I have finally arrived in the Philippines!! My flight arrived at around 2am in the morning and I rolled off the plane feeling like I had been dragged through a bush backwards. One of my biggest fears about this whole trip was my first method of transportation for the airport to my hotel in Makati. There are so many conflicting pieces of information regarding the best type of taxi to use in Manila that I started to panic slightly. Once arriving through the arrivals gate there was 2 different options. Yellow taxis and white taxis. One type are charged on the metre (yellow) and the white are charged by a prepaid ticket. I went with my gut instinct and took a yellow taxi purely because it was yellow and it’s pretty hard to miss a yellow car. I also received a ticket from the guard before getting in which made me feel that little bit safer travelling on my own. After a quick (it was the longest 20 minutes of my life) taxi ride I had arrived outside my hotel. I think that journey was one of the most nerve racking periods of my life. The driver was very friendly but all I had in my head was a Taken scenario. Let’s just say when I left the taxi I looked like a had just ran a 10km race…very sweaty!!!
My hotel in Makati was called the Makati Diamond Residences and from my arrival outside I knew it was going to be a very comfortable stay. The hotel offered beautifully decorated rooms, a free mini bar, indoor swimming pool and gym and my dream bathroom! For an additional cost the hotel offers breakfast. For a little over P600 you can get breakfast with your stay. As the worlds biggest breakfast fan I was in absolute heaven. They offer you an A La Carte menu as well as a buffet…let feeding time commence!! I demolished a bowl of museli, a muffin, fruit, the best French toast I have ever eaten and a coffee. I was so full I had to go back to bed for an hour afterwards. Across the street from the hotel is the Green Belt shopping mall which consists of 5 seperate centres. They offer shops such as Miss Selfridge, Converse, Marks and Spencers and Nike. I have that horrible feeling that I may have started my trip with extremely high standards…you can’t get much better than this.
After 2 nights in the Diamond it was time to leave and downgrade to a hostel to attempt to make some friends. Wow. Arriving at the MNL Boutique Hostel was very different to what I had been used to. It was clean and basic but I don’t think I would use the word boutique to describe it. Regardless, I was keen to dive in and get meeting people. So, people!!! This is where I encountered my first hurdle. The hostel was absolutely empty. I hadn’t really considered the possibility of not meeting people so I began to panic slightly. I assumed that most hostels would be buzzing with young enthusiastic travelers at this time of year…this one was definitely not. I think part of the problem was that 1. It is low season in the Philippines and 2. It was in Manila: a lot of people skip the city. After 10 minutes of organising my things an insanely tall Israeli cruised into the room. High five one companion. He was as confused as I was about the lack of people so we decided to combine forces and go explore.
A few days before I had booked a bike tour with BamBike a sustainable company who train and employ members of the surrounding community to make bikes out of bamboo and provides people in need with the potential to create a positive future. The tour takes you around the old downtown quarter of Manila knows as Intramuros. Our guide was an adorable girl from the local area who oozed with enthusiasm and passion for her area and her work. The tour allowed us to explore the old part of the city which has retained its old features from when the Spanish ruled the Philippines. You really felt like you were in a quaint town in Andulucia with whitewashed walls and cobble stoned streets. I really recommend using this tour as a way to explore the downtown region of Manila in a safe way if you chose to stop over in the city. We chose to take a taxi there from the Makati region which took us about an hour and cost 200P. Manoviering around Manila is a bit of a logistical nightmare so I recommend you leave some extra time to ensure you arrive to places on time.
The Makati region doesn’t offer a massive amount of tourist attractions in the area but it is home to the Ayala Museum which is worth a visit to where you can understand the colourful past the Philipeano people have experienced. It also boasts one of the biggest malls in Manila called the Green Belt where you can find all the stores you can imagine including Converse, Marks and Spencer’s and Miss Selfridge. In terms of eating and drinking I found a lovely vegetarian restaurant called The Corner Tree Cafe on the corner of Jupiter and Comet Street. For drinks there is a brilliant bar called the Buddah Bar on Piccar Place which serves delicious cocktails at a fraction of the price you would get them for in Europe. The ambience is great and the staff are very friendly.
How can I summarise the colourful Manila?! Experience this diverse city is definitely an experience. I’m sure there is so much potential hidden behind those tall buildings and small hidden streets but as a female travelling on my own I was advised under no circumstances to wonder into these areas. Pickpocking it ride and as Westners we stand out like sore thumbs. Many people head straight to the islands and bypass Manila but it is definitely an experience but maybe doesn’t give you a sense of the true essence of the Philippines.
1. Taxis is the main form of transport around the city. There are Jeepnys but their routes are very unclear and are small and cramped
2. When using a taxi make sure that you either agree a price with the driver before you enter or make sure that they use the meter accordingly. Also lock the doors from the inside when using them
3. Keep your belongings close to you at all times. Keep long messengers backs over your front so people can’t grab it off you from behind. If you have padlocks consider using these on your belongings
4. If it sounds too good to be true it often is. Be wary of people trying to cut you deals on the street. It might not be legitimate. Buy things from legitimate suppliers
5. Be wary of people approaching you on the street, they often have an alterier motive