Not so Thrilla in Manila

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 – Friday, December 29, 2017

Once again, another travel season is upon us. I celebrated the holiday season at home this year. What a waste of fucking time. I typically make it a rule to leave the country for the holidays, but due to a shoulder surgery last month I wasn’t cleared for travel until now. To be honest I probably still shouldn’t be traveling, let alone backpacking, but the travel itch must be scratched. So here I am, sitting in the Guangzhou airport in China after a 15 hour flight from Los Angeles, awaiting my next flight to Manila, where I will then board my third flight to get to Boracay. After New Years in Boracay, we head to the island of Bohol, via Cebu, and then it’s on the Palawan for a sailing/camping trip through what many claim to be the most beautiful islands in the world. Yes, I said camping – more on that later. For now, just google image search the locations I’ve mentioned, be overcome with jealousy, and lets keep it moving.

Let’s meet the cast for our trip. Surprise surprise, it’s a girl’s trip. We’ve got a pretty solid trio of ladies who say yes to everything and excel at drinking, so I have a feeling you are all in for some entertainment over the next few weeks.

First up is Marissa. You loyal blog followers will remember Mar Mar from our relaxing getaway in Maui that quickly turned into a booze fueled shit show that included getting plastered on the open ocean, kicked out of a bar, and hitching a ride with some locals in the back of a truck to naked beach party. You’ll also remember her from Troop 638’s trip to the Canadian Rockies this past summer where I actually managed to get her out of bed before 6 am. No early wake up calls on this trip – she made me promise. Every decision Mar and I make together will be questionable, and has a 98% chance of ending in blog worthy story. Or a jail worth story. Let’s all hope its the former because we are not the young, sweet, innocent kind of people that the country will rally behind as they tweet Trump with pleas for extradition.

Rounding out our little wannabe Filipino trio for this trip is Kristie, a blog virgin! Kristie actually has traveled with me before. It was a long, booze filled weekend in Cabo that I was not able to blog about because (1) I was too busy being drunk for 72 hours straight, and (2) you people really don’t need to know ALL the stupid shit I do. Plus, if you’ve ready about one of my ridiculous Cabo trips, you’ve read about them all. Kristie is no stranger to world travel – she has even mastered the art of solo travel. Solo travel freaks me out because of my need for constant attention, but I have some serious respect for those who do it.

Fun fact: the three of us were all sorority sisters. At least we were for a year before Kristie deactivated. Which just means that most of the sorority chicks annoyed the shit out of her and she didn’t want to pay to be their friends anymore. Luckily for her, I don’t charge. I only tell you this as background information for when we inevitably channel our inner 19 year olds and yell “whooooo shots!”. My guess is that it will take two days, max. Any brave (stupid) souls want to take the over on that bet? Another fun fact: Kristie and Marissa used to live together in Venice – the one with all the cannabis, not the canals. They even shared a bathroom. If you can share a bathroom with someone for years then backpacking through a third world country for two and half weeks is child’s play.

Marissa left for the Philippines about 12 hours before Kristie and I because her options were limited as she was flying using points. The bitch was also flying first class. I made her send me pictures of her seat, since that’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to the good life. She settled in to her little pod, complete with pajamas, slippers, and a fucking dinner menu.

That bitch’s classy seat

Meanwhile, Kristie and I were just praying that China Southern airlines had in-flight entertainment in coach. Mar will get into Manila the night before Kristie and I and meet us at the airport Friday morning for our domestic flight to Boracay.

Kristie and I left LAX on a Wednesday night, despite my knowing full well that flying to Asia on a Wednesday night around the holidays is a no-no. It actually wasn’t too bad, and we got through the dreaded Tom Bradley international hall and security eerily quickly. The flight was 15 underwhelming hours of freezing my ass off and collecting all the blankets I could get my hands on. Kristie hit the free wine hard. I hit the xanax hard. The chick in the middle seat in my row found a better spot in the back of the plane, and the poor guy in the window seat got to look at my feet for the duration of the flight when I claimed her seat as my own. Then we landed in Guangzhou, China…

Kristie just got her jacket stolen from the Chinese airport security, who are now playing dumb and saying they don’t know who took it. But methinks communist Santa didn’t bring someone a nice Patagonia jacket this year and their sticky fingers got the best of them. I was aggressively yelled at by the same airport security for not being able to follow instructions which consisted of flailing hand gestures and being screamed at in Chinese. If any of you are waiting for a China trip blog, don’t hold your breath. I’m not sure I would even make it out of the airport.

