Vail travelogue: Philippines look familiar at first |

Vail travelogue: Philippines look familiar at first

Luc Pols
Vail, CO Colorado
Luc Pols/Special to the Vail DailyVail travel: San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila. Built in 1607, it is the oldest church still standing in the Philippines.

VAIL, Colorado “-When in the middle of April it is still snowing in Vail, Colorado, it is not that difficult to leave it all behind for a while and try to get warm.

So it is off to a new country, to a new environment with its own scenery and culture. I have not had the opportunity to visit the Philippines before and it should be a great experience.

So, I am off on my long flights from Denver to San Francisco to Taipei to Manila, arriving there about 24 hours later. I have booked a hotel from Vail and that is something I try to do whenever I travel. I try to make a hotel reservation in the next city I plan to stop.

Most of the time this works out well (you don’t have to lug your suitcase around so much from place to place) and when it doesn’t, you just change hotels. It is that simple.

This also means that you are wise to acquire a local telephone or at least a SIM card. It makes for a lot more convenient way of contacting hotels, guides, tour agencies etc., saving you a lot of money in the long run ” plus people can easily reach you once they have your local number.

My schedule. Well, you might remember from previous trips that my schedules are somewhat loose, to say the least. I have read up a bit on the new country, found some sights I want to see, but for the rest I kind of leave it up to when I get there and have had a chance to talk to people.

Some of the sights I want to explore in the Philippines are the famous terraced rice paddies in Northern Luzon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the numerous volcanoes that are supposed to dot the countryside.

It will be interesting to see how these sites will stack up against the spectacular ones I saw in Indonesia last year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Then of course there are the beaches with palm trees, snorkeling (I haven’t done any diving lately, but I am taking my certificate along, just in case), the various churches and of course the local population. I seem to like markets a lot, because they give you a good feeling about the locals. Additionally, I can always find a barber there for a good shave.

Flying into Manila, I’m looking out of the window and it reminds me of an American city. I see larger lots with neat single homes and I am a bit surprised. However, the comparison doesn’t last long.

There are basically three things which immediately stand out on my drive to the hotel. First of all the pollution, which remind me of L.A., and my eyes are burning.

The second one is the lack of motorcycles compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. Cars are much more prevalent and that explains the gridlock at 11 a.m.

The last one is the language. Like in Indonesia, there is a disproportionate number of the letter “A” in the Philippine language and it is amazing. I see as many as six “As” in one word.

The beginning of this trip reminds me a bit of my last European voyage, where I also arrive on time, but my suitcase doesn’t land until 24 hours later. Unfortunately, I am not staying with my friend but in a hotel and therefore have to wear the same somewhat unsuitable clothing.

I have nothing, not even my camera. Now I understand better how angry people can become when the airline loses their luggage at the beginning of a trip. If you only have one or two weeks an are without luggage, it is not a lot of fun.

Despite it all I explore the old town a bit but it is very hot. And knowing that I will have to come back here when my camera arrives takes the fun out of it a bit. In any case, I go through Intramuros, the reasonably well preserved Spanish section with the San Agustin church, the oldest church in Manila and a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the end of the 16th century.

I visit the Manila Cathedral, which has been rebuilt five times, the last time in 1951. It has been destroyed repeatedly by earthquakes.. I walk though Rizal park and though some local neighborhoods looking for a book. Interesting city, but a bit too big for my taste, a bit too much pollution. Three nights is enough and I head north.

Note. Must be the way I look, or my age, but in various places street vendors come up to me trying to sell Viagra. When the last one comes up and tell me he has Viagra, I tell him he better use it because he looks like he needs it. He shuts up.

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