It’s not everyone’s destination of choice – which is a shame because Manila has a whole lot going for it. It is a city of extremes: fast and slow, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful. Sky scrapers rise up behind cramped urban residencies with inhabitants living cheek by jowl, and on the roads, jeepneys, trishaws, motorbikes and cars form a chaotic chain.
Ayala Museum in Greenbelt provides an easy way to get an overview the history and culture of the city. The ‘Diorama Experience’ details the dramatic history of the country and its bloody Colonisation by the Spanish, Japanese and Americans. The ‘Pioneers of Philippine Art’, as well as other permanent and visiting exhibitions, provide an overview of the country’s rich artistic talent.
Around the Ayala Museum, Greenbelt is great for shopping and dining in a calm environment – sometimes hard to find in this city. The courtyard gardens and pond provide a pleasant setting for an array of alfresco dining options. On the crazy off-chance there aren’t enough shops here, the Glorietta complexes nearby are overflowing with shops, as well as several private art galleries.
Fort Bonifacio’s High Street also has unhurried ambience and space. The stores are at least as up-market as Greenbelt’s, if not more, and there are landscaped gardens along the walk (there are no cars). Manila’s hip crowd hang out here, and among the boutiques are bookshops, galleries and a yoga studio.
For history, the walled mini-city of Intramuros, the old Spanish defense post Fort Santiago, and Manila Cathedral are where it’s at.
Manila locals love malls and it’s possible to get truly mall-ed out here. The SM group of Malls, especially the SM Mall of Asia, claim to be among the largest in the world.
Finding tours in this city can be difficult. For something different the Peninsula Hotel, like its other branches around Asia, offer the ‘academy’ tours which take visitors on a historical, cultural and art tour of the city.
Or, if you’re feeling brave, jump on a jeepney!