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Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Japan Trip: Transit In Manila

My friend BL said that he joined the Japan trip partly due to the transit in Manila. He found it intriguing, as Manila is usually not a tourist destination. While that's also the reason why I decided that we should choose PAL, my main consideration was more economical: it offered the cheapest tickets among the non-budget airlines. And then of course while we were there, I could have two Hard Rock moments.

Gunawan, Parno and Ardian at Supadio Airport, Pontianak.

The day of departure was an exciting one. Team Ponti, consisting of Parno, Gunawan and Ardian, started early as they needed to catch a flight to Jakarta before continuing to Manila. Before that, Parno said he'd take GoRide. That was so typical of Parno, he made us laugh and annoyed us at the same time. In my mind, he'd look like performing a Mission: Impossible stunt, carrying two luggages while riding on a motorbike. How silly! So we talked some sense to him and Ardian volunteered to pick him up. 

Meanwhile, my fellow Singaporean Surianto was so sneaky that he also went to Changi in the morning. To think that our departure time was actually in the afternoon! Upon reading their updates in our group chat, I found it very hard to concentrate at work as the holiday mood was clearly in the air. During lunch time, I quickly made my way to the airport. 

Having a cup of ice cream in PIK.

At the same time, Team Ponti had arrived in Jakarta. They spent their day in PIK and spoiled themselves with an ice cream priced at IDR 50K. Not everyone was pleased, though. Parno couldn't help cursing and swearing for spending so much money involuntarily on something as trivial as an ice cream. When the evening came, they returned to the airport and checked in together BL, Susan and Cicilia for a midnight flight to Manila.

Back in Singapore, we boarded the plane and began our 3 hours 45 minutes to Manila. There was no TV screen on the back of seat in front of me, making the plane almost indistinguishable from the budget ones until the meal was served. When we landed, the immigration process was a breeze. Soon we found ourselves at Bay 6, waiting for Grab. The hotel, Tryp by Wyndham, was not far from the airport. So after a short ride with a city landscape that reminded me of Bangkok, we reached our hotel. It was nice and the surrounding area was neat and clean, too. 

Exploring Mall of Asia.

We spent the night looking for Filipino dishes at Mall of Asia and eventually decided to dine at Juan's Bistro. The crispy pata (deep fried pig trotters) and gising-gising (sliced kangkong stalks with pork in coconut milk) were good. To cap the night off, we had two bottles of San Miguel at Hard Rock Cafe Manila. Since Surianto wanted to know, I told him the simplified story of the Beatles while we were there.

The next morning, we waited for Team Ponti and BL to reach Tryp (Cicilia and Susan continued their journey to Tokyo on the same day). After they were done refreshing, we began venturing outside the Bay City area. That's when we discovered the chaotic and unglamorous part of Manila. We headed to Binondo and walked around the Chinatown. BL said it looked like Glodok Pancoran in Jakarta. Personally, the buildings reminded me of those on Jalan Sultan Muhammad that I used to passed by back when I was a primary school student in Pontianak

BL, in front of Chuan Kee.

We visited Binondo Church and thought of having lunch at Chuan Kee, Binondo's oldest fast food eatery, but the queue was bloody long that joining it would be a madness. We eventually ended up at this place called Big Bowl Noodles that literally served a big bowl of noodles. Slow in serving, so slow that BL and Gunawan had all the time in the world to look for souvenirs first, but it lived up to its name.

After eating, we left Binondo and finally saw the New Binondo Chinatown Arch, the landmark of the district. From there, we walked to Intramuros. It brought back the memories from 15 years ago, when I first visited this place with Yani in 2008. We had a break there and tried out bibingka, a local delicacy, then visited the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church. The latter was beautiful, famous for its 16th century's architecture. The former, on the other hand, was quite an enigma. It way interesting that they kept building the cathedral in the same location, even though it had been shattered eight times by earthquake for the past 500 years. 

