Better Late than Never: Returning to Asia

I need to learn how to backdate these things, because… well life. A year ago, nearly to the day, I bought a ticket to go to the Philippines!! This was all super exciting because: a) Going back to Asia after two years of being in one place (itchy feet would be an understatement). b) Reunion with some of my favourite people in the world. c) A sneaky little pop over in Hong Kong for a week to visit one of my best friends who lives there now. d) I would be visiting our office in HK- always good to know what’s out there.

Then came the loooooong countdown… the trip was mid April 2016. Well, I can tell you the wait was worth it. It has been a few months since we have returned and my heart is still in the Philippines. And so, here is my very late attempt to relive the adventure and share some tips, should you wish to travel to the Philippines (which you should!!)

The 15th of April FINALLY arrived and I was prepared for my long transit trip:

Cape Town –> Joburg, Joburg –> Hong Kong, Hong Kong –> Manila, Change Terminals,

Manila –> Kalibo, One hour bus to the port, Kalibo –> Boracay… to arrive in Boracay at around 6.30pm, enough time to drop bags, shower and find our friends on the beach. Ah, such innocent dreams.

Lesson One: Manilla airports

We were warned, but nothing can quite prepare you for travelling via Manilla airport. The first thing you need to check is your terminal. Most international flights land in T1 or T3. And, most domestic flights leave from T4. Rumour has it there are inter terminal transfer buses, but I was not fortunate enough to find them. There are two types of cabs that take you between airports: metered cabs and set rate cabs. They each have their pros and cons. Metered cabs have a cheaper per/km rate, but you can end up hiking up the cost when you get stuck in traffic. Set rate cabs, as the name says, generally aren’t keen to bargain. I landed at T3 at around 11am, and had a 2.30pm flight from T4 (I figured this out about a week before leaving and so figured I would risk it). I caught my cab with no problem and had the friendliest cab driver.

Lesson Two: Yes, they really are that nice

As I mentioned, my cab driver was amazing. He was so friendly, he started taking selfies with me (there was some traffic). The South African in me bubbled up a bit (is this how I get trafficked? Do they traffic in the Philippines??). But, honestly, people are just genuinely lovely and not yet ruined by the rudeness of some tourists. So, on we went, dancing to Shakira’s Waka Waka (once he heard I was South African), and me trying not to look at the time for my flight.

I arrived to T4 with plenty of time to spare and launched myself at Lu whom I hadn’t seen since leaving Korea. Yes, there were moments of us poking each other “Are you real?”… I had my first “surprise”- our flight was delayed by 2 hours (totally could have caught the bus). No problem though, as this meant I could freshen up and get into my summer clothes without worrying about missing our flight.

Exploring T4
It really is more fun in the Philippines

Lesson Three: Life in T4 can last longer than expected

Just to give an idea of what T4 is like, it is your classic domestic airport with no duty free, no alcohol to be seen and no comfy couches. We set up camp on the floor and had a little catch up. 4pm came and went, and there was no sign of us departing, our flight was no delayed another 2 hours. There were some interesting emotional shifts at this point, with the three of us having been so eager to depart, we were too nervous to use the loo. Then, we started questioning weather or not we would ever depart, and getting upset that we were missing out on a few hours of our holiday. Fortunately, Lu and I bounce back pretty quickly, and sometimes to the extreme. We spent the next hour or so “touring” T4 and taking as many photo’s of the “sites” that we could see. It was actually great, and had both of us laughing our asses off and just being silly.

Snacks for days
T4 Tours: Site one: Cinnabon
At least there's coffee!
T4 Tours: At least there’s coffee!
We found a beach!
T4 Tours: They even have great beaches


At 6,30pm, they served us a complimentary dinner. We still weren’t leaving. Another dip in emotions (now brought on by clocking the 24 hour mark of no sleep) while we trapped roaches under our coffee cups and looked around in search of a cold beer. Hopes and dreams dashed. It came to an all time low, when we decided that now would be a great time to bring joy to all and karaoke for the masses. We chose “Don’t Stop Believing” and sang our hearts out to a crowd that frankly didn’t appreciate our artistic integrity.

Karaoke Time! "Don't Stop Believing"
Karaoke Time! “Don’t Stop Believing”

8.30pm… still no sign of the plane. It would probably have been easier to cycle to Boracay. Was meant to be on the beach sipping rum at this point. Ok. Calm. There is nothing that can be done. Then, we noticed a (in my mind glowing) beer fairy. “WHERE’DYOUGETTHATBEER”??? The beer fairy showed us where to get the beer. It was as if she was a T4 local. “Have you been here before?”… Well. She had actually done the exact same flight route as I had. Only, 24 hours before me. And she was STILL waiting for her plane to arrive. Panic sets in. We need to buy all the beers, we live here now. We need to build a shelter and form an alliance, some day, they will run out of beer and we need to make sure we have stock.

At T4...
We live here now. T4, Manila

10.30pm… We are boarding!! Before beer fairy. We all offered to try and smuggle her onto the plane. It felt cruel that we were leaving and she was staying. Buuuuut, at the same time, we were leaving T4!!! A dream come true! Or, maybe they were getting sick and tired of us bitching about being stuck here (you know, the classic first world response: “I paid for my ticket, get me on the dam plane IMMEDIATELY”). This thought became more true when we just sat on the plane for a good hour, wondering if we would ever take off (this is our home now). Eventually, we took off… at around 11pm, arriving at Kalibo at around 12.30am. The good news is that by this stage, we had made friends with these two guys who had already organised a car to drive them to the dock.


3.30am: WE ARE IN BORACAY!! Now, we just needed to find Will to get the keys to our place. He had beaten us there, and so we put him in touch with other friends. We dropped our bags at our new friends’ place, and went straight to the main beach strip where we were told our friends would be. No surprises that by 4am, they were in bed (big frisbee games and all).. We partied together until our friends wanted to go to bed. Then, we grabbed our bags, dragged them onto the beach and just sat there for a bit: We had made it.

We made it
We made it…

Guys.. we are in Boracay

Lesson 4: It was worth the drama

Worth it!