As I’m writing this I’m seated in the waiting area next to gate N1 of Nino Aquino International Airport. My flight to Bangkok is delayed. Last time I was here heavy rains and howling gusts of wind tormented my sleep-deprived mind, body and soul after a 19hour journey with layover in Dubai. The initial relief of my safe arrival quickly changed to frustration after seeing the 500m queue of people waiting to get a taxi. The complete lack of public transport combined with its huge scale and scattered terminals make NAIA one of the nastiest major airports in the world, being voted the absolute worst for 3 consecutive years. I can’t agree more. 8 hours, a busride, 2 jeepneys, a tricycle and a taxi later I finally arrived in the office of STEP 20km further, where I would spend the night. Contemplating my chaotic head-on collision with Metro Manila’s traffic reality while I’m waiting for the Bangkok sign in front of me to change to ‘boarding’, I’m surprised that this is almost 2 months ago already. After the initial discomfort my stay in the Philippines turned out to be an awesome experience. I spent these 8 weeks volunteering together with 5 other Belgians/Dutchies and in cooperation with STEP, an NGO working around Sustainable Technologies and Entrepreneurial Permaculture. We worked, lived and had fun with local people of 4 different villages in Isabela province. We went surfing on Baler beach, visited the most impressive rice terraces in the world, spent a few nights on a tropical island, flew over the Sierra Madre mountain range in a single engine 7-seater Cessna plane, slept in a hut in the middle of the mangroves and hiked to villages of the native inhabitants of the forests.
We learned some basic Tagalog, exactly enough to (plan to) hit on the girl of the local hardware store. We also laughed with differences in Dutch and Flemish, took bets about how many buckets were needed to move a pile of sand from one place to another, ate rice and fish like there was no tomorrow and partied the night away in metro Manila, cautious not to cross swords with ladyboys and the like. In short, we spent two awesome months together.
Now I continue on my own for yet another adventure. In a few hours I’ll be in Bangkok. The 23rd of December I’ll fly back to Belgium from Hanoi and Doha. What happens in between remains a surprise. The first few days I’ll be Couchsurfing in Bangkok, after that I might go to Vietnam through Laos or Cambodia. North or South, we’ll see which itinerary will unfold itself. I might travel alone some of the time, but hopefully I’ll meet some old and new friends along the way.
I have to go now, Bangkok calling!