AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Manila: Day 1

Our first morning in Manila wasn’t so great. We had only eaten snacks the night before so we wanted to find some food and we needed an ATM because we had no Philippine Pesos.

We wandered around the shopping mall which was next to the hotel. Unfortunately, the only food places it had was American style burger places, pizza restaurants and then the usual KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds. We picked the least worst option and had McDonalds for breakfast. The shopping centre also had an ATM so we got enough cash for a couple of days.

With both our objectives complete we went back to the hotel to get our bags and leave. The hotel didn’t even ask about us still having two nights remaining. They quickly dealt with us and called a taxi to take us away.

We had picked a hostel which had amazing reviews and was located in Makati the rich part of Manila where most of the large companies in the Philippines are based. This area was supposedly safer and had good restaurants. There was only one downside, Makati is not near the tourist bits of Manila. We decided that was the price to pay for staying in a nice area.

We reached the hostel at almost midday. We had planned it like that so we could hopefully get straight into a room at the hostel. But no. We were told that to leave our bags and either go into the city or sit around and wait. We chose to go into the city.

In other cities on this trip we have either stayed near the center or used public transport to get around, so in keeping with our usual habits we decided on public transport. BIG MISTAKE! The hostel is not near the MRT which is the train into the city centre. The hostel had said get a Jeepney towards Ayala Road, then another Jeepney to near the MRT station. A Jeepney is only useful for locals, they have specific routes which are not published or described anywhere, on the side of each Jeepney is the start point, end point and sometimes a name of a place it goes via. So unless the destination you want is a destination of a Jeepney they are impossible for tourists to use. Luckily we saw a Jeepney which had its destination as the road we wanted so we jumped in. It was very cheap but the driver clearly doesn’t care about the passengers, his brake and accelerator usage was incredibly violent meaning everyone had to hold on to counter the jerking of the stop, start, stop, start driving style. Eventually we reached the road, but couldn’t see any Jeepneys going to our next destination (it could have a different name or the Jeepney could stop at a location next to the station which is called something else, either way we didn’t know) so we had to walk, which was fine it didn’t look far.

I made a mistake here and for 5 minutes we walked in the wrong direction. Normally that would be fine, but the air temperature was about 32′c with a real feel close to 40′c; we were walking very slowly and dripping in sweat. So, 5 minutes back down the road then another 10 minutes to the station, this felt like the longest walk we had made in a long time. The station was chaos, tickets have to be manually processed at a ticket booth, all of which had huge queues. Once that was over we had to get into the train, the platform was incredibly crowded and that meant the train was also very crowded, but the air con was on so at least we could finally cool off a little. The MRT only took us as far as EDSA where we changed onto the LRT to go to Central station. The two lines aren’t integrated so we had to queue again in a very cramped area to buy tickets again. Once on the platform the crush around the ticket booth seemed spacious. The train was OK at first, but as we went past each station more and more people got on without anyone getting off, people got closer and closer and more cramped. By the time we reached our station it was very difficult just to push our way off.

We walk out of the station and was immediately bombarded with tricycle riders telling us to jump on they’ll take us around. To get here had taken almost two hours from the hostel, we were hot, very sticky and still not at our destination. We decided that from now on we’d use a taxi to get around Manila.

We headed for Intramuros. This was where the Spanish had built their main settlement in the Philippines in 1571. It is a city circled by massive walls, the Spanish had controlled the Philippines from within these walls for over 300 years. Nowadays it looks a bit different, lots of the old city was bombed by the Americans during WW2.

We visited Casa Manila which is a replica of what Spanish colonial house looked like. We wandered around the large rooms just glad to be out of the sweltering heat in the street. There wasn’t much information and the occupants clearly didn’t live as lavish lifestyle as the upper classes on Europe, but it would have been comfortable.

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After Casa Manila we went to San Agustin Church but the church was closed as mass started soon. Just down the road is Manila Cathedral, but it’s covered with scaffolding and closed to the public. Further down the road, at the edge of the city is Fort Santiago, built in 1590 to defend the city. We wandered around the fort, but with no information and it with it falling to pieces we left rather unimpressed.

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Entrance to the fort.

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City view from the fort.

It was now just after 5pm and everything was closing. The heat was taking its toll and we were very tired, sticky and disappointed that we had seen so little and what we had seen hadn’t been very good. We got a taxi to take us back to the hostel. In the madness of the roads of Manila it took almost an hour to get back to the hostel, at an average speed equivalent of a steady jog.

Back at the hostel we were shown our room. For just over £20 per night we had two single beds, with about 2 foot gap between them and about 4 foot gap at the end. The floor was solid concrete and the only thing on any of the walls was the air con unit. It was almost a prison cell, no window, no colour, no decoration, concrete floor, two beds. As basic as it gets, for a huge price! Double what we paid in Thailand! Oh and the WiFi signal didn’t reach the room. Shared bathroom for the first time on the trip too. Very disappointed….

Posted from Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines.

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