My Trip to Manila, Philippines

A completely different kind of holiday. If you're wanting to visit the Philippines for its beautiful beaches or other relaxing style of holiday, Manila is not for you. However, if you're looking for a busy, city get away with a lot of culture and character, choose Manila. 
Okay, so Manila is the capital of the Philippines but it is no way the same as other capitals I have visited as there is still a lot of poverty in most areas.

Manila was almost destroyed in WWII but was rebuilt again into a bigger metropolis, full of culture. There is a massive difference between the rich Filipino folk living in Manila and the poor. 
One thing that hit home most was Manila bay. I walked along Roxas avenue and the bay was filthy. The whole stretch was covered in litter and all sorts. The smell wasn't too great either. But then, as I walked it suddenly turned into the richer part of town. There was an amusement park, the SE Asia Mall and other various attractions along the bay front. 
Some malls are located in areas where there is high poverty, the slums as people call it. You could be wandering the streets full of beggars and people trying to stay alive, then enter a guarded mall in the same poverty stricken area  and be surrounded by people who wear designer clothes and expensive stores. 
It was totally eye opening to see this gap between the two classes of people. 

 I stayed in an area called Quiapo, a very popular part of town, with a traditional market and one of the oldest churches which houses a black nazarene statue of Jesus Christ. It's bustling with people and vehicles. All kinds of people go there to purchase goods, the rich and the poor. My hotel was guarded by armed security guards and so were some malls and restaurants. There weren't too many beggars asking for money here, however we did get followed by a young boy and girl asking for money. I felt so bad for them, they followed us for almost 20 minutes, tapping our hands. I would have given them loose change, but I didn't want to open by bag and show them where my money was hidden. 
*I'm pretty sure I was almost pick pocketed by the girl. I didn't know she was there and all of a sudden she started tapping me. I got to a 7/11 and decided to check my bag. I had money stored all over and one of the zips was open. I made sure before I left the hotel that I had all zips up and even put a rain cover over my bag. Luckily, there was no money there*

Getting around Manila was quite easy. However, there are many con artists who try to dupe foreigners by charging double prices. On my first day, David and I decided to walk. Most people say you shouldn't walk but we decided to, as it was easier to see Manila that way. We didn't carry a lot of money with us, just enough to buy food and a taxi if we needed to (about 2000 PHP each). Walking was a farce though. The map doesn't show all the junctions and roads, so most of the time we had to walk around huge buildings and other obstacles.

The Manila traffic is awful and scary. Drivers merge and cut in whenever they can and there is a lot of beeping. Surprisingly, I saw no accidents. It could take an hour to get to a place which would usually take 20 minutes. Taxi's are abundant but of course, many charge more than they should. I advise that you get a taxi from a taxi stop, or somewhere where a security guard can help you. 

The cost of the taxi from the airport (terminal 3) to Quiapo was 270PHP. NEVER pay more then 350PHP for a taxi.
I was at SE Asia mall and got the most ridiculous stomach ache and wanted to go back to the hotel. I got the taxi from outside of the mall and the guy quoted 500PHP. He said it was because of rush hour but we got out and he tried giving us a "discount" to 400PHP. Anyways, walked around a corner and there was a taxi by a security guard. Got into it and the guy quoted 300PHP. Which was okay as it was about the same distance from the airport to the hotel. He was such a nice taxi driver! He gave us  information about the city and was such a nice guy.

Another form of transport are jeepneys. Basically, converted old style jeeps. The BEST way to get around in my opinion. The cost is dirt cheap, about 8PHP for a ride. There are jeepneys everywhere and they go everywhere too. Jeepeneys are basically buses, there is a sign on the front or the side which tells you the areas they go to. Hop on, tell the driver (shout it if it's busy) and then hand over the money to the front (while he's driving). Try and use small notes (10s and 20s) because they most likely won't have change for anything higher. When you want to stop, just tell him to stop or hop off whenever he has stopped the jeep.

Other forms of transport are motorcycle side cars (I don't know the name if you?). They are everywhere! I mean everywhere. They harass you and follow you. Sometimes more than one will try and pick you up. I didn't use one as I know they would charge more for foreigners, also they annoyed me as they just wouldn't leave me alone. A no means no right? I did use a bicycle rickshaw around Intramuros (a popular tourist destination, more to follow in another blog post). 
These rickshaws will follow you too and harass you to get on. They charge 300-350PHP EACH per 30 minutes and they take you on a wee tour of Intramuros. Be warned, they try to slow down and the price also includes when you're not in the car too. As soon as it hit 1 hour, David and I told him we didn't need him anymore and paid 1400 for the 1 hour tour. Most tourist attractions require you to walk around for a while, especially Fort Santiago (takes about 1 hour). Just tell the guy you want to finish and pay him...if you go over by 5 minutes, he would most likely try to charge you for another 30 minutes.

Food was good, there is plenty of it from street food to chain stores. There is a lot of Chinese influence in Manila so you will often see Chinese food advertised. I never got to eat a lot of the Filipino food actually. I ate twice at Chinese style restaurants and then got sick and didn't want to risk eating a day before flying home. You should try balut, which is a half fertilised chicken egg. It's found everywhere. You pay for the egg, crack it open add salt or the vinegar they have and eat. It was a weird experience but it wasn't too bad.

The people in Manila speak English, so it's quite easy to get around. Almost everyone speaks English and the people we met were so friendly. We got lost once, trying to find the Chinese cemetery. It's located close to some residential areas. Kids were running around playing basketball, adults chilling or hanging out their washing.

When I was lost, I was a little bit scared. However, as David and I walked around, some locals noticed we were lost and knew exactly where we wanted without having to ask us. They just said "Are you looking for the Chinese cemetery?" and pointed us to the right way. Some even pointed without speaking! We stopped a taxi driver and asked him to take us as it was way too hot. But he was so genuine and said it wasn't far and it wasn't worth getting his taxi. He could have easily charged us 100PHP and took us a long way round.

Manila was fun and such a great experience. It's so hard to describe my feelings towards the place. On one hand, it was great seeing the culture and experiencing something new but on the other hand, I felt a lot of pity. The worst thing I saw in the Philippines were the stray animals. I saw two dead cats and a dead dog. It wasn't pretty. I never felt too unsafe in Manila. I made sure I had money tucked away in all parts of my bag and clothes and I never took out more than I needed (about 2000PHP a day). I want to say it was my favourite place to visit but, mostly because of the culture and experiencing the way they live there. It's completely different to other capitals I have been to.
"Its more fun in the Philippines"


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