It gets dark at around 6 here, so when I land at the Manila airport it feels like it's later than it really is.
I exit the airport and get in line for a cab. A metered one, my friend had specified: the airport taxis charge you in advance. They paid 300+ pesos while I paid 150, and I still got screwed.
The ride to the Manila International Youth Hostel gave me a first, real feel of the city. Dark streets, shady people, crazy traffic. The taxi driver was laughing the whole time, stopping at luxurious hotels and telling me I should stay there. He was getting on my nerves...
I get to the hostel, surrounded by cement walls. The small white building looks like an old bunker. My friends are waiting for me in the "lobby", a small room with a reception desk, a table and some computers. It's hot, clamy, sticky. 7pm, and I'm hungry.
I decide to go grab a bite and Anthony offers to come with me. It's only a 5 minute walk but it should be enough to creep me out he says.
Picture china town. Not the Montreal one - the New York one. Now, triple the amount of people, all asian. But not the nice, respectful asian image you have in mind. Remove the taxi cabs and add bicycle and motor bikes, buses, and japanese vehicules. Imagine most of the people staring at you, and especially at your black friend. Half of them look like drug addicts, and a quarter more look like con artists.
We walk amongst them and ignore the shouts directed at us. They mostly want to sell us stuff. We get to a restaurant and are promptly swarmed by beggar kids, dirty little orphans that look 5 years old. "Mister! Where's my money! Pesos! Hey you, money!"
I eat in the restaurant rapidly, fried rice in a bowl, with a spoon and fork. The whole time I've been in the Philippines I rarely got a knife for some reason. The kids are banging on the glass doors.
We get out and we get swarmed again. Anthony succeeds in dodging them however, and I am left alone with them. They must be about 20 of them, completely surrounding me. I can't walk anymore, all I can do is hold my stuff in my pockets. They are pulling at my clothes and pushing each other.
At one point a kid in front of me grabs my wrist as if to pull it out of my pocket, where my wallet is. With my right hand that was holding my change I push the kid. Not hard, just a shove on the side of the head. He falls into the other kids and I finally see an opening.
I almost ran. I jumped over a big puddle of water and walked rapidly to where Anthony was waiting and we bolted out of there. Some kids were starting to follow us but we both screamed NO and kept walking.
We stop at a 7/11. They are everywhere in Manila, clean and somewhat cheap. We buy beers and go back to the hostel, where I feed a skinny black and white cat some scraps of meat from a panburger I bought on the way. He rubs against me affectionately and lets out the loudest meow I have ever heard.
Back at our place of residency I finally bring my bag to the dorms. 2 rows of cheap-looking bunk beds spread out before me, housing about 20 beds total. The linens give us the bugbed creeps.
We have our beers downstairs and decide to try to get some sleep.
Apart from the bedbug paranoia and the metal bars pressing against my back, the noise from the streets reach us: loud motors, honks, yells. Some guy keeps going to the women dorm windows and screams HELLOOOOOOOO every 2 minutes.
My headphones offer a sweet relief, and I start to slumber... Until an idiot walks in the dorm loudly, opens all the lights waking up everyone, and starts to prepare his bed. My bandana which was mostly used for my sweaty forehead was now tied around my eyes, and I fell asleep once again.
At 5 am we are woken up by 3 old filipino men talking loudly in the dorm room. They are sitting at a table AND ARGUING in the dorms. We hear stirs, groans. I almost tell them to go in the lobby to talk, but this is not my country.
Around 10am we managed to get to our bus terminal that was to take us to the Clark airport. While waiting I find a snack place, the workers there giggle as I approach. The least shy asks me where I'm from and upon my answer decides that she's moving to Canada. Another one asks me if I'm married and calls me a liar when I answer. Finally, the oldest one, around 30, stares me down. I start to feel uncomfortable. The first one says "she wants your number" and that gets her a slap behind the head and a laugh.
The food was not very good but the girls gave me a good laugh and looked sad when I told them I was already leaving Manila.
The bus ride was cheap and had available wi-fi, which kept us busy.
I slept for the whole plane ride and awoke in Thailand.