Parno, nearby the front gate of Fort Santiago.

Fort Santiago, just a walking distance from the cathedral, was the last place we visited in the afternoon. It was spacious, but I couldn't say if the fort was really impressive. We booked Grab from there and headed back to hotel. Taty, the last one to depart, finally arrived in Manila. We were to meet her at the hotel. This opportunity also allowed Team Ponti and BL to check in properly. Earlier that day, they only dropped by our room and left their luggages there. 

That night, we went to Makati for dinner and sightseeing, but not before a funny scene unfolding before our very eyes. You see, from our perspective, the driver's seat in the Philippines is on the flip side. Parno, so eager to get into the car, must have forgotten about this and opened the door to the driver's seat instead. His action surprised both himself and the driver, causing us who stood nearby to laugh hysterically. 

Dinner in Makati.

In Makati, Team Ponti tried out Jollibee, the famous fast food chain in the Philippines. But the window shopping activity didn't last long and we decided to go back. BL left first on his own while the rest of us continued to SM by the Bay, the coastal line along the reclaimed land, and walked slowly from there. As it led to our hotel, it became the last bit of our short trip in Manila. 

The next morning, before the sun rose, we went back to Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Parno was stopped and checked by the airport officer because the scan result showed that he carried something that looked like a bullet (it turned out to be part of his keychain). Gunawan advised him to throw it away.

At the airport, minutes before boarding the plane.

When we were about depart, Susan told us to prepare for the screenshot of Visit Japan Web. Everybody had it, but Parno's screenshot didn't include his name. When he managed to login to the web page, the details weren't found. It was not possible to fill it up again on the day of departure as the time limit had been exceeded. Parno told us that his legs were trembling. He feared that he'd get deported and then scolded at home. As it could be his last moment with us, we took this picture above, haha. After that, we flew to Japan...

Taty, Surianto and I returned to Manila a week later. Our connecting flight to Singapore was on the following morning. Taty managed to get past the immigration, but Surianto and I took the wrong lane. We were then advised by the transfer desk officer to book a hotel before going to the immigration counter. We learnt from our previous experience that the airport had almost nothing in term of amenities (in my opinion, even Kolkata Airport was much nicer than this so-call international airport in the capital city of a country), so we had to get out! I quickly booked one, any hotel would do, and out we went! 

Gunawan in SM by the Bay.

Liburan Ke Jepang: Transit di Manila

Teman saya BL berujar bahwa dia jadi berminat ke Jepang salah satunya karena kita singgah di Manila. Dia merasa tertarik karena Manila biasanya bukan merupakan tujuan turis. Kunjungan singkat ke Manila ini memang termasuk dalam pertimbangan saya, tapi alasan saya lebih cenderung karena sudut pandang ekonomis: PAL menawarkan tiket paling murah untuk maskapai non-budget. Dan selagi di sana, saya juga bisa mampir ke Hard Rock

Gunawan, Parno dan Ardian di Supadio Airport, Pontianak.

Hari keberangkatan adalah hari yang penuh suka-cita. Tim Ponti yang terdiri dari Parno, Gunawan dan Ardian berangkat pagi karena mereka harus terbang ke Jakarta dulu sebelum lanjut ke Manila. Sebelumnya, Parno berkata dia akan ke bandara dengan GoRide. Ide ini memang khas Parno, membuat kita geli dan gemas sekaligus. Saya bayangkan bahwa dia akan beraksi seperti adegan Mission: Impossible, membawa dua bagasi sambil duduk di motor. Pasti tampak konyol! Jadi kita pun memberikan saran yang lebih konstruktif dan Ardian akhirnya menjemput Parno dengan sukarela. 

Sementara itu, Landak memilih untuk ke Changi lebih awal dari jadwal, padahal penerbangan kita itu sore hari. Sewaktu membaca kabar mereka semua di grup SMA, saya jadi susah konsentrasi untuk melanjutkan pekerjaan karena suasana liburan sudah terasa. Pas jam makan siang, saya pun langsung meluncur ke bandara juga. 

