After we visited the historical sites in Manila and visited with one of Jon’s mission companions we headed out for Baguio. We left from the Victory Liner depot in Pasay; by the time we arrived it was late afternoon already and was starting to get dark. The bus depot was filled with seats for people waiting, merienda (snack) shops and sari sari stores. Sari sari translates to “everything” and they pretty much did sell everything: pieces of candy, tissues, drinks, calling cards and other things. Jon was brave enough to use the comfort room (restroom) there even though there wasn’t a door and you could see the people inside. I decided I would rather wait 7 hours for us to arrive at our hotel than try the ladies room. We were able to get tickets for the next bus even though it was leaving in a few minutes. The seats on the bus were all assigned and the bus had aircon and Wi-Fi, so it felt pretty luxurious. I was tired after walking around during the day, so I was asleep before we even left Metro Manila. Then again, it could have taken us hours to get out of Metro Manila because of the crazy traffic.
Traffic in Manila is crazy and to drive there would be heart attack inducing. There are lanes and traffic lights, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a point in having them at all. Cars basically move like water there, fitting in where ever they can and going at any speed that will keep them moving. Lots of people have described it like driving how you would walk in a crowd. To travel a few miles in Manila will easily take over an hour when they’re traffic. After staying in Manila for a few days we still couldn’t tell when it wasn’t rush hour, the traffic seemed pretty bad pretty much all day.
The bus ride went pretty smoothly, we only stopped a few times for food and comfort room breaks. The ride was about 7 hours and we arrived at the bus stop around midnight. By the time we grabbed a taxi and made our way to the hotel we booked it was 12:30am. Finding a taxi in Baguio is easy. If they see you walking on the side of the street and think you’re a potential rider they honk or flash their lights at you to let you know they’re available. If they drive by without a honk then they’re not taking passengers. The hotel we planned to stay at was Hotel Veniz. We picked it when we were researching for our trip because Jon was familiar with the area from his mission. When we arrived at the hotel we got a nasty surprise. We had reserved a room, but they cancelled it since we didn’t get there by 4pm. It would have been nice to know that when we “reserved” the room online. The staff tried to recommend an alternative place, but we’d never heard of it and had no idea where it was. Instead we decided to use the tour book we’d brought with us and picked a moderately-priced place from the book assuming it’d be decent quality. The closest place looked like it was around the corner. After a quick call we found out they had vacancies and we decided to walk instead of ride a taxi. We didn’t realize we’d have to go over two overpasses to cross the street, then go up hill a block to get “around the corner” though. Lugging the suitcases up and down wasn’t so bad, but the feeling that you might get robbed hauling suitcases around at 1am was pretty bad. No one tried anything on us though and most people were actually helpful. People in the Philippines are really helpful and Jon never hesitated to just go up to someone on the street to ask for directions or help since it’s the social norm there.
When we arrived at the La Brea Inn, it wasn’t quite what we expected. The hotel itself was on the fourth floor of the building. Luckily there were elevators from the second floor so we only had to carry our bags up one flight of stairs. The inn consisted of five rooms along a single hall way with a check in desk up front. We learned many valuable lessons from our La Brea experience: 1) hotels that have the option to pay by the hour should generally not be trusted, 2) bringing our own Lysol wipes was a good idea, 3) we should be more grateful for our clean condo and the ability to shower without having to use a bucket, and 4) a 4th story room that still needs bars on the window is not a good sign. The sheets on our bed were questionable and the sheets on the other bed looked like they had blood stains on them. In retrospect the bathroom wasn’t so bad since we had our own Lysol wipes, but at the time I sorely regretted not using the restroom at the bus depot in Manila. I was glad Jon reminded us to bring our own flip flips to wear around within our hotel rooms. The hotel also required us to turn in our key when we left the hotel, which made me feel really unsafe about leaving our things there. To be honest I was a pretty bad sport about the situation and I refused to shower before sleeping. Instead I opted to use my towel to cover our pillows and slept in my street clothes on top of the covers instead of changing into my pajamas. Jon reminded me that the hotel room was way nicer than places he lived in as a missionary, but that wasn’t much consolation to me until I was a little more rested the next morning. Baguio is a lot cooler than Manila and even though there was no air-con the room got cold enough that I woke up shivering in the middle of the night. I stuck to my guns though and didn’t use the covers!
Even though I was in panic mode, Jon handled the situation really calmly and kept his head on his shoulders. After enjoying a Chow King (Chinese style fast food place) breakfast Jon and I went back to the La Brea room and he used the WiFi connection there to find us a new hotel. When we arrived at the City Light Hotel we knew right away we’d have better sleep that night. The lobby was all decked out for Christmas and the staff was SO helpful. Our room was nice and clean too and our room rate came with complimentary buffet breakfasts.