Overview
Costs
Food
Hotels
Money
Mobile phones
Internet
Weather
Health
VISA
Security
Getting around
Photos

Manila, Coron, Boracay, Baguio


8.12: Guangzhou -> Manila
9.12: Manila -> Coron
10.12: Coron (island trip)
11.12: Coron (islands trip)
12.12: Coron -> Boracay (via Cebu)
13.12: Boracay

14.12: Boracay -> Cebu
15.12: Cebu -> Baguio
16.12: Baguio
17.12: Baguio -> Manila
18.12: Manila
19.12: Manila -> Beijing


 

Planning and overall impression

The trip to the Philippines was a bit disappointing. While the Philippines have interesting sights, tourist attractions and nice beaches, the big problem is getting there. You lose a lot of time getting from one place to the next.
In Coron (an island) if you wanted to get to a nice beach, you had to take a 1 or 2 hours boat trip.
Boracay instead did have its own nice beach, but practically nobody was sunbathing on this beach with their own beach towel, probably because there was no place where to put valuables (wallet, smartphone etc.) while swimming, and the place was just too anonymous, i.e. too many strangers passing by all the time.
Manila, well, does have some attractions (for instance the Intramuros area), but not so many and is otherwise a quite dirty and polluted city. Also, it's quite difficult to get a taxi, unless you don't mind getting overcharged.
While in Baguio I had the problem that it was difficult to find transportation to get from one place to the next. I couldn't see many places for instance, because I was unable to get there.


Costs

The travel cost level in the Philippines is moderate. Lower than in western Europe, but not as low as in Indonesia, more or less on the same level as in China for instance.


Food

While in the Philippines I would very often eat in a KFC or other western fast food outlet or Asian fast food chain, because there I would get food with a certain quality level, while in a local restaurant the food quality was often variable. Good food if you were lucky, bad food if you were unlucky. Although I must say that in Baguio I found some restaurants with mostly good food.


Accommodation

Hotels can be easily booked through the international booking portals


Money  / Exchange rate (December 2023)

1 Euro = around 60 Philippine pesos



Mobile phones and prepaid cards

I got a SIM card for 1100 PHP with 55 GB of data at the airport in Manila. 4G and 5G, coverage also on the islands. Data only, i.e. no local calls.


Internet access

Hotels all had WLAN in the room, but I mainly relied on the mobile phone to access the Internet (set up as a hotspot).



Weather

It was tropically hot all the time, except in Baguio where, due to the altitude, temperatures were lower (A/C not needed for sleeping at night). It was mostly dry, only rained one day in Boracay.



Health / Vaccinations

For this trip I didn't refresh my vaccinations. However you will need the "usual" set of vaccinations for the tropics.



VISA / Entry requirements

VISA-free entry for EU nationals.


Security

I didn't experience problems while in the Philippines. In Boracay the hotel staff told me not to leave any valuables on the beach while swimming in the sea.


Getting around

It was flights between the various islands, boat trips to places near Coron, taxis in Manila and Baguio, and a long distance bus from Coron to Manila. Long distance travel is inefficient, meaning that you lose a lot of time to get from one place to the next. Especially Boracay is hard to reach, as the airport is not on the island and after arrival at the airport you need to take a ferry and a minibus to the hotel.



Back to the China 2023 travelogue



8.12: Guangzhou -> Manila
Hotel Red Planet Manila Binondo, Manila. 1622 PHP for a small, minimalist room with actually everything you need (even a hairdryer and shower/shampoo mix). Bed reasonably soft, quiet room with a window.
Weather: sunny, blue sky. Top temperatures of 25°C according to the forecast. No wind, no rain.

I get up at 8:15am, pack my stuff and check out after 10am, leaving my bags in the reception. Then I walk to the Yuexiu park.

The Yuexiu park is a beautiful park with vegetation resembling to a certain extent the one in parks in Malaysia or Thailand. Lots of people, many of them aged. No western tourists. Big trees, which provide a lot of shadow.

Around 12pm I have some lunch in a Burger King restaurant, then I take a Didi car to the Yuyin mountain villa garden.

It takes a while to get there, because the place is quite out of Guangzhou (about 30km). I'm there at 1:30pm.

This place is kind of a small park with some temples, ponds and pavilions. A bit underwhelming, I was expecting more, and about half of this garden is closed.

