A Travellerspoint blog

Manila


View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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Having arrived at the hotel at 06:00 this morning, we catch up on a little bit of sleep and meet our guide Rey, and driver Richie, in the lobby at 13:00.

Bistro Remedios

Not really having eaten anything since we left Bali, we are very happy when Rey suggests we go straight to lunch. The restaurant is decorated in the style of a traditional wealthy Philippine home. Rey takes charge and orders a selection of typical local dishes for us all, which suits us fine.

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Chicken and Pork Adobo (very nice, with plenty of soy sauce) & Bicol Express (Meat with Coconut Milk)

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Coconut Rice cooked inside a bamboo stem

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The coconut rice

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Salad including eggs marinated in brine for ten days - very salty with a surprisingly firm texture

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Baby Squid

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Sisig - minced pork cheek - very tasty

Every dish is really very pleasant, and I love the idea of being able to taste lots of different dishes instead of being limited to the one single item when you order yourself.

Manila City Sightseeing

We have a half-day whistle-stop tour of Manila this afternoon, taking in some of the most interesting sites.

Roast Pork

Like many cities, Manila has whole areas devoted to one type of goods for sale – this entire street (and ones parallel to it) is lined with stores cooking and selling pork meat.

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Whole pigs are spit-roasted on huge BBQs, then either sold as a single item or cut up into smaller joints to make the famous Philippine dish known as Lechon.

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This one is ready to be presented for sale

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Chicharrónnes – fried pork rinds, which we know as crackling, or pork scratchings

Manila Chinese Cemetery

Also known as ‘The Beverly Hills of the Dead’, Millionaire's Row’, and ‘City of the Dead’, the cemetery is not just a place for the tombs of those who have died, many families live alongside their deceased ancestors.

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Some people merely visit their late relatives, while others make it their permanent address.

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The dwellings have kitchens, air-conditioned bedrooms, and running water so that relatives can be near their non-living loved ones at all times.

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Only members of the Chinese community are buried here, and having your deceased relatives here carries enormous bragging rights, with each of the mausoleums being more spectacular than the previous.

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The cemetery was created during colonial times, after the Chinese community was prohibited from using the Catholic cemeteries by Spanish colonials.

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Chong Hoc Tong Temple - every Chinese community will have a temple, even a necropolis

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The crematorium

Flower Market

With such a huge cemetery, it is only natural that nearby is the flower neighbourhood.

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The flower creations are not just to decorate the tombs, of course, people also buy arrangements for their homes and other events.

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Slums behind the cemetery

Binondo-Intramuros Bridge

We continue our exploration of Manila, crossing this famous modern bridge to reach the Chinatown of the city. The construction of the bridge, which does rather stand out in an area otherwise filled with Art Deco and other historical buildings, was quite controversial, and even UNESCO has weighed in on the argument, threatening to de-list the city’s Heritage listed buildings as a result.

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Nearby Art Deco architecture

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A battered old Jeepney

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Street scene in Downtown Manila

Chinatown

Manila has the 2nd largest Chinatown after San Francisco and the oldest one outside China.

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Binondo Church

In 1596, Dominican priests founded the church to serve the local Chinese who had converted to Christianity, and masses are held in Filipino, Mandarin, Hokkien, and English.

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Throughout Chinatown, as well as other parts of the country during our travels later, we see utility poles almost encapsulated by jungles of power cables. It would be a British electrician’s worst nightmare!

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Post Office

Fronted by 14 Graeco-Roman pillars, the postal building was considered the grandest structure in the country when it was built in 1926. A few months ago (May 2023), it suffered a devastating fire, leaving the facade covered in black smoke damage while it awaits restoration.

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A light drizzle starts, as we head towards the historical walled centre of Manila to discover the area on foot.

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I can't think an umbrella would do much good against the rain while on the back of a motorbike

Fort Santiago

Built in 1571 by the then-Spanish governor, it was named after St James (Santiago in Spanish), the patron saint of Spain. As the city grew in wealth and prominence Fort Santiago established itself as a formidable symbol of Spanish power in the Orient.

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The lack of sleep and jetlag are starting to take their toll on me, so I let Rey and David go off to delve into the depths of the fort and its history (now a museum), while I sit on a low wall and chat with Dane, a delightful young tourism trainee who has joined us this afternoon.

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Horse Drawn Kalesa

First introduced to the Philippines in the 1700s by the Spanish, these horse-drawn carriages were a primary mode of public and private transportation during the colonial period. These days they mainly ferry tourists around Intramuros, the walled centre of Manila.

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Rey sits at the front with the driver, while David and I hop in the back with Dane. Rey made sure to organise a ‘special’ carriage for me, one which only has a small step to get on board.

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Intramuros

The historical centuries-old walled area of Manila has mostly narrow cobbled streets and is best explored in a kalesa or on foot.

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A smoother part of the journey

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A small shop on the side of the road

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Marching band musicians gathering ahead of a performance

The shaking of the carriage as we go over the cobbles and the uncomfortable wooden sideways-facing seat soon make me feeling rather unwell. By the time I get down when we stop to look at a church, I feel extremely nauseous.

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David hands me a sick bag, and Rey directs me to sit down on the back step of the carriage where I immediately start vomiting. Dane rushes around getting me a bottle of water, and uses my hat to fan my face which is sweating profusely. The carriage is by now causing a traffic jam, and the police arrive to sort things out. In the UK, we would have been told off and ushered off somewhere else, the cops here direct the traffic a different route instead so I don’t have to move.

Rey calls Richie, our (car) driver, who comes and collects us and takes us back to the hotel. Back in the room, I not just feel sick, I also have the runs, so I mix up a rehydration drink, lie down in bed and promptly fall asleep. Ten minutes later, there is a knock on the door: a young man with two boxes of churros, a gift from Rey.

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Churros

Before we left the UK, I discovered that our hotel here in Manila has a churros café on the ground floor. I absolutely adore churros, and have mentioned a few times throughout the afternoon how much I am looking forward to tucking into some this evening, so I find Rey’s gesture very touching. Unfortunately, I still feel so ill, that even the thought of churros makes me feel unwell, so I ask David to eat my portion too (they are very much better when hot and fresh), and maybe he can go down to the café later and get me some when I feel better (I am pretty sure my current malaise is just down to dehydration).

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David reluctantly (not) agrees to eat my portion too

A couple of hours later, after a lovely sleep and plenty of water, I feel much better and David goes down to get me some churros. He comes back looking forlorn – the café shuts at 19:00, and it is now 19:10. Those sweet delights were obviously not meant to be for me today.

Thank you very much to Undiscovered Destinations, who have arranged this incredible adventure.

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Posted by Grete Howard 09:43 Archived in Philippines Tagged chinatown temple market cemetery umbrella tombs philippines necropolis horse fire unesco manila pig mausoleum flower_market chinese_temple intramuros churros south_east_asia pig_roast horse_drawn_carriage nausea vomiting post_office undiscovered_destinations kalesa crematorium roast_pork lechon bistro_remedios chicharonnes bbq_pork chinese_cemetery chong_hoc_tong_temple binondo_intramuros_bridge art)deco binondo_church fort_santiago dehyudration

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Comments

You guys covered alot in a day! Churros are always yummy! 🤩

by Ils1976

I adore churros, I even bought a churros maker to create them at home. ♥

by Grete Howard

awesome! :)

by Ils1976

Manilla looks fascinating, definitely somewhere we would enjoy visiting :)

by ToonSarah

Sarah, I think you'd really enjoy all the places we went in the Philippines ♥

by Grete Howard

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