Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Manila Trip '07 - Day 4

Dateline : 5th Feb 2007.
To read the previous entry, click here.

After getting only about 2 hours of sleep, I woke up at 4:30am to get ready to check-out of the hotel that we stayed in during our time in Manila. Except for the lack of the tea making facilities and the broken down water heater unit, the Palm Plaza Hotel (524 Adriatico St. Pedro Gil, Malate, Manila) was an acceptable place to stay in for the trip. It’s close proximity to a mall, night life, halal food places and public transport made our time in Manila hassle-free and enjoyable. There were more than a few sights around the hotel that I missed because I was not adventurous enough to go out further in my explorations of the area. I hope to be able to do that next time now I know which hotel I would go to they next time I come into town. I would definitely recommend it to other people who would be visiting Manila.

After a quick shower and clean up to make sure that I did not leave anything behind, we all went down to the lobby to settle our room bills. My double-bed room bill came up to 5700 pesos (RM 422) for the 3 nights we spent in Manila. I thought that the price is reasonable considering the size of the room and the amenities around it. Once all that have been squared away, we took a taxi from Mabini St to the Pasay City bus terminal to catch the Philtranco bus to Clark Air Field for our Air Asia return flight to KL. On the way to the bus terminal, we passed a big fire happening in the area where we were just in 2 nights ago. One of the buildings there caught on fire and there were fire engines all around. Fortunate for us this was very early in the morning and it did not cause a massive traffic jam that would delay our taxi.

We reached Pasay City bus terminal without any incidents after that and had to wait for them to board the bus going to Clark Air Field. When we arrived at the terminal, there was no indication on where we should buy the tickets to get on the bus. After asking around, we discovered that some people bought their tickets earlier and some would buy them on board the bus itself. Those who bought tickets earlier were actually given open seat tickets instead of assigned seats. Given that there seems to be only two buses departing at the time which will reach Clark Air Field in time for our flight, we were worried about not being able to board the bus because we did not buy our tickets early.

(Philtranco Terminal at Pasay City, Manila)

When we finally got on the bus, we discovered that the seats were indeed overbooked and some people who had to catch that early morning flight had to sit in the aisles for the whole journey. Considering that the journey from Pasay City to Clark Air Field would take about 2 hours, I was thankful that I was not one of those people. My luck would not hold long when I found myself stuck behind a rude and inconsiderate tourist who insist on pushing her seats back as far as possible and in the process crushing my kneecaps. No amount of “excuse me” or glares would make this girl understand that she was not the only paying customer on the bus and so she should put her seat upright. What was more irritating was that she had the cheek to loudly complain to her disinterested boyfriend that the “locals” are making it hard for her to sleep because she can feel my knees pushing into the back of her seat.

I tried to get as much sleep as I can on the bus despite the useless lump of a woman who was crushing my kneecap. The bus stopped for about half an hour at the SM Megamall in Ortigas to pick up even more people for the trip. Fortunately for us it was not as many as those who boarded the bus at Pasay City but you would think that there would be more buses to cater for the extra people. Our bus fare were collected at this point for people who did have a ticket purchased earlier before we continued on our journey to Clark Air Field. The scenery along the route was exactly the same as the one I saw on the earlier journey in to Manila at the start of the trip so I was not missing anything new. We arrived safely at Clark Air Field a little over 9am and had to wait outside the terminal before they allowed us to check in for our flight.

(Philtranco bus and Departure Hall gate at Clark Air Field)

Compared to LCCT in KL, Clark Air Field was fairly spartan. They had a few kiosks setup to sell coffee and tidbits but that was about all they have outside. Once they allowed us to check in for our flights, we had to queue up outside the main departure hall to go through security body checks and baggage screening. Unlike LCCT, non airline ticket holders were not allowed in the terminal building so they have to say their goodbyes outside as we stood in line to go through security. Once inside it was another queue to check into the Air Asia counter before queuing up again to pay our exit tax. Fortunate for us the crowd at the Clark Air Field was thin that morning and the queues were not unreasonably long.

(Air Asia counter and interior shot of Clark Air Field Terminal)

(Departure Hall at Clark Air Field Terminal, Manila)

After another queue to go through passport control, we waited in the departure lounge for our flight to start boarding. They had a small duty free shop and coffee kiosk inside but that’s about it in terms of facilities at Clark Air Field terminal. Good thing that our Air Asia flight came in again that day so we departed Manila about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. My journey back that day was on one of those new Airbus airplanes that Air Asia recently acquired so not only did I get to sit in those comfortable leather seats but also had more leg room than on the plane we took on the way in. The flight was fairly smooth except for a little turbulence over the South China Seas but it was not as bad as the rough patch that we went through on our previous flight from KL to Manila. The plane safely touched down at LCCT sometime around 3pm and about 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

(Enroute from Manila to KL)

Taking a Skybus from LCCT to KL Sentral, we reached our destination at about 5pm. It was there that the group said goodbye to each other and parted ways to go back to our own homes. I went off to change the last of my pesos and dollars back to Malaysia ringgit at the money changer and had just enough money to get a replacement for the phone that I lost in Manila. I’ve already called my mobile phone service provider about my lost and requested that they monitor my number to see if there was any activity on it since then. Happy to know that it would be barred until I go and collect a new SIM card from them, I just needed to buy myself a new phone to use with the new SIM card. I was too tired to get a phone on that day but I was not too tired to go for a nasi lemak meal that I have been craving for during my stay in Manila.

During nasi lemak and iced coffee, I took time to reflect on the past few days and how much I have enjoyed myself during the trip. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I was glad that I took and it was well worth the money paid. I almost never get a chance to go on an overseas trip nowadays so it was fortunate that this trip came my way. At the very least I can start thinking about travelling to all the nation capitals in the ASEAN region and check off Singapore and Philippines off my list. I also discovered that I like being behind the camera capturing the snapshots of life around me. I still loath being in front of the camera and that won’t change anytime soon but I am now thinking about getting a camera for myself to capture more memorable moments in the future.

Manila was a blast and I hope to return there again someday.

(Yours truly writing out his travelogue at Clark Air Field Terminal, Manila)

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