It’s really several cities in one
And each one has its own personality. While some are artsy and cool (Quezon City), others are sleek and stylish (Bonifacio Global City and Makati), or even historic (Chinatown and Intramuros) – there are a few that are just plain dangerous. Be careful not to put yourself in harm’s way by venturing into unsafe areas. Knowing Manila is a bunch of cities, though, lets you choose which one suits you most.
Poverty and wealth grow side by side
Scenes of poverty in Manila can be quite jarring, both for first-time visitors and seasoned travelers. What’s more unsettling for some is that futuristic shopping districts and wealthy neighborhoods sit shoulder-to-shoulder with squalid slums. The inequality of Manila’s rich and poor is not something most travelers can easily prepare for. The fact that the Filipinos meet their circumstances with cheerfulness is of some help.
Filipinos love their malls
You’ve never seen malls quite the way the Philippines does them. Often designed as open-air, strolling spaces, Manila’s shopping centers are ideal for people-watching. They also roll a lot of different activities into one address. Bars, seafood markets, churches, ice-skating rinks and karaoke dens are just a few of the options you may find in a Manila mall.
There’s a strong art scene
Maybe it’s the Spanish influence, possibly made even more liberal by the American era, or perhaps it’s just the island vibe, but the Philippines is a hotbed of simmering creativity and this comes through especially strong in its arts and culture. In Manila, you’ll find dedicated musicians, poets, rappers, songwriters, performance artists, ballerinas, choirs, authors and filmmakers in numbers rarely found in the rest of the region. Of course, this makes for some fantastic opportunities for live music and entertainment.
Traffic can be horrendous
There’s just no way around it: Manila’s traffic can be a drag at times, especially during rush hour. Don’t even bother taking the rail lines. The best you can do is stay near the places you came to see, avoid peak hours, give yourself plenty of time, and try to not let it get to you.
Filipino food is having a renaissance
Gone are the days when Filipinos believed themselves the culinary underdogs of Southeast Asia. Today, a crop of contemporary Filipino restaurants, led by enthusiastic, patriotic young chefs, are making waves all over the capital. Visit Your Local, XO 46 Heritage Bistro, Sentro 1771, and Kabila Filipino Bistro to get a taste of this delicious new trend.