The ‘Bullet Scam’ at Manila Airport

The ‘Bullet Scam’ at Manila Airport

Before heading to the Philippines, there was one thing which really concerned me. This was the Bullet Scam. As I mentioned in a previous post, this scam is where Manila airport security people plant a bullet in your luggage. The first security check is fine, it’s not until you have the second security check already in the airport that this is when it happens.

The security people secretly plant it when you aren’t looking, and then call you over and tell you there is something suspicious in your bag. Low and behold, they find a bullet! You are not allowed to carry ammunition into the airport, so obviously this is a big deal.

Apparently the only way to get out of this is to give them money. Or else be held in the airport.

After we read about this we became extremely worried!

So you know what we did, we went out and bought ourselves some cling film and cello tape. We could wrap this around our bags and tape the zips! We definitely didn’t want our holiday to be ruined before it even began!

So the day came to leave, and I had the cling film and tape in my bag, wondering to ourselves when we should wrap our bags.

From Chengdu, we arrived in Manila airport after about 3 hours…. and we were looking around… and NO ONE had their bags wrapped. Not one person. We were thinking “ok… why isn’t anyone wrapping their bags?? Do they not know about this scam???”

And then we end up at our gate… relaxing until our next flight to Puerto Princesa. That was easy!!

When we arrived in Puerto Princesa we then had to take a 6 hour van right to El Nido. We were with another 8/9 people and I decided to ask them if they heard of this scam.

Nope, none of them heard a thing! I thought that strange, all over the internet in 2015 you heard of this scam happening… but apparently now it must have stopped!

So all that worrying over nothing! Oh and bringing cling film and tape with us!

When we were leaving El Nido, we decided to fly with Air Swift straight to Manila, instead of having to take the 6 hour van right. Once was enough!

El Nido airport is tiny! It’s not really an airport at all, it’s more like a big hut: the roof was covered with straw and it was all made out of wood. They even had free coffee, iced tea, juice and a little food. Don’t be expecting to go online though, there is no wifi there.

At the airport they don’t have an x-ray machine so they have men looking through your bags. He pulled out the cello tape and asked me “Why do you have this?? This is not allowed.”… I laughed and said “Oh it’s a long story”… he said again “You aren’t allowed this on the plane” to which I said “It’s ok… I can leave it here”.

The security men were really nice to us though!

So flying back to Manila we didn’t have our cello tape, but we didn’t mind. We realised that the scam must be over and we would be ok.

So if you are heading to Manila airport maybe check online and see if this scam is back up and running. You don’t want to be stuck in Manila airport I assure you!

再见

爱玲

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Transferring At Manila Airport

Having heard some bad things about Manila Airport, we weren’t exactly too keen on having to transfer there. Our friends who have travelled through it didn’t particularly enjoy their experience, and there are plenty of negative reports about it on the internet.

Coming back from El Nido, we needed to wait at the airport for about 11 hours until our next flight, which was at 4:55am. We didn’t want to go into Manila itself: we still had another 2 flights to go and we just wanted to relax until it was time to depart. We knew we would be exhausted by the time we arrive back in China. Before arriving at the terminal, we both decided we would just stay at the airport and relax there.

Our plane landed at the airport at around 2:30pm… and we took the shuttle to our terminal. Oh my god the place was mad! There were people everywhere, because they check your documents even before you enter the terminal, there was a big queue outside waiting to get in!

When we got in, there were loads of people. And this was where we would be staying for the next 11 hours……

At this point we were starving, so we asked where we could get some food. Apparently in the terminal that we were in, the options available to us was the cafeteria or a place called Jollibee, the Filipino equivalent of McDonalds. So we opted to go to Jollibee.

The food wasn’t too bad, it’s just because everyone else had the same idea of eating there… there was a big queue and plenty of people eating!

So after our meal, we found the waiting area…. right next to the restaurant stuck in the corner of the airport. And it definitely wasn’t big enough for the amount of people there. The seats were metal and nearly every one of them was taken.

Looking at the waiting area… we really didn’t want to have to spend our time there…. it definitely wasn’t relaxing. So after a short discussion, we decided to rent a room in a hotel nearby. All we wanted to do was relax, and we weren’t going to be able to do here.

