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Dili - Bali - Manila

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.


Danny is 40 minutes early to pick us up for our flight to Bali this morning. He looks – and feels – rotten, with a fever, and tells us he spent the whole previous day in bed. I feel awful for having passed on our illness to him (with hindsight, we think it was probably Covid)

David goes for breakfast; I am still feeling pretty rough, so I ask him to bring me back some toast and butter. He also pays the bill while he is down there.

We are already packed and ready to go when Danny arrives, so we go straight to the airport. Just as we are getting in the car, a staff member comes running, claiming we paid the bill for Room 5 instead of our room (2), leaving us to fork out an additional $57. The AC in the car is still not fixed, but thankfully it is a short journey.

President Nicolau Lobato International Airport

The airport terminal is not yet open this morning, but there are some benches just outside the entrance where we can sit and wait. We tell Danny to go back home to bed rather than wait with us.

After a short while, an official beckons us in to the very casual check-in area, with just one simple desk and a couple of workers. All the luggage has to go through an X-ray to enter, and mine sets the alarm off, but no-one takes any notice whatsoever. The usual procedure follows: he takes our passports and prints boarding cards for us, as well as labels for the luggage. There is no conveyor belt, so the bags are manually moved to one side. I guess there are not many flights each day here, so there is unlikely to be a mix-up. Our carry-on bags have not been given a second glance so far.

A porter and wheelchair arrive, and we head for Immigration, where a counter is opened up, especially for us. The porter kindly completes the forms on our behalf and pushes me through the security scanner in the wheelchair, which makes the machine scream angrily, of course. Not one single worker as much as looks in our direction, however, and the porter merely carries on to open a door into the waiting area.

There is wifi here, but it is password-protected, and none of the workers seem to know what it is

The porter takes me straight through the door to the waiting aircraft before the flight has even been announced, prompting some irate side glances from a group of Americans who have been lined up by the exit from the moment the plane arrived. A member of the crew carries my luggage up the stairs to the plane and promptly arranges for the passenger in 2F (we have seats 2 D and E) to be moved so that we can spread out in three seats for the two of us.

The letters FOO on the back of the uniform that the airport workers are wearing, make me think of the popular music group with the same name

A big group of Japanese board the aircraft, with the first person – presumably the boss of a group of workers - sitting in Economy Plus just across from us. All her colleagues are further back in 'cattle class', and each and every one of them bows respectfully as they pass her.

With my sinuses still being full of infection, my ears feel like they are going to burst when the plane takes off. I soon manage to fall asleep, though (I struggle to keep awake on a plane), and only wake up when the food arrives.

Today’s in-flight meal is as delicious as the one on the way to Dili: special yellow rice served with sweet marinated red chilli Habang-style meat, sautéed beans and tempeh, chopped chilli, and fried shallots.


The information on the packaging amuses me, however, stating the energy count as 437.89 kcal. How do they know this so precisely? Do they count each grain of rice before packing, as surely just one more would make it 437.92 calories? (According to the internet, the calorific value of a single grain of rice is 0.031)


As we start our descent, the cockpit door flies open. A steward closes it, but before she has even has the chance to secure her seatbelt, it flies open again. And again. Not very secure is it?

I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport

A wheelchair is waiting for me at the bottom of the steps as I exit the plane, taking me to the transfer bus. While I am more than capable of walking that very short distance, it seems rude to refuse as they have gone to the special effort. Thankfully there is a seat available on the bus (having to stand for the journey would have been way more difficult than the short walk).

The arrivals terminal is very well organised with numerous lanes for immigration – all of which we bypass as a result of my being pushed in a wheelchair by a porter. I flash my electronic visa, and I am dealt with in just a couple of minutes.


The procedure in the Customs Hall is the same, I get pushed past a long line of people waiting, the QR Code on my phone gets scanned, and I am through to the luggage hall.


The bags seem to be jet-propelled from the underbelly of the airport, arriving on the carousel with such force that they hit it with a serious thump, and the buffer at the end has suffered some damage as a result. I worry about the state of our bags, but they appear to be fine.


What a difference to last week’s arrival here at Bali airport, the procedures are running so much smoother at the International Terminal than they did at Domestic, and the organisation cannot compare at all to arrival at Makassar (same country, different island), which seems like months ago. Here there is no chaos or stress, it is clean, modern, and calm.

The expression “exit through the shop” has been taken to the extreme here. The walkway leading out from the luggage is in a deliberate zigzag maze, passing by dozens and dozens of shops, car hire companies, money exchange bureaus, and small stalls selling local SIM cards. Many of these stores have pretty, scantily-clad girls outside, holding up placards advertising their wares. All to maximise sales opportunities.

I’ve never seen so many boards with passengers’ names on them waiting as when we finally get through the shopping arcade and into the meeting area of the airport. We soon find our driver, and before he goes off to fetch the car, he explains that he was waiting for us at the domestic terminal, and panicked when he realised his mistake. He made it here before us, though, and that’s the main thing.

Harris Tuban Hotel

The hotel is literally a few hundred metres from the airport exit, and even with the one-way systems resulting in a much longer journey than as the crow flies, it still only takes a few minutes to reach our hotel. We’re in the same room as last time, and while I get settled in, David goes off to the local store to treat himself to a couple of bottles of cider.



