48 Hours In Manila

Manila has the infamous reputation of just being a stop over. Foreign tourists who has no business in Manila opt to stay for a night to rest and fly out first thing the following day. Most traveler thinks that Manila is some sterile place where you got nothing to do, nothing to see and nothing to taste or experience.

The metropolis can be a bit too western for some people. Even some Youtubers that I follow say that a lot of places in Manila remind them of their own countries. Some say that Manila’s food taste very much like the west (for western food) giving them a homey feel. Some just find the metropolis a good place to party, well it is.

But beyond that there’s a lot more to see in Manila, specially the city it self. Here are some reasons why you should include Manila in your itinerary more than just a stop over.

Here’s A quick itinerary to help you get to know Manila a bit better

Intramuros

The city inside the walls during the Spanish colonial times offers a glimpse of what city life was during the time of the first colonizers. They built this walled city to protect them from attacks of Moros and making sure the Chinese settlers are checked in. The city used to host about 8 churches with only one spared from World War 2. The Manila Cathedral on the other hand was rebuilt after the war making it one of the 2 churches standing inside the walls.

National Museum of Fine Arts &  Natural History

With the national government opening up the National Museums throughout the country to a greater audience by providing them free access, museums have now become a go to place for many people. Aside from the National Museum of Fine Arts that is housed in the beautiful Old Congress building, the newly renovated former tourism building now houses the National Museum for Natural History.

 

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Sta. Cruz – Binondo

Fine I am biased, I freaking love this district. This section of Manila hosts to the oldest china town in the world across the river from the old Spanish walled city of Intramuros. Go on a food adventure with Chinese cuisines some staying true to its origins while others adapting to the Filipino palate.

Bonifacio Global City

The newest district in the Metropolis, The Bonifacio Global City or BGC as many call it, is a world of its own. The entire district was a former military base that was redeveloped to become a premier business district. Coming to BGC simply makes you feel being instantly transported to another world. If you are a westerner and you feel a bit home sick, this is the perfect place to gain back your sanity.

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The Malls

Metro Manila actually is a great place to shop. The metropolis has a plethora of malls that have become as a communal space for the community to gather. Malls not only have shops but also churches, playgrounds and other activities to spend time with people.

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Up Town Manila

Visit the Cultural Center of the Philippines at the Up Town area of Manila. The center which is a complex of theaters was built during the Marcos era to showcase the richness of the Filipino culture. Like what its founder’s words are, the center is the home of Filipinos Culture. Watch plays and art exhibits or just be amazed at the beautiful architecture of the buildings in the complex.

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Also found in the Up Town district is the Luneta Park. The biggest park in Southeast Asia is actually patterned after the Mall in Washington DC. The park was part of the city’s former chief architect, Daniel Burnham’s City Beautiful projects around the world. source

 

Aside from these there are a host of food destinations around the metro if you’d like to have a taste of what the usual metropolitan food is in Manila. There are other off the beaten path destinations in the city but these are probably the basic destinations that may give you a good grasp of how life in Manila is.

 

Have you ever been in Manila? What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?

Beach Days In Pattaya

Knowing that I’ll be travelling mostly inland during my Indochina solo backpacking trip, I made it a point that I’ll see the sea. At least once. It was kinda difficult finding a way to put Pattaya on the route to Cambodia without going back to Bangkok. There was little information about transportation  from there to the border town of Aranyaprathet. The backpacker instinct in me though said there must be some form of transport going from there to the border. So I said, heck yeah I’ll just wing it!

How To Get To Pattaya From Bangkok

To get to Pattaya, you need to find your selves at Mo Chit bus station to take a bus all the way to Pattaya. Getting to the Mo Chit Bus station can be a bit tricky as it is not connected to any train station. So if you are not taking the train, the next best thing is get a cab or book a grab specially if you have luggage.

By train get off at the Mo Chit BTS station or the Kamphaeng Phet station if you are using the subway. From there it is advisable to take a motorbike taxi or a cab if you are press for time and it should not cost more than 120 Baht.

At the Mo Chit find the counter for your destination, Pattaya. Fare from Mo Chit to Pattaya is just about $4.50. Alternatively you can also conveniently book online.

Bus travel from Mo Chit bus station to Pattay takes 3 to 4 hours via public bus. You will alight at the Pattaya bus and van station. From there you can get another Motorbike Taxi or a local cab to your hostel.

Where To Stay In Pattaya

I wish I can recommend you the hostel I stayed at but unfortunately they’re closed now. To give you some ideas though, most of the cheap hostels are off of the down town area which is dominated by big hotels. If you are someone who doesn’t like crowds that’s good new for you. Most of the cheap accommodations are located nearer to Jomtien beach rather than Pattaya’s main beach. But that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Pattaya’s main downdown area’s draw is mostly for its  night life so staying for the day near a better beach is actually a good thing! Compared to Pattaya beach, Jomtien actually has a better shoreline.

