January 17, 2017


We left Taiwan for Manila.

Modified Jeeps left by the US from WW2 make up the public transit Jeepneys.

It was a bit of a shock.

The airport was as we'd expect, but then, when we got to our hotel, they had mad security theater.  Like dogs and asking the taxi to pop the trunk so they could sniff our bags and mirrors under the car before you could get to the drop-off and removal of your big luggage for "X-ray" screening before they sent it up to your room, and a metal detector for you and your hand luggage before you went in the hotel, etc. Of course, half of this stuff wasn't in effect the next morning when we went down to take a taxi to our Chinatown food tour -- just there at the high-percentage check-in hours, to make people feel better.  Ridiculous.

Headed into the old Spanish walled city -- Intramuros.

We'd already researched the statistics and anecdotal reports of long-term travelers -- Manila was nothing more dangerous than half the places we'd been in South America.  And yet, the drama!  In fairness, compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, maybe the Phillipines *are* scary, but not when you compare it with the rest of the world...

Fort Santiago, Intramuros

We'd skipped Venezuela and Brazil entirely due to the crime data (and a desire to avoid introducing Portuguese into the all-Spanish trip), and learned after the fact that perhaps we should have considered skipping Baltimore (went through on the road trip) as well.  Either way, if you look, you'll see nothing in the Philippines but 4 US cities on the list of top 50 murder cities per capita.  Yet in those US cities and in other cities in South America which are likely much less safe, no one exhibits even close to the level of paranoia and security theater they exhibit in Manila.

If you're interested in more of the comparisons between backpacking in Southeast Asia and South America -- I recommend you check out this great blog post.

Fried tofu dish on the Binondo food wok (pun theirs, not mine).

In other news, we had a truncated stay in the Philippines.  We took a day of downtime in the hotel which was awesome.  We took a food tour of Binondo (oldest chinatown outside of China), followed by a self-guided tour of Intramuros and Fort Santiago and the Rizal museum.  It was hot, humid and rainy.  The weather in the region called for continued thunderstorms and our goals were hiking, beaching, boating -- none of which looked promising.

Salted Duck Egg Custard Buns -- phenomenal!

So after researching various island destinations (all with bad weather) we decided to leave the Philippines and head for Singapore (where we could do some indoor sight-seeing).  We agreed that we'd definitely love an opportunity to come back for a longer visit to the Philippines some day.

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