When people feel comfortable calling you chubby…what do you have left?

There are many things I have had to adjust to over here in the Philippines…but forthright personal commentary is something that I never expected from a country that is so deferent and polite.

Never before have I simultaneously felt so beautiful and so chubby all at the same time, and never before have I been told those things in front of 25 other people…so it makes for an interesting mental rollercoaster ride.

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Airports…sigh

There are a lot of things I hate about airports…I’m sure everyone has at least one thing that gets on their goat.

Manila airport is confusing…to say the least. Firstly, you are not allowed inside the airport unless you are actually flying, which is crappy because it’s the kind of place where you really need some distraction. You have to show your ticket and get your bags screened before they even let you in the door.

Flying home with Qantas is an interesting experience. Firstly, you line up and get your ticket checked and bag weighed. There are two queues, which inevitably move at alternating speeds. Just like the supermarket, I can always be assured that no matter whic queue I join, that will be the slow queue.

After you get your bag weighed, you line up again for a bomb screening. Each bag in your possession is swabbed for bomb residue and then wheeled away to wait in front of the check in counters.

So you line up again.

Finally you make it to the check in desk, collecting your cleared bag along the way.

(As an aside, it seriously only takes me 3 minutes to check my bag and collect my ticket, even if I have a seat change query. What are people doing at the counter for 15 minutes!! Seriously!!)

All this pointless queuing completed, you battle you way through exit taxes, immigration and an additional bag screening (to pick up the contaband items you acquired while waiting in the many airline queues).

It is at this point that Manila Airport comes into its own with the Manila Club.

For the princely sum of 650 pesos (15 AUD) you get access to a quiet lounge area with unlimited food and drink – beer and wine included – away from the 60’s faux-wood laminated hell of the rest of the airport. Bliss.

Why don’t more airports do this?

They also offer massage services – perfect for wasting time – and they let you know when your flight is boarding so you don’t have to spend too much time in the dingy waiting area.

So, over to you…what do and don’t you like about airports?

Trouble with taxi drivers

Never do I feel like more of a guest in this country than when I have a run in with a taxi driver and need to have someone else speak for me.

Taxi drivers are the bane of my existence.  I could list for you the multitude of reasons why I usually hate them, but I won’t.

Instead I will tell you the most recent reason that I hate them…and how I ended up an indignant, quivering and slightly ashamed mess. Continue reading

Rice Terraces and a terrifying ride

So after the excitement of Sagada we headed to Banaue and Batad to check out the famous rice terraces and finish off our North Luzon adventure.

The road from Sagada to Banaue was mostly paved (a lovely change from the last few days) but it was still a hellish ride. The highway is BARELY two way and is carved into the side of the mountains, so one side drops perilously into a 100 metre sheer cliff face. Added to this are long sections where the road has fallen away due to landslides and is being rebuilt. I swear, there was more than one occassion where I saw the state of the road up ahead and shut my eyes hoping and praying that we would make it across the section in one piece.

Just a small snapshot of the highway...

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Coffins and caves

Heading north from the mummies at Kabayan our next point of call on our North Luzon adventure was the sleepy rural town of Sagada.

Sagada is known for its hanging coffins and caves and being that I am oddly obsessed with death and how it is treated by cultures, the excitement of seeing coffins hanging from cliff faces was more than I could stand. It’s also the place where I did my first actual hiking of the trip…and I gleefully swallow my words.

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