Saturday, December 17, 2011

Philippines 2011 - Wrapup

Rising at the unholy hour of 6:10am begins what i already know will be a long trip back to Beijing. I hear the tinkling of dishes outside my room. Breakfast has been served. Banana pancakes and Nescafe await me, with mangoes for dessert, served the right way, sliced in cubes but left attached to the skin. The mosquitoes are active, and i debate applying OFF Lotion to my exposed skin, but also do not relish the thought of traveling all day feeling slimy and sticky. I remember Mike Ashmore's philosophy of always keeping a set of clean clothes for the last day of a trip, so you can travel feeling fresh. Lotion aside, i will not have that luxury today, for my trip is long, consisting of bed à motorcycle à boat à bus à taxi à plane à shuttle à  plane à taxi à bed.  There are eight degrees of transportation separating me from bed.

I decide against the lotion, opting instead for vigilance, for i am a mosquito ninja, defending my body against these silent little assholes that, like me, are just trying to enjoy a nice breakfast.   I get bit four times and kill one.
I apply some lotion.

I ride on the back of a motorcycle to the port and pay the guy 10 pesos, about a quarter. I am plenty early for the 7am boat, which costs 80 pesos. The boat ride is uneventful and i am calm, because traveling is easy, because i am an excellent traveler, awaking at the perfect time, eating breakfast, settling my bill, finding a motorcycle and bargaining for 10 pesos even when he made the logical case that it should be 20 because i also have a heavy backpack, finding the right boat, getting on that boat, sitting on the boat... i am great at this game.

The bus to Cebu City is scheduled for 9:30, but there is one ready to leave when my boat docks at 7:45am.   Schedules are confusing in the Philippines.  I get on, and pay the requisite 163 pesos. The bus is not air-conditioned, but the bus is also not full, and the windows open wide, like the vertical sliding windows in yellow school buses, the ones without the safety latch to keep it halfway up. I purchase some fried banana chips and some popcorn from roadside vendors when the bus stops. I am riding in style. I am very good at this.

I am so very good at this game, i even recognize where we are when we enter Cebu City. I think this is where i should get off to be closer to the airport. I ask the bus driver.
"Should i get off here for the airport?"
"Yes, Ma'am Sir, you should get off here."
I get off. There is a taxi on the street, and it backs up from halfway down the block to pick me up, unbeckoned by me.  He just knows, because he is the ninja equivalent of the taxi world.  I say to him, "the airport". He nods, a knowing nod people nod to each other when they both know the other person is very good at their job, confident, like a job-doing ninja, and no further explanation or questioning is required.

I arrive at the airport at 12:30. My flight to Manila is at 5:00pm. I am early. This is good, because my flight from Manila to Beijing is at 7:30, and there is only 90 minutes between connections. This is plenty of time for Manila's small terminal 3, but, being the travel-ninja that i am, i do not want to challenge fate.

I approach the counter with purpose and explain i have a ticket for 5pm but would like to fly standby for the 2pm flight, to ensure i have enough time for my connection. He says that is not possible.
"Why is it not possible?"
"We are not allowed to do that."
"Are there seats on that plane?"
"Yes, there are plenty of seats."
"You know, if you put me on the earlier flight, you can resell my seat for the 5pm flight. You take a empty seat and fill it, moments before the plane takes off, just to make sure it would have stayed empty, and then you put me in that seat, freeing up a chance to sell my seat again. You understand?"
"I understand. You may purchase a ticket on the earlier flight for 6000 pesos, if you like."
"No, I would not like. I would definitely not like."
I did not like that, but i got my ticket, and had lunch. Being the seasoned travel-veteran that i am, armed with plans B through E at all times, i know there's another option: the gate agent. I am so devious and clever. I ask.
"Sorry, Ma'am Sir, that is not possible."
You have got to be kidding me. I'm here. Three hours early. You have seats. There might be a problem with the next airplane. It could be delayed. I would miss my international flight because you won't let me on this one. It will be all your fault.
Note, i might have but probably did not actually say all that. But i probably did.
"No, Ma'am Sir, it would be your fault. You should have booked the earlier flight."
Crap. Valid point. Well... but the bus wasn't supposed to leave until 9:30, and i, because i employed advanced ninjamindtricks, made a bus leave at exactly when my boat arrived, thus getting me here in time, against all odds... how can everyone else be so incompetent?  So unreasonable?  How could they put me in this position!

