We arrived at the Manila bus station long before the departure of our 10PM bus. I had anticipated that the bus would not be air conditioned, so I wore a pretty flimsy short sleeved shirt with my jeans. I had even contemplated wearing shorts, but it’s a bit of a violation of Philippine custom for me to do so, so I caved and wore pants. Thank God too!
The bus station was a bit scary, actually. Looked like the kind of place where a drug deal goes down every 3 minutes. It was extremely hot, and you were pretty much sitting in the middle of a bunch of running busses, so you were breathing the fumes on top of the heat. Half the people there looked like they were ready to rob us at any second. It was to the level where our guide Jackie went with me to the door of the mens room when I had to go. And the bathroom itself was one of the most disgusting places I’ve been in a while. Not my kind of digs.
The bus itself turned out to be pretty nice. The seats were cheap, but there was room. And there was A/C. The bathroom was a bit scary, though, in the sense that I’m not sure I’d have even physically fit in there let alone be able to be productive. And this was a pretty long trip.
We got there early, got our tickets, waited in the fumes and heat for a good 90 minutes, then boarded the bus.
Travel tip #7: Never keep anything of value in your back pocket.
Travel tip #8: Never let your bags out of your site.
So, I had my wallet in my front right pants pocket, with my hand on it the whole time we were there. And I followed the guys who took our luggage to put it under the bus, and stood there until they closed the door. Then we climbed on board.
Like I said, the A/C was awesome at first, since I was dripping sweat from the wait outside. They were playing music videos from the 80’s and 90’s, which was pretty fun too. It served as a time killer to try to guess as quickly as possible who the artist was and what song they were singing.
When we got underway, they put on a movie. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember being glad it was on so I could watch it. Unlike an airplane, though, they were pumping the sound over the general loudspeakers, not through a personal set of headphones of any kind. That was bad for everyone, since it was loud enough to disturb the people wanting to sleep, and not loud enough for the people who wanted to see it (like me). The other disappointment was that after the first movie, they shut off the TV. I can’t ever sleep on buses or planes, etc, so I was looking forward to a little R&R in front of the tube on the way up (once I discovered that it was there). Instead, I pulled out the iPod.
The problem was that they had the air conditioning in this bus up so high that I was pretty much frozen solid by the end of the movie. I looked around, and everyone else had on coats and hats and scarves. THen there was the dumb American (me) with the short sleeve hawaiian shirt. Felt like a doofus … an extremely cold doofus. By the time we got to our destination 8+ hours later, I was a total popsicle. It’s a wonder I’m not sporting a raging batch of pneumonia.
Travel tip #9: Traveling by bus in the Philippines? Bring your parka.
Other than that, the only other stuff that was really noteworthy is…
1) There seem to be no main roads in the Philippines. We were going from the capital to a significant city on the north end of the island. There were major roads until we got out of Manila, but it didn’t take long to turn off the paved road. We navigated dirt roads, rickety wooden bridges, and the like. The driver was a maniac, going disturbingly fast in a bus on a narrow winding back road. I was glad Faith was asleep, or she’d have white-knuckled the whole thing.
2) It seemed like no matter where we were or how remote we seemed to be, there were always little side-of-the-road shops open. All hours of the night. They were little more than shanties, but they sold fruits, sodas, etc. I found it very interesting that many of these places seemed to be open through the whole night. I postulated that there is such poverty that the hope of earning a few pesos on something is enough to keep these little places open at all hours.
We arrived in Laoag City at about 6:30AM, and I had never been so happy to get out of the A/C as I was that morning.