After spending over a week on the beach in Boracay, it was time to continue my adventures in the Philippines by checking out the capital, Manila.
After a domestic flight from Kalibo which took only an hour (and quite a turbulent one too!), I landed in the Philippine capital Manila. I had heard horror stories about the traffic here, and sure enough getting from the airport was a nightmare into the city.
At first glance, Manila may seem a lot like other tropical capital cities, like Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta, but Manila does have a charm all of its own, including the weird looking buses on the roads, which are called jeepneys! While these jeepneys may be very colourful and cheerful, you had still better be on your guard from some of the more dodgy practices of the jeepney drivers! The people here are also among the friendliest I have ever encountered on my travels. The whole country at the moment is still reliving Typhoon Haiyan, which occurred a year ago (although it didn’t hit the capital). This typhoon killed over 6,300 people in the Philippines alone, as well as in neighbouring countries to the north.
Makati is the main district for shopping – and red light district entertainment (apparently). My cheap hotel is situated around here and I do not always feel safe walking to and from the building on my own in the evening so far, which is in stark contrast from my recent experience in Boracay, where there is hardly any crime of intimidating locals. I haven’t explored the Edsa district yet (which is the other area of Manila that I wanted to see), but I am hoping it isn’t as scary as Makati!
Some of the most plentiful sights you will see in Manila are churches. As the only Christian country in all of Asia, this should come as no surprise here in the Philippines. These churches and cathedrals are used with alarming regularity by the locals here, as the Philippines is a very religious country. Some of them go back a long way and have a rich history.
There is a lot of history in Manila, and nowhere more can this be evident within the Intramuros, which is located close to Manila Bay. It is the ancient and historic centre of the city, and I found it to be the most interesting part of my stay here. During the Spanish colonial time, the Intramuros was effectively the main part of the city, with the government and seat of power being located within here. Kind of like the Forbidden City in Beijing for the Emperor, or even the Kowloon Walled City for Hong Kong’s triad gangs. Fort Santiago is one of the old Spanish buildings still in tact around here, but some of the Intramuros is now in complete ruins, and in fact the whole area is now known for neglect. Read more about my trip to Intramuros.
Rizal Park is not as large as I had expected, but it is still one of the best green city parks I have encountered around Asia. It actually reminded me of some in China, rather than those in other tropical countries. Situated along the very busy Roxas Boulevard, Rizal Park is a favourite place for leisure and exercise for the local community and also a major tourist attraction in its own right. The Rizal Monument is an important place to pay respects to one of the greatest Filipino heroes, Jose Rizal, who was executed here in the park in 1896. Read more about my experience at Rizal Park!
You cannot come to Manila without experiencing some shopping! I thought Singapore was a real hotbed for retail therapy, but Filipinos here love their shopping even more than the Singaporeans it seems! The SM Mall of Asia was one of the largest shopping malls I have ever visited, and it even has its own Ferris wheel and indoor arena!
If the shopping isn’t enough for you, than make sure you check out some of the great food that is available in the Philippines. Manila is a hotspot for amazing street food, especially in the Makati and Edsa districts. Why not try some delicious fried banana called ginanggang, the Filipino delicacy of kwek-kwek, or try something a little more exotic like isaw (pig intestines)? If street food is not your thing, then fear not, for Manila is home to some amazing roadside cafés and restaurants, most of which are very cheap. Some of the major dishes in the city are Bulalo, Pancit Lomi, and Bistek Tagalog. I even had some co-called “Pinoy Spaghetti”, which is the Filipino take on the age-old Italian classic!
Whatever you do in Manila, make sure you have a great time! The city is SO laid-back the locals almost fall over. Take a look at my list of the top 10 attractions in Manila – and make sure you take at least one ride on a jeepney! You won’t regret it!