Capital city of the Philippines, Manila can often be mistaken for being vanilla. This city is home to millions of people and is the central hub for getting around the Philippines. When travelling around, it’s extremely likely that you will need to stay overnight before you can continue your journey to the next beautiful island *sigh*. So rather than staying at the airport hotel, here are my top recommendations for things to do in Manila!
THINGS TO DO IN MANILA
Did you know that Manila was colonised by the Spanish in 1571? This colonisation gave a beautiful part of town to Metro Manila, known as Intramuros. Intramuros is a special part of town, it is walled by thick stone and has a very prominent Spanish look and feel, very different to the rest of Manila. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Central America with all the little laneways, colourful buildings and beautiful cathedrals.
I started my exploration at the northern tip of Intramuros at Fort Santiago. The fort lies along the river and has been restored since major destruction in WWII. Fort Santiago has a dedicated shrine to José Rizal, a key leader in the movement to make the Philippines independent. When leaving the Fort, we made our way to the Cathedral of Manila where we were lucky to see a wedding taking place! From there, we let our senses guide us, wandering through the streets, churches and most memorably beautifully warm people who live there.
You’ll find traditional horse and carts here to take you around the area. There will be plenty of salesmen trying to get you into their bike/horse/van. Hold tight, they will eventually leave you alone.
MALL OF ASIA
The Mall of Asia is the biggest Mall in South East Asia, hence the name! If you want to escape the heat for a few hours and shop like crazy, this mall has everything (even ice skating!!). The mall includes a SM department store, hypermarket, a science discovery centre, over 400 restaurants and eateries to chose from, and all your western shopping choices; Guess, Mango, Forever 21, Zara, Uniqlo etc and even a Ferris wheel!
CATCH A JEEPNEY
Manila’s answer to buses is arguably one of the most unique ones in the world, Jeepneys! These multicoloured extended Jeeps act just like buses… Well, sorta! Each Jeepney has a set route that it takes, and allows its riders to get off anywhere they please along the way for a small fee. You’ll be sure to see plenty of Jeepneys on the exact same route, so don’t worry about not getting a lift home! Things are set to change in the next few years with a movement to eco-friendly transport, so don’t hold off taking up this experience before they are gone!
VISIT THE WORLD’S SMALLEST VOLCANO
A day trip to Tagaytay takes you to Mt Taal, home to the world’s smallest active volcano. The journey takes between 2 hours to reach this natural feat that is a volcano within a lake, inside another volcano. It’s a 2km hike to reach the beautiful view.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re after an area that has everything within easy walking distance, Ermita is a good place to stay. The area is easy to get to and from the airport, and gives you access to Robinsons Place (shopping centre), Rizal Park and Intramuros is within walking distance – although a Jeepney is very do-able.