The flight was long and boring, but at least we had the in-flight entertainment system, for what it was worth. There was a random selection of movies, and a very strange selection of TV shows. For instance, they had The Big Bang Theory, but only six episodes from season 9. And not the first six episodes from that season. Um, what? Caitie and I got a couple of hours of sleep, but Jayden and Steve didn’t sleep at all.
We arrived in Manila at about 10:30pm local time. Then we had to stand in queues while they tried to sort out everyone’s connecting flights and accommodation. They seemed just as inept as the Auckland-based staff. Finally we were given our boarding passes for the flight to Heathrow the next day, only to find out we didn’t get the seats we’d pre-booked and prepaid for…again. They gave us a hotel voucher for the Heritage Hotel, and vouchers for a shuttle to/from the airport. We had to find our luggage and re-tag it, but were told we could leave it at the airport and it would be put on our flight to Heathrow. We wondered if we’d ever see it again. Then Caitie realised she didn’t have her phone or camera bag, and realised they’d been left in the overhead locker of the plane. Obviously Steve had overlooked them when he’d taken everything down. We asked someone about it, and they said they’d have a look and try and tag it to join us in Heathrow, but otherwise we should go to the lost and found tomorrow. We tried to prepare Caitie for the idea that she might not see it again.
Walking outside in Manila was like being hit in the face with a hot, damp cloth. It was so humid and so hot. Caitie was overheating in seconds. We were all sweating in our jeans and t-shirts. I think it was about 30 degrees Celsius….in the middle of the night. We were shocked at how much traffic there was in the middle of the night. We got to the Heritage Hotel, which looked beautiful from the outside, and in the foyer.
We were given two rooms on the same floor, one for Steve and I, and one for the kids. The whole floor smelled like cigarettes and was old and tired. The kids’ bathroom had cockroaches. But there were beds, which looked clean, and it was 2am local time (yes, it’d taken us that long to get everything sorted) and we were tired. We slept.
We were woken up at 5am by a phone call from the taxi company in England. We’d forgotten, in all the madness, to tell them that we weren’t on the flight as originally scheduled. They informed us that as we were a ‘no show’, the cost of the taxi was non refundable. Ugh. We still needed a taxi, so we rebooked it and gave them the new details.
We woke at 7am local time when our alarm went off, and we woke the kids for breakfast. Breakfast was a mix of Filipino food and western food. We all tried a variety of dishes. Jayden really enjoyed the stirfry he ate. I had a nice mince dish on toast. Caitie mostly filled up on pastries I think. We all enjoyed the omelette.
The shuttle ride back to the airport was eye-opening. The drivers don’t stay in one lane. It seems more like the lanes are just suggestions. At one point we were straddling the line, half in two lanes! And the beeping! They just kept beeping at each other, and we couldn’t figure out the reason for the beeping, even after asking the driver. The streets seemed dirty, and I saw a river that was crammed with rubbish. In my head, I was thinking ‘It’s like something you see on TV, not something that actually exists in real life.’ But of course it does. We’re spoiled, living in New Zealand. I now see why people have this notion of New Zealand as ‘clean and green’. Pedestrians ran or walked through the traffic with no apparent fear for their own safety. The buildings looked tatty and run-down for the most part. My overall impression of Manila was hot and dirty. The advertisements on the plane suggest there are some gorgeous places to go though, so I mustn’t be too judgy. I’m sure Auckland doesn’t look amazing on the trip from hotel to airport either, hmm?
We didn’t have to check our luggage in, so we had a little bit of time and we went to see if we could find Caitie’s camera bag. It took us forever to find the lost and found office, ironically, despite asking for directions multiple times. The lifts kept closing on us. In NZ, the lift won’t close if there is a person between the doors. Not so in Manila. Jayden and I both got squashed by the lift doors several times. It became a game to try and rush in, then rush out of the lifts before the doors closed. The lady at the lost and found office took our details and our description of the bag, then went hunting. We were not hopeful, but she came back with the camera bag. Caitie was so happy, she squealed with delight and almost hugged the poor lady. Everything was still in it, her phone, the camera, the spare battery packs. Steve and I were astonished that we’d got it back. We’d truly thought it was gone forever.
We had to queue to have our boarding passes scanned, and the line was really long, but it moved reasonably fast. Then we sat and waited. Then we boarded. Thankfully no drama llamas today.
We took off on time at 1pm.