“Welcome to Jollibee,” says the gun-toting doorman. Guns are everywhere in Manila. The parking attendant with his shotgun, hotel security playing with his six-shooter, and even the Starbucks have armed security. This is just one of the obvious social differences when arriving to Manila from Bangkok.
To me, Manila was slightly unnerving. It lacked the Asian charm of Bangkok and Southeast Asia and to me felt closer to a Hispanic South American country. Locals dress more American. Shaved heads, baseball caps, bandannas, basketball, baggy pants. All unfamiliar to me. Do Americans visit Bangkok to see ‘soccer tops’ and think ‘hooligans’?
Transport and Getting Around
The tuk-tuks and motorbikes of Bangkok are replaced with Jeepnies and Trikes in Manila. For short tourist visits, jeepneys aren’t practical. Similar to the songthaews of Thailand Jeepneys run on pre-planned routes throughout the city. They won’t be much help for finding tourist attractions.
For short-distance travel, barter a price for a trike (tricycle). Trikes can normally fit two passengers sitting face to face. For longer journeys stick to taxis. Taxis run on meters starting around 40 Pesos which is not so different to 35 baht which is the starting price for taxis in Thailand. However, taxi drivers often rip off tourists so be sure to ask for the meter.
Trains MRT and LRT
Cheaper than Bangkok’s Skytrain but for short visits not so convenient. We found even during non-peak times the trains were full. When we travelled with suitcases it was a nightmare. We stood in front of the queue for 3 trains but people just push in ahead of us when the trains arrive.
Where to Stay?
Makati is a popular area for tourists. Skyscrapers, clean, international. Hotel prices are not so much different from Thailand. For cheaper hotels, there are “Love Hotels” which charge for 12-hour blocks. Not recommended.
Red Planet Hotels are good for affordable luxury with Red Planet Makati. For mid-priced and luxury hotels you can find all the bland international brands nearby. Note, you may find a bit of sleaze in the area as you will find it all over Manila. P. Burgos is the infamous red-light area.
Food and Drink
Eating out in Manila is similarly priced to Bangkok. Although Beer is cheaper in Manila. Wine is also cheaper but it may be hard to find wine culture. Amazing variety of local foods. Hard to know where to start. Meats are not so different. Moo Ping in Bangkok is similar to Pork Liempo in Manila and Chicken Insala in Manila similar to Kai Yang in Bangkok.
It is the prepared dishes which really make the difference. In the Philippines, many dishes are vinegar-based rather than coconut-based (albeit the vinegar does come from coconut). Some of the more exciting dishes include the iconic chicken adobo, the sour sinigang soup and a personal favourite the Bicol Express. Eating in the Philippines is worth the visit alone. For our top 10 Filipino Food check here.