Sitting right on the Manila Bay, Manila is a bustling city that is also the Filipino capital. To the south of the city is Navotas and on the northern side is Caloocan. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, as well as being an increasingly popular tourist destination. Steeped in history, Manila has both architectural places of interest as well as various cultural attractions such as museums, and events with a cultural focus. The beautiful Filipino scenery is not far away either - there are parks to stroll through, as well as a series of natural attractions just a short distance away.
The weather in Manila is ruled by two seasons - wet and dry. The dry season is from November to April, so most people holiday at this time to avoid typhoons. The temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius on very hot days.
Manila is a safe place to holiday, as long as you keep your wits about you. Be careful to watch out for tourist scams such as fake tour reps, or people pretending that they know you from a hotel or other service in order to obtain money or goods. As always when travelling, watch out for pickpockets.
Parks and the Great Outdoors
Greenbelt Park is an expansive area of decorated shops, theatres, cultural centres and grocery stores. It has plenty of green space and heavily planted courtyards, as well as a Catholic chapel and a mini park in the centre. Not only will you find plenty of places to eat, drink and shop, but you will find the surroundings extremely peaceful, and the ideal place in which to relax and just watch the world go by. Why not visit some of the grocery stalls, and create your own picnic to enjoy in the courtyards? The Greenbelt Park truly comes alive at night, with bars, pubs and clubs to cater for all tastes of music and mayhem.
Rizal Park is another green area. It has an auditorium, water fountains and a highly interesting landscaped relief map of the entire Philippines. There is a Chinese and Japanese Park within the area, providing a delightful opportunity to wander around and cool off under shaded trees. The Rizal Park also houses a butterfly park as well as the Manila Ocean Park, which is home to many marine animals. For those who like sports, the Rizal Memorial Track and Football Stadium where a FIFA World Cup qualifier was once held, is also in this area. In the vicinity too, is a baseball stadium.
If you are really looking to get away, take a day trip to Corregidor Island - a rock island that sits just outside of Manila proper. The island used to be home to the country's top-ranking military personnel. Today, it is a Filipino national monument and a great way to learn more about the country, in a relaxed and tranquil setting.
On the subject of eating and drinking, the type of food you will find in Manila takes influence from various cultures, including of course Filipino, as well as Chinese, Indian, Western and Caribbean. In addition to the smaller local restaurants and cafes, you will of course find all of the typical chains that dominate capital cities around the world, such as Wendy's, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut. For more authentic food make sure you try some traditional Philippine dishes, which include interesting offerings of isaw (grilled chicken guts), helmet (grilled chicken heads) or balut - a duck egg complete with embryo! The national firewater is tuba, which comes from the sap of a coconut tree, although it is mostly drinks like San Miguel and Carlsberg and other international beers that dominate the bars. Tap water in Manila is generally safe for drinking, but there are plenty of places to buy inexpensive bottled water for those who want to play it safe.
The nightlife is extremely varied in this vibrant city. You can sing your heart out at karaoke, rave the night away at a nightclub, laugh out loud at a comedy venue or have a few low-key drinks in one of the quieter bars. The best places to go for a great night out are the Baywalk as well as the Bohemian Malate and the older Ermita neighbourhood.
Top Manila Attractions
When it comes to sightseeing, you need to set aside several days during your holiday to Manila. Near the centre of town, you will find Intramuros - Manila's ancient capital. Intramurous was built back when the Spanish controlled the area. Inside the ancient city's walls, you will get to stroll along cobblestone streets and look at the ruins. Plus, Intramuros is also home to Fort Santiago - a stone fortress that was built in the 17th century. Today, Fort Santiago is a revitalized museum and park. It is a very interesting attraction to take children to visit, as it provides educational activities to enrich younger visitors and teach them about Manila's history. A tour of the site is available in various languages.
For a taste of local tradition, head to the Quiapo Church. Inside this Catholic Church, you will find a life-sized statue of Christ. As the local legend goes, if you touch this statue, it will wash away all of your sins.
If you are prepared to travel a little bit further, Taal Volcano on the island of Luzon, about 37 miles from Manila, is well worth a visit. After a boat trip, you can take a pony ride to access the volcano, or you can hike. The last major eruption was in 1965, and all has been quiet since 1977, but it is one of the active volcanoes in the Philippines and the authorities monitor it very closely. From this point of view, it may not be for the feint hearted!
In terms of more cultural offerings for during the day, visitors can see the Museum of Philippine Political History, the National Museum of the Philippines, or the children's museum - Museo Pambata. There are a couple of university museums that house contemporary art, interesting artefacts, and information on science and technology.
Luckily, most of the hotels in Manila are within walking distance of the water and many of the big tourist attractions. For the best selection of hotel rooms in Manila, look up and down A. Malbani Street - a main thoroughfare through town. Or, if you're looking for a room that offers more peace and quiet, head to nearby Makati City. There are plenty of hotels and sights there to enjoy, without being too far from the Manila city limits.
There is accommodation to suit all visitors to Manila, whether you are a lone traveller looking for a cheap place to rest your backpack, or a family wanting all the modern conveniences to make their stay more comfortable and enjoyable. Most central hotels will offer services such as Internet and tea and coffee making facilities in the room, with the more luxurious offerings having spa treatments, gyms and pools. Apartment suites are a mid-budget option for travellers who want to stay centrally without paying large prices, and most have en-suite bathrooms and a balcony. The larger hotels with have restaurants on site, but explore the surrounding areas for little cafes and eateries if you want a more authentic Manila dining experience.