January 19, 2009

Manila in a day

Some of you might think I am crazy for traveling to Manila for 24 hours, considering I was in Kuala Lumpur, and had to get to Tokyo. For those who don't know where Manila is located, it is the capital of the Philippine Islands, and it's much further east than Borneo in the South China Sea. My decision to see Manila for a day can be attributed to two factors: to see a new country and culture, and because it was actually cheaper to fly from Krabi, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, then to Manila, and on to Japan, than if I was to buy a ticket from Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur directly. Go figure. But with low cost carriers flying throughout Asia, you sometimes need to get a little creative.

I flew from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur and on to Manila with Air Asia. I gave myself about 18 hours in Kuala Lumpur since it was my third time in the city, and I was really only there to get some Indian food at the Nagasari Curry House on Nagasari street, that I had been craving since my friend Jodi and I ate there several months prior. I had the tandoori platter, which was some tandoori chicken, nan bread, and some curries, for something like $3 USD. I'm sure I mentioned this before, but KL is amazing for food, and it's damn cheap. The city has a great mix of Malay, Indian, and Chinese cuisine. I stayed at Le Village guest house again, but this time it was packed, and noisy. I wouldn't recommend staying there, but it was easy as Chinatown is pretty central. If you do want a place for a couple days, stay at Red Palm backpackers or any other place on Tengkat Tong Shin in the Bukit Bintang area.

I almost missed my flight to Manila because of the hour time change between Thailand and Malaysia. Note to self, it's more important to change the time on your alarm clock than your wrist watch. Air Asia flies into Clark International airport, about an hour and a half north of Manila. At least it was easy to catch a bus and take it into the city to the neighborhoods of Melate and Ermita. Melate is where most of the travelers stay and it's where I found a guesthouse that was decent enough for a night.

Manila is a busy, noisy city, but it has a lot of character.  The Jeepneys are a perfect example of this.  Left over military jeeps from World War Two were converted into crazy looking, colorful communal taxis, that dominate the streets.  There is poverty, and the streets are pretty run down, but Filipinos seem to be some of the friendliest, and happiest people I've seen in Asia. 
They have great Southern hospitality...Southern Asia that is.  I met some nice locals who went out of their way to make sure I had a memorable time.  I asked some people in my guest house where I could find some great Filipino food, and instead of just telling me it was around the corner, one guy took me to his favorite place to eat with us.  At night I met two locals who wouldn't let me pay for drinks, and bought beer all night, even though they didn't have much money.  Speaking of drinks, I think the Philippines has the cheapest beer I've found in Asia, and pretty decent too.  One bottle was about 40 US cents.

With my one afternoon, I walked around the neighborhoods of Ermita and Melate.  There isn't much to see, but two things stood out the most.  The first is that there are signs on most places that say, please check your gun at the door.  So I guess that means there are a lot of concealed weapons around.  The second thing is that the streets are filled with employment offices, and there are tons of jobs to be found.  It's not just local work, most of it is overseas employment, working at hotels, or on ships.  A big percentage of Filipinos work abroad, so they can send money home to their families.

Even though I didn't spend much time in Manila, I'd like to come back and really see the Philippines.  Manila kind of grew on me after I first arrived, and it's pretty easy to get around on their nice LRT train line.  I've heard great things about the beaches on the many islands, and the scuba diving is supposed to be great.  One day I'll be back.

For a brief glimpse into life in the Philippines, here are my photos of Manila.  There aren't many shots, but hopefully enough to paint a picture of the place.


Anonymous said...

You should spend more time in Manila, or rather see other places than Manila when in the Philippines. Glad you liked the place, I know a lot of people that are from there. Friendliest people I know.

AMY_BELL - said...

I used to read your blog regularly but got a little busy the last couple of months but when I was trying to catch up I noticed there's no Julie entries...where did she go?

Jared said...

Jenny, I wish I had more time to explore the Philippines. I guess that just gives me a reason to go back.

Amy, It's true that Julie hasn't written in about four months. She left the trip end of September and returned to the US. I continued on my travels.