At 2:10pm I take another Didi car back to Guangzhou (Enning street). Getting there takes almost one hour.

Enning street is in a heritage area of Guangzhou. Many restored old buildings, lots of people. Tons of shops selling various stuff. Lots of food places. I run into a centre for Cantonese opera and have a look at a live performance with two actors.

After the Cantonese opera I continue exploring the area. Finally around 4:30pm I walk to a shopping mall. There I look without success for some products I need.

At 5:08pm I cross the street and walk into the Shamian island area. Here there are several European style buildings.

Around 6pm I take a Didi car back to the hotel. I have some dinner in the restaurant of the hotel, then at 7:45pm get into a Didi car to the airport, arriving at 8:30pm.

Slow queue at the checkin counter. Some Filipinos are carrying huge boxes, which they want to declare as checked in bags. I only manage to get to the security check at 9:30pm.

Again a slow queue, this time at the security check. The passport control check is faster.

I reach the gate after 10:15pm. Boarding has already started, I rush into the plane. Inside, the plane is almost empty (perhaps 20% full). It takes off around 11pm with 15 minutes of delay.

We land in Manila a bit early (before 1am). Then I proceed through passport control (registration on the e-travel site of the Philippines needed - I do it with the WLAN of the airport on the smartphone).

The luggage retrieval is also quite smooth. I get some cash - no problems, except for the steep 250 PHP ATM fee. Then I get a SIM card for 1100 PHP with 55 GB of data (4G and 5G; they promise coverage also on the islands; data only, i.e. no local calls, although I could top up the SIM card and add local calls later).

Finally I need to update the Grab app on my phone. After that I call a Grab car to the hotel.

Everything went relatively smoothly and without delays at the airport. However I will sleep after 3am.



9.12: Manila -> Coron
Bangles homestay, Coron city. 1350 PHP for a room with toilet and adjustable A/C, WLAN, hot water with an electric heater, LCD TV, cupboard and table with chair.
Weather: sunny, blue sky and hot (temperatures above 30°C) in Manila. Gradual cloud cover buildup after 1-2pm.

I get up at 9am with the alarm clock (could have slept longer), then get ready and shortly after 10am I get out of the hotel.

Fort Santiago is in walking distance (24 minutes walk), but because I only have two hours, I call a Grab car to the fort.

Entry ticket of 75 PHP for the fort. These are the ruins of a former Spanish fortress. A bit underwhelming in my opinion. A Famosa in Melaka is more photogenic. Inside the compound there is a museum for somebody called Rizal (I guess a Philippines national hero).

I spend less than an hour in this place, then get out and walk to a nearby church.

By the way, all the time there are Filipinos offering guide services. These might make sense, but today I have too little time for this.

The church is European style, kind of cute, but not terribly interesting either.

Then, because it is getting late, I take a Grab car to a Watsons pharmacy in the Binondo area (where my hotel is).

Long waiting time for this car (I lose 10+ minutes, because this guy comes from far away) and there seems to be no way to cancel the ride.

After I finish buying my stuff in the Watsons, I explore a bit the area. There is another church called "Binondo".

So far, what I have seen of Manila is not terribly impressive. Not a very attractive city in my opinion.

I'm back in the hotel at 12pm, check out, and around 1:15pm leave in a Grab car to the airport.

There is some traffic jam, but still, we reach the airport shortly after 1pm.

At the check-in counter they charge me 700 PHP for the 2 extra Kg of my luggage.

It's a relatively small terminal, with not so strict controls, so I manage to quickly reach the gate. But actually I should have eaten something in the chicken fast food outside, because the food offering in the gates area is bad and overpriced.

Around 2:15pm boarding starts. The plane takes off slightly before 3pm, i.e. with a few minutes of delay. De Havilland Dash 8-400 propeller machine, almost full. On board they serve a small snack.

We land at 3:45pm in Busuanga airport. Around 4pm I have the luggage and walk to the exit. No grab service here, but I run into some people outside who offer transportation to my homestay for 200 PHP. Shared car, but we will leave with just me because there are no other people today.

By the way, some people hand over leaflets with tour offers. They are actually not all the same, and it's hard to compare them without knowing the place.

