Philippines – Manila: suddenly a “stranger”

World Tour:  23rd Stop – Manila

First time we are hosted through Couchsurfing… and first time we don’t even find the accommodation!

Le Nostre Tappe A Manila

Philippines: Our stops in Manila

New day, new country! We land in Manila capital of the Philippines, just before midnight. The arrivals area is so small we don’t even notice we are already out from the airport as soon as we pick up our luggage and pass through the immigration checks. We look for an ATM to withdraw some money but we only find 2: the first one “kept” the credit card of the guy before us… so thanks, but no thanks, while the other didn’t give the notes to the guys, but still emitted the receipt for done transaction. Guess what? We decide not to use either of them, change 20 Euros and postpone the money withdrawal to the next day.

Everyone has warmly suggested us only to trust cab driver we could find on the APP Grab and, using the airport wifi (we had yet to find a place where to get a local SIM), we call one that promptly arrives. We give him the hotel address and after half a hour we arrive at the address Booking.com gave us. There is only a tiny problem: there is nothing there, no entrance whatsoever and if there is, it is totally covered up in wooden planks. It’s 1am, we can see closed off roads like there were a curfew, with only a few open passages, and with guards patrolling them. The situation doesn’t look good, but luckily the cab driver stays with us and tells us to keep the car doors closed. With him we try to call the number we had on the booking papers, but with no luck. After half an hour we ask the driver to take us to a hotel in another city area. Nothing happened, but it was really a creepy experience.

Filippine: Manila, murales

Philippines: Manila, murales

We take our time getting up on the next morning and then we get in contact with the guy from Couchsurfing we were going to stay at that night, hoping to be able to drop the luggage at his place. We take a taxi and in one hour we arrive at Quezon City, one of the modern neighborhoods of Manila.

We see many different aspects of the city: from rural areas to modern skyscrapers with department stores on the inside and luxurious bars visible from the outside. It is a strange reality the one that is common to the developing countries. Probably the scissor between poor and rich gets wider and wider, with the seconds getting richer every day and the firsts struggling to remain afloat.

Filippine: Manila

Philippines: Manila, TV antenna shaped like  a bike…

James, our host, welcomes us with a big smile. We register ourselves in his building registration book, and then we head up with him to the 20th floor. The flat is modern and welcoming and we drop our luggage in the room where we’ll sleep. We notice with pleasure how nice his kitchen is and we hope we will be able to cook something Italian in the next few days.

With James we visit first the department store, where we get a Philippine SIM (that will only work at times, as all the wifis we have found so far. After a week we change operator from Smart to Globe, probably the best operator in the Philippines) a quick tour of the “fake market”, an entire floor full of brand names products… but not exactly original ones. A quick stop at the supermarket and at night we eat a simple but good dish of past prepared by chef Cecco!

Filippine: Manila, cena Couchsurfing

Philippines: Manila, Couchsurfing dinner

It is Sunday night and it is time to visit Manila. Metal Detector to enter in the metro and after half an hour we arrive at Central, where we get “assaulted” by “tricycle” that offer to take us to Intramuros, the historic area. We decide to go there on foot, noticing the huge amount of garbage around the streets or even on the houses roofs! The trash system is a big problem in many places around the world, probably some business man with the right connections could start a recycling system and make a lot of money out of this.

We start our visit of Intramuros from the Sain Augustin Church, whera a wedding is taking place. We enter in the museum nearby reading the history of Christianity on the panels, it arrived with the Spanish “conquistadores” who also named the ilands agter their king, sole, intitolandole a Philip II of Spain. Really interesting.

Filippine: Manila, cattedrale

Philippines: Manila, cathedral

We finish our tour in Fort Santiago and then at the Rizal park, where there are thousands Filipinos basking in the sun and basically spending their Sunday relaxing. To head back we take the metro, and it is so full that we have to wait quite a long time before we can get on and even when we do we are quite squished, it didn’t happen since Shanghai.

We go back at James, and we meet his new flatmate, Jil, who is only briefly staying in Manila and just got back from a 2 months long work trip. He works for the Israelian reality show Survivor, which is shot on a Filipino island. We are astound by how many people collaborate to produce a reality show, he tells us that in his troupe there are about 150 Israelians and 100 Filipinos.

Filippine: Manila, Park Rizal

Philippines: Manila, Park Rizal

It doesn’t look like Manila has a lot to offer, if not some really beautiful locations but really far to reach. so we decide to take a break and spend the day relaxing and planning the rest of our trip. At night, though, we go out for dinner with our 2 hosts to try some local cousine. After supper we head to a bar and meet an Iranian guy and we spend the night playing cards, more specifically a game called “change”, which apparently is very popular in all South America.

We have to go to the airport and we decide to take the metro to do so. We underestimate that in the rush hour there are a lot of people moving around, and we end up waiting at the Metal Detector for half an hour. We also have to give up on 3 trains before we decide to get on the 4th one no matter how full it is. We are squeezed to an inch of our lives but the important bit is that we are moving. We get off at the last stop and, we are in such a hurry, that we decide to take a taxi, which of course has a taxameter, and it takes us to the airport to fly to the ilsland of Palawan!

Filippine: Manila

Philippines: Manila

Previous stop: Chiang Mai

Next stop: Island of Palawan

Page about Philippines: Click here

Our itinerary summed up:

World tour day
Date Activity Mark Accommodation
93 06/01/17 Bangkok => Manila (plane, Philippines Airlines, departure 6.50pm – arrival 11.10pm). Then long search of our accommodation… Manila
94 07/01/17 James of Couchsurfing, shopping and dinner Manila
95 08/01/17 St. Augustin Church 7 Manila
Manila Cathedral 6,5
Fort Santiago 6
Manila Bay 6,5
Rizal Park 7
Dinner and night out with Couchsurfers: James, Gil
96 09/01/17 Nerding at James’s and night out with Couchsurfers James, Gil and an Iranian guy Manila
97 10/01/17 Manila => Puerto Princesa (plane, Cebu Airlines, departure 11.50am, arrival 1.10pm)

Complete photo gallery:

Author: Ste

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