 

CHECK PATTAYA HOSTELS HERE

Pattaya Beaches

There are a few beaches in Pattaya where you can hang out. One word of caution though, they are crowded. Mostly of middle aged Russian tourists. Having so little time and energy to convince my self to go out and explore the nearby islands, I found my self mostly hanging out at Jomitiem Beach. I think this is the quieter side of Pattaya. The water though is not that great compared to most Philippine beaches (not sure about southern Thailand beaches, I haven’t been), so do not expect much.

There are better beaches though at nearby islands. These islands can be reached by public ferry but you should go early. It can be a bit pricey for backpackers too as there are no public transports in the island. But if you want to see better beaches and you don’t have time to go south, you might want to spend a bit more on renting scooters to get around the island.

Jomitien

But then if you just want to look at the sea and just chill,  I think that Jomitien will work for you. I soak at the warm waters which was a perfect contrast to the cool breeze blowing that day. You can rent one of the beach lounge chairs and buy drinks at the care taker of the chairs. Just keep in mind though that it’s gonna be on a premium price so better to bring your own drinks. Jomtien beach is a public beach so you can just bring your own umbrella, food and picnic cloth to lie down to.

The water was warm at the time of my visit (November). The sand was okay nothing special, but it does give you that sense of having a break or vacation being far away from the bustling city of Bangkok. There are numerous cheap restaurants around the area

 

My time in Pattaya was cut short mainly because I messed up my itinerary and stayed a day longer in Bangkok. But it felt that it was time well spent. The people in The Five-O hostel (don’t search, they’ve closed) was awesome from the staff, the owner even fellow travelers I met there. Personally, I would love to spend more time in Pattaya as it seem to be an exciting part of Thailand with its beaches, parks and night life. If you plan to visit Pattaya give it about 2 days or more before you cross to Cambodia to truly enjoy it.

Read More: How To Travel From Pattaya to Aranyaprateth

S21: Cambodia’s Concentration Camp

Most backpackers when doing the Indochina trail either from Vietnam or Thailand would jut breeze through Phnom Penh.  Cambodia’s capital can be a bit boring if you would think about it. Yeah there are Museums, temples and food places that you can visit but there are such as well in Siem Reap right?

Before you dismiss and take Phonm Penh off of your list even just for a stop over, try to consider this. Phnom Penh actually holds a lot about what Cambodia is today. The city hosts a couple of Museums that you will not find in Siem Reap. Though emotionally bothering, these museums are important to Cambodia as a reminder of what the past has thought them.

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History

One of these Museums is located right at the heart of the city is called S21. Formally known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the museum got its name as it was concentration camp #21.

The property was a former high school for the city with several buildings to educate the children of Phnom Penh. As the Khmer Rouge took over the country, it’s idealist leader wanted to “reborn” the country. This rebirth means realigning the country’s priorities and goals. Pol Pot, Cambodia’s defacto leader at that time decided that the country should strengthen their agricultural productivity. He sent every one to  the country side forcing them to become farmers .

But these people whom he sent from the city do not know how to farm and use the tools. While it should increase agricultural productivity, Cambodia’s population starve instead as real farmers were killed and replaced by city dwellers. Intellectuals and educators on the other hand were also purged out of the population as the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot see them as a threat to his reign.

I know I could never summarize the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. This is why you should visit Phnom Penh even just for a stop over. I firmly believe that as part of traveling, be it for leisure or backpacking, should include understanding a bit of a place’s history. This allows us to know how to respect each place that we visit.

What You Need To Know

Entrance fee : $5
Audio Guide: $3
Adddress: St 113, Phnom Penh 12304, Cambodia
Dress code: None

So next time you visit Cambodia traveling to or from it’s neighboring countries, check out their historical sites. They can be as recent as a few decades ago but it surely have shaped the nation as it is right now.

 

Adventure: Tinipak River Trekking and Caving

It was suppose to be a day hike when two of my co-workers invited to go. But some set backs and an hour of waiting later begged us to down step our planned adventure for the day. We didn’t want to waste our day, I mean I’ve already waited for hours for one of them! Hahaha!

Daraitan, more over, the province of Rizal is famous for its mountainous topography. This part of Luzon is often visited by adventurous mountaineers who seeks the challenges of scaling a mountain over the weekend. Its proximity to the metro is its main draw for nature lovers.