Makan es krim di PIK.

Di saat yang sama, Tim Ponti telah tiba di Jakarta. Mereka bersantai di PIK dan menikmati es krim seharga Rp 50.000, walau tidak semua merasa gembira. Parno mengomel karena merasa menghamburkan uang banyak untuk sesuatu sesederhana es krim. Di senja hari, mereka kembali ke Soekarno-Hatta dan bergabung bersama BL, Susan dan Cicilia untuk penerbangan tengah malam ke Manila. 

Kembali ke Singapura, saya dan Landak juga memulai perjalanan selama 3 jam 45 menit ke Manila. Tidak ada layar televisi di belakang tempat duduk di depan saya sehingga kesannya seperti menaiki pesawat AirAsia. Nuansa ini baru sedikit berubah setelah makanan disajikan. 

Proses imigrasi di Manila tergolong lancar. Tidak lama kemudian kita sudah berada di Bay 6, menunggu Grab datang menjemput. Hotel kita, Tryp by Wyndham, tidaklah jauh dari bandara. Setelah perjalanan pendek melintasi pemandangan kota yang entah kenapa terasa mirip Bangkok, kita pun sampai di tujuan. Hotel ini bagus dan sekelilingnya pun rapi dan bersih. 

Menjelajahi Mall of Asia.

Di malam itu kita mencari menu Filipina di kawasan Mall of Asia dan akhirnya bersantap malam di Juan's Bistro. Crispy pata (kaki babi goreng) dan gising-gising (batang kangkung yang diiris kecil-kecil dan digoreng dengan santan dan daging babi) memang lezat. Untuk menutup malam tersebut, kita minum dua botol San Miguel di Hard Rock Cafe Manila. Selama di sana, karena Landak ingin tahu, saya bercerita kepadanya kisah singkat tentang the Beatles

Keesokan harinya, kita menanti ketibaan Tim Ponti dan BL (Cicilia dan Susan lanjut ke Tokyo di hari yang sama). Setelah mereka berisitirahat sejenak dan mandi, kita naik Grab dan keluar dari kawasan Bay City. Di sini kita melihat bagian kota Manila yang kacau dan kumuh. Kita turun di Binondo dan berjalan kaki menyusuri daerah Pecinan. BL berkomentar bahwa sekeliling kita mirip Glodok Pancoran, tapi saya pribadi jadi terkenang dengan bangunan-bangunan di Jalan Sultan Muhammad yang sering saya lihat sewaktu menjadi murid SD di Pontianak

BL di depan Chuan Kee.

Kita mengunjungi Gereja Binondo dan berencana untuk makan siang di Chuan Kee, tempat makan cepat-saji tertua di Binondo, tapi antriannya luar biasa panjang. Akhirnya kita makan di Big Bowl Noodles yang menyajikan mie dalam mangkok besar. Pelayanannya lambat, begitu lambatnya sampai BL dan Gunawan bisa pergi berbelanja suvenir di tempat lain dulu, tapi makanannya cukup enak dan besar porsinya.

Seusai makan siang, kita meninggalkan Binondo dan menemukan New Binondo Chinatown Arch, gapura di kawasan tersebut. Dari sana, kita berjalan kaki ke Intramuros. Saya jadi terbuai oleh kenangan 15 tahun yang lalu, ketika saya pertama kali ke sini bersama Yani di tahun 2008. Kita beristirahat sejenak di sana dan mencicipi bibingka yang ada kemiripan dengan bingka Pontianak, lalu mengunjungi Katedral Manila dan Gereja San Agustin yang dibangun di abad ke-16. Yang saya agak herankan itu, kenapa mereka membangun katedral ini berulang kali di tempat yang sama meskipun sudah delapan kali runtuh diguncang gempa dalam 500 tahun terakhir.

