Manila, Philippines - Stein Travel
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Manila

Manila, the somewhat daunting capital and pulsating hub of the Philippines, is situated on the east coast of Luzon, the most northerly island, the largest and the most developed. The city was founded in 1571 on the site of a Muslim settlement. The city is made up of 16 areas which were once towns in their own right, and its major tourist attraction is the old Spanish walled city known as Intramuros, which contains some historic buildings and ruins.

Modern Manila is a morass of traffic and people, polluted and chaotic, an industrial metropolis that grew from the ashes of war when in 1945, the United States' forces fought to recapture it from Japanese occupation. It is also a city of theatres, libraries and museums, and the home to the University of the Philippines. The neighbourhoods of the metropolis vary from wide avenues full of palatial homes to squatter camps where the poorest of the poor scratch out a living.

Visitors to the Philippines cannot avoid using Manila as a starting point for their exploration of the other provinces and islands, because most charter flights to the outlying islands leave from the city's airport. The city is also within reach of day and weekend getaways on the island of Luzon; this makes it a good base for travellers intent on touring. One thing no visitor should miss is a famous Manila Bay sunset: a light show created out of the high humidity conditions coupled with the effects of cloud over the city's harbour. This remarkable sight allows a short respite from the more unpleasant aspects of the sprawling city. View the sunset from Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard or from a cruise boat that plies around Manila Bay.

Information & Facts

Climate

Manila has hot, humid weather all year round, although it is a little cooler between November and February. The hottest month is May, when the temperature averages 83ºF (28ºC). The rainy season is between June and October, although some precipitation is possible all through the year.

Getting Around

The roads in Manila are notorious for heavy smog and traffic congestion, especially at peak hours. Public transport is inexpensive and plentiful, including the elevated light rail system (LRT) and the Metrostar that has helped to alleviate some of the congestion. Travelling above the chaos, it is fast, clean and efficient, although very crowded during the evening rush hour. There are numerous bus companies that comprehensively service the city, as well as local jeepneys(brightly coloured converted jeeps used as minibuses) that can be hailed anywhere; they are best for shorter journeys, and are the most popular form of transport. Buses and jeepneys are the cheapest form of transport for areas not covered by the LRT. Taxis are also inexpensive and convenient, although traffic is bad and some drivers try to overcharge visitors. There are also calesas(horse-drawn carriages) used by tourists for short trips, and tricycle pedicabs available for hire. No matter how you travel through Manila, be aware of pickpockets.

Language

The official language of the Philippines is Filipino, but English is widely spoken. Tagalog is the most predominant of the many dialects or local languages spoken throughout the islands.

Money

The currency of the Philippines is the Peso (PHP), which is divided into 100 centavos. Major credit cards are widely accepted in the cities and tourist destinations. Banks do not always accept travellers cheques, but a receipt of purchase is useful. ATMs are available in the major cities. US dollars are widely accepted in Manila and other tourist areas and are the easiest currency to exchange; otherwise Euros and Pounds Sterling can also be exchanged in banks and hotels. Banks open from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, but their ATMs are open 24 hours. It is best to carry pesos when travelling outside of major centres.

Night Life

The nightlife in Manila is among the most vibrant and exciting in Southeast Asia, with the requisite dose of sleaze of course. You'll find everything from bar strips to strip bars and everything in between on a night out in Manila. One thing is for sure: it will be a memorable experience!

Morato Avenue in Quezon City is a good place to start. Have dinner at one of the many restaurants before hitting a local bar or comedy club. The Hard Rock Café in the heart of the Malate district is always a good bet and with two levels, pool tables, and a stage, guaranteeing a really good night out.

Head to the Pasay City and Makati region to visit upscale girlie bars, or for a really good variety of nightlife, the Malate district of Manila where everything from bars, nightclubs and discos to karaoke clubs, gay clubs and lounges can be found. Most bars in Manila close around 2am, but some will stay open later.

Looking for live music? Head to 70s Bistro in Quezon City, while the Hobbit House in Malate features live musicians performing in a very Tolkien-esque club. Or what could be more fun than partaking in a little karaoke? One of the favourite pastimes for Filipinos, there are numerous karaoke bars peppered throughout the city for travellers, tourists and just those passing through to enjoy a drink and a sing-along.

Eastwood City at Quezon City features a great selection of clubs, bars, cocktail lounges and discos to choose from, while Quezon Avenue's strip is brightly lit up after dark where all the bars and clubs are conveniently ordered in a neat little row, and bustles with party goers, expats, tourists and ladies of the night. The Greenbelt region is another good place to head for a great choice of bars and clubs where revellers looking to dance the night away will have no problem finding a club to suit their taste. Remember, the legal drinking age in the Philippines is 18.

Those looking for a more cultured night out can see a performance by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra or the Philippine Chamber Choir, which perform at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines or at the open-air Rizal Park Amphitheatre.

The Manila has several theatre companies, including the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA), Tanghalang Philipino, and Repertory Philippines. You can also see performances by the Ballet Philippines, the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, and the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group.

Shopping

Manila has just about every kind of shop, boutique and specialty store under the sun, including literally hundreds of shopping malls scattered across the city. With three large signature shopping malls in the Metro Manila area that form part of the world's top 10 largest malls, it's not hard to see why Filipinos are passionate about their shopping and tourists will enjoy sharing their love of consumables. Head to the monstrous Mall of Asia on Roxas Boulevard for the ultimate shopping experience, though a bit of carbo-loading beforehand will help weary shoppers maintain their stamina as trying to conquer the entire mall in one day is virtually impossible. Boasting an IMAX theatre, science museum and an entire entertainment centre, this mall is an attraction in itself. Other shopping malls worth a visit are the SM Megamall, Robinsons Galleria, Shangri-La Plaza, and The Podium. Head to Greenbelt 4 and 5 located in Ayala Centre for big brands like Mango and Armani, while Bonifacio High Street in Bonifacio Global City is also lined with boutique stores, perfect for that little black dress or signature piece to add to your wardrobe. A trip to Southeast Asia wouldn't be complete without a little bargain-shopping and haggling and travellers should pay the Divisoria Market a visit, where everything and anything from cookware and handicrafts to clothing and toys can be bought at astonishingly low prices - just beware of pickpockets. There are other interesting markets located at St. Francis Square, Greenhills Shopping Centre and Tiendesitas.

Sightseeing

The cosmopolitan capital of the Philippines, there is plenty to see and do in Manila. The city is full of history and this is evident in the ruins that still stand from the original capital of the Spanish East Indies which was founded in 1571, Intramuros, located on the south bank of the Pasig River. The surrounding area is full of performing venues, art galleries, shops and restaurants, making it a popular tourist Mecca. History buffs will also love the National Museum which exhibits sunken treasure from one of the Manila galleons dating back to 1600, while the Ayala Museum educates visitors on the history of the Philippines. Manila sustained heavy damage during WWII, but has since rebuilt itself into a major tourist destination in Asia.

Travellers should note that many Filipinos are Catholic, evident in the multitude of ornate churches, such as the San Agustin Church which dates back to 1606 and has survived invasions and world wars. Manila has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, where one can find exotic Chinese goods and delicious cuisine.

The Malacanang Palace, which is the residence of the Head of State is also worth a visit, while the American Cemetery and Memorial honours those who died during WWII and is a peaceful retreat from the buzz of the city.

Time

Local time is GMT +8.

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