How To Get to Daraitan

Commuting to Daraitan is relatively easy. First off, you have to get your self to Tanay, Rizal. There are a couple of ways to get there. Most popular option is by taking a jeep or a van from Cubao. The other option is by taking the same mode of transportation this time from Shaw Blvd. in Mandaluyong city. From those places, both transport options will take you to the Tanay Public Market.

This is the tricky part and where having friends with you be best. From the public market you will need to take a jeep that will drop you off at Sampaloc where you will need to take a tricycle all the way to Daraitan. However, it could be a better and more convenient option to just hire a tricycle from the public market to Daraitan.

Hiring a tricycle costs 400 pesos one way. We haggled a bit with the driver and got to lower it down to 300 pesos. But once we arrived at the registration area, we actually paid him 100 pesos more on top of the original 400 pesos he was originally asking for. Nope he didn’t scam us at all. It was from our own conscience. The road leading to Daraitan is horrendous! We felt that we are short changing the driver given the incredibly bad situation of the road that his tricycle endured if we pay him just 400 pesos.

The River Experience

Arriving late in the morning and knowing that we need to leave early in the afternoon, we decided to bail out of trekking up Mt. Daraitan. But we did not go home disappointed what happened next was one of the most memorable things I’ve done with nature.

We got a proper guide (which is a requirement) to take us around for a river trekking adventure. The guide gave us a few minutes of orientation about the river and the natural park before heading out. He also gave us some equipment that we will later be using in our adventure.

Our trek started along the pebble road beside a rocky river. The boulders were incredibly big and white and the farther we walk along the trail the bigger they get. The river though was almost dry until we reach to a point where the rocks seem to merge together and become the river bed it self. Crevices allow the water to flow smoothly creating this soothing sound.

After about 30 minutes we arrived at our first stop, the Tinipak cave. Honestly I would skip this one. I didn’t like the atmospher inside as the air was a bit too heavy to breath. We also felt some entities watching us so we were very cautious. I don’t know if all of us were just naturally sensitive to those or maybe they just liked us.

Inside the cave is a pool of cool water, but since we were not feeling comfortable that time we opted to just wade on the side of the pool.

 

We told our guide about what we felt inside the cave and he denied it, of course he would. But when we bumped into another guide, we think he told him about the incident, only in codes.

The best part still of this adventure is tracing the river. We were taken to magical landscapes that I never though existed. It was like the set of a Okay ka Fairy ko (a local tv show) and that Ina Magenta would come out of nowhere.

 

 

 

We spent a couple of hours just swimming and looking at the landscape. It was very hard to move on from one spot to another as our guide suggested because we wanted to stay more. But each and every stop was just as beautiful as the last one, we didn’t want it to end.

Our quick adventure in Daraitan turned from a fail to a huge surprise. Nature really has its own ways of showing you how beautiful God’s creation is. I highly suggest you bring friends with you to split the cost of transportation. They also have camping ground perfect for over night activities. I’m sure mornings by the river will be amazing!

If you have any question or suggestion about this post, you can leave on the comment section below!

Ningxia Night Market Eat Out

On my last couple of days in Taipei on my last trip there. I hanged out with a local friend checking out the area I was staying at all the way to the underground Taipei City Mall. To my surprise he actually planned to bring me to one of the best food night markets there is in Taipei, the Ningxia Night Market. Continue reading

8 Temples In Bangkok You Must Visit

It’s your first time in Bangkok and you want to explore every bit of the city. You are so excited. But, you don’t know where to start! So where should you start then, you may ask. Let’s go back to the basics first by knowing the city. Bangkok’s full name is Thai is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Nope I am not kidding. There’s even a song made using the name as its lyrics to help people memorize it. There’s a shorter version though, Krung Thep. Guess what that means, City of Angels! So this is Los Angeles’ sister city then? Hahahaha! As the name suggest this is a city of angels where the gods have converged and where you see and feel the god’s blessings. So where else best to start but with the city’s majestic Bangkok Temples! Continue reading

10 Things You Need To Do In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Most people struggle on coming up on what other things to do when planning for trips to Ho Chi Minh. Some get stuck to just doing a city tour and eating on the side streets. But there’s more to Saigon than these. Check out these 10 things you need to do in Ho Chi Minh City when you visit for more ideas! Continue reading

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour

Probably one of the best cities in Southeast Asia if you are a fan of walking tours. Doing a Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour is relatively easy even for beginners. Most of the attractions are at walking distance from each other. They can also be reached with leisurely walks along the tree lined streets of Saigon. Continue reading

10 Things To Do In Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the city adjacent to the ancient city of Angkor that hosts travelers from around the world who’s main objective is explore the temple of the ancient city of Angkor. However, there are other things to do in siem reap beyond the temple hopping experience in Angkor Wat Complex. Here’s a quick list of Other Things To Do In Siem Reap Continue reading