In a departure from our usual forays into South East Asia, we chose to fly Malaysian Airlines this time, after an MS excel battle that saw as many as 3 plans for the same destinations being made and deleted to balance places, planes and prices. We began the journey at midnight on a Friday with an in-flight mutton dinner. A very auspicious beginning, I thought. My back, taped after a physio session, pretended to be on my side until we landed at KL, at the airport we’d never seen so far. (we used to land at the cheapie airport thanks to the Air Asia flights we took) We expected to do the entire transit visa gig here too- in fact, the dates were planned so that we wouldn’t have to take another Malaysian transit visa. Surprisingly that was not required and our next flight – to Manila – was to be boarded just down the corridor. But that was a good 3 hours away, so we slept on the seats – perfect for lying down as well!
We got a sense of Malaysian hospitality while boarding the next flight. A female passenger was carrying massive cases as cabin baggage, and was told by the staff – an old lady – to transfer stuff and send one as check-in – first politely, then sternly, then rudely! The tone never changed, just the facial expressions. Great entertainment! We watched ‘Life of Pi’ on the flight – all except the last 15 minutes! D saw about 5 minutes more thanks to an earlier start. I fidgeted thanks to my back and wondered if I should have traveled by raft!
We landed at Terminal 1 at the Ninoy Aquino international airport – named after the opposition leader assassinated in 1983, I learned later. The airport looked like it was made around then as well, though it was clean! We changed currency ($ to PHP) and boarded the transfer bus that would take us to Terminal 3, to board our next flight that was about 4 hours away. We also learned that in the Philippines, counting worked as 1, 2, 4, and then 3 in terminal transfers. They played Gangnam Style in the bus and asked us for 20 pesos each for the trouble. D saw a jeepney (jeep + rickshaw used for public transport) outside and clamoured to sit in one!
Cebu Pacific, our next airlines partner, ruled Terminal 3. Yellow was everywhere! This seemed a newer, swankier, neater terminal and had a fairly equipped food court. We had a quick, but excellent meal at Kenny Rogers Roasters for 370 pesos. D continued to embarrass us by asking a customer for water! I expectantly, shyly, went to something called a Comfort Room, but it turned out to be just a loo. Cebu didn’t feed us anything in the roughly 1 hour flight, and we landed at Puerto Princesa at just before 8.
We had booked shelter at Mercedes B&B, and they were at the tiny airport to pick us up. The car turned out of the airport and then turned again and we’d reached! I said we could have walked. No one laughed. They don’t serve dinner, so we asked for recommendations. Kinabuchs, which was also on our list, won out and a tricycle was called to get us there. 20 pesos, as we watched the nightlife and numerous restaurants on the roadside. It was close, but this time I didn’t say anything. Fast learner.
Kinabuchs was bustling! A giant outdoor screen played a football match. But most importantly, they served crocodile! We asked for a Crocodile la Bicol Express and a Bistek Tagalog. The first was cooked in coconut milk with finger chillies and the second was a Filipino style beef preparation. Red Horse seemed to be the local favourite beer, so we asked for that as well. The crocodile was almost like chicken, and the beef was good too. Red Horse was quite mild. All at 900 pesos.
The tricycle guy happened to be still around, so we asked for a ride back. This one cost us 30 pesos – because it was late or we were heavier! Auto drivers of the world united on one and a half! Our room at Mercedes was simple, but clean and functional. The plug points here were India friendly but we learned later that it would be good to carry around an adaptor. Meanwhile, we slept. Thus ended Day 1.