Getting from the airport to Coron city takes quite some time - 45 minutes or so, if I remember correctly. Nice landscape on this island, or perhaps it's the late afternoon light which makes it look nice.

Once in the homestay, the owner shows me again a list of tours. I pick one for tomorrow.

After settling in and changing to a set of clothes suitable for the tropics (polyester shorts and T-shirt, easy to wash and dry, slippers instead of shoes), I get out and have a look at Coron city.

I was thinking to find a cute fishing village with a nice waterfront and a tourist area full of shops and restaurants/cafes, but this place is quite different.

For starters, I can't find the waterfront (perhaps there is none?), then I can't find shops selling the stuff I'd like to buy. For instance there is no 7/11 convenience store or something comparable. Everything is dirty and underdeveloped.

In one shop they sell a bottle of milk tea (0.5l) for 150 PHP (= 2.50 Euro). In China these milk tea bottles cost 5 RMB, i.e. 0.70 Euro.

Then I can't find a place selling bread or cake. In China I used to buy bread or cake and a bottle of tea, so that I would have something for breakfast the next day, but what am I going to eat for breakfast here...

Exploring further the area I run into a tourist zone with stalls selling (junk) food and have some dinner there. I should not have done that, because the Mexican dish they serve is full of fat. Should have gone to a real restaurant and have eaten a rice dish.

I run in quite a few foreign tourists. Not that many, but some.

Later I speak with the owner of my homestay. She explains that the bakery has closed now, but tomorrow at 7am a guy will go and pick up some bread for me at 7am.




10.12: Coron (island trip)
Bangles homestay, Coron city. The shower has a problem: very little water coming out (takes forever to take a shower).
Weather: sunny, blus sky and hot (temperatures in the 30+°C range). No rain, no wind, some cloud every now and then.

At 8am I'm in the reception. After 8:30am somebody on a motorbike comes and brings me to the harbour. There I'll wait until well after 9am for the boat. I booked a trip to the islands for 900 PHP ("tour A": Kayangan lake, green lagoon, Quin reef, Cyc beach, Hannah's cottage lunch area, Las isla de coral).

Today I'll share a boat with other 14 travellers. We'll visit a number of places where to snorkel, and one lake on an island.

The seawater is pristine (crystal clear), but I see no sand beaches. Everywhere it's rocks which plunge vertically into the sea.

Tomorrow I'll try another trip to the islands. But I wonder if these trips perhaps are more or less all the same, and somehow I'm a bit disappointed by the lack of sandy beaches.

By the way, a lunch is included in the price. A good lunch actually, including fish, seafood and fresh fruits.

We are back in Coron city shortly before 4pm. I'll have dinner after 6pm in a restaurant (rice dish with chicken, dry and no taste, these guys don't know how to cook).




11.12: Coron (islands trip)
Bangles homestay, Coron city. This evening the water problem is finally solved. Suddenly there is enough water in the toilet and in the shower. I guess they forgot to open the water pipe.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, tropically hot. Some very thin clouds layer every now and then. No wind.

At 8:30am there is the pickup to the harbour. Once there, I pay 1300 PHP for the boat trip (reduced from the 1500 PHP shown on the leaflet).

Today it's a larger boat and there are 20 travellers. Despite the higher price, we'll only visit three places: two nice beaches and a mediocre beach where we stop for lunch.

Leaving at 9:10am we reach the first beach, a nice strip of sand, after well over two hours (we are there at 11:30am). It's because the distances are huge. Apparently there is no nice beach closer to Coron city.

We stop at this beach for about 40 minutes, then get to the boat for the lunch place, which we reach at 1pm.

This is another beach, but not so nice. Here there are long tables for dining. The lunch is actually quite good (there is fish, chicken, fried noodles, rice, vegetables etc.). It's just that the food has been cooked hours ago, so it's already cold.

While on the boat I have been reviewing my travel plans and decided to skip El Nido. Probably it's similar to Coron, but the local geography and travel logistics make it unsuitable for a short stay. Instead I book flights to Boracay. This island seems to have nice beaches, directly accessible from the hotel without having to take a boat and good tourist infrastructure. In addition, it is relatively easy to reach by plane.

After 2pm we get back into the boat for the last place of the day, a nice beach. We reach this beach around 3pm.

This is a stunningly beautiful beach, white sand with crystal clear water, coconut palm trees, small café selling drinks and shakes.