Now we had to find someone who could help us organise this. We went over to a security man and lady and we asked them where could we do this. They told us to wait nearby and they would call an airport hotel for us. Both of us were so surprised! They were busy doing their job but they decided to help us out and the man left and started talking on the phone. They were so nice and helpful.

The lady told us to sit at the waiting area and when the car arrived she would find us. And so we waited until she beckoned us to follow her. We were blown away by their helpfulness. They really didn’t need to help us, but they did. Throughout our whole holiday we were amazed at how friendly the people in the Philippines are. And this was one example of it!

So when we arrived at the hotel, we were so so happy we decided to book a room. We didn’t really want to be spending money for a hotel that we weren’t even spending a whole night in. But at Manila airport, it was just too crowded, busy, and certainly  not somewhere I wanted to spend all day at.

If you are transferring through Manila, my suggestion is to think about lay over times and whether it would be better booking a hotel or maybe go into the city and explore.

When we arrived back at the airport at 2am, thankfully it was much much quieter!

*TIP: When entering the airport, there is a security person who will check your documents (they don’t allow people who aren’t travelling into the airport). Make sure you print out your ticket details. Luckily for us we had ours to show. It just makes it easier for yourself if you have it in paper for them. I don’t know what will happen if you don’t have your flight details for them to show.

**TIP: If you decided to go to the fast food restaurant, you will need to put your bags through security all over again when entering the airport. The food court is technically inside the airport, but after eating, you need to exit the airport AGAIN and re-enter through security.  Pretty annoying!

***TIP: For us, when we arrived at our gate, there was a table where we had to allow security people to check our bags AGAIN. They opened our small bags and searched inside, while they just felt our big bags. This may not happen you but just be aware of it.

So we survived Manila airport, but I don’t fancy visiting it anytime soon!

再见

爱玲

What A PERFECT Holiday To El Nido, Philippines.

What A PERFECT Holiday To El Nido, Philippines.

We have just returned home from having a blast in El Nido, Philippines. Having never been to a place like it, to me it was like paradise. Crystal clear water, white sand, cocktails and relaxing… it was perfect. Plus my boyfriend proposed to me on a spectacular beach! What a surprise!

It was just a perfect trip. Well almost a perfect trip! Our second day there I got very very badly sunburned on my legs and feet while kayaking… to the point that I could hardly walk. I thought that would ruin the holiday, but I persevered through the pain and they are slowly getting better now.

With travelling included, we were there 10 days. And I definitely could have stayed longer!

The weather was great, it wasn’t too hot or cold, the prices weren’t  expensive ( cocktails cost around €3, a 6percent beer was about €1) and the Filipino people are just so friendly!!! We both couldn’t believe how friendly everyone is. They always said ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ when they addressed us. The people we met were really really friendly.

I would definitely recommend a trip. Although it is a little difficult to get there, it is definitely worth it!

We are so sad to be back in China; but we have great memories from our trip!

Where we stayed in El Nido;

Aqua Travel Lodge:

Liked: We really don’t have anything to complain about Aqua Travel Lodge: the staff were friendly, our room was perfect, it was actually quite cheap for it being the busy season. The location is perfect: right next to the beach and beside some lovely restaurants. Right in the middle of everything which is great.

There are quite a few bad reviews coming from people, but come on… if you are expecting a mini bar and a fridge in your room, annoyed at the instant coffee they give you for breakfast.. then you should be looking at more top range hotels. For us, we thought the hotel was perfect.

Anyway, you will be so busy going on tours to different islands and out enjoying El Nido town that you’ll only be at the hotel for sleeping!

Disliked: Breakfast was so so in my opinion, but the pancakes and the waffles were fine. But it was included in the price so we opted to keep having breakfast there.  Also it’s a bit noisy at night on the right side of the building, as there is a popular restaurant located close by, so I would suggest you ask your room to be on the opposite side.

But apart from that… no complaints! I would recommend staying here if you plan on going to El Nido!