The waitress recognises us from last week, which is nice, and we order some food from the now-familiar menu. The selection is not great, but as this is an airport hotel where guests generally stay no more than one or two nights, it doesn’t matter.

My chicken sausages with mash and BBQ sauce

David chooses the Ultimate Platter.

Still feeling unwell, feverish, and shaky, I go straight to bed afterwards.

Saturday 7th October 2024 - Bali - Manila


After being up five times in the night feeling unwell, I don’t get out of bed until 09:10, and then only because I worry about missing breakfast which finishes at 10:00.

The restaurant is very busy, but our favourite waitress manages to find us a small table. For the last few days, I have been so looking forward to the wonderful fried bananas they have at their breakfast buffet, so when there are no bananas left, I am sorely disappointed. I struggle to finish a small pastry, whereas David, who seems to be over the worst of his illness, has a starter of Chocopops, followed by a complete fried breakfast. Just as last night, I feel shaky and spaced out, and place the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the outside of our bedroom door and return to bed after breakfast.

I spend the day chilling in the air-conditioned room, feeling quite sorry for myself. David meanwhile, goes off to find a barber for a haircut.


We are now on day 32 of a 56-day trip, so we have booked a day room here in Bali so that we can recharge our batteries before the next section. Little did we know just how much that has been necessary, with us both suffering flu-like symptoms for the last few days. Our flight is not until 01:00 tomorrow morning, so we have all day to chill before being picked up at 21:30 for the short journey to the airport.

Waiting in the hotel lobby for our transfer

I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport

Today’s porter is a tiny and very slight girl, who really struggles to push the wheelchair with me in it the long, long distance from check-in to the gate. Gate 9 seems to be one of the furthest away, and David offers the girl some relief as he pushes the wheelchair for a while. After an annoying gate change taking us back towards the way we came, we finally get to board the plane.

Philippine Airlines flight from Bali to Manila

The seat numbering on this plane confuses me no end. We are in 33 H and J, so we assume we are at least halfway down towards the back of the plane. Not so. After a mere three rows of Business Class, Economy starts with row 30. I sleep through most of the four-hour flight and wake just before landing.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila

As with many of the airports we’ve encountered on this trip, there is a dedicated Special Assistance lane at immigration, where they surprisingly don’t want to see the e-visas QR code on the phone.

When we get to the luggage carousel, only two bags, with large PRIORITY stickers on them, are going around on the conveyor belt: ours. The rest of the luggage has not arrived yet. Wow!

On the way out we pass by a health scanner taking temperatures but are not asked to partake.

The airport has dedicated numbered areas for passengers to wait for their pick-ups, which stops everyone congregating in one place as you leave the terminal. We quickly see our names on a board, and David goes off with the rep to load the bags, by the time I manage to get out of the wheelchair, I have lost sight of them. Thankfully David realises that I am missing, and comes back to get me.

Manila city is thronging with people, which is rather surprising at 05:30 on a Sunday morning, but we soon discover why: the main boulevard is closed off for hundreds of runners and cyclists to take part in an organised event. It is scheduled at this time on a Sunday so as not to cause so much disruption to traffic and other road users.

Hotel Bay Leaf

Located inside the old city walls, the arrivals area of the hotel is impressive, with a large, bright lobby and reception area.


Our room is the furthest away in a corridor, on the fifth floor, with views over the old town walls and the main road. The layout is rather strange, it’s a big L-shaped room, divided in two by a low wall with a TV atop, with a writing desk and another bed on the other side. The shower and toilet are positioned off on the right, halfway down the corridor that leads to the front door. It’s a corner room, but the L shape does not follow the corner, and it’s not a perfect L, it has ‘chunks’ missing, like an H added to a rectangular room. I have never stayed in a room with such an unusual layout before.


It is now 06:00, and we go straight to bed for a few hours before embarking on an exploration of the city.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing Grand Tour of South East Asia.


Posted by Grete Howard 09:17 Archived in Philippines Tagged bali indonesia airport philippines security manila haircut immigration cider porter wheelchair customs barber east_timor undiscovered_destinations covid special_assistance harris_tuban_hotel timor_leste president_nicolau_lobato_intern airport_formalities i_gusti_ngurah_rai_internationa bali_airport luggage_carousel exit_through_the_shop ninoy_aquino_international_airp bay_leaf_hotel

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Wow, what a journey, I guess you guys are glad to have been arrived in the Philippines

by Ils1976

The Philippines was our favourite part of the trip, although we enjoyed everything.

by Grete Howard

My best friend loved the Philippines as well, so I more than curious to read all about your experience. It is on my list as well. Finding time is something else. 🤪🤪🤪

by Ils1976

Time and money are the two biggest obstacles to travel :(

by Grete Howard

I'm going to enjoy following this section of your trip as we're thinking of the Philippines for next year :)

by ToonSarah

We really enjoyed the Philippines, Sarah, so much so that it has moved into our top 5 favourite countries. There is so much to see, so much variety, the people are great, as is the food. ♥

by Grete Howard

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