We just liked saying Manila Vanilla, unfortunately there’s no vanilla in Manila.
Almost every traveller we talked to recommended skipping Manila, or staying for as little time as possible. Given that Dan and I enjoy cities more than most, we thought we would give Manila a chance and stay for two nights. As it turns out, the city is filthy, crowded and the traffic is absolutely horrendous. And there’s really not much to see other than doing a day trip to a volcano which we hadn’t planned on. So, in retrospect, I would probably have to agree with everyone and not recommend Manila as a must-see city, or even one to bother with at all (especially if you are short for time, which we weren’t).
That said, we managed to enjoy our two days in Manila enough and tried to see what the city had to offer. We had a nice refuge from the crazy city in a small Airbnb apartment tucked in a mostly residential neighbourhood. There was a nearby family-run Filipino fusion restaurant that served tasty food and we ate there both nights.
During our only full day in the city we visited Intramuros which literally translates to “within the walls”. The area is otherwise known as the Spanish Quarter and is famous for its historic cathedrals and Fort Santiago. During the Spanish colonial period, Intramuros was considered Manila itself. While the architecture is similar to much of what we saw in Europe it’s interesting to see the buildings in Asia and from a historical perspective.
After wandering around Intramuros we crossed over to the other side of the river into China town which was much more hustle and bustle than the mostly tourist-orientated Inramuros.
We had taken an Uber to get to the Spanish Quarter (which was exponentially cheaper than taking a taxi but still took about an hour to travel very little distance) and decided to try and take the metro back to our apartment. The system was relatively easy to use and cheap but extremely crowded. Please note that there was actually a guy standing on a stepladder with a large gloved hand which he raised to stop the train when it pulled into the station….
The best part of our short stay in Manila?
Our host stocked the fridge with free beers!