Getting to Singapore
I booked my flight to Singapore from Puerto Princesa on Cebu Pacific, connecting in Manila. They had the cheapest fare (and only 200 pesos/$5 to reserve an exit row seat for the two hour flight to SIN). I also decided it would be easier just to stay with Cebu and not worry about changing terminals in Manila as it is an advenure on it's own.
El Nido to Puerto Princesa Shuttle
Jamie and I prebooked our seats in Fort Wallys shuttle van a few day before so I got myself the seat next to the driver to guarantee at least a somewhat comfortable ride as far as the legroom goes. We walked over to the bus terminal a few minutes before 9am and were pleased to see a nice new-looking Toyota van sitting there with reclining leather seats. That was a good sign - or so we thought. A few minutes past 9am a much crappier van pulled in and we were told to get in there. At least I was still there by myself in the front.
That did not last long either - three guys that we rant into the day before stumbled over to the bus station just to find out that the bus they were going to take left at 9am instead of 9:30 as they were told so they got in the van with us, with the taller of them getting in the middle seat up front next to me. There went my hopes for a more or less comfy ride back. Meanwhile, the Filipinos traveling to Puerto Princesa got into the Toyota. Great...
My new German friend Max turned out to have worked all over Australia so I got some tips for him (the first person I have met so far that thought Melbourne was just as good or better than Sydney). We also exchanged the usual travel chatter for the good portion of our ride so it was, while uncomfortable, pretty entertaining.
When we got to Puerto Princesa, instead of going to Fort Wallys terminal (which would have been close to our hostel), we got dropped off at the bus terminal and had go get a tricycle. It was 150 pesos/$3.50 that I split with Jamie. It was quite a long ride (15 mins or so) so it seemed as a reasonable price but once we got to the hostel, we learned that the standard fare is about 70 pesos.
Dallas Inn check-in was pretty chaotic - no sheets, pillow, or towels when we got to our dorm, the locker I was assigned already was taken by someone else, they were trying to move me and Jamie into a private room with only one bed, and lastly, when I tried to use their phone to make reservations for Ka Lui, their phone was not working and insted of trying to figure out why, they kept trying to look up a different number for Ka Lui in the phone books. On the positive side, their WiFi seemed pretty decent - I could even watch a quick YouTube video my friend posted on Facebook - something I gave up on long time ago since my internet connections the last three weeks were pretty crappy from South Africa to Philippines.
On the "it is a small world" theme, one of the guys at our dorm just came from Kaliningrad - the city where my dad is from and where I visited just a few weeks ago. Him, Jamie and myself grabbed a dinner at Ka Lui and then headed back to the hostel for some rest.
Puerto Princesa Airport (PPS)
Next morning I was up at 7am to pack up and grabbed some food at Jollibee (those mango pies are sooooo good) before catching a trike to the airport. I did not ask for the price and just handed the driver a 20 pesos bill/$0.46 when we got there, he seemed just fine with it (when I got to Puerto Princesa, they were asking for 50 pesos to go to a hostel).
I got to the airport with about an hour and a half to spare, checked in, paid the 40 pesos/$1 terminal fee (which apparently is not enough to get some toilet paper in the bathrooms) and settled in at the departure hall. Surprisingly, Cebu got me boarding passes for both of my flights and would even transfer my checked-in backpack so I would not need to pick it up and drop it off again at Manila. This first sign of progress was soon overshadowed by yet another flight delay - my track record of 100% flights being delayed continued (and Cebu claims 78% on-time departure rating on their website).
Puerto Princesa - Manila on Cebu Pacific
The flight itself was pretty uneventful, still no Lady Gaga style safety announcements. No free drinks. A quick raffle of a few shopping bags followed by the souvenirs cart and that is about it. The landing was very smooth (maybe because I was sitting so far upfront) and after a quick taxi we were at the Terminal 3. It was raining so I was looking forward to using the jetway but Cebu had different plants - for whatever reason we stopped just short of it and uncovered airstairs were brought up. Really? At least they gave everyone an umbrella when exiting the aircraft.
Manila Airport (MNL)
After walking through the empty arrival hall following the signs to the Transfer Desk, I found out that there was really no such thing - I would have to exit the secure area and then get back in. While not thinkinking much of Terminal 3 on my initial arrival to Philippines, this time around it seemed like a luxirious place after terminals in Caticlan, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa and the Domestic Terminal in Manila.
Since I already had my boarding pass, I just had to fill out the departure card before clearing the immigration and paying a rediculous 750 peso/$17.50 terminal use fee (while domestic flights pay 200 pesos/$4.60 to use the same terminal). Walking to the gate was like walking through a ghost town - the international side of the terminal was empty, not even the walkways were working.
Manila - Singapore on Cebu Pacific
For a change, we started boarding more or less on time, but I think we were still delayed for a bit as we just set there for a while and I watched a guy pull up on a cart quickly opening what looked like a can of paint and then going under the aircraft - guess it had to look spotless. The three hour flight was uneventful, a bit long for no free food or even water, but I knew what I was signing up for. I was sure glad I paid for that exit row seat - I was comfortable and enjoying some music and podcasts on the way.
Once we landed, we taxied for a while to the 'budget' terminal. The immigration was quick and I did not have to show any proof of my departure from Singapore. They even had a candy bowl at the immigration desk - that was a first for me. After immigration, I grabbed my back, went through customs, and got out to a small arrival hall. There were two ATMs in a corner and a cafe. A free bus shuttle took me to Terminal 2 where I grabbed some food at the grocery store in the basement and then got on MRT to head in town.
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