Shortly before 4pm we leave this place and head back to Coron city. We'll arrive after sunset around 5:30pm.

In the evening I book a hotel in Boracay and flights from Boracay to Baguio (via Cebu). Baguio looks interesting, because it is at altitude (1500m) and a change compared to the islands I have seen so far.



12.12: Coron -> Boracay (via Cebu)
Hotel Island Princess Resort & Spa, Boracay. 43 Euro for a nice (but not luxury) room with toilet, A/C etc. Not far from the beach, but because they closed the direct road, you have to walk for 300-400m on a very bad road with puddles of water. Then, because this hotel is in a very narrow road, taxis don't drive in (have to carry my luggage for 200m from the main road). At nice there is noisy music outside until midnight.
Weather: same as yesterday, sunny, blue sky, hot, no rain.

I get up before 6am, check out, and at 7:10am am on the taxi to the airport (250 PHP). At the airport, Philippine airlines charges 4200 PHP (= 70 Euro) for the excess weight of my suitcase. 10kg are allowed, my suitcase weighs 22.9kg. This is a rip off, because the two flights from Coron to Boracay together cost only 148 Euro and this baggage fee effectively doubles the price.

The flight takes off on time at 9:20am and lands in Cebu. Pretty large airport, quite modern facilities. I quickly retrieve the luggage and then it's a short walk to the upper floor where I check in with Airasia for the flight to Boracay. This time I pay only 2420 PHP, and for the complete luggage (22.9kg, I have no luggage allowance). A lot less expensive than Philippine Airlines.

Around 11am I have some early lunch in a restaurant at the airport, then proceed to the gate. The plane takes off with about 15 minutes of delay and lands in Boracay at 1:35pm. Then, because we have to wait 10 minutes for some elderly people to exit the plane, we reach the luggage area after 1:50pm.

Next, I check how to get to the hotel. It's a combination of minibus, ferry and again minibus. Cost is 1050 PHP and it's around 2:50pm when I finally am able to check in (and I have to carry the luggage for the last 200-300m from the main road, because the minibus won't drive to the hotel).

So, essentially, getting from Coron to Boracay, hotel door to hotel door took a total of 7 1/2 hours - quite a lot.

In the hotel I take another shower, get settled and at 3:30pm walk out to the beach.

It's a very long white sand beach with clear sea water. Countless hotels, shops, cafes, restaurants etc. along this beach. I'll be walking around until after sunset on this beach. Seems there is an island circling tour costing 1000-1200 PHP (lowest offered price is 900 PHP), which includes a lunch.

Lots of tourists, lots of Filipinos offering all kinds of different services.

I'm back in the hotel after 8pm.



13.12: Boracay
Hotel Island Princess Resort & Spa, Boracay.
Weather: overcast in the morning until noon, then sunny.

In the morning I don't do much because the sky is overcast. I only leave the hotel after 11am, then take an e-trike (some kind of electric riksha, 200 PHP) to the Puka beach, a beach on the northern coast of Boracay.

Puka is definitely a nice, long, white sand beach and the sea water is crystal clear. Not so many tourists today. More wind than on the west coast

I spend some time walking up and down this beach, then, after 1:30pm, walk back to the e-trike area. Some discussion, now the transportation to the Ilingan beach (much closed to Puka than Puka is to my hotel) costs 200 PHP. Not having a choice I accept.

The driver brings me to an Ilingan beach which is further north than the place I was thinking to go to. Then I find out that you can't walk along the coast to the beach I wanted to go to.

Some discussion with the drivers available on the place. One suggests to take a boat for 1000 PHP, another one wants to bring me there on his motorbike. I walk for a while along the road back towards the main road, then am picked up by an e-trike with customers who give me a lift until the junction to the place I want to go to.

From there I walk until the beach. It's actually looks like a private area, although there is no fence or street sign stating that you are not allowed to enter.

I'm now on the east coast and see a couple of beaches (one of the Savoy hotel). Nice beaches, but there is a lot more wind here than on the west coast.

Around 3:10pm I'm wondering how to get back to the west beach where my hotel is. There are no e-trikes here, but the hop on hop off bus shows up. I didn't buy the three day ticket when I arrived yesterday, but I get in anyway and ask. I can use it by paying 100 PHP. Subsequent rides cost 50 PHP only.

