Manila to Kuala Lumpur

I wasn’t in a great rush to leave the Philippines, but my tickets had already been purchased weeks in advance, propelling me forward once again to the next destination. As sad as it might make you to leave a place you enjoy, it’s so much better than leaving a place you despise. Sure it’s nice to escape someplace unpleasant, but I cherish the positive memories I’ve had more than my flight from adversity. I was ready to leave the Philippines with a light heart and fond memories of my time there.

The Philippines had other plans for me.
I had two budget carriers to choose from when plotting my trajectory to Thailand; Tiger flies through Singapore, but doesn’t have any flights direct to Krabi; I would have to take a long train from Bangkok. Air Asia does fly to Krabi, but it leaves from Clark Airfield, which is several hours outside of Manila. Fortunately, my friends reassured me that I could take a bus there. So I got up early and hailed a cab to the bus terminal. The 3 hour bus ride wasn’t too bad, but when it dropped me off at the station in Clark, there was no clear way to get to the airport from there. I guess I had assumed that the bus actually went to the airport, or that Clark was just a little community built up around the airport. The people at the bus terminal acted like they had no idea where the airport was, and vaguely waved me towards the street to find a jeepney that supposedly went there. I found myself wandering the streets looking for a ride, with no apparent luck. I hailed a tricycle and told him to take me to the airport. “Airport, OK boss!”

The tricycle took me several blocks and deposited me in front of a row of Jeepneys. “I said take me to the airport,” I said in confusion.

“These jeepneys go to the airport.”

“I told YOU to take me to the airport.”

“tricycles aren’t allowed on the road to the airport, you have to take a jeepney.”

Well, thanks for telling me that, dick. I was already annoyed by the lack of wayfinding, and my healthy window to get the plane was steadily shrinking. I was given a choice between the public jeepney that leaves whenever it’s full, and the private jeepney which would take me there immediately. The public one was 8 pesos. They demanded 200 for the private one. I laughed right in their faces, both at the ridiculousness of the markup and their cavalier attitude about their outrageous ripoff. “I’d rather walk than give you anything you rotten thieves!” “Oh sir it’s 13 kilometers away, too far to walk!” I balked at their estimate; why would the bus to Clark Airfield drop me off so far from the actual airport, unless it was all arranged to be some elaborate scam? But then I looked at the time, and the nearly-empty public jeepney. I couldn’t miss this plane. My inner traveling American piped up to save me:

It’s less than 5 bucks, and it gets you to the airport NOW. Man up and get raped like a good gringo.

The conversion to dollars saved me; I had even lost the will to haggle, and just got in the jeepney and seethed the rest of the way to the airport. It turned out to be the right decision, as there was an airshow going on that day that congested all the traffic going to the airport. Nevertheless, it couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 kilometers total, probably less than that considering how slow traffic was moving. When I paid the driver, I told him not to lie to people or Jesus would descend from heaven to kick his ass. I even spat on the ground in anger–something I never do. I didn’t have time to go into detail about all the divine retribution that would be visited upon these scam-artists, so I headed into the airport. Before I could go through security, they demanded a 600 peso “airport usage fee.” I had just been robbed to get to the stupid airport because there was no shuttle from the bus station, and they wanted MORE money from me. “I feel more like the airport is using me, what if I refuse to pay?” “Then you don’t get through.” I tightened my fist around my last remaining pesos and threw it on the table. The Philippines had managed to squeeze every last bit of currency out of me. I wondered what would have happened if I didn’t have the cash; who leaves a country with so much local currency in their pocket? Why wasn’t this charge included in the price of the ticket? It seems like every little thing tacked on top of one another is just another palpable reminder that you are nothing but a pale, stupid piggy bank to these people. I grit my teeth and walked through security with five minutes to spare before boarding.

We were herded onto the plane and took our seats, and within fifteen minutes we could tell there was something off. “There seems to be a technical issue with the plane, we’re going to have to ask you all to return to the departure lounge.”Good thing I busted my ass to get there on time!

The crowd was understandably pretty anxious to find out our new departure time, and were swarming the steward and peppering him with questions he couldn’t answer. I was already over the whole thing and made myself comfortable. After about twenty minutes, they finally made an announcement. “We’ll know our new departure time by 5pm today.”

It was 11am.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Having already passed through immigration, we weren’t able to leave the airport, so there was no choice but to get comfy. At least they had wifi to keep me occupied. I made friends with a couple of Kiwis on their way back to New Zealand, and helped arrange a room in Kuala Lumpur for an old Australian man who was refused entry to the Philippines for 30 year-old unpaid dentist’s bill. Half of traveling is waiting for transportation, so I was already resolved to setting up camp in the terminal. Some people didn’t fare too well in the humid terminal, one woman fainted and paramedics had to come help out.

We didn’t take off until 10pm, and when we walked back out to the plane I saw a huge luxurious lounge full of couches and the like; completely empty. Even the woman who fainted was not allowed to go sit on the couch, despite the 11 hour delay. Their idea of “taking care” of their passengers was to give us McDonald’s “Chicken McDo” meals, and a 50 peso voucher for the food stalls in the terminal. Due to the delay, many other passengers missed their connecting flights, including my new friends who would now miss multiple connections on their way back to New Zealand.

So, as unlucky as I might have been, it could’ve been a lot worse. I was still fortunate to have an entire day of spare time, giving me just an 8 hour layover in the budget terminal in Kuala Lumpur. Unable to sleep on the plane, we were exhausted when we arrived, and the kiwis found a quiet corner in the terminal and made some cardboard beds for themselves. I found an overturned foot locker and set up my sleeping pad, stuffed my laptop case with clothes to be a pillow, and fell asleep to the white noise of a busy airport.