Let’s just say that our around the world trip didn’t start the way we had intended.
We left the states on Election Day 2016 (yes we did vote!) and when we landed in Manila, we were pretty shocked at the results. Let’s just say we didn’t envision our first day revolving around checking the news repeatedly and trying to Facetime with freaked out family and friends while using a weak wifi connection.
On top of this, we were both stupidly tired and jetlagged from the twenty-six hour journey and the Manila heat was oppressive. It felt all wrong to be disconnected from everything we knew. So perhaps this is why I looked at our flight out to Bohol the next morning and read that it took off at 6:25 and not landed at 6:25.
Fast forward about 16 hours.
We are showered and a bit rested, although still admittedly wonky. We just navigated the insane Manila traffic at four in the morning. I didn’t fully understand why there weren’t any traffic signals to be seen. It must be madness to drive in.
Todd and I were standing in line to go through security at NAIA airport when I looked closer at our flight confirmation. A bunch of expletives and a near panic attack later, I managed to explain to him that, “No we don’t have 2 hours till our flight, we have about a half hour until take off”.
And we had to check our bags.
Let it be noted we chose our backpacks based on carry on limits for the US and most other airlines to avoid this very situation. The limit is usually 12 kg, however, in the Philippines it is 7 kg. Crap, crap, crap. I must have looked crazy panicked as we went through initial security to get into the airport.
As the guard examined our confirmation he immediately pointed and shouted to an agent close by. She came running and whisked us to the check in counter, literally pushing the current customer aside with an explanation in Tagalog.
Great, I’m thinking, we are the clueless Americans.
Lovely. But they were all so kind. I immediately loved Filipinos. Luckily we had checked into the flight the day before (again, how did I have the flight time wrong?), or we would have been stranded. They got our baggage on the carousel, and told us to run to the gate. And run we did, thankful for the signs in English and the relative closeness of the gate.
When we got there we realized we had to take a shuttle bus to the actual plane. Hair flying, wild look in my eyes and passports extended we go through more security and get on the shuttle. People are definitely staring now. Once we arrive at the plane, I feel the panic start to die down.
We made it!
Ironically, I also notice half of the passengers are still sitting at the gate and not on the plane yet. After all this, the plane ends up being delayed 45 minutes. Of course. From here on out I vow to quadruple check all tickets.
We finally land at the small airport in Tagbiliran and head inside to the luggage claim.
My backpack comes chugging along, Todd’s not so much. A woman with a clipboard comes over and explains that because we checked in late, his bag didn’t get there. I find it funny that mine did and his didn’t but whatever. I really thought neither would make it.
Luckily the next flight lands in a couple of hours so we decided to wait it out at the restaurant next to the airport. Not the smoothest morning I’ve had in my life, but Todd and I are just glad we are on the proper island, the sun is shining, and the luggage will be here shortly.
We arrive at our hotel, the Alona Swiss Resort, easily four hours before check in and lo and behold our room is ready.
I could have kissed the woman working reception. The grounds are full of hot pink bougainvillea and deep red hibiscus everywhere we look. Butterflies flit about making the scene even more surreal. There is a pool just waiting to be swum in. It is surrounded by plumeria trees and even though they clean it often some of the flowers escape and float on the surface. Feeling lucky, exhausted and elated to have AC, we lounge in our room awhile before heading out to explore.
When we get to the water’s edge I realize we are finally in paradise.
We have planned for almost nine months, traveled in the US for three weeks, and had one hell of a long travel day. But it is now totally worth it. The sea is sparkling turquoise before us. The gentle breeze counteracts the blistering sun. There are women offering massages on the beach, up in the shade of some expansive trees. All the restaurants boast fresh seafood caught that very day. And we locate a reggae bar with great tunes and happy hour until 8 pm. Life is good. The rest of the world is just waiting to be explored.