Arrival and Escape from Manila    

Streets of Manila in the rain
Manila is hot, humid, crowded, dirty and overpriced-- a bad combination indeed. To make things worse, we arrived early in the morning and hotels not only don't allow check-in until 12 or 1, they also can't even say if they will have a room. We looked at several. Most that were within our price range were stuffy, smelly, dirty and otherwise crappy. We finally found an acceptable one where we left our bags until we could check in. Rowshan went to try to fix the computer. I wandered. Of course, both of us really wanted to sleep. We had left our hotel in Chiang Rai at 7 AM on the 21st. We longingly thought of that hotel (Morning Dew Lodge) which had been the best we'd stayed at during our travels.

We got into Bangkok around 10 AM and found the public transportation to the center 35 baht to Victory Monument, 20 baht/sky train to Siam square = 55 baht vs 150 which is they price of the standard airport bus. There Rowshan attempted to find out what was wrong with the computer. I went to Center World hoping for more interesting design related exhibitions. Instead there were just shoes for sale. Zen didn't seem as swank and color coordinated either. I don't know if it changed or my perception did. It seemed very cluttered-- like typical Asian stores.

Eventually we went back to the airport to kill time there. We had about 6 hours before our flight. The flight was supposed to leave at 12:30 AM but was delayed maybe 30 minutes. So to make a long story short. No sleep that night.

We took a jeepney to the center of Manila. Jeepneys are like Sawngthaew except instead of being made from pickup trucks, they are made from Jeeps (or at least were). It looks like they make the outside out of sheet metal-- the same stuff they use for air vents and things.

The jeepneys have destinations painted on the side and some have pictures. The style struck me as Mexican with eagles and flourishes and Jesus of Nazareth or Mary written on them. They whipped around cars and corners with surprising speed considering the amount of other traffic.

Manila makes me think of a crowded and soggy version of Tijuana. However, among the grime there are the luxury edifices: fancy hotels and gleaming shopping malls with every chain in existence inside. I can't help wondering how the people we see could afford the expensive prices in the mall... but maybe they spend money sent by relations working abroad.

Ronald McDonald makes a friend
It is strange when a country's major export is workers. All over we see employment offices: many for Dubai, others promising placement in Canada. They look for nurses, cleaners, sewers. The clinics advertise drug tests and STD tests. All the signs are in English-- it really is the 2nd language... maybe vying to be the first since I see more signs in English than Tagalog. I speculate all the domestics get jobs overseas so the hotels here are a bit short handed in this department. I imagine all the workers in the shops/restaurants are just beefing up their resumes to get jobs overseas.

We decided to leave Manila as soon as we could. We planned to leave the morning after Kelleen's arrival but then, today, I realized she arrives on the 25th, not the 24th because of the dateline. Her itinerary said she left on the 24th and didn't specify arriving on a different day but she pointed out to me that today is the 23rd here but the 22nd there. She leaves on the 24th which is the 25th here. Oops. So we decided to meet her in Legazpi. I hope it all works out. I hope Legazpi is better.

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