I chose the Philippines because it was a relatively short flight, just 4 hours from Shanghai to Manila and considering we had just gotten back from the US (a 14 hour flight), that sounded pretty good to me! It's also in the same time zone as China, and as LBean would say "Ha ha, no jet lag." The Philippines is also tropical, beautiful and warm....enough said.
This trip was a bit complicated because Jamie had to fly back to the US for a meeting that ran right up to the start of our vacation. We decided that it made more sense for Jamie to fly from Peoria to Manila, via Chicago and Tokyo and just meet us there. I got to make my inaugural international journey with the girls, no help from Jamie. Because I was flying solo, I felt justified in purchasing direct flights for the girls and myself from Shanghai to Manila!
My girls were fantastic travelers and all went well. As with our previous trips, I printed off preschool and kindergarten themed worksheet packets for them to do on the plane. They get very excited to see what's in their packets and I like that they're doing something educational. It was interesting being on a flight where most of the people were either expats going on vacation or Philippinos returning home for the CNY. Most of the passengers were in pretty high spirits and it certainly was a fun flight. The Philippine Airlines flight also gave us the best flight safety video that I've ever seen. A little bit of music, some humor and dancing flight attendants. It was very funny!
The girls and I arrived in Manila an hour ahead of Jamie and the plan was to meet him at the airport and then ride to the hotel together. While we were "waiting" for Jamie, we figured out where the ATM was and got a snack at Jollibee. As were sitting at the terminal, a security guard asked if we needed help and I explained our situation. She told me that Jamie's flight was in another terminal and I could only reach it by taxi. So, off we went trying to find Jamie. We had no international cell phones or any way to contact each other. We walked up and down Jamie's terminal and decided that it was best to just go onto the hotel since it was almost 10 p.m.
My first impressions of Manila, as we drove through it at night, were those of a musical movie set...airplane hangers, neon lights, and corrugated metal. Motorcycles were buzzing around and the nightlife was quite active.
As we got to the hotel I was a little uncertain about where we were. It was dark and we didn't pull up to a regular hotel. We had actually arrived at the Manila Aquarium which was attached to our hotel. We left our luggage with the valet, climbed up the stairs to the aquarium, through the ticket area and up the elevator to the hotel desk. The elevator doors opened and...Jamie was standing there. It was a beautiful sight! We were very happy to be a reunited family.
The next morning we decided to visit the American Cemetery in Manila since Jamie's grandfather served in the Philippines after WWII. Knowing that we probably wouldn't ever be back there, and to connect with a piece of our family history, we wanted to go. We hired a car to take us there and wait for us as we walked around, which I'm learning is a really smart way to sight-see in southeast Asia. We stopped at the visitor's office first and the caretaker/overseer of the cemetery introduced himself. He was also a mid-west boy, raised in Iowa. It was nice to talk to him and hear more about his experience in the military and the cemetery. He said that there were several sets of brothers buried together and a father and son were laid-to-rest together. We then walked around the grounds, looked for familiar last names, and enjoyed the mosaic murals around the memorial.
|Tile mural in the chapel.|
|Maps made from tiles of the different Asia-Pacific battles.|
|The exterior of the chapel.|
|That would be a van full of nuns!|
|The yellow contraption is called a "Jeepney" and they were|
every where. They looked like a really fun taxi ride. The
Jeppneys were originally made from left-over US
military Jeeps after WWII.
|It's hard to see, but that is what I call a side car!|
|Look at all the power lines running through|
San Andres St.
|Now it truly is a paradise!|
|Enjoying a Philippino lunch!|
|A "mermaid" at the aquarium.|
|The public fish pool.|
I wish that we would have captured my first reaction on video because it was the strangest feeling and I had a pretty funny reaction. I also wish I could adequately explain how it felt. The weirdest part was that the pool was made for you to put your entire body into it. Umm, no thank you. I don't want to know where all my dead skin is!
|By some Chinese New Year decorations, doing the|
traditional Chinese "victory" sign.
|Running to the room.|
|Lovely lady waiting at the Cebu airport.|
|That's a real coconut!|
|What the McClintock family really likes to do on vacation...read!|
|The kids play area and slides.|
|One of the pools.|
|Who said we can't have ice cream for lunch?|
|Two tired and slightly sunburned sisters.|
We spent part of a day in the actual town of Cebu. The explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu in the 1500's. He placed a large wooden cross on the island and now the original cross in encased in a new cross at a little pavilion. In an attempt to seize control of the area (an important trade route), Magellan decided to invade Mactan Island (the island that our hotel was on)...this did not go well and he was unceremoniously "buried at sea" near the island by the local natives.
Near the site of Magellan's cross is the Basillica of Santo Nino. When Magellan landed he brought a statue of the Christ child as a gift for the wife of the Rajah of Cebu. There is a huge festival where the statue is carried through the streets and then dressed in new clothes.
|A date night, even in the Philippines.|
When we got home I was motivated to finish a craft project that I had envisioned. We took the sea coral that we had gathered along the beach and spelled out the girls' names. I paired their names with a picture of each girl from our vacation and I think the results were pretty good. I think I was even happier that I finished a project within a year of deciding to do it!