The bus makes a long loop until Puka beach before reaching station 2. I get off at the D Mall, then have some food in a chicken fast food.

I'll spend the rest of day checking out the area and having more drinks and food, totally over 16000 steps. I'll be back in the hotel after dark.




14.12: Boracay -> Cebu
Apartment in Amani Grand Resort Residence, Mactan. 1830 PHP for a room with kitchen area and toilet. A bit old, very noisy A/C unit. Quite close to the airport (1.5km distance).
Weather: a mix of sunny, overcast and rain. Some rain, not very much. Still very hot, windy on the east coast.

In the morning I go to the beach and do some swimming. For that purpose I bring along the beach towel of the hotel, place it somewhere on the beach and next to it my shoes and clothes. And actually my towel is the only towel on this stretch of beach - nobody else is doing so.

Then I go back to the hotel, take a shower and after 1pm go out again. This time I slowly walk towards the beach on the east coast of Boracay (Bulabog beach). Short lunch stop at a chicken fast food (only 103 PHP for a piece of chicken with rice - far less than what I'll pay today elsewhere for inferior food).

At 1:40pm I'm on Bulabog beach. Not so great beach, but very windy. Lots of people doing kitesurfing. It's probably a fun thing to do, if you know how to kitesurf.

I spend one hour on Bulabog beach, then slowly walk back towards the west coast.

By the way, when walking along the main street or along the west coast beach, practically every five seconds on average somebody is offering you some massage, souvenir or is asking you to go to his/her restaurant. I keep saying 'no', 'no thanks' etc all the time.

After 3pm I'm back in the hotel. I take another shower (to remove the suntan lotion), take a rest and pack my stuff.

At 5pm I check out. I pay 1000 PHP for the late checkout (the hotel is charging 200 PHP for each hour of late checkout after 12pm) and 800 PHP for the transportation to the airport (and most likely the hotel is pocketing 200-300 PHP out of these 800).

Then we first drive to another hotel to pick up some other travellers. At 5:23pm the boat departs, at 5:31pm I'm in the minibus to the airport, at 5:35pm I'm at the airport. I could actually have left Boracay half an hour or an hour later.

At the airport I spot some restaurants and go there for dinner, because I suspect that inside the terminal there is no decent food. And in fact later I'll see that inside the terminal there is no real restaurant.

However the restaurant where I go to is not good either. They serve some chicken chop suey with almost no chicken, and it feels like they took the vegetables from a can.

In fact, here in the Philippines I haven't yet found a place where they serve good food.

After dinner I walk into the terminal and proceed to the gate.

Very noisy gate waiting area, especially when outside there is a plane.

Around 8pm they announce that the flight is delayed. I check the website of Cebu Pacific and it shows a departure time of 10:05pm.

Around 8:30pm they serve some snacks and a bottle of water. Later, at 9:40pm boarding starts and the flight finally takes off at 10:19pm. ATR 72-600 aeroplane.

We land on Cebu at 11:10pm. After retrieving the luggage, I get a Grab car to the hotel.




15.12: Cebu -> Baguio
Hotel 45 Extension, Baguio. 1845 PHP for a not so great room. No A/C (actually not needed, because at night it's fresh), but the room is old and there is no cupboard for the clothes. There is a small table with chair, toilet with shower, but otherwise everything is quite spartan. The location is good - in walking distance from the SM City mall and the centre of Baguio.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some light clouds layer in Cebu. Sunny, blue sky with some clouds every now and then, much more fresh due to the altitude. After sunset I need a light jacket.

Early wake up at 6:20am. At 7:10am I check out and taka a Grab car to the airport. Small mess at the entrance, as the security guard insists to see my ticket before letting me enter the terminal. But I only have the ticket in an email in the notebook PC. So I have to pull out the notebook PC, switch it on, open the email client, find the email and finally show it to the security guard.

Then things proceed smoothly. I have some breakfast with chicken and rice, then proceed to the gate at 8:20am. Boarding has already started.

The aeroplane (Dash 8-400) is about 50-60% full.

Freezing A/C in the plane. When I ask the hostess to increase the temperature a bit, she gives me a thin blanket and after that the plane gets even colder.

The plane lands in Baguio at 10:23am - 27 minutes ahead of time.

