Philippines: Bacolod and the Airport Run

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Stormy Bacolod

I just needed a quick hop over to Bacolod in the north of Negros so I could catch my flight to Manila (ugh) and then back to Hong Kong. I managed to share Driftwood’s boat with some other travellers back to Sipalay so it wasn’t as expensive. In Sipalay, head towards the market/shops and the buses will pick you up outside the Environment & Natural Resources building. We waited about half an hour for the Bacolod bus. They run everyday and it cost 209php for the 6 hour journey which included plenty of pointless stops.

Bacolod’s an OK place. There are pavements (a rarity in the Philippines) and loads of great places to eat. The food court at SM City was actually really tasty. The food courts in Asia are stacks above what we have in the UK and I managed to get a delicious adobo with rice, noodles, spring rolls and a drink for around 150php. I of course topped it off with one of the nicest chocolate cakes I’ve ever had. If you’re in SM City, head to Felicia’a for some seriously massive slices of cake.

I chilled in Bacolod the next day until my evening flight. The airport is far out of town so you can either get a taxi (which are expensive apparently) or take one of the shuttle buses. I think there are various companies who do this. The one I took left from just outside SM City North Wing at the transport terminal (opposite the People’s Market). The minibuses run throughout the day until 5.30pm and cost 100php for the 40 minute journey. The company is called Meca-J but double check the schedule before you go.

After a delayed flight, I arrived in Manila in the early hours, immediately looking forward to leaving, though the capital was a lot calmer than when I left it during Christmas week. As I had time to kill, the next morning I walked from my hostel to SM Mall of Asia, a gigantic shopping centre where I could eat my final delicious Asian meal in the Philippines. I then once again planned to bypass Manila’s horrendous taxi system by grabbing a shuttle bus to the airport. It’s easy and very cheap (20php per journey) but not for people who are short on time.

There are detailed instructions on this brilliant site here and here but the gist of it is to walk to Pasay Rotonda near Taft station. Look out for the McDonalds next to Dunkin’ Donuts and Chowking, as well as SOGO hotel. There’s a small walkway which leads into a bus terminal. Veer left where the buses are waiting and you should see the tatty sign below. After about 10 minutes of waiting, the small white shuttle bus (with no sign on it) arrived and we headed off.

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Here’s the only catch – this shuttle bus goes to Terminal 3 only. As my flight was from T2, I hopped off the bus at T3,and walked down to the terminal ‘bus station’ opposite the metered taxis. There should be two signs – Route 1 and Route 2. Route 1 hops between all of the terminals, again for 20php. It’s supposed to be T3 – T4 – T2 – T1 but ours went to T1 before T2. Make sure you double check what terminal the bus has stopped at.

The funny thing was that it took longer to get from T3 to T4 than it did to get from Pasay to T3. From Manila, the ride was about half an hour in heavy traffic but getting out of the terminal was a nightmare and I didn’t get to T2 until around an hour after I left. It’s not a service to use if you’re in a hurry, but then Manila’s not the best place to be in if you’re in a hurry either.

So there we have it. After 4 weeks, my Filipino adventure has come to an end. It’s been by far my most stressful travel experience to date but in between the stress and the frustration is a country with plenty of incredible gems, fantastic experiences and truly lovely people. Perhaps it is more fun in the Philippines after all…

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