Manilla - just passing!
The plane had landed. It had been a long flight. Washington DC to LA, and on to Manila, the Philippines – about 24 hours.
It was just on 4am and the ‘connecting’ flight to Papua New Guinea was not till 11pm. It was time to do something relaxing. At 4 in the morning there was not many people to ask, but one man representing some hotel reservation service was full of good advice.
I slipped him a few bucks on top of the 6US dollar prepaid taxi fee, and got into the cab heading for the Trader Hotel on the Boulevard. I wanted to try out their health club facilities and have spas and massages all day. As the hotel was part of the Renaissance chain it had to be good.
The driver really wanted to drop me anywhere but there. He was full of good suggestions about alternative hotels where I could get girls for the whole day for the cost of one massage, and she would massage me as well. After he dropped me off at the hotel he reminded me to not forget the tip. I gave him $5 Australian, and went into the hotel to change money,
Now it was 530am, and nothing was open. The street was grungy all around the hotel. People sleeping outside on the concrete, in front of buildings, in the grass. Lots of garbage everywhere, old trucks, jeepnees and other foreign looking objects everywhere.
More coffee in the lobby, some breakfast and some more coffee Watch the people exercising in the streets - see top/bottom photo -, and eventually the health club opened at 830am. I dived in.
Despite the fact that I was in a supposedly good hotel the club was also grungy. The mirrored walls were hardly mirrors. You find this out when you try shaving in them.
I was the only one there, and had shower, cold and hot spa and sauna. The cycle was repeated a few times, after which I asked for a razor. The shaving foam and soap was there. I sure could have used an extra towel, but couldn’t be bothered asking.
The razor presented was the disposable type, and I took off the plastic cover. It was incredibly blunt and obviously used many times before me. I scraped my face clean in the calcium stained mirrors.
Now it was time for the massage. A lovely girl in a white uniform came and gave me a lovely massage. She asked me if I was married, and I eagerly said no. She politely finished her massage and tried to head massage me to sleep. After 25 hours of flying I was too wired to sleep, so she disposed of me in a recliner chair in front of a television. Remote control and juice provided.
Having caught up with the news on CNN I figured it was time to get civilized. A haircut was of the order. The man who did it was friendly. He told me Australia was the one place he always wanted to go to but never made it. He was in the merchant marines or something and had traveled the worlds. I am not sure if he had done many haircuts. He spent 5 minutes on the front of my head, and 45 minutes trimming the rear edges.
The other staff was kind of watching an English movie in the salon, as was I through the mirror. We were happily watching when the woman employee who had spend the past 10 minutes detailing her own hairdo got a hair blower out, and used that for about 15 minutes.
When the barber was done doing my hair I asked him if he could kindly shave two patches of beard under my chine that I had failed to notice in the horrible mirrors. This was interpreted as ‘please shave me’.
What an ordeal that turned out to be! He also used an ancient disposable razor, and wanted to scrape it over my face a hundred times! I let him go for a while, but my face got so raw I had to stop him and tell him about using disposable razors only once. He mumbled something about Asian beards and continued for another 10 minutes. Shaving my earlobes, my forehead. He forgot my nose I think.
In the end I had to tell him to really stop, for real, and that I was sore now. He understood that word and covered my face in invigorating’ cream. He told me it might sting a bit, but that it would be really good. It was a ‘sensational’ cream all right. Eucalyptus smelling and powerful. My eyes were tearing from it.
After the ordeal I asked him what it was that he stuck on my face, and he proudly showed me the little jar from close-up. Vicks Vaporub.
The woman doing her hair had stopped for a bit. She must have spent 45 minutes fixing her hair, and it was a pathetic sight this old hag fussing about her already perfect hairdo. When I left the salon and nodded goodbye to her I wanted to look shocked, walk up to her, wet my finger, and pat down a little fictitious hair down for fun. I couldn’t be that rude unfortunately.
Being noon by now I was ready for lunch. I was invigorated and walked next door to this recommended Japanese restaurant. Although I wanted something Filipino, there really didn’t seem to be much choice in the neighborhood, so Japanese was a wonderful option.
The entrance was unclear, and I found myself knocking on the door of the Boulevard Health Club. Yes, indeed, I could have Japanese lunch there; it was part of their club. First I was tempted by the menu in the health club itself, which was also recommended by the friendly man at the airport. The top item on the menu was VIP treatment, including everything else on the menu. Sure, why not, we only live once.
Into the change room I went. I noticed through the tinted window into the wet-area that there was an older man being washed by a girl, which looked rather odd. It didn’t deter me though, as I was not the faint of heart type.
The sauna was great. A Japanese businessman came in as well, he asked me about saunas. I first explained that one always has a shower before coming in. He smiled. He asked how long you had to stay in the sauna. I told him to stay for as long as comfortable, have a cool shower, come back, and do this 3 times. So the friendly man left the sauna, plunged into the spa without showering, came back to the spa I guess there is a language/cultural barrier there.
After I had enough of the spas and sauna (with showers in between), I noticed the sign: ’VIP customers can ring the bell for a sponge-girl’. I didn’t have to ring, they were there waiting for me. Never had I had my body sponged down by a girl in a public space like this! Complete with shampoo. Next was the massage. In a private room I was massaged good and proper. The girl here too wanted me to fall asleep with a head massage, but not a chance with these pretty girls paying all this attention to me.
The Japanese lunch was pretty ordinary noodles with a good beer, sitting next to my Japanese friend, followed by another sponge bath. The intention was to have another spa/sauna, but the girls were so eager to get their hands on me that one practically dragged me out of the change room to give me a well-deserved sponge bath again. She was extra friendly and offered to accompany me to my hotel. Good thing I had no hotel, she was a very tempting girl. Next was the massage again, and they saw me coming. I told them my twin brother came earlier and recommended a massage here. They looked like they believed me.
It was 5 o’clock when I stumbled out and got my shoes polished before leaving the place. Cab to the airport, had my chicken adobe at some fast food joint at the airport and crawled into the airport lounge to wait for a few more long hours for my ‘connecting’ plane. At least I felt fresh again, and ready for the next two flights that would land me in the Papua New Guinean Highlands.