HALF THE FUN IS GETTING THERE

We were on our way from Manila to Hong Kong. The drama started with the taxi driver. I have come to the conclusion that some taxi drivers are robbers; they just don’t use a gun. He agreed to take us to the airport and after we loaded all our bags and were on our way he said he will use the meter but wanted a tip. I just nodded. That was his first mistake. I had caught enough cabs in Manila to know how these guys work and often will get out of a cab if it doesn’t seem right or he wants more money. This cab driver did not set any fixed amount, so now the ‘tip’ was now decided by me.

 

We arrive at Manila airport, and I have learnt to take my luggage out of the cab before paying so he does not have the upper hand and an opportunity to drive off. If I give a tip it usually depends on how nice the service was and how much money I have in my wallet. In this case I had the correct money of 150 Pesos plus 25 Pesos in change. I had some P1000 notes, but he wasn’t getting anywhere near one of those. I gave him his money plus his tip.

The cab driver was not happy and demands we had a deal. ‘We did’ I say and it was for a tip, and I gave him P25, which was 16% of the fare. He wants P100 as there was a lot of traffic. This is a common statement by Filipino taxi drivers to get a ‘white man tax’ (that’s what I call it). My comeback usually now is, it’s Manila; there is traffic all the time. My girlfriend is uneasy and doesn’t know what to do. I say let’s go, and walk off, leaving the taxi driver behind. We have paid plus tip, we have our luggage, and what can he do? As we wait in line to get in the airport I try to scan the area where we just were but can’t see him anymore. That was just the start of the fun on this voyage.

 

Trying to save money, we have booked to go to Hong Kong via Cebu, one of the Islands of the Philippines, about an hours’ flight from the capital. We check in and go through security. I have to pay a P200 peso airport tax, but my girlfriend does not as she is Filipina. Not sure how that works, but we are on our way.

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We left home at 4 PM, catch a 6.30PM flight and arrive in Cebu at 7.45PM. We collect our luggage and make our way to international departures to catch a 10.15 PM flight to Hong Kong. At security, I cannot find the print out of the flight for my girlfriend and security won’t let us through. After five minutes and going through the bags again, I find it attached to the Manila to Cebu itinerary. We are through. We line up to check in, get to the front and put our bags on the conveyor belt. ‘Have you paid your departure tax?’ we are asked. We haven’t and she points to a desk on the other side of the hall. We go over to the desk and it seems there is a departure tax of P1640 that wasn’t included in the ticket. We don’t have enough cash on us and ask for our passports back.

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I need to find an ATM. I exit the secure area and am told there is an ATM in the domestic arrivals section of the airport. While Cebu airport is not huge, it is still a fair way to get to the ATM. When I get to the ATM I think, if it’s closed or my card doesn’t work we are screwed; for two reasons, we miss our flights and today is the last day of my 59 days Visa in the Philippines. I go back through security and back to the tax desk. It seems that I don’t have to pay the tax, but my girlfriend does, so we pay and go back to check in.

 

I try to avoid lining up again and stand to the side, trying to look like I am not pushing in. After another 5 minutes, we have our boarding pass and head off. Now we have to pay an airport tax before we can go to the next section. 550 Pesos each. We pay and enter Immigration. The officer wants to see the return flight print out. I am a bit flustered by this stage and left it with my girlfriend when I went to the ATM I thought and can’t find it. Rustling through bags it eventually pops out. That’s when he states that I have overstayed my Visa.  

 

I had obtained a 59 Visa before leaving Australia and am slightly confused. Turns out when I arrived, the Immigration officer did not see the Visa and only gave me the standard 21 days entry period. The officer is a nice guy and says he will not fine me, but just cancel the visa so I cannot use it again, and gives me tips on how to get a longer visa when I return. He stamps our passports and we are through. It took an hour to check in, and now feel quite relieved that all we have to do is wait for the plane.

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Cebu international airport

The flight across the South China Sea goes smoothly enough. The usual spats of turbulence, but nothing out of the ordinary and we arrive in Hong Kong at 12.50 AM. In stark contrast to Manila, the airport is large, clean and organised.  As it is so late we have the place to ourselves and quickly collect our bags and are on our way. It had been a long day and walk off in search of a taxi and my next adventure.

Hong Kong airport on our arrival

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