Tag Archives: tourism

Philippines: A Land to Be Patient With

 

I had my fair share of transport mishaps and uncomfortable long journeys this trip, the typhoon that hit while I was there didn’t help. Basically, what I learned, is to double any given estimate of how long a trip will take, start early and be prepared to be stranded, of course there are worse things than being stranded on a tropical island for a few days. The dichotomy here is not as outstanding as say China, but it’s becoming more present as there’s a burgeoning middle class with the IT surge and mass influx of foreign investment. While it’s a lot easier to spot the poverty than the wealth, you will see the odd fancy car drive by,  the nicer shopping malls come equip with designer stores and the western influence is ever-present, not just in the language, which includes a wide range of English words, but commercially, with the presence of western food chains and brands, the Philippines is a prime example of the effects of globalization. The Philippines has yet to be spoilt by a tourist wave, but it’s coming, although I did avoid Boracay,  the go to party place here, I was informed that property prices are rising as there are an increase of foreigners buying holiday homes here or setting up shop to cash in when the tourist boom hits, but in the meantime, most of the foreigners you’ll encounter are aged men with young Filipino women on their arms. The country can be testing at times, but it always balances out, being hassled constantly by tricycles or taxis desperate to give you a lift, street children tugging on your shirt, and people who automatically equate foreigner with dollar signs,  you almost want to avoid making eye contact with anyone, but then you encounter the incredibly friendly people, eager to learn about where you’re from, proud to show you their country, if you take a ride a jeepney and you’re bound to make a friend on your way. Then there’s the filth, the shanty towns, street people, the drug addiction, but then you have the beautiful scenery, white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, rolling hills and deserted desert islands. This is a country in transition, which I always find fascinating, visiting a country and knowing if you come back 5, 10 years from now it will have changed drastically, seeing how they welcome and incorporate foreign influence, for example their massive Chinese population has had a big influence on their cuisine, and how they reject other things, like the older generation struggling to accept the increasing use of English among the youth, partially the effects of media but also because English provides more viable job options. It’s also interesting since you’ve likely encountered Filipinos who are working abroad or have spoken to them when you’ve called a help lines, to see where they’re coming from and understand their culture, as they are often the victims of intolerance when dealing with western customers.

As I took a walk with my tricycle driver, (after traveling for three hours only to discover that the “smallest volcano in the world” would cost me nearly $100 bucks to see, and opting for a walk in the little town instead before making the three hour journey back) I was provided with a little insight for this mass exodus of workers, he had studied electrical engineering at university, but there were no jobs and he didn’t have the money to find work abroad, so he was stuck driving a tricycle 11 hours a day, but as he told me about the crystal meth that was become a concern in the Philippines, effecting even this little town, that appeared so quaint, and how incredibly cheap it was, I began to question who exactly this drug addicted friend he kept on referring to was. As happens in any country that is experiencing a boom there will be many left behind, and driven to a point of desperation, whether this is to work abroad illegally, drugs, hustling ect. For many travelers the Philippines is an economic travel spot that can be challenging but extremely rewarding, it’s not for those who enjoy traveling inside their bubble.

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Seen That, Been There, Done That

On the National Day of the People's Republic of China, tourists from the country and overseas came to Badaling Great Wall to celebrate.(Xinhua)

In our age of excess and exposure, lower flight costs, package tourism and organized tour groups, the list of undiscovered, obscure or adventurous destinations is dwindling. No longer are we fascinated by expeditions to the arctic, if we can afford the hefty sum we can join a neon orange thermal suit clad troop of fellow adventurers, so many climbers are attempting Everest now that people are dying just waiting in line for access to the ladder, beaches that were once whispered secrets among locals, known for their serenity and solitude have now become frequent stops for booze cruisers, with all day happy hours and salacious locals. Now those wishing to pursue the off the beaten track destinations are presented with new challenges, either having to resort to venturing somewhere with mildly less tourists, maybe since it doesn’t offer ease of passage, going somewhere that perhaps has no particular draw for tourists, a common village that bodes no sightseeing attraction or travel somewhere that is considered too dangerous for the common traveler.
I can understand the attraction to package tourism, and have fallen victim to it several times, it’s convenient, reasonably priced, you feel like you’re getting all the bases covered, but in the end you feel a little cheated, as if you’ve had a short-changed experience, and not just by all the hawkers with their cheap trinkets and the exponentially priced water, but as if you’re not really getting to know the place you are in, only a filtered, for foreigners version, and it’s a lot harder to escape the bubble when you’re limiting your interaction with locals. Perhaps these are the laments of a jaded traveler, who, despite its convenience, prefers not to travel with a Lonely Planet in tote, and having grown up with stories of Mallory and Shackleton, reading Heart of Darkness and One Hundred Years of Solitude, liked to imagine there was an unadulterated land to be discovered. And ultimately I shouldn’t complain, because considering if I lived during these times of  the ‘real’ adventurers, I no doubt would not have had an opportunity to travel like I do, unless I were to become a missionary, or want to subject myself to an extremely uncomfortable, disease ridden voyage. Now, instead of just looking at picture books of wonders of world and dreaming of the unattainable mysteries the world had to offer, I now have the opportunity, with several months of scrimping and saving, taking a teaching job abroad or various other methods available to me, to see these sights in real life, something that was unimaginable in my parents generation. I live in the age of convince and accessibility, and have to accept that there may be others who share my same passion for exploring the world, and perhaps I should be grateful, there’s no better way to bond with new friends than in sharing travel stories, and maybe there’s hope for a western society that is largely viewed as ignorant as we are entering a burgeoning global playing field.  So, although it can be frustrating at times, trekking a well-beaten path with hordes of foreigners, or encountering a mass of out-of-town drunkards who smear the Wests already tarnished image, there are also the travelers who provide you with valuable inside tips, who offer a helping hand when you are failing to communicate that the guy who just ran out of the bar and left you with the tab was not actually with you or provide some much-needed company when you felt like your starting to lose you mother tongue and  might just talk in simplified phrases from now on, the world is becoming a smaller place and with that, hopefully will come more understanding and tolerance, and there’s always plenty of Vino, Cervaza, Ouzo, Pisco, Soju, Sake, Rakia, ect. to go around.

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Please proceed to gate ____ bound for _________ (fill destination here)

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You’ve been planning your trip for months, packed carefully, gone through the checklist several times, you arrive at the airport and scan the departure flight screen, your eyes pass over Reykjavik, Cape Town, New York, Osaka, what if you could change your destination on a whim, look at the board and choose at random where to go? You’ve been planning your trip for so long it seems like you’ve already experienced it, you’ve read the guide book, met people who’ve been or are from there, learned a few handy phrases. What if you just hopped on a plane completely unprepared, to a country you had little to no knowledge about. To some this is a horrifying prospect, what about getting vaccinations,how go I know which areas to avoid or if I accidently eat a mysterious meat dish that’s a local specialty, but for the spontaneous, adventurous traveler I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind. How would my experience be different? What would I do when I
got there? Who would I meet? Maybe it’s a last minute doubt, did I make the right going to Norway, should I have gone to Turkey instead. Like going to a movie and wishing you had gone to one of the previewed movies instead. You find your gate, and make your way for the several hours wait before your flight, you start to settle back into the idea of your originally chosen destination, you’re going to be there soon, just a flight or two to go, and no matter how much (or little) you’ve planned it can never fully prepare for the actual experience of being in a foreign city, and you can always go to Turkey next year.

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