I always say that Manila is a city that has lots of faces. It gives one an opportunity to see opulence and comfort comparable to 1st world cities, however, some kilometers drive away, one can be faced with abject poverty and horrid living conditions.
For a tourist though, I compiled a list of some interesting parts of the city where one can visit on a 2-3 day Manila stay (assuming that you would eventually fly to a beach or island from Manila).
1. Shopping Malls. SM, Glorietta, and Robinsons Shopping Malls are the largest and the most present shopping malls in the country. In the Philippines, people do almost all entertaiment in the shopping malls. A lot of foreigners are overwhelmed when they get inside and it could be quite disconcerting. One can not just shop in our malls but do a myriad of other things as well. Aside from the usual shopping, one can also have lots of choices when it comes to restaurants inside (Filipinos love to eat). Inside the malls are also entertainment centers like the cinemas, ice skating rinks, bowling centers, game centers, etc. Doctors and Dentists office are also there so no need to find an extra dentist if one needs to get teeth cleaned.
2. Divisoria/Tutuban Area. This is the place where you buy things very cheap, although in recent years, there also have malls that have higher prices. Just be sure to buy things in the street stalls or alleys and not inside the big air-conditioned malls. Just a tip though, you need to dress really down, prepare to walk a lot in the streets, and haggle hard.
3. Manila Ocean Park. This is also an interesting place to visit. The entrance with sets of attractions cost not much and they do have interesting spots. They have giant aquariums, sharks, and crocodiles to boot.
4. Night Markets. These are getting popular in recent years. Basically, you can shop in local prices as well as eat local foods. The cleanliness of food has improved a lot on recent years because of stricter sanitary controls. Depending on the night market that you want to visit, the price of the experience can vary. Night markets sells everything from fashion, jewelry, decorations, toys, food of course, etc. Some famous night markets are the Tutuban Area, Intramuros Night Market, Dampa Market, and Mercato Central.
5. Mabini Area. This is like a red district of Manila but one can also do lots of safe things there. Because lots of foreigners flock to this place at night, they have cheap Japanese and Korean restaurants, as well as massage parlors in every corner. Not to worry though, most massage parlors offer just clean massage unless otherwise specified. These area has also affordable hotels and lodging places and it has everything in walking distance. It is also near to the airport.
This is one of the bars where you can eat and there are live performances from legitimate local bands. (Photo not mine).
6. Wensha Spa. This is a 24 hour spa that can be found in Pasay City and Timog Avenue. The spa offers different kinds of massage, jacuzzi and sauna, as well as complimentary buffet that is actually good. This place is a favorite for middle to upper working class and lots of locals actually patronize the place. This is near the SM Mall of Asia shopping mall so this is a good in between place after a tiring full day of exploring and before going back to the hotel.
7. Quiapo Church. The church itself is also interesting but the area around is the more fascinating. If your stomach can handle it, this is the place where you can have a taste of our street foods. There are also lots of vendors around selling interesting things like spells/concoctions for your lover, enemies, yourself, etc. Just a head up though, this place can be really messy and really loud and please take care of your wallet all the times.
8. Casinos. If you want a piece of Vegas, Manila has also lots of big casinos that you can walk inside. Some examples are the City of Dreams, Casino Filipino, Midas Hotel and Casino, Hyatt, etc.
9. Manila Bay Area. This is also an interesting visit specially at night. One can walk in the boulevard by the bay after having dinner in one of the restaurants, The area is also alive until the wee hours of the morning because of the many bars around. This place is where one can also ride the kalesa or a carriage driven by the horse around. Important note though, ask the price around and haggle before agreeing and stepping in.
10. Rizal Park. This is a big, open park that are famous for poor to mid-income families, working class and lovers. Here is where one can see dancing/singing waterfalls which is a delight specially to the children. There is also an ampitheater where one can watch performances / plays / small orchestra for free. Otherwise, just bring a small blanket and food and sit on the grass while observing how simple Filipinos entertain themselves. Do not be also surprised if children come to you or some locals try to talk to you. Most of them are just being friendly but of course, always take caution and never offer monetary help should you come to this situation.
I guess I should say that this is just a sample of Manila that I could list for now. I co.uld also honestly say that this city is an interesting city with lots of offers and has a variety. Plus, people always compliment Filipinos as very friendly and welcoming so it might be a good experience to come, visit, and get to know this side of the world.
As a Filipino, if I could help, let me know.
Thanks for reading. 🙂