Layover in Manila, Philippines
When Byron and I were offered the opportunity to manage a hostel in a beach town in Australia, we jumped at the chance. With just a month left until our arrival, I applied for my visa (and prayed it would be approved in time!), and booked our flights. Three days before my flight, my visa had still not been approved. I spent the greater part of the day waiting on hold with the Canadian call center for the Australian Consulate begging and pleading to let me in to the country. Other than that, I was organizing last minute medical exams, and attempting to change my flights. I even devised this grand scheme where if it wasn't granted, I'd travel for the first portion of my flight to the Philippines, wait until I could get another visa, and then enter weeks after Byron arrived.
Miraculously, none of that happened and the visa was approved at the last minute and we boarded the plane almost drama-free. Thinking I was the one that was going to pose a problem, it turned out that Byron's dual-citizenship was what held us up at the gate. They insisted he needed a visa to visit Canada, if he were travelling on an Australian passport, despite the fact that Americans didn't need the visa. Finally, we were settled into our seats and off to Manila, Philippines. The flight attendants kept us full with Filipino food and beer, which complimented my movie binge watching nicely. I never make time for watching movies back home, so flights are my way of catching up on all the films people have been talking about without feeling guilty or bored. I watched Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, and What the Health. That last movie seriously made me rethink all my dietary choices and I vowed right then to make Australia the place to experiment with a meatless diet.
Once we touched down in Manila and freshened up, the muggy air outside instantly slowed my pace to a snails crawl. I tend to melt in the heat and today was no exception. I mustered up the energy to fight the heat fatigue and got a SIM card, tucked away the bags in storage, and ordered a Grab (Filipino Uber) to Intramuros through the thick city traffic. We weaved between Jeepneys full of Filipinos, weaving scooters, and a mix of English and Filipino signs. With our 10 hour layover, I had made a thorough itinerary to maximize the short amount of time we had.
We wandered along the old town of Intramuros with 7-11 coffee in hand, passing by tarp-roofed stalls, mangy dogs, and touts selling tours and souvenirs. On our way to the Casa Manila Museum, children followed us and played in the street and lined up to take selfies with us. We followed them down to the lower fort and stumbled upon a cafeteria buzzing with students on their lunch break. We sat down at the busiest stall and enjoyed sisig and fresh fruit smoothies until the rain started pouring down. Drenched in rain, we walked across river to Chinatown (Binondo) and explored the hectic, yet perfectly organized streets. Each one had a separate purpose, like the hardware street and jewelry lane, making it easy to shop. Desperate for a break from the sweltering heat and maze of crowded streets, we ducked into the shopping mall. Not only was it air conditioned, but it also had an incredibly cheap spa where I indulged in a foot spa and pedicure for $5. It also had a delicious food court with pancit, halo halo, and spring rolls.
Back out among the street stalls, we had to dodge the bicycle taxis and jeepneys while we ate a purple buttery mush treat from a vendor. Yes, this was third lunch in case you were counting. We jumped into a jeepney to Rizal Park, handed our money along the line of people sitting next to us up to the driver and they handed back the appropriate change, and tapped the roof when we wanted to get out, and jumped out of the back. From here, we walked along the street to the park past families out for a picnic and stumbled upon a dance competition. Their break dancing skills were unreal, even though they were eleven! The music was accentuated by all the flashing lights and fountains dotting the lawn.
It was a peaceful end to our hectic day, all until the Philippine airport gate agents refused to let us fly with our motorcycle helmets. We pleaded with them to let us carry them, or even wear the helmets--whatever it took--but they shook their heads. Instead, they called over five other agents, causing a bit of a scene, to wrap, secure, and box our helmets for the undercarriage. Once we were content with the number of "FRAGILE" stickers they placed on the helmet boxes, we settled into our seats and prepared for Australia!