Nice air and light in Baguio - really special, very different from the other places in the Philippines I have been so far.

I retrieve the luggage, then call a Grab car. The problem is that nobody answers. Actually Grab cars here in Baguio are standard taxis.

Some driver approaches me and offers to bring me to Baguio for 400 PHP, which is quite expensive. I wait some time, then a female traveller shows up and we share the cost of the trip.

I check in the hotel, get settled, then after 11:30am get out of the hotel and have a look at the city.

Baguio is actually a beautiful town with a great climate. The only problem is the heavy traffic and the exhaust fumes of all those vehicles and motorbikes.

The area where I am has excellent traveller infrastructure. Lots of cafes, restaurants, shops. I see no western travellers on the streets. Nobody is harassing me, nobody tries to sell anything to me. I'm being left alone.

Lots of students everywhere. Baguio has a big student population.

Seems that without knowing it, I hit the jackpot. Finally I found a place in the Philippines where to chill for a couple of days.

I'll spend the day exploring the area. In the process I visit two museums with some exhibits of the local people. These are quite similar to those in east Malaysia.

Around 5pm I spend some time in the SM City mall, a nice open mall without A/C.

In the evening I have a dinner in the Homu café.



16.12: Baguio
Hotel 45 Extension, Baguio. The shower is not so great (heater not powerful enough, so you have to keep the water flow small).
Weather: in the morning still sunny, after 11am mostly overcast. A few raindrops (but so little that you don't even need an umbrella). More fresh, because the sun doesn't warm up the air.

I got a light cold yesterday (have a running nose), so in the morning I stay longer in bed.

Around 11am I take a taxi to the Tam Awam village with the Grab app. Because of the surcharges, the price doubles to over 200 PHP.

60 PHP entry ticket to get into the village. The village is relatively small and is on a steep slope, so you have to walk up and down the staircases (quite steep). Overall it's not that impressive, because the few houses there are are not built with traditional materials. They are built out of concrete and the roofs consist out of either plastic mesh or corrugated tin. And there is not that much to see.

I spend about half an hour at this village, then try to get to the next place. Not so easy, because there is no transportation.

Maybe I should have rented a car. But then, it's not easy or fun to navigate through the horrible traffic of Baguio.

So I'm outside, wondering what to do, until I spot a taxi which just arrived, unloaded some passengers and is going back to Baguio. I seize the opportunity and get in. Next destination is the Camp John Hay. We are there at 12:50pm (not so big distance, but we are stuck in the traffic jam).

This Camp John Hay is a nice wooden area with pine trees. Nice, relaxing place, suitable for picnics. There are some attractions, but nothing terribly interesting or unmissable.

I have a lunch in a restaurant, which turns out to be good. Moderately priced, the chicken is cooked well and there is enough meat. It comes with (plain) rice and even some small salad. I have a coconut as a drink.

After lunch I check a bit the place and visit some of the attractions (Bell amphitheatre, cemetery of negativism etc).

At 2:30pm I decide to get to the next place - the Mines View park or the Botanical gardens. The problem is there is no taxi and nobody picks up my Grab request. I'm stuck here.

Not having any other option (walking to the Mines View park would take 1:20 hours), I decide to walk back to Baguio.

This takes about half an hour. It could be a nice walk along forested area, if there were not all these cars with their diesel exhaust fumes completely polluting the area.

Baguio is a nice city, but has a problem: too many people, too much traffic (the latter being the bigger problem). And there is no easy solution: they would have to somehow limit the traffic in the urban area or even the entire area around Baguio.

Or perhaps they build more and wider roads, because these few roads are insufficient to handle all the traffic.

But I doubt none of the above is going to happen, at least not in the short term.

I guess the problem is also that I'm visiting on a weekend and probably lots of people from Manila are here (and I heard this is even a special weekend). Might have been better to come here in the middle of the week.

In fact, while walking along the street back towards Baguio city, I'm almost as fast as the cars which are stuck in a horrible traffic jam.

Back in Baguio I buy some pastries in bakeries and have a bubble tea. Then I queue up for almost one hour to buy the bus ticket to Manila for tomorrow (740 PHP). Later in the evening I'll have dinner in the Homu café.

To summarise it, today my day ended early because I was unable to reach the various attractions around Baguio.



