My wife Lydia and I just returned from our first trip out of the Philippines since relocating here over five years ago. It turns out that the concerns that I mentioned in my previous post "A New Adventure" were baseless. Our I-cards (along with valid passports of course) got us through Immigration upon both leaving and returning in just a few minutes It took a bit longer when exiting the country because of the P2,880 per person yearly departure tax transaction for which we were prepared anyway. Also it helps that the tax collection agent is at the same window as the immigration officer. The process would have taken even less time if we hadn't fallen into the wrong line upon our arrival at NAIA.
On our return trip, the plane was full, and I was concerned that this would result in a huge traffic jam at immigration at NAIA, along with baggage retrieval delays and competition for taxis. As it turns out, it really wasn't bad at all. None of these areas were congested. However, airport taxi fares are quite a bit more expensive (more than double the rate) than their counterparts that ply the streets of Metro-Manila.
The vacation itself was a wonderfully unforgettable experience. We went on several tours in both London and Paris. Still, we barely scratched the surfaces of these great cities. We were also satisfied with the service that we received on our flights via Cathay Pacific to and from our destination.
I don't understand how anyone can travel abroad and not take home a new perspective on the world. Yet I know of people, Filipino and American tourists alike, who have visited other countries and come home completely unaffected by their travels. For example while overseas, they patronize restaurants that serve only the dishes that they get at home and hang only with their fellow nationals rather than sample the local culture. With that kind of mentality, why even go abroad in the first place?
It's unlikely that Lydia and I will ever be able to afford to go to Europe again. But it's that very circumstance that will make this vacation all the more special. And we'll still be able to revisit London and Paris any time we want to—in our memories.
Photos of our trip are posted on Shutterfly.