The flight leaves. I am not on it. I sit in the waiting room and they have movies playing. I watch Open Season, a cartoon movie about a talking bear who lives with a forest ranger but gets sent out in the wild during hunting season. The bear makes friends with lots of other woodland creatures and together they outsmart the hunters. I am not entertained. I do not believe the plot is very plausible. I watch anyway.

...and my flight is delayed. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuu.... untimes are over. It's time to get serious. I remind the gate crew, who is different from before, that this is all their fault. They had a chance to put me on that flight, and they chose not to. I suggest they call ahead and alert the Manila ground crew of my predicament. I am told the ground crew is aware, and i am to find a connections agent upon arrival. I do not like Cebu Pacific Air at this moment. I am not entertained.

I'm asleep on the plane. We land in Manila at 7:15. AWAKE!  My brain is working fast. I calculate how i am going to fly over the 10 rows of people inside the airplane, be the first one out the door, taking giant strides as i step on the tops of seats to run over and past people. We stand up and i advance one row before the aisle is full. I gently push my way ahead, 2 more rows, then we disembark -I AM READY TO RUN- and board a shuttle. Crap.

Then i am off the shuttle!  First person off!  I am running, fast! I sprint up the escalator, down the hallway, and since i am running on carpet, i feel like i am flying, noiselessly, they way you do when you sprint down a hotel hallway.  I am running down another escalator, scanning the baggage claim below for these "connections agents".  I am still running when i hear my name.  I turn, immediately locating the source of the sound, it's A Connections Agent!, and i run to her.
"Hello Mister Kevin, i see you didn't leave enough time for your connection."
Seriously lady?  We have to do this now?

She says my flight has already boarded, that they are closing the gates, i will have to catch the next flight to Beijing, which is two days later.  But we are still running?

We arrive at the check-in counter, breezing past security guards with shotguns, because i'm with A Connections Agent!, and also because they can see i am excellent ninja at traveling.  I should be called Kevinja from now on. Must remember that for later...

At the counter, i'm pulled behind the computers, i am given forms, onto which i scribble things, i relinquish my passport, with which they do things, i am given a ticket and then MORE RUNNING!  Sprinting!  I am in a video game, dodging carts, kids, old people, signs, i slide under a rope, jump over a rolling barrel, spin kick a henchman, all fast! High Score! And then we wait at document inspection for two excruciating minutes.

THEN MORE RUNNING!  I run directly to the front of security, launch my bag through the X-ray, run through with my shoes, phone, change, everything.  The Connections Agent, who i now realize is also a ninja, reaches into the X-ray and grabs my bag, lobs it to me, and we're running again.

We sprint for 3 minutes all the way to my gate. Kids point and cheer. Teenagers are awestruck. Twenty-something's pump their fists in slow motion. I have just won a marathon. They held the plane for me.


We are delayed taking off, but then we do.  And when we land, i am confused, because somehow we have landed at 11pm, almost 90 minutes early. But we are not in Beijing, we are in Shanghai, because Beijing's smog/pollution is so thick that no plane can take off or land.  We will have to wait for the smogllution to clear.  And wait we do, on the tarmac, for 4 more hours. During that time, i occupy my brain by writing this post in my head, but since i've just finished AHWOSG, all my thoughts are intertwined with Egger's style of writing.  I can't get him out of my head. I decide i'm going to try to write my recap his style.

When we finally arrive in Beijing, it is 5am, and i am in bed by 6.  I did not get up at 7am for work, even though it was Monday morning. Even ninjas need a rest after 24 hours of travel.


Note: this post was definitely inspired by AHWOSG.  You all should read it. The book, not this post.  I mean, read the post too, but i assume you already did if you made it this far.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I just finished the book today. Good job. Mom

Anonymous said...

Phew! It was tiring just reading this blog, and following along with the kinks in your travel plans. In fact it was exhausting! I'm going to take a nap now.