On the way back to Austria from Sydney, Victoria and me had a stop in Manila for little more than 24 hours. I have been to the Philippines before and it is definitely one of my favourite countries in the world. Usually I’m not excited about long layovers, but I always love being in the Philippines and I thought what’s wrong with getting to know the capital as well. Oh boy, was I wrong.
First of all, you should know, there are big cities, then there are huge cities, and then there’s Manila. Metropolitan Manila, more commonly known as Metro Manila, is home to more than 24 million people. It is the 4th largest urban area on the planet after Tokyo, Jakarta and Delhi.
We have booked a room in Makati City, which is one of the small 17 cities of Manila. Soon after arriving at the airport we got stuck in a lunatic traffic chaos. Our taxi driver told us, that is very common here. We would soon find out, it was a true story!
The hotel itself was rather old, but very good value for the low price and it was centrally located. We just strolled around a bit and then told the hotel concierge we wanted to do a tour of Manila the next morning.
A small lady greeted us the following morning, ready to show us what Manila has to offer. Of course, it took us about an hour to get to the first sight. Insane traffic again! The small cities are connected via highways and are overloaded most of the time.
We drove through the diplomatic area, with lots of high security buildings and embassies, to the American Cemetery and Memorial in Bonifacio City. It is a very well maintained and beautiful area. There are more than 17000 graves, making it the most graves of Americans killed in World War II outside of the US. The area is a refreshingly quiet spot in a very loud city and I enjoyed walking around quietly and learn about the Battle of the Philippines.
We then moved on to the area in Manila I was most excited about, the famous Intramuros. Way back, when Manila was a part of the spanish empire, Intramuros was the original historic capital. It is surrounded by walls, hence the name – “within walls”. I was even more pumped to see it, because I knew there would be no traffic jam and we could walk easily around.
It took us about 1 1/2 hours to get there, because of traffic (what else goddamn!). But the enduring traffic jams all around the cities weren’t the only thing hitting us hard that day. An armageddon-like monsoon struck hard, giving us the worst flood possible.
We drove around the Intramuros slowly, while our lady guide tried to show us all the beautiful streets, houses and churches. It is a very precious area with completely different architecture. It was a real pity, that the weather was so bad. We couldn’t even get out of the car, because we would have been completely soaked within seconds.
After driving around a bit and getting to see a small bit of Intramuros we decided to head back to the hotel. We figured it would take us about 2 – 2 1/2 hours, which we weren’t overly excited about. Traffic was even worse in all that rain, because the high water level made it all worse. For everyone. Go figure.
Our lady guide constantly apologised for the tour. We said it’s fine, she is not responsible for that crazy monsoon, and she actually gave us a nice tour. We had learned a lot and got to see cool places. But the traffic and the rain made it an horrible and enduring day for us.
In terms of traffic and transportation, Manila is the worst city I’ve been to. There are little to no public transport options to go anywhere. It’s just no fun to go out and try to do things. I could not see myself staying there longer. We enjoyed the rest of our stay though, with good food and some beers.
We agreed we would definitely come back to the Philippines, because it offers some of world’s best islands and the filipino people are amazing. But we will definitely skip Manila next time and head straight to the islands.