If it's your first time to visit this lively city and travelling alone, I'd suggest you join a guided tour because the place might overwhelm you. There are many tours offered around the net, that popular tour by Carlos Celdran or go pick one of your liking.
But if you're the adventurous type, the one willing to go out of their comfort zone to explore and experience a place, here are the many ways you can enjoy Manila and feel its real vibe.
1. Wear Comfort and Act like a Local
There'll be long walks, it's wise to dress appropriately and make sure you wear your most comfy shoes. Be like any local and blend in the crowd. The place is busy and bustling with lots of action. If you must bring a camera, carry one that won't take much attention and secure it after every snap. Ask directions if you feel lost, most Manileños are friendly and willing to extend help anytime although there are also crooked individuals that you must stay away from.
2. Take the Local Transportation
Jeepneys, Tricycles, Kalesa, these are rides that offer a more colorful way to feel the real vibe of Manila. Ready yourself for some chaotic moments, traffic scenarios and smoke-filled atmosphere. Plan your route and check the regular rates to avoid paying more. Standard jeepney rate is 8.50 pesos for the first 5km distance. Learn to shout "PARA" once you reach your destination to signal the driver to stop.
3. Sample the Local Flavors
Find out what makes Filipinos/Manileños tick by sampling what they love to eat. Try balut, isaw, sisig, chicharon bulaklak, fish/squid ball, dirty ice cream, mani, banana cue, taho, turon, tokneneng, kwek kwek, binatog and the list goes on.
4. Hunt for Bargains
Manila is still the best place to hunt for bargains. Check out DIVISORIA for the cheapest products you have in mind. Refer to my Divisoria post where to find the items you might need. From Divisoria you can go to Quiapo afterwards by riding a jeep and find more bargains like camera and all related stuffs (the cheapest in the country), handicrafts, beads and accessories. You can also pay a visit to one of the most famous churches in the country, Quiapo Church, say a little prayer and make a wish. Outside you can find a row of fortune tellers ready to tell your fortune for a fee.
5. Visit The Oldest Chinatown in the World
Established in 1594, Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the World. You can walk your way here from Divisoria. Go visit Binondo Church, explore the streets and find plenty of quaint looking Chinese restaurants you can try, exotic Chinese medicines, charms and beads for good fortune and exquisite jewelries.
6. Bike your Way around Manila's Heritage Attractions
Since most of Manila's heritage attractions are not far away from each other, you can explore them easily riding a bike. I saw some bike rentals in Luneta and near Cultural Center of the Phils. You can start your tour from there, then head to the walled city of Intramuros, check Fort Santiago, bike your way to Roxas Blvd and have a massage by the bay for 50 pesos while waiting for the famous Manila Bay Sunset.
7. Time your Trip during the Annual Aliwan FiestaAliwan Fiesta is held annually on one weekend of April. Here, you'll witness colorful parades from representatives of most provinces in the Philippines, exhibiting their products and their cultural dances. You'll get a glimpse of every Festivals held in some parts of the country through Aliwan Fiesta.
8. Visit Mall of Asia, the 10th Largest Mall in the World
Partly Manila and partly Pasay, Mall of Asia occupied a reclaimed portion of Manila Bay. You can do your shopping here and afterwards have a seafood meal on one of the restos along the bay and a night cap on some of the bars offering live music or ride the MOA Eye.
9. Send A Postcard from Manila's Central Post Office
10. Capture Manila's Nightscape
If you're into photography, you should capture how lovely Manila turns out at night. Take your tripod and position your lens along Roxas Blvd, from Harbor Square, and from Cultural Center of The Philippines. The views from there are awesome. Practice your high aperture and long exposure shots to photograph Manila's breath taking nightscape. (still on my to do list!)
There are still many ways of spending a weekend while in Manila, I just listed my top 10. Enjoy Manila!
|This was only taken using my HTC phone from a room in Manila Hotel|