Manila – a pleasant surprise!

Getting to Manila wasn’t a quick process. It meant a 6 hour train followed by 5 hours of flying, but it was worse for the South African contingent making their way to the capital of the Philippines – 16 hours of flying isn’t that much fun either!

Manila often gets painted with the same brush used on Jakarta, and I hate Jakarta. I was expecting a hell hole but was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the traffic is atrocious and getting anywhere does take some time. Hell, this city has cities within the city it’s so big!

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Traffic isn’t a joke here.

I met up with Bridget and Bianca at some ridiculous hour having just arrived from Surabaya in Indonesia. We didn’t waste any time in hitting the streets as we only had 2 full days in the city and wanted to make the most of it. Our time was further limited by the girls sleeping until 11am the following day. I doubt I’ll ever forget their expressions when I knocked on their door and told them the time. I remember hearing something about ‘holy shit balls’?

After a rocky start of walking in the wrong direction twice (I blame our sleep-deprived brains for this), we eventually made it to a Jeepney stand (a Jeepney is the local taxi of the Philippines – brightly coloured and decorated ‘trucks’ used to cart passengers around). They’re a lot of fun to ride in, mostly because one doesn’t have a clue where you’re going and are just relying on the drivers word (and a map app open at the ready). They work in much the same way as South African taxis, with passengers passing their fares amongst each other and the driver then managing the change situation – it’s interesting to observe.

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A typical Jeepney.

Our first stop was a wander around the Old Town called Intramuros (which we’d return to later that day for a walking tour) and then we made our way to the harbor for lunch. We must have walked 90 kms (a conservative estimate) in the blistering heat to get there, despite the fact that our tricycle driver ‘dropped us at the right place’. In his defense, he was peddling us around on a bicycle-come-moped – in that heat, I wouldn’t be too eager either.

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Sun setting behind St Augustine Church in Manila.

I got propositioned by a 90 year old prostitute, which was something I fear I will never forget – the image of her groping her breasts  (which potentially were amazing 60 years ago) is burnt into my mind and I occasional wake up screaming now.

One of the highlights of Manila was easily the walking tour we signed up for. It’s called Walk This Way and is run by a guy called Carlos who is somewhat of a celebrity in Manila. He’s extremely passionate about teaching tourists’ about his city and tries to reignite a bit of its history, which tends to be drowned out in the monster Manila has become. He’s an actor so expect some theatrics and shouting, which makes for great fun. Definitely do this when you’re in the city.

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The very passionate Carlos – host of the Walk This Way Walking Tour.

Another highlight is hunting down great rooftop bars for sundowners. The city isn’t short of skyscrapers, so ask around. We rocked up at this fancy one called ‘Bay Leaf’ once we had finished our walking tour. We certainly didn’t fit the image of the average patron – sweaty from a day of walking around a city with the same temperature as that of the sun, but it was a great night!

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I’m the responsible adult.

Finally – don’t miss out on the Chinese Cemetery. It’s a bit of an Uber ride from Makati (where we were staying) but it’s well worth it. The Chinese go all out to honour their dead. The rich build private mausoleums in the cemetery, some with their own bathrooms and air-conditioning. For the dead. Some even have kitchens if the dead want a midnight snack.

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Rows and rows of mausoleums.

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The colourful paper is ‘paper money’.

Jokes aside, the facilities are more for the living relatives that come and pay their respects frequently and will often have picnics in and around the mausoleum.

Before I knew it, we were on yet another rooftop bar preparing ourselves for a 10 hour bus ride to Banaue – the worst bus ride I’ve encountered so far. But that’s for another blog.

Cheers for now.

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