Philippines Day 2: Intramuros

We woke up bright and early completely rested from the naps and easy day before and a great night’s sleep at the White Knight. We didn’t really know what our plans were, we had options but no decisions. On one hand Typhoon Pablo had just finished scraping by the north side of Luzon Island, into the mountains of which we had originally planned to go that night by Bus. We had reports though that the weather was fine, and there were no road closures. We had our backup plan too, to go to Coron on Basuangas Island at the north end of Palawan for a few days to see Marcos’ safari park, do some horseback riding, and do a discovery scuba dive for around some WWII wrecks with a guide. The weather reports though were conflicted for Coron with some saying thunderstorms, while others sunny skies. We had a look at satellite images and decided to stick with our original plan. That meant we had a whole day to burn in Manila before taking the 9pm bus from Sampaloc up into the mountains of Banaue (pronounced bana-Way).

We called down to the front desk to see if they could help us get tickets reserved with Ohayami Transport which was recommended as the most reliable and quickest making fewer stops than others. They said they could and would get us a confirmation number later on in the day, my guess being because the ticket office wasn’t open in the middle of the day. We also tried to sort out our accommodations but no one was responding by email so we had 2 places we’d asked about making a reservation with but nothing lined up. One was in town and described in Lonely Planet as cozy and central, the other had good ratings on Trip Advisor and had a rustic charm and great views removed from everything.

The rest of our day before we left was to be filled with walking around the Rizal Park and the rest of Intramuros. We had a few places underlined in the map and set off. We had bonus goals for the day of changing money before we left for the remote parts of the country, and water bottles we could bring with us. We had also been told to check out the Aristocrat, a restaurant near the US Embassy, and Lonely Planet recommended checking out a Kashmiri restaurant called unsurprisingly Kashmir. We figured we could fill our day just fine and set out.

Before making it outside of the walls we found a neat little arts store with tons of awesome nicknacks. If only we were coming here before leaving, it would be the perfect place to find lots of gifts back home, but as we are now, we have too much ground to cover before we catch our flight home. Jenn took a number of photos of the more interesting stuff, and I took note of things I’d like to pick up if we found time before we left.

We then crossed under the wall and out into Manila proper, and headed we thought in the direction of the museums. After getting slightly lost and crossing back and forth over the busy metropolitan streets clogged with traffic moving every which way we made it to the Arts museum. Somehow we managed to spend quite a lot of time here even though the exhibit wasn’t all that spectacular. We realized we were both STARVING and set off for food, skipping the remaining exhibits and the cultural museum. We had Kashmir in mind for lunch and started making our way. But first we wanted to use the restrooms. I found mine didn’t have any toilet paper, and the sink didn’t even have soap. Luckily I noticed before I got very far. Waiting for Jenn outside she had found the same on her side. We decided we should just get to Kashmir which was described as notably upscale.

We found the main streets on our map and traced our way towards glorious food, but found along our way a 7-11 for water which we badly needed, and a bank to change money at. I changed the cash on me beside what was hidden away in a money belt. It was amazing how long it took to get some money changed; now I’m not surprised why our previous attempt was met with “we only change money for bank customers”. But at least now I had cash. So far we’ve been able to use my credit card everywhere, and Capital One doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. We resolved to look at my charge record later to make sure there weren’t any sneaky fees, but none were there.

Onward we made it to Kashmir, both of our stomachs not feeling particularly good, and we’re not sure if it’s the water from Barabara’s or White Knight, but we resolve to not drink “filtered water” anymore even though we’re told it’s safe. Pepto to the rescue, thankfully Jenn thought ahead and had packed it in her day pack. We took turns hitting the head, but mine was broken! To the women’s side for me. Jenn while I was away ordered us Humus and we figured out our main courses. I chose a Kashmiri meatball in a yogurt based sauce and she picked Chicken Tikka Masala. The humus arrived not long after and was the best either of us had ever had. I love me some Greek and Persian food so it’s often on the menu, and it’s one of my favorite snacks, so I’m not a Humus Virgin by any means, and this was phenomenally flavorful and smooth. The rest of the food was wonderful too. We used the facilities one last time then went on our way back towards the White Knight.

On our way we swung by Rizal Park and finished off the last few things we wanted to do there as well. We looked at the monument to the man that sparked the fight for independence, as well as a string of busts of other important figures. The gardens were filled with some kind of party, and we could hear “Call me maybe” and Psy playing over loudspeakers. The sun was setting though by now so we had to push on to get back to our room before dark. I’m sure Manila is safe at night, but there is a high petty crime rate here and I didn’t want to tempt fate.

We stopped in at the art store we’d visited early in the day for a diary for Jenn, she had seen a leather bound book that was cute and she was feeling inspired to write down her own thoughts. Like I noticed with my parents, she also sees the trip with different highlights and point of view. While I type she writes in her book. I’m hoping she’ll let me read it later!

Back at our hotel we got our stuff and asked for a taxi. The front desk had our seats arranged, 29 and 30, but told us we had to be at the 9pm bus at 7pm. We didn’t have much time so we caught our breaths, changed into warmer clothes, and waited for our taxi to show up. I didn’t really believe that 7pm was true, but not wanting to be here another day when we could be up in the mountains or down at the ocean we decided it was important to get there on time. Only apparently, like with our first taxi, this time of day it’s hard to get a taxi and we had to use the slightly expensive car service to the bus station in Sampaloc. The traffic was really bad, and what is normally a 15 minute drive took 1hr. It reminded me a lot of LA, but with more weaving between lanes and lane splitting by cars. Not to mention the honking. I’m reminded a lot of China and Yangshuo, I can’t help but wonder if traffic wouldn’t move quicker with more order and less every man for himself.

At the bus station our tickets were waiting, but now we had 2hrs until we board. We tensely waited there with our packs on poor benches reading. I’ve been tenser about theft here than most places, partly from what I keep hearing, but I also wonder if I’m not getting older and scarier. I hope the former. But eventually the time passed watching Filipino TV and we got to show our bags and grab our seats. The bus like the one to Chiang Mai was a freezer, but luckily I had prepared us knowing we had this bus ride in our future with jackets, long pants, and a towel for a pillow. The ride was bumpy though and in those 9hrs I didn’t get as much sleep as I’d have liked. Having Jenn helped though, we could lean up against one another for support.

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