manila, philippines

I can’t write this post like i usually do, because Manila was not just another city.

Manila.
The spanish heritage.
The jeepneys.
The food.
The language.
The people.
The people.

It was going to be a short trip to visit friends that were in Manila. I immediately booked the flight as soon as i heard they would be there – i was going to “check” another country!
I checked with my Filipino friend Jay if i needed a Visa, i bought my Insight Guide to the Philippines, and downloaded the Philippines Triposo app for my iPhone (cos it fully works offline, including the map and GPS). And of course, checked some travel blogs on Manila.
Pre-trip planning done.

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But as often happens on Asia, even with a lot of reading and planning, you end up overwhelmed.

We stayed at the Hyatt, lucky for me my friends had a special arrangement with the Hotel, so we could use the Club Regency, that has an amazing view over the South China Sea, perfect as well for sunsets!

I managed to check 3 main areas. Greenbelt mall, Seaside and Intramuros. It was a short and social visit, so i don’t feel bad over not walking 40km in two days (as i did the first time i went to Singapore!)

Greenbelt is a huge complex with 5 sections, beautifully designed, gorgeous gardens, and very clean. Its has a great open air area, with cafes and restaurants, and even has a very modern chapel – dome shape, in the middle of the green surroundings.
From Seattle’s Best Coffee, to delicious and well designed restaurants, with very good service. You have every kind of store inside, from Hermes, to Zara, going through Yves Saint Laurent, to Vans.

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Security wise is crazy, all entrances to each section, or each mall around the city, has armed security, and metal detectors; thought the search is not that thorough. I also came to know that many Filipinos carry handguns nowadays, the estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in the Philippines is 4.71 firearms per 100 people. Pretty high number!

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Seaside is a seafood paradise. You have fresh seafood stalls on your left, an restaurants on your right side. You simply choose the seafood, quantities etc, pay; then tell the guys in which restaurant you want them to cook it! We went to Seazar, garlic rice as side, and amazing Sinigan soup with prawns, garlic and butter prawns, then grilled fish (i have no idea how its called, but before grilled was red color), and the absolute best was the lobster, fantastic flavor, sweet yet salty… Seamed it had chutney. Just amazing!
Price: super cheap!

After a great breakfast on Sunday, it was tourism time! We headed of to Intramuros, or the Old Manila as it was know in the Spanish times.
This district is beautiful! Seams like an odd mix between New Orleans and Cuba, with the super friendly people, horse or bikes or motorbikes as tourist transportation…. And the jeepneys!!! A jeepney is the most charismatic local mean of transportation, made from U.S. military jeeps left overs from World War II, and decorated by each driver.

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We first went to the San Agustine Church, with beautiful Baroque architecture, and fantastic trompe-l’œil ceilings. It is said to ne the oldest still standing church in the Philippines. Consecrated in 1607, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We also visited the San Agustín Museum, worth it, specially because of the architecture, and the patio.

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Walking around the area, you have a feeling of being in the middle of a lost world, the architecture doesn’t seam to belong in this place in the Pacific, though at the same time, it just fits perfectly! You will find a few shops, quite charismatic, with hand made everything, and gorgeous wood Rosary.
We took a short walk towards the Manila Cathedral, built in a beautiful Neo-Romanesque style, but that unfortunately was temporarily closed for repairs.

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To end the tour in Intramuros, i found this big group of kids playing soccer in the middle of the street. Needless to say that i ended up playing with them for just a few minutes… And taking the BEST “travel-jumping” photo ever!!!!
In the end, after jumping around asking me “Kiss miss? Kiss miss?”, the kiddos lined up to give me a smack!
Best way to finish a fantastic trip to Manila!

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