~$20. The taxi ride takes about 15 minutes (the trip is about 2-3 miles), and I later find out that it's a "luxury cab," much pricier than a typical taxi.
Essentially, I gave a dude $20 for taking my rolling suitcase 100 feet, and I paid $40 for a short cab ride.
The lessons here?
- When transferring currency, request several small bills. You never know when someone won't have change. Don't get me wrong, the bag man was nice, but a smaller tip would have been appropriate.
- Ask the hotel for a shuttle before arriving, then there's no risk of getting taken for a pricey ride.
Also, I don't have hard feelings for the bag man or the cab call woman. For all they know, I have cash to burn.
Anyhow, I get to the hotel. I notice how warm and humid the weather is. I definitely won't be needing that coat. The staff is very helpful, and they help me arrange a shuttle to the airport the next morning (though I arrived in Manila, my first actual destination is elsewhere, but I can't get there till the next morning). I'm led to my room:
That AC unit is blasting its heart out, but the air at the top of those stairs (where, incidentally, the bed is located) is jungle hot. Oh well. I run out, grab a few supplies, get a massage ($10! Not bad), shower, and hit the hay.
After a night in the sauna, I get up early, wake up the desk attendant, and check out. I ask the taxi to take me to the airport, terminal 2 (I believe). I've double checked which planes go to which city, so I'm feeling confident.
For a much lower price than I had paid the previous cab, I got to the airport. I speak with a security guard to make sure I'm at the right terminal.
It turns out that my source of information was a document for one airline, and that airline was not the one I was supposed to take. I find a taxi and ask the driver to take me to terminal 4.
I recall the horror stories I've read/heard about the inconvenience of getting between terminals at the Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport. "How far is this other terminal?" I think. Thankfully, it's only 5 minutes away. The terminal is quite small. After going through security and checking in, I pay a terminal exit fee. Any time someone take a flight in the Philippines, domestic or international, they pay this fee. The fee isn't too high, but it's definitely different.
I grab some breakfast and eventually step outside to board the plane...
Next stop: Tagbilaran!