Manila: Things to do
Check out my previous post about my time in Manila here.
The capital of the Philippines offers many amazing things to do. At first glance, it doesn't look the prettiest, but this city has many things to offer such as historic buildings to giant shopping malls.
Manila was almost destroyed in WWII and had to be completely rebuilt. They are still rebuilding the city to this day. So what does Manila have to offer?
Ride a jeepney
One of the must do things in Manila is to ride a jeepney. Jeepney's are converted jeeps, each designed differently. They're the most used transport in Manila and riding one is dirt cheap. It costs around 8PHP for a ride. Each jeepney has signs on the front or side which tells you the area they travel to. Hop on, and tell the driver the area you'll be stopping at. Most jeepneys are crowded, so you may need to shout, or walk up the the driver and pay. To get off, you can either tell the driver to stop, or hop off once the jeep is stationary.
Intramuros is one of the most visited places in Manila. Manila was once colonised by the Spanish, so the buildings within these walls are all Spanish influenced. You can either walk around the vicinity on your own, or ride a rickshaw. Rickshaws are everywhere and you will often find them following and harassing you to get on. They charge 350PHP per person for 30 minutes. It takes longer than 30 minutes for the tour and most places take a long time to look around. I'd advise you to have a set time in mind, and just before that time is up, pay the guy and tell him to go.
One of the bigger attractions is Fort Santiago. It's located in Intramuros and costs 70PHP to get in. This Fort takes about an hour to look around, so don't let the rickshaw wait for you.
Fort Santiago was built by the Spanish people and inside holds the Rizal Shrine Museum in honour of Dr Jose Rizal. He was killed during the Philippine revolution by the Spanish. Sadly, the dungeons were out of bounds when I went as there was flood water inside.
San Agustin Church
The current church is the third church to be built on the site. It's located in Intramuros and it costs about 100PHP to get in. The first church built here was made using bamboo and nipa by Spanish folk in Luzon island, 1571 but was lost due to a fire four years later. The second wooden church built her was also caught on fire in 1583 due to a candle. The third church is the one we see today.
During WWII, it was used as a concentration camp.
Located in Intramuros, Manila Cathedral is free to enter. This cathedral has suffered a lot of damage through the years, from earthquakes and fires. In 2015, Pope Francis visited this church and had his first papal mass.
Absolutely amazing architecture here!
Baluarte de San Diego
Baluarte de San Diego is a bastion in Intramuros. This structure was used for artillery weapons, to ensure a greater view to spot any invaders. It costs 70PHP to get in and there is a nice garden there to relax in too.
The rickshaw driver told us that it was the home of the Head of the Japanese army when they were in the Philippines.
The second oldest cemetery in Manila houses many tombs and graves for the Chinese people who died during the Spanish Colonial period. The Chinese were denied burial in catholic cemeteries. It's a little bit difficult to find if you're not in a taxi or rickshaw.
To get here, I rode the Manila LRT from Quiapo. From the station, it was a maze. There are many left turns which take you through the residential estate. Luckily, the locals were friendly and pointed me in the right direction.
The cemetery was deserted, no tourists anywhere and it felt very much like a ghost town. The tombs were amazing to see. There is wall that goes around which holds the graves of many people, some were very recent.
An old traditional Spanish building located in Intramuros. It costs to go in to the museum, but not the grounds. I never went into the museum as the grounds were enough. The house is made of stone and wood. It is a copy of San Nicolas House which was located in Calle Jaboneros.
Old downtown of Manila. The name literally translates to water cabbage, but I'm unsure why. Maybe it was due to the smell? Quiapo is home to Quiapo church which holds a black nazarene statue of Jesus Christ. The church is heaving on Sundays, so they placed TV screens outside for people to watch if they can't get in.
There is also mosque and the Basilica of San Sebastian.
Quiapo is also famous for the traditional markets. You will see stalls upon stalls selling various goods such as vegetables and fake merchandise. There are also many street food stalls here.
Manila Bay is a natural harbour which serves the Port of Manila. There are many places where you can see the bay, but the most popular is next to Roxas Boulevard called the Bay Walk. The Bay walk is long and there are two things to notice here. As you start from the American embassy, the bay is dirty, full of litter. There are many homeless who have settled there. As you walk along the bay, it suddenly changes. The water isn't clean, but there is a huge difference.
On the other end of the bay walk, you can find an amusement park and the SE Mall of Asia. The SE Mall has many branded stores and places to eat and drink.
Rizal park is not far from Intramuros and was named to honour Jose Rizal. It's a short walk and such a nice place for families to have picnics. There are many food stalls here. There are "professional" photographers who you can pay to have photos taken. I'm unsure how they will give you the photographs, maybe by email? These people are equally as annoying as the rickshaw guys!
There is also a Chinese garden which you can visit for 10PHP.
As with most cities, there are plenty of museums to visit. I went to the National Museum of the Philippines and the National Museum of Natural History.
Both are located near each other.
The National Museum of the Philippines houses various artworks through history. The National Museum of Natural History houses things like cannons and information about various cultures of the Philippines from rice harvesting and religious backgrounds.
There is an aquarium near Manila bay which has all sorts of sea animals. It's a fun day out, and could last a whole day if you wanted it to. Also, it is great for kids. There are many kinds of attractions and also various stores and restaurants inside. The aquarium has various prices depending on what you want to see. Prices range from 600PHP to 1000PHP.
There is also a zoo nearby, but I don't recommend going there. I didn't go, but read a lot of reviews about the place not being well kept and didn't want to fund it.
The last thing on my list of things to do in Manila is eat balut. Balut is a popular Filipino food and is often sold in markets. It costs 15PHP for two.
The egg contains a half developed chicken. The taste itself isn't bad. But the texture of the chicken head is. You can add salt or the vinegar they have to make it tastier.
Compared to the Korean silk worm pupae, I would much rather eat balut!
So here it is, my list of things to do in Manila. Go there with an open mind and you will have a great time. I went for 4 days and it was more than enough. You can easily see everything in three days.
It's more fun in the Philippines!