Knowing what to do in the mania that is Manila can be, well, a little daunting. It’s a wild, chaotic, intimidating and loveable city, all rolled into one, and requires as much foresight, planning and preparation as possible to get the very most out of it. This true Asian mega city is a thriving metropolis, and for newbies can be an impenetrable juggernaut of a city. We’re here to help you cut through the chaos and swagger through the city like a resident, with these; our 6 IDEAL things to do in Manila.
RIDE IN A JEEPNEY
Known in the Philippines as the king of the road, Jeepneys are synonymous with filipino culture and as such, no trip would be complete without a ride in one. Sure, they’re cramped with commuters and the fumes that these gas-guzzling vehicles give off are something else, but these vehicles, made from surplus Jeeps left behind by American troops after World War II, are part of Manila’s charm and character and have become a sort of national emblem. Best to pay your respects by spending a little time in one, we think.
Hopping on one is the best way to get a real glimpse of life in Manila and see how the locals live and get around, too. Sadly, the Jeepney will soon be a thing of the past; a push by the government to modernize the transportation system and replace all diesel engine-powered vehicles by 2021 is currently underway, so best hop on board while you still can.
LECHON FOR LUNCH AND A SEAFOOD SUPPER
A staple in every Filippino feast and celebration, you can’t (and shouldn’t) leave Manila without trying a plate of Lechon; undeniably the country’s favourite food. It might also be its most delicious. This slow roasted suckling pig, sometimes soaked in soy and always stuffed with everything from lemongrass and garlic to tamarind, may be the best pig you ever taste. With crisp, crunchy skin and succulent juicy meat, the country has perfected the hog roast, make no mistake. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a whole hog if you simply want a taste of the dish as in the capital, there are plenty of places serving up single servings to the hungry masses.
After a lunch of lechon, it’s time for a seafood supper, specifically at Seaside Market Dampa. Located at Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City, it’s a wet market showing off and selling the sea’s finest bounty. You pick what you want to eat from the market, hand it to one of the many restaurants there and tell them how you want it to be cooked. Perfection, we think.
SING YOUR HEART OUT AT KARAOKE
It seems that everyone in Manila loves to sing, and annoyingly, everyone seems to be able to do it very well. Indeed, Filipinos love their music, and you’ll find karaoke everywhere. There’s no better way to ingratiate yourselves with the locals than by pulling up a stool, sharing a few lambanogs and showing off your pipes. English is unofficially the first language and both modern and old school pop music from the States and Britain are extremely popular here; no excuse not to know any of the songs or lyrics, then. Just be warned, the Filipinos take their karaoke extremely seriously; be respectful of everyone’s skills or lack thereof, and get stuck in.
ENJOY THE DELIGHTS OF MANILA BAY
A wonderful way to while away an evening in the capital is at Manila Baywalk, a two-kilometre stretch of pedestrian friendly paths lined by palm trees. Here you’ll find runners, live music, buskers and food vendors revelling in the respite of the evening. The spectacular sunsets in Manila Bay are renowned for being among the best in the world and one of the best spots to experience the sun descending is on Manila Bay’s promenade, right behind the Mall of Asia. This plays home to al fresco dining spots and open air cafes to head to after you watch the sun go down. While you’re in the neck of the woods, a trip to Okada Manila is definitely worth a visit, which brings us to our next point…
VISIT OKADA MANILA
This mega resort offers luxurious hotels, a majestic large-scale water fountain show, an indoor beach club, prestige nightclubs, shopping malls and even a golf course. If you’re after a fine dining experience, then this is the place to come as it’s home to a number of high end restaurants. And if that’s not enough risk to your bank balance, it’s also home to a world class casino with thousands of mix slot machines and around 500 action-packed table games.
Manila, it seems, is swiftly becoming one of Asia’s brightest gambling destinations and if you want to try your luck, then Okado Manila is one of the best places to do it – from classic baccarat to Poker, from Roulette to Craps, from Sic Bo to Pontoon – you name it, they’ve got it. Prior to a punt, if you’re daunted by the casino’s 3000 slot machines which offer old classics to the hottest new games, do yourself a favour and put in a little practice in advance via some online slots. As always, remember to keep it fun and when the fun stops, stop. If you come up trumps in a few rounds of roulette and feel like celebrating, be sure to check out the resorts Cove night club; the largest indoor beach club and night club in Metro Manila.
WANDER AROUND THE SPANISH OLD TOWN
If the relentless glitz and glamour of the casino at Okado Manila has you longing for something historical and more worldly, then wandering around Intramuros, a historic walled area within Manila, is a must. A city within a city, Intramuros is the remnants of Spain’s former colonial empire and is a world away from Manila’s high rises which surround it. Offering a portal into the Philippines’ colonial past, the best way to see this part of the capital is on foot, where you can wander past old baroque style churches and colonial villas. Horse drawn carriages trot the area’s cobble streets and will take you to Fort Santiago which contains a memorial to Filipino nationalist, doctor, writer, and polymath Jose Rizal.
VISIT QUIAPO DISTRICT AND ITS MARKET
A short jeepney ride from Intramuros will find you at Quiapo market, the largest market in the Philippines. Located just behind Quiapo church, it’s a place where you can find everything and anything – cheap branded clothing lines of dubious origins and all sorts of collage industry knick-knacks. You name it and someone’s almost certainly selling it.
The streets surrounding the church are famously, or should that be notoriously, known for selling all kinds of herbal remedies and folk medicines to cure many different ailments. And if you want to gaze into your future, fortune tellers scrying, playing a hand at cartomancy and shuffling tarot cards are also prevalent.