My 1st ever stop in Asia starting with a five day exploration of the city of Manila…
It sure is different than anything else that I’ve experienced before but if you’re like me and only seen North America & Western Europe it’s quite understandable that you’ll be in for a surprise. At around 16 million inhabitant in the day time and countless undocumented residents Manila is the biggest city of South-East Asia and actually ranks 19 one the list of the world’s most populous metropolitan areas. So it’s not a small place to start off in Asia but the first thing that yo notice you as you get out is the boiling heat! Especially when arriving from a very chilly October Paris morning the day before as I embarked on this journey…
Then the airport itself. Arrivals are sealed off from any visitors by the police. You actually have to cross the street from it to where the greeting sections is to meet family or friends which is split by last names alphabetical order. After that came my first taste of the local police “customs”. My flight was 30 minutes early and none was there to pick me up as planned. To make things worst my cell phone didn’t work in the Philippines and after waiting waiting a while a cop noticed me and asked me if I needed help. He was kind enough to have one of them keep my luggage while he took me to a sari-sari and help me buy and get my a new local SIM card activated & working on my cell. How nice of him I though taking all that time to help me get things done but of course after that he was quite adamant about wanting a tip. Estimations put the figure of their income as 10% of their official salary & 90% of bribes and other extras. This is the one of the few downsides of the Philippines but hey don’t get me wrong in their vast majority it is hard to find people as hospitable and nice as the Filipinos. Besides two or three of these sorts of encounters with the police and a few cab drivers that refuse to put on meters there’s been nothing but kindness.
Also be prepared with the idea of seeing guns everywhere as armed security guards are in front of virtually any restaurant, shop, bar, bank, gas station, etc. Further more you will be frisked & your bags checked whenever entering a mall.
So don’t worry if a pistol-grip shotguns armed security guard opens you the door of a Mc Donald’s, at least you’ll know your safe from the threat of the Hamburgler coming to rob the joint!
Anyways to get back to my arrival story… Two hundred pesos lighter I was able to reach Leif on his cell who was stuck in a more than usual heavy traffic and had been for on his way for about 2 hours already. They soon arrived and offered me my 1st San Miguel for the long trip back to our hotel that would take another 2+ hours.
We eventually took a break and went for some food in the middle of that as we weren’t getting anywhere and the heat and pollution was slowly wearing us down.
The other thing to get used to in Manila is the way of driving where red lights are considered as suggestions and lanes there for mere decoration. I was surprised to see my Norwegian friend take the wheel sometimes and master quite well the whole driving concept of the Philippines.
Finally arriving at the Camelot hotel of Quezon City (one of the sixteen cities that compose the Municipality of Manila) and well greeted by the staff. My 10% rebate for being a friend of ‘Sir Leif’ was effective immediately. The good thing about the Camelot is it’s Dungeon bar downstairs that has some excellent live music. Making it a great place to start your evening or otherwise just have a calm night without having to go very far.
And now for a few snapshots of inside my room
The price is around 1300 Philippines Pesos per day (30$ or 20€) you can BOOK HERE
Quick view outside the room’s window
Shangri-La hotel and its bar with all u can drink beer/cocktail/wine for 500 pesos (7euros) from 5 to 9pm (very pricey by Filipino standards)
Not a bad looking is it the Shangri-La Hotel Makati (prices for rooms start at about 12 times what I paid at my hotel)
After a first night in the center of Manila we headed for a more relaxed evening in the Marikina valley which is on the outskirts of Manila
A little fresh air and a bucket of 6 San Miguel light what can you ask more for 200 or so pesos ($4.60 or 3.20€)
Not always easy to follow those Viking drinking habits for a week ( 6 days on, 1 off). Leif-Gunnar’s trademark expression: “Vince, this is no f****** vacation colony” slowly but surely took all its meaning as the days went on…
Don’t these two make a nice couple! An ecstatic Leif showing his is true blue love for San Mig Light!
Back in our hotel with Leif’s friend who plays in a band downstairs our hotel at the dungeon bar that has some awesome music. I was extremely surprised with the quality of the bands that played in Manila. Actually of all the Philippines.. Awesome rock cover bands.Reminds me the good old 80’s ( I know I’m getting old 😉 ) where is was all about live music and not some lame boom-boom/DJ music like its mostly all over now.
The famous Jeepneys of the Manila ! The local public transportation buses. A modified longer version of the world war II American military jeep with lots of flashy colors added. Each has its own specific name on the front and the routes they take is written on the sides. So just hail one as it passes by to hop on the 12 pesos fare shouldn’t ruin too much your budget.
Another cheap alternative (15-20 pesos) to the Jeepney is the Filipino tricycle which is simply is a motorcycle with a sidecar.
Here’s a look closer look at what a tricycle looks like from the inside & out
The staff from the hotel bar who invited us for an afternoon BBQ at their home that went on into the evening… I got to say it’s hard to find people as hospitable and nice as the Filipinos. That evening was one of the best.
lovely little shrine right next to our hosts home
Four cases of San Miguel later the discussion went on strong about Stewart’s experience about his ongoing year and a half off world trip around the world
Here comes the Balot!
Balot eating techniques explained by a professional (read my previous post if you have no clue of what’s going on)
Pictures of trendy greenbelt of Makati. Nice to see with all the nice bars, restaurants, etc. but too much like US/European of a place. Here are some of the restaurants of greenbelt: Sentro
PS: a suspected car bomb exploded the day of my arrival to Cebu next to it in the Glorietta mall parking. 8 dead few hundred wounded.
Bubba Gump shrimp co. Another themed bar ( Filipinos love them) from the Forest Gump movie
The hobbit house is a Lord of the ring themed bar on Mabini Street. What makes this bar special is that all the staff & even the owner that runs the joint are midgets which makes its theme of a fantasy hobbit tavern even more real… A must see. Added to that there’s also live acts playing there daily that range from folk music to stand up comedy depending on the evening.
Here is a friend Sheila who was nice enough to come along with us twice. Oh what a pretty sight she was….
Guard at intramuros the oldest part of Manila with fortress and buildings dating from the Spanish era
Here is the San Augustin church in intramuros
Goodbye Manila for now… Time to embark on our journey to the tropical Island of Boracay!