Truly last day

Ok now I’m starting to get a bit sad about my approaching departure. Spent the morning with Jeepney rides to the post office and am now sitting in a mall cafe, killing time.

In my previous posts on Manila I’ve mainly shown the poor and shabby parts of the cities. That’s because those are the parts that are new, strange and interesting to me.

Yet there are other parts to the metro as well. The numerous malls are massive and don’t have to hide behind their western counterparts in any regard. In fact, many western brands are being sold here as well.

The cafe I’m sitting in could as well be a Starbucks in Berlin. If it wasn’t for the freezing cold air-con, the exclusively Asian customership and the armed security guard, I couldn’t tell the difference.

These guards really put me off in the beginning. Even in front of the hostel a uniformed guy with a gun is standing guard. Made me wonder what part of town I had ended up in but apparently it’s just a standard one obeys to when running a respectable business. That’s what locals told me and I haven’t heard a single gunshot, thus assume its true.

Without further ado, here’s shiny Manila.

20140327-125153.jpg

20140327-125228.jpg

20140327-125332.jpg

20140327-125443.jpg

Last Day: Chinatown

Something a lot of people recommend as a Manila activity is a visit to Chinatown. It is supposed to be an interesting sight and a feast for the palate. The latter was my main motivation for going.

Getting there took a while but in the end was quite easy, thanks to good directions by the hostel staff. Trains were a bit on the crowded site. Being at least a head taller than anybody else, I was the only one with fresh air in there.

20140326-203731.jpg

20140326-203756.jpg

Actually that’s a good image of Manila’s traffic situation in general.

20140326-203959.jpg

Having made it to Chinatown, I got some lumpia (semi-sweet, no thanks), a pork filled dumpling (yes please) and beef noodles (YES, PLEASE!). I’ve missed soup like that on this trip. That rich, thick broth with fresh herbs… Vietnamese are still the masters of that but what I got here was worthy as well.

But enough of the carnivore pleasures, here’s some impressions from Manila’s Chinatown.

20140326-204654.jpg

20140326-204739.jpg

20140326-204806.jpg

20140326-204904.jpg

In the evening I tried to see the famous Manila sunset but it was impossible to get a cab. Walking the streets, I ended up at the biggest street market I ever saw. I think I walked for half an hour and it still went on. By the looks and the amount of “Hellos” I got, they don’t see westerners a lot there.

When I had reached the end of the market, the area had gotten pretty dodgy. I didn’t feel unsafe but was still quite happy when I finally sat in a cab.

20140326-205443.jpg

Puerto Princesa

I’m too tall for public transportation in Asia. For most of the five hour ride from El Nido, my knees were stored at weird angles against the seatback in front of me.

The driver did his best to make the ride a short one and piloted the vehicle across gravel and tarmac in a way that would have put Colin McRae to shame and seemed to defy the laws of physics.

I love that stuff, makes me feel so alive at the end of the day.

Providing accommodation for me in Puerto Princesa was Jonathan, a local couchsurfer and serviceman on long vacation. His place is what I like to call a CS hostel – lots of beds, lots of people and a great vibe. Beats any regular hostel and reminded me of my stays in Chiang Mai and Phnom Phen.

With our host being vegetarian, we ate only at according restaurants and I have to admit, it was really good. Pleasant change from the meat and fish surplus the previous weeks provided.

Jonathan is a kind and very friendly man, making him an ideal host. Him being a member of the Navy special forces is another great example of how using couchsurfing does not only get one in touch with people from all kinds of countries but from all walks of life as well. Interesting stories he had to share and an amazing performance on the guitar he delivered.

On a side note: visited one of the new seven wonders of the world, the Sabang underground river. Interesting experience but the short boat ride does not really do it just – exploring it individually would be truly awesome.

20140326-081226.jpg

20140326-130104.jpg