On the road back to Manila:
Back at the hotel, I spoke with someone just in passing who told me that the buses out of the area were to be closed for the next two days down to Manila because of the holiday. So I had to put a fast forward on my plans to get out of town.
So that next morning, I packed my things and headed out the door at about 5 a.m. to catch what would ultimately be a 6 a.m. bus down the mountain.
It was a rickety bus providing a bumpy ride that only a meaty shoulder would allow for a leaning nap. And since there was no one taller than me sitting next to me, Dani was the only one getting any sleep on the ride down. And it was a long ride.
Take the average developing nation — usually loud, most likely hot, always overcrowded — and then hop on a bus to its capital. Oh yea, and on New Year’s Eve. This was my plan for the day.
The area’s recent rains had caused a rise in congested traffic and construction even more than their normal congested-ness (if that’s a word?). So that added to the delay. But the bus driver stopped at a few places to eat and we eventually made it to the city.
It’s probably the one thing that I detest about traveling — not knowing about hangups that could otherwise have been avoided. But they are, as the crux of the situation denotes, simply unavoidable. You need to know about the delays, the problems with transportation, the days buses aren’t running. But you won’t know unless you travel there and find out. Travel in that country would be made much more pleasant, but you have to put in the frustrating time in the trenches to know — thereby ensuring the unpleasantness inherent in the arena of world travel. It’s the ultimate traveler’s catch-22 (which, by the way, is also the title of the book by Joseph Heller that I will be doing a book review on — as soon as I read it).
Yes, you just can’t get away from those pesky quirks. But I generally make the best of the time by writing journals, taking photos, talking to the locals — which is a wonderful blessing to have in an English-speaking country like the Philippines.
The people here have been exceedingly friendly. And even when I inadvertently sat in someone else’s seat, they let me have it without too much fuss. I am not sure I would have fit anywhere else anyway.
Riding along, I can say that if you visit this area of the Philippines, you should definitely take the day trip. Crowded or not, the views from either side of the road are bound to amaze you. There seem to be endless peaks jutting up from below the cloud line and peppered with bright green plumage. Then you pass through the terraced fields that people have been tending for generations. These are probably the most spectacular site because of their sheer grandiosity. Once you reach the highest point, these cascading steps seem to have placed you at the to of some immense temple in the heavens. Below you is only a cloud-hewn sea at the surface of a slowly wavering boundary between you and the chaotic city-scape below.
Back in Manila:
New Year’s Eve in Manila is not what I would recommend to anyone wanting to spend that day in a nice place. It’s noisy because all of the homeless people have saved up their money, apparently, to buy their children fireworks that they can shoot at passing traffic for shits and giggles.
So not only do you have the frequent blasts from the random detonations all over the city, you have the ensuing honking and occasional accident thereafter. Reason number 108 for why I bring along earplugs on foreign travel.
That night I settled up in the hotel near the airport and headed directly out for the Mall of Asia, which, I heard, was the biggest thing in Manila since shantytowns.
It was big, there’s no doubt about that. But what was cooler was that the huge globe sitting in front of the main entrance which had recently been redone with more than 26,000 lights coordinated to create the most impressive form of advertising I have ever seen. Besides actually making a spinning conflagration of countries swirling around as would a globe, it also made use of its spherical shape to cast other amazing items like ornaments on a Christmas tree that zoomed out to show the entire scene and cool ideas like that.
There was supposed to be a fireworks show at the mall, but because the crowds kept swelling and the elbow room kept shrinking, I thought it was probably best to bypass the traffic following the show by getting out of there early and getting some sleep for my 6 a.m. flight to Cebu.
End Part One