17.12: Baguio -> Manila
Khotel, Manila. 2626 PHP for a small, but nice room (soft bed) with toilet and shower. Cupboard for the clothes, but no table with chair (so if you want to use a computer you have to do it on the bed).
A shuttle service to the airport is declared, but apparently no such service is offered. In the reception when I arrive, they claim they can book a grab car to the airport for me. 4.4 km from the airport, but actually adjacent to the hotel there is a slums area.

Weather: sunny, blue sky, some clouds layer every now and then. Sunny in Manila.

Essentially I waste this day on the bus to Manila, because the bus leaves at 11:30am and arrives in Manila airport at 4:20pm and I reach the hotel at 5:20pm.

Perhaps, also considering the travel logistics issues of Baguio, it might have been better to fly from Cebu to some other place in the Philippines (Legazpi?), from where there is a direct flight to Manila.

Still, the bus trip is interesting. Nice views of the Cordillera region from the bus. It could be an idea to travel in the Cordillera region with a rented car (for instance, to/from Manila for about a week, or return the car somewhere else and take a flight back to Manila).

In any case, when the bus drops me off at terminal 3 of the Manila airport, I struggle to find a Grab car. That is, no Grab driver responds. Later I manage to get a taxi.

In the hotel, surprise, surprise, there is no shuttle service to the airport. They talk about booking a Grab car for tomorrow for me, but how is that supposed to work? The app doesn't offer an advance booking option.

I get into the room, get settled, then get out again.

Again I'm unable to get a Grab car. I walk to the main street and talk to a taxi driver. He refuses to use the meter and asks 500 PHP to bring me to the Mall of Asia. Some discussion, in the end I offer 200 PHP, but he refuses.

I get out and manage to flag a taxi, willing to drive by meter. Total of 120 PHP for the ride.

The Mall of Asia is big, but getting in is a bit messy, because you have to cross the street by using the bridge. Inside I can't find what I'm looking for (a food court and a Watsons pharmacy).

And it's full of people. There is always somebody walking in front to me, obstructing my path, even stepping on my shoes.

It takes some time to find a restaurant (I choose a Thai one) and the food is not good (way too salty - these guys do not know how to cook).

After dinner, I can't find a Grab car and I can't find a taxi willing to use the meter. So, because according to Google Maps it's only 4.1km, I walk back.

The return walk, well, is not so great, because in some sections the pavement is broken or non-existent, the terrain is a bit rough, I have to cross several streets and the air is polluted. Close to the hotel I almost get lost in a slums area. I feel a bit sorry for the kids who have to live there the entire year.




18.12: Manila
Khotel, Manila. The shower is so-so (little water flow).
Weather: mostly overcast, some rain, every now and then some sun. Tropically hot.

After asking in the reception to book a transfer to the airport for tomorrow at 4am, I leave the hotel around 11am, try to call a Grab car without success, but then manage to wave a taxi to the National museum of the Philippine people and Rizal park.

The taxi driver initially refuses to use the meter and asks 300 PHP, then agrees to use the meter and the bill will be 230 PHP. We reach the museum around 12pm.

Turns out the museum is closed today, because it's Monday. Not just this one, also another one next to it. So I walk to the Rizal park.

It takes a while to find the entrance, and at the entrance there is a security check (why would somebody bring something strange or dangerous into a park...?).

The park itself is kind of nice, not terribly impressive, but somehow photogenic. Inside there is the statue of the Philippines national hero, Mr Rizal.

It's doesn't take much time to cross the Rizal park. At the other end I try again without success to call a Grab car (because the next place, the San Agustin church, is 1.5km away). Then I try to wave a taxi, but no taxi is stopping.

So I start walking along the street towards the San Agustin church. Suddenly a Filipino on his riksha approaches me and offers to show me around in Intramuros for 350 PHP for half an hour.

Could be an idea, but actually I just want to go to San Agustin church. He lowers the price to 200 PHP, so I accept. In the end when I see we are in Intramuros, I drop off the riksha and pay him 100 PHP for the short transfer.

So I spend some time walking around Intramuros, visiting the San Agustin church (inside it's nice). Intramuros is actually a quite photogenic area, perhaps the most photogenic area of Manila. Manila as a whole is a quite ugly city (slums, dirty streets, horrible traffic), but a few places such as Intramuros and the Rizal park are nice.

