The downside of traveling

Traveling gave me a different kind of happiness I’ve never realized. I used to believe that traveling is a luxury and intended only for the populace of the upper economic class. With the help of the economy airlines and their promo fares, I was given the chance to explore some parts of the world. Yes, traveling still entails money, which meant setting aside funds. However, with proper planning and prudence, even rank and file employees like me are capable to see the world.

Unfortunately, the happiness of being able to step to another land is accompanied with some points of frustrations. This is another unexpected sentiment I gained from traveling.

When I visited Hong Kong and Taiwan, I was amazed by their systematized public transportation system.

In Hong Kong, they have the so-called octopus card. You have to purchase the card for HKD 50 and load it with your preferred amount. Every time you ride the train or bus, you just have to swipe your octopus card to pay for the fare. Some establishments such as Mc Donalds even accepts the octopus card for payment. Reloading the card with money is equally easy.  Surrender the card to the nearest train station and pay for another prepaid balance.

In the Philippines, do I need to detail everything? The lines of the train have different ticketing system. The stored value card I use for LRT 2 can’t be used to access the MRT. It was only recently when I learned that LRT 2 stored value cards can be used to access LRT 1.

How about the speed of the train? When the second line of the LRT became operational, I was already overwhelmed and thankful for the government’s effort to finally turn it to reality. The more than an hour travel from Marikina to Manila was reduced to 30 minutes. When I tried the trains of Hong Kong, I realized that the recent LRT line 2 has still a lot of rooms for improvement.

In Hong Kong, the travel interval of each coach is 2 minutes. Whew!  The waiting time for the train’s arrival is faster than composing a text message telling your boss or your colleague that “Sorry, I’ll be late, but I’m on my way.” Though to compensate, the coaches of the LRT 2 are way spacious than those in Hong Kong. But if you can provide a train that arrive every 2 minutes, you might no longer need a spacious train to accommodate the volume of passengers.

HK trains operates until midnight. We arrived in HK at around 12 am after our short visit from Macau. We decided to take the expensive taxis since we were not familiar with the trip schedule of their trains. In the Philippines, the last train travels at around 10:30 pm, which still depends to where station are you coming from. To our surprise, HK trains still operate at 12 am. We were able to catch the last trip. Extending the train operations of the MRT or LRT, would be beneficial to commuters who are night shift workers, tired employees from their overtime to students who have to stay late in school for their projects.

HK trains have excellent air conditioning system. Even though the train gets crowded, you will never feel sweating and earn those wet underarms before reporting for work. The only thing I didn’t like about HK trains are the confusing lines. If I’m not mistaken, they have 5 train lines. I was quite confused with the line transfers we have to make to reach our destination.

Taiwan has the railroad and bullet trains. I wasn’t able to try their land based rail road trains. However, the pictures and reviews of other bloggers were enough to develop an equal admiration. What I tried in Taiwan is their bullet or the High Speed Train. The High Speed Train passes in every town in Taiwan. How convenient is that? I know Taiwan is relatively smaller in land area than the Philippines. However, we can’t deny the fact that having trains that extend to every city or province at least in Luzon is heaven sent. Reaching provinces will no longer entail hell hours of waiting and sitting inside the bus. I traveled from Tainan to Taoyuan in Taiwan using the High Speed Train. The distance of Tainan to Taoyuan is like Manila to Pangasinan, if my estimate is correct. Normally, a bus ride from would take around 3 hours, not considering the traffic. In Taiwan, I was able to reach the same distance for 1.5 hours. If we could only bring the same convenience in the Philippines, life, tourism and other economic activities would be way different.

I’ve tried the bus services both in Hong Kong and Taiwan. As expected, their bus system gave me more frustrations. In both countries, there are a few bus lines that are operating. I guess the bus transport system is owned and regulated by the government. In effect, you can never see traffic caused by mere bus congestion.

Bus drivers are courteous, neat and well dressed. A little attitude and cleanliness would go a long way, right? In Hong Kong, you can use the octopus card to conveniently pay for your bus fare. In Taiwan, you can easily buy tickets from each bus station. The U-bus line in Taiwan even operates 24/7 which brings a great convenience to tourists and citizens who have to travel in those wee hours. The buses in Taiwan also arrive and leave on time. I really wish that this would soon happen in the Philippines. Buses in Taiwan leave the station, regardless of the number of passengers. They don’t operate by quota of seat sales. How do you want to have that in the Philippines?

