Monday, August 18, 2008

Roughing it in Manilla

Roughing it in Manilla

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My lights wont turn on, at least not the ones wired into the wall and ceiling. I can't explain why my keycard isn't activating the main breaker. I'm too scared to call the front desk and request that someone to come up to the eighth floor and fix it for I might have to tip them.

This is a picture of my hotel room prior to the problem.

It wasn't my plan to come and stay at The Bellevue, a four star hotel, upon arriving in Manila. My McShit T-shirt


instigated a conversation with a middle aged, Portuguese, semi-conductor-troubleshooting guy who recommend I stay in the suburb around his hotel. "How much would a bus/taxi/jeppney cost to get there?" I enquired. My new friend, Amilcar, replied, "just come with me".

Manila is a sprawling megapolis in great contrast to the denseness of Seoul and other Korean cities. Transportation infrastructure as we know it in places like Europe, Tokyo, Korea and Toronto doesn't exist here. The only option is four wheels and it takes a long time to get anywhere. Amilcar's company footed the bill for the private taxi (an unmarked car, contrary to what one might think, it's the safest way to travel here) to The Belleveue. And once there he negotiated a company rate for me on my room. I figured, "what the hell", why not splurge on a nice hotel while I get my feet on the ground here. (Just had to use my flashlight to find some tissue in my bathroom... it's sooo dark in there.) Manilla was never supposed to be an overnight thing, not until my work gave me a day's notice that I needed a criminal record check if I wanted to have a job upon my return. So now I must visit the Canadian embassy and go through all sorts of hassle to get this document and must be done before I step back on Korean soil.

The hotel is great, super fancy, I feel like a backpacker staying at the ritz. Luckily I brought one shirt without profanities scribbled across it and so I dressed the part of a Bellevue guest. Amilcar and I met up and headed down to the peer, a thirty minute taxi ride away. Our assigned driver joined us for some drinks and dinner.


Both the atmosphere and dinner were amazing! Such a nice treat from my usual gimbap changu meals. We got, mozzarella sticks thicker than Andre the Giant's thumb, a huge stack of onion rings, a beautiful green salad, spicy prawns about the size of Andre's middle finger, a large fish we pointed to in a tank fried to perfection, chop-suey exploding with vegetables, mixed rice and some of the best beer I've had in ages. All this was consumed on a cozy peer stretching into the bay for about 17 bucks a person. It's reassuring to know this was considered the high end dining in the Philippines. I'm sure future meals will prove to be even more delicious for even less money.

I can't believe I posted such crapy pictures... Never again!

After the meal Amilcar, the driver and myself headed to a bar in the vicinity. There I had the worst Mojito of my life, a clear watery drink with a pice of lemon floating around at the bottom. Entertainment consisted of dancing women. We had to keep them away from our table or there would have been an extra charge. Then some staff-guy started massaging my back, I should have known a tip would be expected. My smallest bill at the time was 500 so he got about 10 bucks, a good score for 10 minutes work. Then the waiters and waitresses wanted tips once we settled up and the guy who opened the car door for me expected a "parking tip". To top it all off, our driver made very clear the money we were paying for his service was going directly to the hotel and not to him. So after we provided food, beer, entertainment and riveting conversation he expected a tip too, hence my fear to get someone sent up to fix these damn lights!

I'm not opposed to tipping, I just really unaccustomed to it after three years spent in Korea, a country where tipping is nonexistent. And even though I try to calm myself by acknowledging these people make very little and the money is going to support a family, I still don't appreciate it when people request a tip.

To sum up it was an unusual first day, far from what I had envisioned but good experience nonetheless. My friend Amilcar allowed me to have a hugely discounted taste of the so called "good life" here in the Manila. But I am already eager to get back to street level here in Manilla.

Other Interesting Things:
-A dog is employed at my hotel, his job is to sniff for bombs/drugs

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