After Intramuros I stop in a Chowking restaurant (some kind of Asian fast food) for lunch. The food here, well, is so-so. Sufficient to fill the stomach, but not really good.

Then I try to call a Grab car or wave a taxi to the Chinese cemetery. Without success, and no taxi is willing to go there or use the meter.

So I start walking towards the Chinese cemetery. At 3pm, because the Chinese cemetery is still far away, I try again calling a Grab car and this time I manage to find a driver. I'm at the Chinese cemetery at 3:40pm.

The Chinese cemetery is somehow a disappointment. I was expecting, old historic tombs, but most structures here seem quite modern. And this cemetery is huge - exploring it on foot is not really an option.

Interestingly there are no people here, except for a few construction workers. But otherwise in Manila there are so many people everywhere. I wonder if perhaps Filipinos are a bit superstitious and avoid this place.

I spend about half an hour, then walk out and try to get a Grab car or a taxi to the Robinsons Place mall.

After a few minutes I manage to secure a Grab car (actually a taxi; Grab also allows you to book taxis; you pay the taxi fee and a Grab surcharge).

The taxi arrives and brings me to the Robinson mall. But the guy must have been tuning his meter, because the bill ends up being 50% higher than the Grab estimate. He asks to be paid cash, but I pay via Grab and report the issue to Grab.

The Robinsons Place mall is big, but not terribly impressive from an architectural perspective. I find a Bread Talk bakery, then I have some early dinner in a Chowking restaurant (a simple noodles dish).

I leave this mall before 7pm and with some effort manage to secure a taxi. We agree on the meter fee + 200 PHP as payment - otherwise he won't bring me there and I don't know if I can find another taxi. The trip to the hotel inclusive of these 200 PHP ends up costing 457 PHP (about 12km distance). I'm back in the hotel before 8pm.




19.12: Manila -> Beijing
Happy Dragon City Culture hotel, Beijing. 532 CNY for a very nice room, nicely decorated, lots of furniture. Bathroom with toilet and shower. Location in the hutongs, about 3km from the forbidden city.
Booking.com doesn't provide name or address in Chinese characters in the app, so I spend some time trying to determine the address in Chinese (in the end, I contact the hotel). Later I discover, that the email of booking.com contains the Chinese name and character. So booking.com needs to fix this app problem.

Weather: tropically hot in Manila. Sun, blue sky, -7°C and strong wind blowing in Beijing in the afternoon (-15°C at night according to the forecast). To walk on the streets of Beijing today you need to dress up like an eskimo.

Early wake up at 3:10am. At 4am I'm the reception. The taxi is not there. The pre-arranged transfer consists of the receptionist calling Grab and asking for a car. This causes a delay of 10 minutes, i.e. we leave at 4:10am.

At 4:21am I'm at the airport. I queue up at the Air China check-in. Long queue already, I'm one of the last. Quite a few non-Chinese travellers. Probably these people are transiting in Beijing to the final destination.

I manage to change the last Philippine pesos to Euro, then proceed to the gate.

The 6:20am flight to Beijing is delayed and takes only off at 7am. On board I manage to sleep a little bit.

We land in Beijing at 11:19am. I get through passport control, retrieve the luggage and proceed to the pick up area for the Didi cars. There I call a Didi car to the hotel.

In no time somebody responds. The estimated fare is 77 CNY for 25km distance. The driver calls me and asks where I am. I pass the phone to somebody else and ask him to explain to the driver where exactly I am. I speak Chinese, but not well enough to explain where exactly I am (too many specific terms I don't know in Chinese).

The driver quickly shows up and guides me to his car, which is one level higher. By 12:30pm we leave. This is Chinese efficiency and professionalism. Quite a difference from the Philippines.

At 1:15pm I check in the hotel. I get settled, and wear one additional thing before going out. I'm walking to a nearby mall.

Along the way I stop in a small restaurant where I have a bowl of beef dumplings (quite tasty).

In the mall I run into a good supermarket with all products I need. I buy food and drinks, enough for dinner tonight and the breakfasts, because I won't go out for dinner tonight. It's just too cold to walk on the streets and at night it will be even colder.

I'm back in the hotel before 4pm and will spend the rest of the day in the hotel.


Continues with the China 2023 travelogue


Copyright 2024 Alfred Molon