再见

爱玲

Getting Away From The Pollution

With our lungs being savaged by Chengdu’s pollution, we’ve decided to run off and enjoy  El Nido, an area with thousands of little islands in the Philippines. This holiday is all about relaxing; lying on the beach, maybe having some cocktails, swimming and snorkelling… and no work in sight!

el-nido

Source;thelonelyplanet.com

We will be there for about 10 days, including traveling. We were deciding whether to travel more around the country, see the Chocolate Hills and what not, but in the end we decided just to say in El Nido; we really just want to relax and enjoy ourselves… and not have to worry about going here and going there. It’s a hassle just to get to El Nido!

First we have to get a plane from Chengdu to Manila… then we have to get another plane to Puerto Princessa… finally we have to get a 6 hour bus ride to El Nido. On the way we have to worry about this ‘Bullet Scam’ that has been happening in Manila airport. This is when the security officers in Manila airport plant a bullet in your luggage. This is usually when your bag is out of your sight. Then they call you over and mysteriously they find a bullet, which is illegal of course!

To sort this out, you usually have to go to the atm and give them cash. I’ve read online that everybody wraps their luggage with cling film in the airport.. and that’s exactly what we will be doing!

So it’s not quite relaxing getting to El Nido!

Then on the way back, we have to get a plane to Manila, wait all day until our flight to Shanghai, and then finally another to Chengdu.

haha I’ll need ANOTHER holiday after that journey!

We were actually planning on going to Thailand and volunteer looking after elephants, but unfortunately they were booked out, so El Nido it was!

See you in a day!

再见

爱玲

 

The Perfect Apartment Is Very Hard To Find (In Chengdu Anyway)

With Chinese Spring Festival arriving soon and with our apartment contract expiring in March, we decided to get a head start on apartment hunting for our next year in China. After the Spring Festival, everyone will be in a mad rush to look for an apartment, so they will likely be snatched up pretty quickly after the festival.

As we will be away a week prior to the festival, we decided to start today looking for some. Ideally we want to stay in the community that we are already in; it’s in an ideal place, located beside a main road but there is also a back entrance where restaurants are located and we can also go to school and work that way.  So that is one thing. Another one is because the metro is now just a 10/15 minute walk away. Finally, we don’t really want to be lugging our things miles away!

When we were looking for apartments before, we got a Chinese person to help us… but this time we decided to have a go by ourselves! In our community there is an estate agent so  we went to them and they asked us what type of apartment we wanted, the price etc. He showed us some pictures on his ipad and we chose to see 5 of them.

Off we went on our little adventure!

The first one was located on the 2nd floor and out of the 5, and we thought this was the best one which we had seen. I’d prefer if it was located a bit higher, but I suppose we wouldn’t need to take the elevator! We looked for all the necessities: air con, comfy sofa and what not.

So… the first one was ok. Let’s check out the rest.

Well, the last 4 weren’t exactly in the best shape. In one, the kitchen was full of mouse droppings. Another had a bad stain on the bed. In another, the sofa wasn’t in a very good condition.

When we finished viewing them all, my boyfriend said “Every apartment has imperfections… that’s fine… but there are just TOO MANY  imperfections”.

That was the problem; all the apartments just aren’t looked after well enough; the sofas are old and dirty, there’s mould on the side of the wall, they didn’t paint a bit of the wall, a lightbulb (or many) are broken, no curtains, a broken drawer,the lock on a window is broken, theres no table….All these little things add up though. With the first one, there were imperfections, but not as many as the others.(that we could see) haha maybe that’s why we liked it more.

Oh and one thing that really drives me mad..and it seems many Chinese people like these; putting tacky stickers on the walls. AAAGHH it drives me mad! Stickers of flowers or cartoons adorn walls and on fridges.. I really don’t know what they were thinking “oh this wall looks plain, I’ll stick some green leaves so we can pretend we are in a forest”

img_0057

AAAGGHH…TOO…MANY…STICKERS…

And the thing is, if you try and rip them off, half the paint comes off with it, because it’s cheap paint. Oh I’ll never understand this love of stickers…

I could imagine the apartments and what they were like when they were brand new; shiny, clean… but you can see that the landlords just don’t put the effort into them anymore… every year they are getting shabbier and shabbier looking. It’s a pity though. They would be pretty nice apartments if they were maintained.

