We (Almost) Got Stuck In Manila

A view over Manila from Fort Santiago.

It’s a vastly shared belief that travel imparts wisdom through experience. After travelling for the past two years non-stop, we found that to be true – however… You never quite know when life will hand you a plate of experience to chow down on. Ours arrived in Manila.

From Indonesia, we had decided that our next stay would be in the Philippines for a few months. As the time to move up north came around, our circumstances had drastically shifted and we could no longer stay for a few months. To be more specific, we could catch a connecting flight in Manila. That’s all.

Being the cunning Travallures that we are, we arranged our connecting flight to leave 32 hours after our arrival in Manila. Now we had no choice but to explore for the day… Right?

Articles and blog posts will surely follow this tale that recount our journey through the country’s capital. For now, however, we are going to share with you a little message we felt compelled to send to our families once we had– well, just read it, you’ll see.

Thursday July 11th, 2019. 9:50pm

National Museum of Natural History building.
Grab’s Not Working

Tammy and I just had the most intense travel day. We ended our touristy activities at the Natural History Museum, as one does, and opted to leave an extra hour earlier to get to the airport and have some food there. (We shared a toasted sandwich for breakfast.)

Grab was down (taxi hailing app) so we couldn’t call a taxi. Tammy’s phone was also dying and was the only one with data – I use her hotspot. I reinstalled Grab, we circumnavigated the entire square surrounding the museum and tried every possible mode of Grab (costly or not) multiple times, but nothing. Now it’s peak time and we are going to be late.

It’s not entirely safe to be standing around in Manila at this time, let alone with cellphones in hand and we had our bags too. Manila isn’t a tourist trap either so we are the centre of all attention.

Turning To The Police

We had perched ourselves, casually I might add, next to a policeman. After downloading all of the Filipino taxi apps, trying to find regular taxi numbers and looking for a taxi on the street to no avail, we decided to ask the policeman to help us.

He was taken aback and asked why we aren’t using Grab. He was apprehensive to help us at first and when he finally did, he asked us one more time if we were sure before we got into the taxi. (The internet claims taxis here to be notoriously dangerous and to take tourists to the middle of nowhere, take all their money etc.). Tammy’s 4% battery life compelled our decision, he confirmed the price with us and then we proceeded to make our way to the airport.

The First Taxi

Our driver was very friendly and took his time, even going the scenic route to show us buildings he likes and famous places in the city, so we thought it was best to just keep it going and hope that we will have enough time at the airport.

Manila Skyline at night.
The First Airport

Airport time, yes there’s more. To collect our bags we needed more money; luckily I had enough rupiah from Bali to exchange to pesos, however the money counter didn’t accept rupiah. The second money changer did and only two people pushed in front of me before I got the perfect amount! A little over in fact.

Now to head from terminal 3 to 1. Not a mere walk or shuttle. Your choice of taxi or public bus. So we run, ALL SEVEN bags in tow, to the bus stop where the bus is waiting, yay! With a smile we greet the bus driver, but he shrugs us off and leaves. We are late for an international flight that leaves in 1 hour, the buses come every hour and they take between 1 to 2 hours to transfer between terminals. We are stuck.

Luckily a few taxi drivers see that and jump to our aid “only 1800”. I have around 400 in my wallet and they’re not in the mood to haggle. We have no idea what to do, just then, Tammy’s phone exclaims “battery empty the device will turn off in 30 seconds”.

There we sat. 7 bags, no data, no transport, late, outside the wrong terminal (did I mention we shared a sandwich in the morning?).

I pull out the power bank and hold the cable into Tammy’s phone because it’s demanding like that and won’t charge without being held. We try Grab one more time.

It works! We book a taxi for ₱300. If all goes well, we will have about an hour until our flight leaves.

The Second Taxi

The taxi arrives. The smallest taxi. However, he jumps out and just says “it’s okay”.

We cram our bags in.

Tammy is trying to fit the smaller bags on the back seat, I’m trying to get in the back, but Tammy is now hunched on her haunches because she got in too soon – she has a bag on her back and the seats are full, so she is trapped.

“SIT IN THE FRONT” is hurled from her lips, so I do that…

...but I have a bag on my front and back. I take off the front one, forget the back one and sit half-way in; I do a half-stand because my relieved bag has pinned my feet, but I’m also wearing a shoulder bag with our passports that I put on after the backpack, so it gets caught.

I’m stuck halfway out the car, Tammy is standing in the back, I’m strangling myself and we are going as quick as we can. I get the bag off, close my foot in the door and we go.

An extra 45 pesos gets us on the skyway and removes 30 minutes of driving, we are there in about 7.

The Second Airport

We get the only trolley with a broken wheel, place our stuff on it and bounce our bags to immediate entrance security. Unpack everything, rush it through, re-gather ourselves and grab a new trolley. It’s the same trolley.

We get to the counter before they close! Now we have to sign up for their rewards program, she is concerned that my bag is torn, I need to move my extension cord, we have to name our bags, our boarding passes won’t print… We became friends, she knows us well now.

I signed an “all my bags are broken” release form and we were through!

Well, next security, unpack the laptops and everything placed on top of them. Again. Re-pack and we made it. (Did I mention we shared a sandwich for breakfast?)

I write this on the plane, regaling the story and laughing along. This one day trip in Manila was the biggest journey we have taken yet – that was just the past 4 hours…

The view from the Plane before landing in Manila.

What We Took From The Manila Ordeal

You’ve got to wonder why things always go wrong together! We couldn’t have just had a broken trolley the one day, eaten nothing another and had our apps fail us on a different day. Nope, that’d be too convenient…

In the moment, it’s hard to see a humorous side and the fear of being trapped overseas with not a cent to your name doesn’t ease the anxiety of it all. We have learnt, though, that it’s so important to reflect back on it and find the funny side of it.

If you don’t, you might end up dreading travelling or stopping it altogether.

Having a set of “what’s the worst that could happen” befall us in a country where we had no friends, no backups, no comforts and no spare change could possibly have been the best travel-related-incident to ever happen to us…

Just think about it, what’s going to stop us now?

Do you have any travel nightmares? Have you left your passport on the bus? Did you walk into the wrong plane? Camped out in an airport? Let us know! Let’s share the advice…

Byron and Tammy on their plane from Indonesia to Manila - blissfully unaware of what is to come

A Little Inspiration

Our Manila ordeal was not the only time we have faced adversities during our travels. In fact, it’s par for the course. A few times we can call to mind are that time we followed a stranger into the forest in Nusa Penida, or when Tammy decided to forget her fear of heights and scale down over 700 cliffside stairs.

Oh, and who could forget that road to Pai in Thailand!

If you’re more interested in our actual Manila journey, here’s two videos to sum it up. (We obviously filmed nothing of the above, we had other things on our mind!)

Our Manila Travel Diary

Our Manila Travel Guide

Travelling Around Southeast Asia

Our story above doesn’t have much to do with major transportation, but rather a series of unfortunate happenstances. Anyway. If yo are ever travelling around Southeast Asia and would like to avoid getting almost stuck, check out 12Go Asia.

We used them for all of our major trips and have always been happy with their service. It’s so nice to have all your transits taken care of and booked before you begin your travels… One less thing to worry about!

Powered by 12Go Asia system


Stuck in Manila Pinterest Image

1 Comment

  1. Sylvia
    August 29, 2019 / 11:50 pm

    Oh my…I laughed so much! Hilarious now…stressful then! Great story telling!
    So glad it wasn’t me ?

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