Jon and I are realizing how much our expectations have changed already as we travel through the Philippines, considered a newly industrialized country, and will surely change much more as we travel through developing countries in the coming months. The exciting news is that we are definitely able to stay within our budget while we are here. The sometimes less exciting news is that this will require some inconveniences and adjustments. Here I will document a few examples of things we have gotten used to or are getting used to:
- Bathrooms: Many bathrooms in the Philippines have toilets which do not flush, do not have a toilet seat, and do not have toilet paper provided.
We have learned to always keep a bit of toilet paper handy, and take advantage when we are near an establishment which has a fancy western toilet. Showers are often cold, with poor water pressure, and sometimes involve using the same dipper and bucket I mentioned earlier, without any shower head at all.
Luckily, in a hot climate, water temperature and pressure isn’t really very important and a shower feels really good after sweating all day no matter the condition of the facilities.
- Access to Potable Water: We are learning that many hotels do not have (free) potable water for their guests. You may have to walk to the nearest water filling station or convenience store to purchase your water for the duration of your stay.
- Heat Tolerance: Getting used to the heat will take a while. For now, we are just accepting the fact that we may be dripping with sweat at any given time on any given day. We don’t put on clean clothes unless we are fairly sure we won’t immediately sweat profusely in them. Jon also got what we think was a heat rash – though it didn’t last too long.
- Accommodation: We are happily getting used to the price of accommodation here, which is about $12 for a double bed room. Staying at the cheapest spots we can find incurs the inherent risk of finding our accommodation kind of dingy.
Our rooms are often in need of a good scrub and a new paint job, but beggars can’t be choosers. At least they usually give us toilet paper and sometimes soap (but not always).
- Food: Again, we are happily getting used to the cost of food and the ubiquity of small specialty shops and turo turo (point point) restaurants.
Turo turo restaurants cook many different dishes and keep them in pots our front for you to look in and choose from. You can get your food to go or eat in.
Sometimes you are picking a dish by its looks while not really knowing what you are ordering and maybe getting a dish with meat which has been sitting in a pot for hours, at room temperature, before you came along. Even asking “does this have meat in it” and being answered “no, this is mixed vegetable” did not mean that the food I ordered didn’t have meat in it, only that it didn’t have much meat in it. The food is, as stated before, usually at room temperature but is served over hot rice if you order it that way, so at least the rice heats up the food a bit. We will continue to eat at these establishments because we can get a meal for under $2 for two people, but this requires that we keep an open mind, lower our standards a bit, and pretend we haven’t seen some of the things we’ve seen! For example, we saw a food vendor washing their pots in filthy Manila bay.
Sometimes we get a “fun” surprise, like accidentally ordering tripe soup (chewy cow stomach meat)!
Now, when we get a meal for the two of us and pay $5 we feel disappointed that we paid too much. Sympathies?
- Transportation: Transportation here is a blast (depending on your attitude)! A person really needs to make this adjustment quickly in the Philippines: Don’t expect to stick to any strict schedules. Bus schedules often don’t exist. Your best bet is to show up to the station early and hope that you can get on a bus soonish. Don’t expect to find a schedule online, and don’t even rely on the bus station staff for that matter, they often don’t know when the bus will show up either. For local transportation, jeepneys and tricycles are your best bet. In downtown Manila at rush hour a ride can be pretty freaky! You are squished next to a bunch of people as the jeepney driver is slamming on the gas and breaks, swerving in and out of traffic. Everyone is actively participating, passing fare payment and change along, saying “bayad po (pass it, please)!”. If you don’t know where you need to get off, you’ll need to enlist the help of other passengers, as there are no announcements or signs. Sometimes getting from point A to point B involves a bus, a jeepney or two, and a tricycle. Luckily it is very affordable! A 8 hour bus ride for $4.50 or a jeepney ride for 20-50¢ makes cost a non-issue.