Parno di dekat gerbang Fort Santiago.

Fort Santiago yang terletak tidak jauh dari katedral adalah tempat terakhir yang kita singgahi di sore itu. Tempatnya luas, tapi tidak begitu mengesankan. Kita lantas memesan Grab lagi untuk pulang ke hotel. Taty, teman terakhir yang berangkat, akhirnya tiba di Manila. Kita janjian untuk bertemu di hotel dan kesempatan yang sama juga dimanfaatkan oleh Tim Ponti dan BL untuk check-in. Ketika mereka tiba di pagi hari, mereka hanya mampir ke kamar kita untuk menaruh koper. 

Di malam itu, kita pergi ke Makati untuk makan malam dan jalan-jalan. Sebelum itu, ada kejadian lucu di hotel. Jadi dari sudut pandang kita, tempat duduk pengemudi mobil di Filipina itu terbalik di sisi kiri. Parno yang tergesa-gesa ingin naik ke mobil mungkin lupa dan malah membuka pintu kursi pengemudi. Tindakannya ini mengagetkan dirinya dan sopir, sehingga kita yang berdiri di dekatnya pun terpingkal-pingkal. 

Santap malam di Makati.

Di Makati, Tim Ponti mencoba Jollibee, ayam goreng cepat saji yang terkenal di Filipina. Akan tetapi jalan-jalan di pusat perbelanjaan tidak berlangsung lama dan kita putuskan untuk pulang. BL kembali ke hotel sendirian sedangkan kita bertolak menuju SM by the Bay, daerah pesisir di kawasan reklamasi, lalu berjalan perlahan dari sana. Perjalanan ini membawa kita kembali ke hotel dan mengakhiri kunjungan singkat kita di Manila.

Sebelum matahari terbit di hari berikutnya, kita kembali ke Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Parno sempat dicek oleh petugas bandara karena hasil pemeriksaan menunjukkan bahwa dia membawa sesuatu yang terlihat seperti peluru. Sesudah digeledah, ternyata apa yang dibawa Parno itu bagian dari gantungan kunci rumahnya. 

Di bandara Manila, sebelum naik ke pesawat.

Tatkala kita hampir menaiki pesawat, mendadak Susan mengabarkan bahwa kita perlu menyiapkan foto Visit Japan Web. Semua sudah mengisinya, tapi foto Parno tidak menampilkan namanya sehingga ia pun kalang-kabut. Setelah dia berhasil masuk ke situs, ternyata datanya hilang. Saat itu tidak mungkin lagi baginya untuk mengisi formulir karena batas waktunya sudah lewat. Parno berujar bahwa kakinya terasa gemetaran. Dia takut dideportasi karena pasti nanti dimarahi di rumah. Karena ini mungkin adalah saat-saat terakhir kita bersama Parno, jadi saya pun mengambil foto di atas ini, haha. Setelah itu, kita akhirnya terbang ke Jepang... 

Taty, Surianto dan saya singgah lagi di Manila seminggu kemudian. Pesawat kita ke Singapura dijadwalkan terbang esok pagi, jadi kita punya waktu sekitar 10 jam di Manila. Taty berhasil keluar dari imigrasi, tapi saya dan Landak mengambil jalur yang berbeda. Oleh petugas transit bandara, kita disarankan untuk memesan hotel sebelum ke imigrasi. 

Dari pengalaman kita sebelumnya, kita tahu bahwa bandara Manila ini minim fasilitas dan tempat makan (saya cenderung berpendapat bahwa bandara di Kolkata masih jauh lebih bagus daripada bandara internasional di ibukota negara Filipina ini). Jadi kita benar-benar harus keluar! Saya buru-buru memesan satu hotel murah bernama Kabayan Hotel, cap paspor dan akhirnya kita berhasil keluar! 

Gunawan di SM by the Bay.

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