We’ve been in the Philippines for 2 weeks now, and while the main purpose of our trip was to see my friend Anne and also to visit El Nido, we began (and are now finishing) our trip in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Luckily for us, a colleague of Kevin’s graciously offered her condo to us during our stay here in Makati, a city within Metropolitan Manila. From what I can tell, Metro Manila is made up of a variety of smaller cities – Manila City is one, Makati is another, and there are several more as well. I guess the who amalgamation of cities that you often see in North America (i.e. the GTA, Chicagoland) hasn’t happened here. Anyways, Makati is the financial heart of Metro Manila and a lot of major corporations have their headquarters here. There are also a whole bunch of malls, and we’re currently sitting in one of them.
So, what have we been doing here in Manila? Site seeing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and watching TV.
When we first arrived, we spent 2 full days here. Here’s what we got up to:
Day 1 – Intramuros; Anne; Australians
We really struggle at first to find good wifi in Manila (a theme that has continued throughout our time in the Philippines), but around the corner from our sleeping quarters we eventually found a great bubble tea shop with next level excellent wifi. So, we started our day there, researching the things we could do. Before the trip, I had kind of assumed that we could just wander around and find things to do, but Manila is really just not walkable at all, so we had to do some planning.
We decided to head to Intramuros, the walled city in Old Manila City, where we did an eco-bike our with a company called Bambike. Bambike is a social enterprise that makes bamboo bikes using some magical sustainable process in a rural Philippines community. They also offer ecotours on said bamboo bikes. Kevin and I love to bike, so we hopped in a cab to the nearest transit station, and then took Manila’s LRT (aka train) up to Intramuros.
Tangent: that was the craziest public transit experience of my whole life. Here’s how it works: A train pulls up. It looks packed – so packed that it seems its impossible to get on the train. It’s not rush hour, so a train that packed seems weird, but whatever. Then, the train doors open. Immediately, people start crushing their way into the train. At the same time, those wanting to exit are literally pushing their way out, because they’re so tightly packed with those on the train, and also because the people getting on the train are blocking their exit. We were so bewildered that we skipped the first train that came, but when the second one was the same, we just fought our way on. Despite all the crowds, it was a fairly pleasant ride, and one of the better-smelling busy transit vehicles I’ve ever experienced. Anyways, eventually we got off the train (much pushing was required) and we took a winding/confusing walk to get to Intramuros.
Our Bambike tour was totally awesome. We rode all around the walled city with our tour guide, Ray, who share lots of interesting facts about the walled city and the history of Manila. We were the only people taking the tour that day, it was a nice, laid back experience. At a certain point, we were even interviewed by a student group doing research on Intramuros. We learned much more than I care to regurgitate here, but if you’d like to learn about Intramuros, read this. We took tons of photos on our tour, and you can see them all below.
We then hopped in a cab to Greenbelt 3 (part of a giant crazy mall complex in Makati) to meet Anne. 2 hours later, we were very, very late. We’d also learned a valuable lesson about traffic in Manila, particularly in the rain. After a brief rendezvous with Anne, we headed back to our section of Makati, where we promptly made 2 new Australian friends in a bar. From there, the 4 of us went to a restaurant that had some pool tables for us to play on. This restaurant was rocking some kind of “Americana” theme, and was filled with more American culture memorabilia than I’ve seen in my life. This place was like a museum. The photos don’t quite do it justice, but it was definitely an interesting/crazy place. We then hopped through a series of bars, and went home sometime around 5am.
Day 2 – Sleeping, Bubble Tea, Pizza, TV
This day was much less exciting than the previous day, but every bit as enjoyable. For the most part, we slept all day. When we finally woke up, we went back to our Bubble Tea Local where we vegged out on internet. We did a bit more exploring around our neighbourhood, before picking up Dominos pizza and heading back to our condo to watch TV all night. Cable TV is really not something we usually watch, so we soaked up our fill of Nat Geo Wild, Pickers, and the Simpsons. All the while enjoying some delicious Dominos pizza – very popular in Manila, apparently, where there are about a zillion different options for fast food.
After all this, on Day 3, we hopped on a chartered plane and headed to Palawan Province, to the remote and beautiful town of El Nido.
See photos below from Days 1 and 2!