As I mentioned, I left loads of time to catch the flight to Manila and, in the end, it was perfect! Plenty of time for a coffee after arriving at the airport and then a leasurely check-in. And then I passed easily thrugh security and passport control. I forgot how enormous the Boeing 777 (Triple-7) plane is, the seating is 3+3+3 and there was loads of room in the plane. My seat was in the rear cabin but even then, the engines were a low rumble. And I had my noise-cancelling headphones with me anyway. I took a photo of the wing at sunset when we were still an hour out of Manila. The flight time was a little over 3 hours.
Immigration Control was fairly rapid, I grabbed my suitcase, bought a SIM for my phone and internet. It was called Tourist SIM, meaning that it was twice the price of the regular SIM! But I wanted to get online quickly so I was happy to pay the premium.
And the kiosk did me a favour and pointed me to Yellow Taxis tucked away to the left of the exit. They are metered, so my journey to the hotel was not expensive.
I went out for a meal and a glass of wine in a food zone which I knew from last time here. It was very noisy and full of life. The guy came back during my meal and asked if I wanted something but I didn't hear him clearly. When he repeated it I heard that he was asking if I wanted a girl, I thought he was offering ketchup!
I was woken once or twice during the night by a dog barking in the house opposite, not surprising really, if you see the photo.
Next morning I met my friend Nomel and her ladyboy friend Samantha, her adopted female name. We called up a taxi on Grab which is equivalent to Uber to take us to the condo which I had rented. The driver was a delightful woman and the car really quite smart. We soon started talking about being transgender, in a mixture of Tagalog and English, it was very funny! I said that I was like an uncle to Nomel but the driver corrected me to, "Auntie".
We stopped at a drive-in McDonalds and I bought them all food. But as the journey progressed, we started to get anxious, it was a very long way. I had estimated it from Google Maps but it soon became clear that I had made a big mistake. The girls were saying "Too far, Steve" in a plaintive tone. We finally arrived and the condo was very disappointing, The entrance led directly onto the kitchen, lounge area and dining area, but basically all one, not very large room. There were two bedrooms. Samantha nearly drank a small cockroach which was lurking in the glass when she filled it with water. It was actually in her mouth and she spat it out!
The two girls stayed the night and we went to SM City which is huge mall nearby to buy food and also some clothes for them.
The girl and the guy at the checkout were laughing, but in a very nice way. I guess it looks very strange to see a European guy with two ladyboys and the conclusion is obvious. But wrong!
Nomel started cooking the chicken but after about 5 minutes, the gas ran out. The cyclinder was empty. By this stage, I had decided to cut my losses and find another apartment and I was chatting to the owner in Dubai by WhatsApp. At one stage I thought he was going to give a complete refund but in the end it was only 20%. A big financial loss for me. But Nomel was saying they felt homesick and I felt the same - I knew what she meant. We were a long way from the familiar surroundings of Metro Manila.
I went down the road to buy some takeaway chicken and we had that together with a bottle of Rioja which I had bought in Bangkok Airport Duty-free.
We all slept well and I'm writing this on the morning of Saturday 18th November and we will check out at mid-day. One very expensive night. The girls suggested staying here for one week then moving but, once I decided to go, I wanted to do it straight away.
We travelled by Grab taxi at mid-day and it took us just over an hour to get to our new location but even then, my two friends said they were still 40 minutes away from their home. Our reception was truly awful, we spent two hours (!!) in reception waiting for security clearance to enter the apartment. Is that crazy? It was over an hour before they asked for my passport. And the apartment is about the size of a hotel room. So, from the frying pan into the fire! Nomel and Samantha and I went to the supermarket near by to stock up on food and now they will go home for the night and leave me alone in the penthouse flat!!