A quick two hours flight and we arrived at the Manila airport. If hell had an airport, and the devil himself was in charge of traveler satisfaction, it would be the Manila airport. If a city planner was tasked with designing the least efficient air travel hub in the world, he still wouldn’t come close to the shockingly horrific cluster fuck that is the Mainila airport. This place makes LAX look like a utopian transportation wonderland in comparison. Kristie and I landed to a very tame immigration line and sailed through. Little did we know it was the calm before the storm. We then waited for my bag for about forty-five minutes while the moving boxes for half of fucking China rolled off the conveyor belt.  I seriously started to consider whether I had been on a UPS freight plane and just not realized it. Once we got our bags it was time for us to make our way from terminal 1 to terminal 4 to catch our domestic flight to Caticlan (Borocay). Step 1 – check with the “free” shuttle to see how long until the next one would come. They couldn’t say. Could be 20 minutes, could be an hour. Fuck that.  Step 2 – get some cash and grab a taxi to take us to terminal 4. This may sound unnecessary to those who haven’t been to the Manila airport so let me enlighten you. The terminals are basically entirely fucking different airports, and you must completely exit the airport and drive a few miles through a 24/7 traffic jam to get from one to the other. It’s like landing at LAX and then having a connecting domestic flight out of the Santa Monica airport.

We finally arrive at Termina 4, which is the Manila airport equivalent of district 12, to a mass of people tangled in illogical and seemingly meaningless lines everywhere. Luckily Marissa had already been there a while and was posted up in the “baggage drop” line.  This line is basically just a holding pen until they call “last call” for your flight and then hurry you out of that line and into another line so they can get your bags on the plane in time. We quickly realized there was only one way to survive – we had to get drunk. We met some nice boys from Pittsburg or Columbus or some other random city I don’t give a shit about and they pointed us in the direction of one stand that was selling beer. Once we got a good buzz going, Kristie managed to get into a good spot in the shorter line for a different flight and then talk the agent into checking our bags anyway.  I knew that Asian baby face was going to come in handy.

We were feeling quite proud of our accomplishment until we made our way into the terminal and were met with a scene resembling a Red Cross tent after a hurricane. Obviously, we got more beers. And a few more. And maybe a few more after that. By the time we boarded our delayed flight, we were feeling great. We had conquered the airport from hell and even had a great buzz to show for it. We should have known there were problems waiting for us on the horizon.

Finally leaving Manila! Or so we thought

Now, if you’re thinking I’m just being dramatic, give me a minute. Try to think of something that could possibly ruin a great mood when you are drunk with two of your friends on your final 45 minute flight to fucking paradise after a 25 hour journey through Asia. Just try. Got any guesses? How about some poor old guy dropping fucking dead from a heart attack at the back of the plane the second he boards. Bet you didn’t see that one coming?  I doubt he did ether…A girl in the seat next to us ran to the back of the plane to perform CPR. Meanwhile, these Air Asia morons were still letting people board the fucking plane. Passengers had to literally yell at them to stop the flow of people marching directly into a medical emergency. They finally get the old guy off the plane and into an ambulance. We don’t actually have confirmation of whether or not that dude died, the flight attendants said he was fine, but the girl performing CPR and her husband were both in tears as they returned to their seats. Our Midwest friends who were actually at the back of the plane had no idea either – but that’s probably due to their state of intoxication.

Needless to say that brought the mood down a few notches. We landed in Caticlan airport, where we were put on buses and taken to the terminal. Apparently airports being spread out across entire fucking towns is a thing here in the Philippines, because it was a damn near 20 minute drive through a shit show of tricycles and jeepneys to the “terminal”. Luckily, our Midwest friends had some duty-free vodka that we took the to face on the drive. This blog has gotten a lot longer than I had anticipated, so lets just speed through the rest of this. We were picked up by a private van, taken to a private speedboat which transferred us to the island of Borocay, where we were then put into another private van and taken directly to our delightfully wonderful hotel, The Lind. It felt great to finally have some bougie back in my life. At this point we were just under the 30 hour travel mark and delirious. I shoved a bowl of pasta in my face and passed out promptly at about 8:30 pm. Tomorrow I’ll get drunk and do something funny. I promise.

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