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Finale (Part 1)

New York, NY

This post recaps the last day in Sydney, my short visit to Manila, and my return home to NYC.

On my last day in Sydney I visited the Blue Mountains and explored the tropical rainforest. I rode a gondola 270 meters above an ancient forest that has existed since the Jurassic Period, then went down into the forest on the steepest cable car in the southern hemisphere. I walked around amongst the ancient trees, breathing in cool, highly oxygenated air, and finally went back up the mountain on the world’s steepest railway. I photographed the beautiful Blue Mountains including the peaks of the Three Sisters. I ate a kangaroo burger (cannot say I loved it, but certainly worth trying). I took an evening ferry along the Parramatta River and into the Circular Quay. During the trip I made a new friend, Michael (HELLO MICHAEL!) and after the tour we went to a secret gin bar in the city, hidden behind a sliding door at the back of a working barbershop. It was a lovely last day!

Thursday I flew to Manila. My plane was delayed by two hours, and the entire flight was quite a mess. But then I finally made it into the city where I met with my friend Rachel (HELLO RACHEL! YOU’VE BEEN READING MY BLOG, RIGHT?). Guess what, it is extremely hot and humid in the tropics! On Friday the driver took me to Intramuros, also known as the Walled City. This is the oldest district in Manila, with a great deal of historical significance dating back to the time of Spanish colonialism. While I initially planned to walk, a man kept pestering me to take a tour on his horse, and I quickly realized that it was far too hot and humid not to take the offer. He took me around, earning some good pesos doing so, and I got an overview of the city and was able to explore and walk around a number of historic sites including Fort Santiago, St Augustine Cathedral, Baluarte de San Diego, and Casa Manila. By the end of it I felt severely tired from the heat and needed to take a rest and get some food at a local fast food place. I’d like to think my tolerance for the heat and humidity improved during my stay.

The next part of Friday’s journey to me to the National Museum of the Philippines, consisting of two buildings – the first focused on artifacts and historic remains, the second on the arts including paintings and sculptures. I was simply blown away by the level of skill and talent on display at the second building. Truly many of these works would fit right in among the masterpieces in any major museum around the world. I was grateful to have the opportunity to see the works by these artists, who are renowned in the Philippines but largely unknown outside of it. I could have spent much more time there, but alas the traffic here is so bad that any trip around the city requires several times longer than the distance would suggest. It was certainly the highlight of my day.

Overall, my brief tour of the city offered a glimpse into how the average person lives in Manila – security guards everywhere, the awful experience of driving on roads with too few traffic signs and lack of traffic enforcement, and Jeepneys and motorbikes all around, but also the overall friendly and cheerful demeanor of the people. Certainly a different world than any I have experienced previously.

Rachel and I finished the night off celebrating her friend’s birthday and I had a lovely time getting to know some new people.

I spent the weekend at Rachel’s beach house and enjoyed the warm waters of Tali beach, which I now miss. I ate a number of traditional Filipino dishes including Sinigang, bbq pork belly, and a variety of fish with names I no longer remember. We had a few drinks and shared some great conversations. It was, as planned, a vacation from my vacation. On returning from the beach we visited the mall where I browsed through Filipino handicrafts and ate dinner at a very authentic (I think?) Japanese restaurant.

And just like that, the days flew by, and it was time to say my farewells and take the eighteen-hour flight home to NYC.

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