When we came back to our current one, we realised why we chose this one; there weren’t many imperfections. The walls were just painted, the kitchen was fine. It was presentable and clean looking. The only thing was the paint stains on our sofa, so we quickly covered that with a throw-over, and we can’t put heavy things in our kitchen shelf or else the weight will break it, oh and our coffee tables leg is broken. (ok so there are also a few imperfections in our current apartment!)

We could easily stay in the one we are in right now, but of course with the new metro opened, the landlady is just dying to increase the rent by 300yuan per month. about €41. Fine… just get us a door for our bedroom, fix our shelf.. oh and buy us a decent sofa.. then we’ll pay it! But right now… nope, it’s not worth the extra money.

But anyway…that’s the problem about apartment hunting in China. Unless you want to pay huge amounts of money, you’re going to end up with somewhere that needs some TLC.

So tomorrow we will head out again in our search; contact some agencies from outside our community. Maybe they can help us find a suitable one!

再见

爱玲

Wanting To Leave

For the past few weeks I’ve had this nagging feeling of just wanting to leave. Get away from China, leave work, leave school, not have to deal with everything ‘China’ and just go back home to my family… drink tea and be surrounded by Irish people.

A few things have made me feel like this. The first one is definitely the weather. Right now the PM2.5 in Chengdu is apparently 500. I’m just so fed up of this pollution. We’re stuck in all day with our air purifier on full blast afraid to go outside because it’s so bad. You wake up and it’s smoggy and dull… then that’s it for the whole day. The next day, wake up and it’s smoggy and dull. Everyday is the exact same…slowly killing us if we venture outside. I’m perplexed at how people can have babies and raise them in this horrific weather. Just throw a mask on them and they are good to go. I’d never put my child through that.

I don’t think we’ve seen the sun for the past 2 weeks.

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You want to die faster? Come to Chengdu!

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It’s only Hazardous

 

So yeah, that’s one reason why I just want to get up and go.

The next is with the company I work for. I’ve only signed a full time contract in December, then all of a sudden they tell us ‘Oh we are starting a new thing; the classes are only going to be 40 minutes or 80 minutes long and we are going to group students as 1-1 groups or 4-1 groups. No 2 or 3 group students.

So that means for me, I’ll have 4 students in a class or just me and 1 student, and no 1 hour classes. Because they will be 40 minutes long I’ll have to add more classes to fill my hours. 40 minutes, what the hell are you going to get done for 40 minutes??!!You can just about get something done for 45.

Then, they are going to increase the price for 1-1 groups, apparently by a lot of money, so this will make the parents choose 4-1 classes.

When I first started working with the company it was good to work for. Their motto was ‘We are like a family’… and it did feel like that for a while. Then they started getting greedy…

‘Oh we need MORE campuses!!’

‘We need to infiltrate EVERY city in China!’

‘We need MORE students!!’

‘We need to be the BEST IN CHINA!!’

‘We need MONEY MONEY MONEY!!!!’

So the company is getting bigger and bigger and wanting more and more money.. and ultimately they are loosing sight on the most important thing; giving good education to their students.

Now, the parents will get angry because we’re not teaching them enough in the time given, they won’t learn as quickly because they have to contend with another 3 students in their class, and finally because they are being forced to pay a lot more money.

I really love teaching my students, and all of their parents are lovely, but I really do feel sorry for them having to put up with all these changes. I know my students parents are well off (if they can afford to pay such high prices for the courses) but still, if they pay such a high price, then they need to get a good deal with it.

I’m just so annoyed at the fact that the company can change all this and just expect us teachers to put up with it. It’s us and our PA’s that will get the brunt of the parents anger, simply because we won’t be able to teach their children as well as before.

Also, us teachers have no input whatsoever in their activities. We have a Teacher Manager and if we have any troubles or worries we can tell them and then they tell the people higher up. The managers can give their input about what is working and what’s not working, but at the end of the day, the company doesn’t listen to any of it. My manager told me that she told the company that this new change won’t work and that they don’t support it… but of course they didn’t listen to it and they are still going ahead.

