Traveling can be fun — seeing new places, eating new foods, meeting new people — but, if you attempt it without knowing what you are getting yourself into, you can have real problems. This is especially true if you are a person of height and girth.
Traveling while big and tall is fraught with challenges, and you need to be creative and flexible if you want to have an enjoyable time on vacation. All it takes is one knock to the head from a low-hung doorway or a tumble to the dirt from a broken cheap plastic chair.
It pays to be aware of the pitfalls!
The Philippines is no different. It’s great if you love beaches, terrific food and drink, adventure, and sunsets that will stay in your memory for a lifetime, but there are problematic things in this country that will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t careful.
I should know — I’ve lived here for eight years.
There are three things you should know about me that you can’t deduce without me telling you: I am fat, tall, and I live in the Philippines. The Philippines is a delightful place, but as much as I would like to say that if ever there was a perfect place on earth, this would be it, my fatness and height tell a different story.
I’m 6 feet tall (183 cm), and at last weigh-in broke the 250-pound mark (113 Kg). It’s hard to get an accurate weight because every scale I find is broken because it’s a cheap import. I was at the doctor a few months ago, and she had one of these small plastic dial-type scales. It wasn’t even digital. I could hear it scream when I stepped on it. When I had my full weight on, I looked at the dial and saw it was spinning quickly. When it finally stopped, it read 53 Lbs. And considering I have trouble seeing my own penis over my stomach, I don’t think that was the right weight.
I’ve experienced more challenges than I can name since I’ve been here, mostly due to my enormous size. I’m a big guy — lanky and dense. Everything in this country was built for people who are smaller in stature and lighter in bulk.
If I tried to warn you of everything that could potentially go wrong for the mass-gifted, this would be a long essay. Instead, let’s do it quick and dirty.
1.) Food and Eating
Before you even look at a menu, there is one key thing you should know. Unless you are eating in one of the higher-end establishments, you must be aware of what kind of chair you will be sitting in.
Eateries all over the Philippines keep costs down by purchasing, in bulk, flimsy plastic chairs from China. These chairs are perfectly acceptable to a normal-sized Filipinos, but sit an extra-large foreign ass in one, and it will crack. I’ve broken at least ten in my time here, and I know I’ve weakened hundreds more.
The chairs are small, too, and you will most likely be half-cheeking during dinner.
Always ask for their strongest chair and try hovering over the seat as if I was in a filthy bathroom. Work those glutes before you travel because you never know when they will come into play.
The food offered in the Philippines is filling and delicious, but if this is your first time abroad, you may want to take it easy. Americans especially have weak immune systems from living in a sanitized society. Take it from me, and my four-day stay in the bathroom of my hospital room — if you’re not used to it, you may fall ill.
Once your immune system stops being a jerk, you will eat, and you will eat a lot. You will find rice served with every meal, so get used to it. I’m sorry if you are vegan because most dishes have meat. Filipinos make delicious dishes from every part of the animal you can think of — from barbeque chicken feet to Sisig made from the head of the pig. If you eat the Sisig, drink a Red Horse beer along with it — the tastes meld perfectly.
But, if you eat enough, you will run into trouble in our next place to watch out for in the Philippines.
2.) The CR (Bathroom)
CR stands for comfort room, and when in the Philippines, if you want to relieve yourself, use that term because no one will know what a bathroom is.
First, when you are out, and you want to wipe, bring your own. I suggest a travel package of wet wipes — but don’t flush them — put them in the trash can next to the toilet. The Filipino septic systems are a bit tricky. Very few places offer toilet paper, but many do offer a bucket of water and a Tabo. A Tabo is a small container with a handle that you can use to wash your bung-hole properly.
Are you confused about how to use it? Allow me to illustrate. Lean forward a little bit and pour water down the crack of your ass and wash away as many particles as you can. Then, as you are pouring, use your other hand to wash away the rest gently. Many CR’s will have soap, and after a few times of soaping the nether, you will love the squeaky-fresh feeling of your butt-crack. Rinse and air dry. Don’t worry if you get a little water on the floor — all CR’s have drains.
