Manila is so commonly criticized, you could be forgiven for deciding to give it a miss and heading straight off to the islands. Most of the criticisms are true: it is shambolic, corrupt, polluted and startlingly busy, but to leave it at that is to tell only half the story. Put aside all the negatives, and you’ll find a city that’s collection of tiny towns feel gives it a ‘just let me look around one more corner’ feeling, and despite the fast-pace, it’s a great place to relax.
Put aside the sprawling concrete-jungle mass of the whole, and focus instead on the individual districts and you’ll soon start to feel the love. The sights here are invariably astonishingly quirky, like the Coconut Palace, built for the Pope’s visit several decades ago (he refused to stay), which is built entirely out of coconut shells and palm wood, oddly mixed with 24-carat gold bathroom fixtures.
The modern, stone version if Intramuros (Manila’s fortified city) date back to the 16th century, and can be accessed via seven impressive drawbridges, while the Spanish fort of Santiago now lies in ruins, and has become a city park where the Japanese massacred prisoners and drowned them in the flooded dungeons during World War II.
Malate is the place to go for Manila’s vivacious bar hopping scene. From seedy girlie bars to rooftop beer fests, there’s not much in the way of alcohol-based carnage you can’t find in Manila, and plenty are here just for the party. If you prefer to relax, shop for knock off souvenirs in the bubbly markets, grabbing bargain DVDs and perfume to try and sneak back through customs.
Manila occasionally finds itself at the heat of some torrential flooding, which - though for tourists who have a bit of money to escape – is more of an inconvenience than a serious danger, but can certainly destroy your holiday. Time your visit to avoid the floods, though, and you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the vibe of this pleasant city shambles.
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