Saturday, April 09, 2005

Thoughts on the Philippines

P4080012, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

I'm back from attending the IDC forum on small businesses in Manila. Although I had registered online last week they didn't have me on record. No problem, they just added me as a walk-in, but next time I'll be sure to print out the confirmation message.

I was only in Manila for a couple nights, but highly recommend the Wenshan spa (on corner of Timog and Quezon Ave). It's a "clean" massage and really inexpensive (418 pesos or a little over $8 US, plus however much you want to tip). Similar to a Korean bathouse, inside has hot tubs, cold tubs, wet sauna, showers, etc. After showering change into a robe and go for the massage. The masseuses did such an excellent job that I went both nights.

There's a couple malls near the hotel I was staying (Discovery Suites Hotel), Mega Mall and the Podium. Mega Mall lives up to its name. It's large, and is overflowing with shops. In addition to the food court, there were restaurants all over the place. Unfortunately navigating it was mega confusing so I decided to visit the Podium which is smaller, but nicer.

Travel bytes:

Keep PhP$550 in local currency for the terminal fee when departing. Luckily I had just enough as I don't think they take credit cards.

After passing through customs there's a place to change money. Also, after passing through the depature doors, there are another 3 places.

For pickup services, exit the terminal and take a right.

The hotel people advise not taking a local taxi for safety reasons (which just leaves taking the hotel taxi). Good advice, but taking a hotel taxi can be 4x or more the local taxi price. Both nights after the spa, I asked employees to call a local taxi and didn't have any problems. After entering the taxi I made sure the meter was running.

International calls in the hotel I stayed was very expensive. I called into a meeting (hosted in US) and while I was only online for 23 minutes, the price of the call exceeded the price of the room for one night! Also local calls cost money.

Traffic is as bad as everyone says. I asked a hotel taxi driver why he thought the traffic situation was so bad; was it a. too many cars, b. infrastructure problems, or c...? He said too many cars and "undisciplined people". He felt the drivers and pedestrians were undisciplined (in Manila people cross the street whenever and wherever).


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