Alternately, some fancier places will offer a metal hose with a sprayer that you can use to powerwash your ass. The feeling is like nothing you’ve experienced, so if you have a chance to try it, do it!
The last thing you should watch for is the tiny toilet. You find this in some of the older houses, and I imagine they are there to save space. These things are small! The hole is smaller than a basketball, and the bowl is not deep. Nine times out of ten my bits will be floating in the water. When I scoot down in a sitting position, my knees are higher than the top of my head. I’m sure it’s a laugh riot to see, but if you have to experience it, I feel sorry for you.
No, it not one of those squat toilets, but it may just be easier to use if you squat.
But you won’t spend all your time in the CR. Eventually, you will need to go somewhere else.
Public transportation in the Philippines is a thing of beauty. The Philippine people cover every part of your trip for every budget. If you are well-off, hire a driver to take you everywhere. If you are broke, don’t worry.
When leaving the airport, you can take a bus, a van, or a taxi. Once outside, you still have these options, but a whole new world opens for you.
Step out of the cab and jump in a jeepney. It is just what it sounds like — a jeep in the front and a place for passengers in the back. Sounds cozy, right? Not if you are big and tall. When I ride a jeepney, I am hunched over with my neck in the ceiling. Every bump is torture. And they fill these things up to bursting. Forget the idea of personal space and ignore the people who step on your feet on their way out the door.
A tricycle is better in some ways, but not by much. It is a motorcycle with a big sidecar. The sidecar is built for smaller, shorter people. I’ve had many head-fracturing experiences on a trike. I imagine I look comical trying to squeeze into one of these things — people often point and laugh. They will put as many people as they fit on it — even on the roof.
Then, for shorter journeys, you can try a pedicab. This contraption is a sidecar attached to a bicycle. I’ve only ever been in one, and the metal tubing was creaking the whole time. I was almost sitting on my wife’s lap, and the poor man pedaling almost had a coronary.
Transportation in the Philippines is cheap, but if you are a big gal or guy, you may have some issues. If you are any taller or fatter than me, you may want to stick to a van or taxi.
What about sleeping?
The Philippines has attracted some big-name hotel chains, but one of the fun things to do when you arrive is to live as the locals do. Sure, you can get a big bed, air conditioning, and room service, but wouldn’t you rather sleep on a bamboo mat on a bamboo floor with no air conditioning except for the cool wind blowing in off the ocean?
But, if you do stay in a Nipa hut and go organic, you may want to be careful if you are a big person. First, there is no head clearance. You will hit your head on something. Then, if you eat too much Buko, you should be aware than the floor is made from small, thin bamboo slats, and if you put too much weight on one, it will split.
Other than that, I don’t know if there is a better experience than waking to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach and eating fresh Mango from the tree outside your hut.
Lest I forget one more important point (thank you anette becher!), we must talk about shopping for clothing. On the off-chance you may need a new article of clothing, prepare to search for a while for suitable outerwear.
I’ve been lucky that one of the big department stores called SM City has one small section devoted to the big and tall. I can buy t-shirts and shorts, and I have found dress shirts and pants for the odd night out. Underwear continues to be a problem for me, and I’ve had to learn to accept wearing underclothes that are a few sizes too small.
There is also a brand named FUBU that offers its X-large, baggy American sizes. They are very popular here in Asia and I love the quality of their T-shirts.
It’s better to come to the Philippines prepared so you don’t have to waste quality vacation time searching in vain for clothes that fit.
I’ve had my fun, but I don’t want to dissuade you from coming to the Philippines, no matter how tall or fat you may be. The Philippines is wonderful — ocean, beach, rainforest, mountain. You will see things here that you can’t see anywhere else.
Every day of the last eight years has been an experience for me, and I would wish it on anyone else who wants a little escape in their lives.
Big or tall, skinny and short — it doesn’t matter the body type you are, but how much adventure you are willing to endure to have an experience you will never forget as long as you live.