Lastly, the discipline of bus drivers. All buses alight and fetch passengers to a specified bus stop. All bus stops correspond to a certain destination. This simple organization lessens the chance of traffic and congestion. You see, the organization of one entity leads to a systematic flow of the entire city.

After having these realizations, I felt the need to render a huge sigh.  Despite of everything, I would like to emphasize that I don’t hate my country. I love my country. It’s just that at some point, I feel so sad of the fact that “if other countries can make it happen, why can’t my country make it?”

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4 comments

  1. Very valid points about the Philippines’ public transportation system. It’s hard to fix the system the Philippines already have and have gotten used to because there are so many elements that need to be addressed. 1, corruption – which I don’t think I need to expound on. 2. Private operators – I don’t know how much jurisdiction the government has over transportation operators but having a single transportation system controlled and funded by the city will be hard because a lot of people will be out of business and jobs. Here in the US, each city is responsible for funding their own transportation system, from buses to trains. I am sure that some money come from private sector but cities have a centralized system that works for them. I could enumerate so many others but it would make for an entire blog entry. And this lack of order isn’t just evident in our public transport but in traffic engineering as well. Don’t get me started with the tacky pink fences. And I have experienced driving in Manila where streets and u-turns are often changed almost every other week! Our government’s lack of foresight is what’s holding us back. Combine that with the leaders’ undying clamor for self-interest and self-service is a lethal threat to our beloved country.

  2. Pardon me and my comment.

    It is easy to compare *this* country from foreign lands. It is also easy to keep yappin’ and yakkin’ about how undisciplined the bus drivers are or how corrupt the government is. However, I still want to ask, what have you done as an individual to make *this* country better? When one looks at his/her own self as better individuals than that of others, pride starts, and that’s the problem. Has anyone achieved being a perfect citizen that he/she has earned the right to compare and complain?

    We complain about pollution and smoke belching, but have we at least planted trees to reduce the carbon footprint that these bus companies are causing? “NOT MY PROBLEM” I hear you say.

    We complain about corruption, but what do we do when a traffic enforcer pulls us over for ‘violating’ traffic rules & regulations? Do you not participate if not initiate the ‘lagay’ system? “TRAFFIC ENFORCER JUST WANTS MONEY” I hear you say.

    The problem with this country is that we always consider ourselves better that any other citizen. We could never picture ourselves as being part of the problem, let alone be THE problem. It’s always been the government, or the corrupt officials, or the regulatory board, or the department, or the bureau, or the baranggay captain.

    My point is simple. Be the solution you are looking for. If you think that we have a problem with our current transportation system, let’s see you device a new way to solve this. If you think we have economic problems, how are we on managing our own finances? It is easy to point a finger when the finger isn’t pointed our way. If you’re tired of the pink fences along EDSA and major roads, ask yourself, have I not, in anyway, been jaywalking? Ask yourself, what can I do to control these Bus-driving bastards? If you could device a new way, aside from building green fences, then by all means present it. Be heard.

    I still believe that Philippines is way better a country than Taiwan, Hongkong or even Singapore. If only Filipinos would stop complaining and start doing something, we can be that better country.

    1. Hi Babolnart! Before anything else, may I know how did you find my blog?

      Thank you for the comment.. I mean, “guest posting” for my blog 🙂 Your time and effort are highly appreciated! You have a point. Everyone has a responsibility and liability over our country’s set of problems. However, allow me clarify my points too. I’m assuming you fully read my post. If you have noticed, I never pointed or blamed at anyone. I was rather sad and frustrated. What I did in my post is to identify those innovations and conveniences I personally experienced in other countries. A little innovation and improvement can really go a long way, as I have personally witnessed it in other countries. I wanted to relate how these little conveniences can really make everyone’s lives better. Simply to say, there are solutions and innovations that we can also adopt, starting with our public transport system.

      If you have read my last paragraphs, I would like to reiterate that I still love my country despite of everything. The point I’d like to raise is, if other countries can make such level of improvement and innovation, then I believe our country has the capacity to make it happen too. And personally, that’s my dream for our country.

      1. I was blog hopping, then I landed here.

        I’m sorry if my “guest post” appear to be starting a flame war. I am just adamant, passionate and intense on topics like these. I guess you could put the blame on my for loving this country too much. 🙂

        It was not my intention to start a debate but I wanted my statement to make an impact.

        Thanks for approving my last comment 🙂

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