Wednesday, April 15, 2015

First Impressions: The Philippines

It pains me to say negative things about anyplace we are lucky enough to visit. But, this blog is nothing if not honest. So, here goes.

I heard a lot about “Filipino Hospitality” before we arrived here. This place is famous for it, and I couldn’t wait for the warm welcome we’d receive. Well, I haven’t seen it yet. Filipino unfriendliness? Yes. Filipino indifference? Sure. Filipino frowns? In spades. Maybe we’ve just been unlucky. Perhaps the people in Cambodia were just SO unbelievably friendly (they are) that anyplace after it would pale in comparison. Whatever it is, we do not feel the warm welcome here that we’ve felt in so many other countries. My theory is that once you know a local well enough to be invited into their home, I’m sure they are incredibly hospitable and wonderful people. But for the average tourist walking down the street, they really couldn’t care less.

The food. Ahhh the food. We’re really looking forward to the moment we find something we like. But we haven’t yet. I’m sure we must be ordering terribly. And I’ll bet if we got to know one of those hospitable locals, they’d cook us up a storm. But so far, everything has been overpriced (by southeast Asian standards) and underwhelming. When it comes to meat, either the color is odd or the texture is suspect. When it comes to white rice, well, there is no shortage of that. There are lots and lots of greasy fast food places, and not a vegetable as far as the eye can see. What we wouldn’t give for some Vietnamese street food with a mountain of fresh herbs. It’s one of the few places in Asia that isn’t known around the world for its cuisine, and I think I can see why.

Lastly, the tourist infrastructure is much less established than I expected it to be. Hostel staff can’t answer any questions about the country. Tourist offices and ticket counters basically don’t exist. Purchasing a bus ticket required a two-hour round-trip taxi ride to the depot, cause they don’t have any agents selling tickets in the city or the ability to purchase online. I would gladly pay a few bucks commission on a ticket if they would put a system, any system, in place. In most cities, you despise the touts trying to sell you tours and excursions, and yearn for that magical time before places become so touristy. Well, now that I’ve experienced that time, I have a new appreciation for the alternative.

I’m sure there are many people out there who would disagree with me on everything above, and I hope by the time we leave here I disagree with it too! Forgive me, Philippines.

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