And the thing is, I still have another 11 months of work left. I’m annoyed that no one told me this was going to happen until after I signed my contract!

My campus also wants me to add an extra teaching day because I won’t be able to reach my hours teaching 3 days… You know I’d love to say to them ‘I don’t like these new changes that I didn’t even know about, you expect us to teach just 40 minutes of class, with a group of 4 students and still manage to somehow maintain the same level of teaching… and you are ripping off all the parents here… so I quit’.

The only reason why we decided to stay another year was to keep learning Chinese and so I could work more and earn more money so we can travel and that. I was happy with the way things were at work and I didn’t mind taking on more students. Now I’m just annoyed at them and I don’t want to work for them anymore.

Aghh but I’ll see how things go in the next few weeks. Maybe all these changes won’t happen. But I know there are going to be a lot of angry teachers and parents if it does.

再见

爱玲

My Resolutions For 2017

With 2016 being quite a crappy year; the attacks all over Europe,  lots of celebrity deaths (which unfortunately will become more and more common),  the shock US election, and finally with Brexit… but, the year is nearly over! Hopefully 2017 won’t be as bad!

So I’ve decided to try my hand (again) and write my 2017 Resolutions.

1. Study Chinese

This time however, I’m really going to try and give it my all. Unsure of what we will do for 2018, I’d like to study as much as possible before I leave China. Read more Chinese books for learners, listen to more TV Series/ films. Try and speak more. If I don’t speak more I’d ideally like my listening to improve. Ha so my listening will be fantastic, but I won’t be able to speak a word!

2. Loose weight.

I’m never going to be as slim as all these Chinese girls, but I’d like to loose a little weight and become fitter. I’ll continue the cycling and start going running around our community.

3. Take up a hobby.

I’ve always said ‘studying Chinese is my hobby’… but when I start getting stressed about it, then I realise its not exactly a relaxing hobby. I’m thinking of learning how to make a few dishes, as I think knowing how to cook is important… oh and life saving! I’ll admit it, I don’t like cooking. I just don’t. But it’s a part of life so I really should learn. The thing is in China it’s just much more difficult.

Firstly, we don’t have a working over. Second we don’t have any cooking utensils, say for example a pan for the oven. It’s not like I don’t want to buy these things, its just the fact that we don’t want to buy them and then end up moving and having to sell it all. Plus our apartment is becoming smaller and smaller with each thing we buy. Third, it’s difficult to get the ingredients. There are green vegetables in Walmart here and I have no idea what they are! I’d need to take a photo of each veg and send it to my Mum so she could tell me what they are.Forth, they might not have the ingredient for a certain dish.

I look forward to going back home and being able to know exactly what I’m buying and where to buy it!

(I know… number 3 is just full of excuses!)

4. Save money

I’d like to have saved some money during this year; mainly for when I go back home or go to Mexico.

5. Travel more

During 2016 we travelled in China, so in 2017 I’d like to travel more outside of it and see South East Asia, maybe New Zealand, Japan….I’d like to visit these places before I leave China anyway!

6. Figure out what to do with my life.

This is an important one. Every year that goes by… we say to ourselves ‘ok, we need to figure out what we are doing after Chengdu… are we going to move to a different city/ country? Back to Ireland or go to Mexico?’ But then it’s always ‘We’ll study a year and then decide’. I suppose the reason why I stress about life is because I feel I’m stuck in China trying to learn this language and I’m putting my life on hold just for this language that won’t bloody stick in my head.  I can’t be spending my life learning Chinese because by the time I learn it it’ll be time to settle down and maybe start a family…

Ideally my plan is to go home, do a course related to tourism, gain some work experience, then go to Mexico and learn Spanish. I’ll continue learning Chinese myself. But I’ll miss China a lot. I’ll write a post about what I’ll miss about China when I leave.

So these are my new resolutions. Let’s hope I can manage them so I’ll be happy with myself this time comes around next year!

Happy New Year To All My Followers!

再见

爱玲