Manila: My First Dip into the Philippines

Okay, before we start I have to be honest.

I did the Philippines wrong.

I went to the wrong islands. I stayed in the wrong accommodation. I saw the wrong tourist sites. I did the wrong organized tours. Ate at the wrong restaurants. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Everything I did was just wrong…for me.

This may be someone’s dream vacation but for me it was just tough. I didn’t do enough research and I didn’t book things that I knew I would enjoy. So some parts may come off as though I didn’t like the Philippines. That is not true. This was a me problem. If I had done things correctly for myself I might not be so hard about my time there.

This was all compounded by the fact that I had just left Korea. Even though I didn’t like Korea that much, I severely underestimated how much I was going to miss my friends once I left. I was seriously sad after leaving. I still am sad and probably will be for a while, but it was at an all time high when I was in the Philippines.

So between me not doing enough research and just being generally really REALLY sad, I probably didn’t give the Philippines a fair shake.

Regardless here is how it went!

Showed up in Manila, tried to get a cab from the airport. The wait was over two hours long. No thanks.

Tried to get an Uber/Grab (Grab is SE Asia’s version of Uber) wait was still ridiculously long. AFTER TWO HOURS, yes two hours, of waiting I finally got in an Uber and headed to my hostel.

As my uber gets closer to my hostel I quickly realize…‘oh my god, I am staying in the Red Light district.‘ Brothels on brothels on brothels for as long as the eye could see. Girls in impossibly high heels and tight dresses were paraded around. As I got out among the madness with all my luggage, I took a deep breath, and said “here we go.”

The hostel Bahay Kubo…was okay…I was glad I wasn’t staying there more than two nights. There’s water restrictions, it’s not super clean, wifi is kinda crappy, there’s no good lighting so the whole place is sort of dark and because of the location I didn’t exactly feel abundantly safe. The best part was the staff. I was tired from a long day of travel so I pretty much went to bed right away.

The next day I got up sort of late and walked around the most famous part of Manilia. The Intramuros, leftover buildings from Spanish colonization. There’s two really cool churches and a fort. I started my day at the churches. San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral. I liked Manila Cathedral better, don’t really have a reason why. Just personal preference.

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Manila Cathedral

I then headed to the old fort. It’s a quick walk away, but even on that short walk in a tourist area, the city of Manila feels a little seedy. So between being a little weary for my safety, tired from travel, and sad about leaving Korea my thoughts started to go crazy. They went a little something like this:

“OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING TRAVELING ALONE WHY DID I QUIT MY WELL-PAYING AND EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE JOB WHERE ALL MY FRIENDS ARE WHY DID I MOVE AWAY FROM MY FRIENDS IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE FIRST PLACE WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL IS WRONG WITH ME WHY AM I SO SAD”

So I slipped into an air conditioned Starbucks to pull myself together. I sat there drinking a coffee and gave myself a serious pep talk. As I was in pep talk mode, an amazing thing happened. It started to pour, and I mean POUR rain. And all of the sudden the streets cleared of all tourists and all people.

This was my chance, with no one around, I felt way more confident. I took out my umbrella and hit the streets. No more sketchy people or obnoxious tourists, the place had literally become deserted.

When I got to Fort Santiago the woman at the ticket desk was so baffled by the fact that I had walked there in the pouring rain that she waved me in for free. Score lol. Big confidence boost.

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Fort Santiago

The Fort is cool, it gives some good views of Manila and is one of the most complete last standing Spanish buildings left in the city. As it poured rain I had the place almost to myself. Except for a mom and daughter, who laughed with me as we tried to jump over the puddles to keep our shoes from getting drenched.

As I was leaving, I watched the free movie that gives the history of the fort (give this a pass). And by the end of it all I was feeling way better, way more confident and way more okay. I just kept telling myself “remember when this was exactly what you wanted?”

After the rain had passed and I was done with Fort Santiago, I grabbed an Uber to Chinatown. One of the oldest Chinatown’s in existence, it is the place to go in Manila for food. I looked up the place that was known for the “best dumplings” and went there. Not wanting to make a repeat of Japan where I only order 6 and then want more, I just want all out for the 15 piece plate. Was I glad I did, the unassuming steamed dumplings look like normal ones, but don’t be fooled, they were extremely delicious.

After filling myself on dumplings I walked to one of the Chinatown markets. They actually call these malls they’re so massive, but don’t be fooled they’re markets.

Done with the market I headed back to the Intramuros and the Bayleaf hotel. There is a rooftop bar here that gives a great sunset view of Manila. The sunset is the featured phot in this post. Sunset over and done I got another uber to Makati. The ritzy downtown financial area. It was like any other ritzy downtown financial area, including a large selection of different restaurants.

I picked an Indian restaurant, ate until I was really really full and then grabbed one final uber back to my hostel.

As a whole, I think I did pretty good for how crappy I was feeling when I first started out. I was battling being upset and tired but all in all it ended up being a pretty good day.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Brenda Swann says:

    Laura, I am sooooo enjoying your posts!

    Like

  2. Mary Hart says:

    Talk about making the best of a challenging situation! You did it with great spirit! No surprise here.

    Like

  3. Pal says:

    As a Filipino, I would never stay more than two nights in Manila unless it’s for business or to meet family… traffic is ridiculous and the public transport is not as well established as other cities in the world… it’s also a very polluted and over populated place… there are no tourist sites that are worth bracing the traffic and stress of travelling for… Makati malls and restaurants would probably be the only place I would go to… hope u went to the good parts of the Philippines afterwards…

    Like

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