To travel for some it is common as getting coffee everyday. But for most, it is a luxury and an experience that can be life changing. By definition, travel means to make journey of some length or abroad. I ponder on this and I can honestly agree by definition this is what I just did and it was amazing and humbling journey.
First stop of my SE Asia trip was Philippines. My origin, the motherland, and a familiar but foreign place that made me extremely nervous and hesitant to travel to. Stayed at Hotel H2o with wonderful views of Manila Bay and walking distance to Rizal Park and Intramuros (Old Manila). The Suite that gave me comforts of luxury got shot down when walking to Intramuros where I witnessed a man using the side of a 18th century Spanish building to release a bowel movement and seeing a baby being fed by a bottle of milk screaming out unsanitary. I couldn't help but pull my black shawl over my head. I felt a sense of disconnect, anger, and the urgency to breathe in purified air. I don't think for most Americans that never ventured outside the country realize the petty things that we complain about means so miniscule when witnessing the basic necessities not being met. Despite of all this, the people remains the way that Philippines is known for. Being greeted with smiles and superb hospitality. People so willing to make you feel at home which made me feel like a proud Filipina.
You often see people doing this and saying, "palimus po." Often it was heart breaking to see especially when the children would say it.
Being extremely American here. Overlooking Manila Bay
This made me teary eyed and wished I could do something to make life easy for this child. Child with a bag of plastics that he will sell to get a little bit of money
Beautiful sun setting on Manila waters
strolled through cobble stone streets
Double doors to San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church
Tricycle and wandering folks
"Walis" on the wall
Me trying to be funny
Eating sweets at Mall of Asia
Seafood Paella at Barcino Wine Resto Bar Greenbelt 2, Makati
Display of the assassination of Dr. Jose Rizal in Rizal Park
Reading this gave me goosebumps. The complexity, a sense of pride, and touched by his immense love for his Filipino People.
Tips and Advice
I think it's always best to dress modest in most parts of Manila. Makati is an exception. Everyone wears shorts and exposing their skin which is odd to me because 20 years ago you would get the she must be a prostitute stare. Greenbelt Shopping mall which consist of 5 sections is like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills for Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, & everything designer. Aside from that the restaurants are amazing and pretty affordable.
For really inexpensive Filipino foods you can find them pretty much anywhere. I'm like obsess with garlic rice!
The water in Manila is supposed to be safe to drink. I ate fresh fruits and vegetables that were washed in their water and no signs of diarrhea or stomach illness. But since I've been Americanized I drank bottled water. Water is definitely safe to brush your teeth.
Getting around is easy. When taking the taxi just kindly ask the taxi driver, "meter po" if he doesn't turn on the meter. I used this site http://www.numbeo.com/ to get an estimate for all the places traveled in SE Asia. Pretty accurate.
Remember be mindful of what you say and expect- you're not in America anymore, Dorothy. They won't have the same toilet (I'm serious about this) as we do. Also, not everyone will speak English the way you speak it. They might have an accent so please be forgiving of that. I read so much shit on tripadvisor of Americans complaining when going to foreign countries that people don't understand English. For me, English is my second language so I know that this world comprise of many languages so don't expect to have all your "American" standards provided and speak perfect English.
Be respectful, humble, & leave with an open mind and heart.
Next stop- Siem Riep, Cambodia. Second poorest country in the world- my most humbling experience.