Trip Index (what we have published so far):
Table of Contents
Things to do Manila – Need to know, before you go
Manila is probably Asia’s most dangerous big city. While it’s much safer than, say, Eastern African cities, there is a good amount of scamming and petty crime there. Just on day one alone, I was pickpocketed (but realized it before anything was taken), pursued by aggressive bands of child beggars and stood up by taxi drivers in the insufferable heat.
Traffic is a huge issue – it’s as jammed up as in Jakarta (though Jakarta has bigger and better roads). The traffic is also incredibly loud, drivers are aggressive and the streets are full of black diesel plumes of smoke.
Manila is definitely not a walkable city – certain areas (especially ‘The Fort’ and Makati) have sidewalks, but in general don’t expect to be able to walk around without crazy heat, hostile beggars and motorbikes running so close to you that you can feel their exhaust pipes on your skin.
Things to do in Manila – Historic Manila
Intramuros is a fine piece of history. I recently wrote about Intramuros – this really is a must do when in Manila.
Next door to Intramuros is the Rizal Park – a sweaty but noteworthy green oasis close to the sea.
Things to do in Manila – Shopping
Given the state of public spaces, the malls serve as ways to create safer environments without traffic, angry homeless people or criminal thugs. The malls play a big part in the social life there and going to the mall does not just mean shopping, but also a safe place to spend a couple of hours escaping from the heat.
The biggest and newest mall is the giant SM Mall of Asia at Roxas Blvd. It comes complete with an ice rink and hundreds of food outlets. On a weekend day, it seems half of Manila is there (and maybe that’s true!)
In the city of Makati, Ayala Malls have built up a number of ‘greenbelt’ shopping areas that make it feel like you will never escape the maze of malls (in fact, it’s not an easy task!)
It’s hard to go a couple of city blocks in Manila without seeing a major mall. SM Malls seem to dot the city everywhere.
Manila Bay Sunsets
During the hot (but rather dry) seasons of spring and summer, Manila enjoys fantastic sunsets, which you can see from the western edge of the city.
The best place to watch the sunset is from the rooftop terrace at the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros.
Another good option is the Harbour Square, which has a number of chain restaurants and a Starbucks in a fantastic location.
Things to do in Manila – Food
Let’s face it, Filipinos are not foodies. Most of the food places there are chain restaurants and Filipinos have not yet ventured too much into elaborate spices or ingredients. Starch and meats usually do the trick. Barbecued meat is a common favorite that is served with a sweet marinade (and it’s often very sweet).
The national dishes include sisig (fried rice) and adobo (barbecued meat with a sweet marinade and served with rice). Kare-kare is a stew (or curry) usually done with meat.
The Aristocrat (also at Roxas Blvd) serves up probably the best barbecued chicken in town. There are a couple more outlets in the city.
While Starbucks has taken the Philippines by storm (you will be-hard pressed to see as many Starbucks in one city as in Manila), it’s much harder to find good non-chain coffee.
I liked Cafe De Seoul a lot – it’s an eclectic mix of great interior design, good coffee and Korean bibimbap.
If you are craving pizza in Manila, Yellow Cab Pizza is a Filipino chain that spins out delicious and cheap pizza. There are several outlets (usually inside the malls).