Originally I was going to write about Kuala Lumpur after my Taiwan post but I decided to lump it together with Penang as both are in Malaysia and neither is that long, so look forward to that in about 3 posts after this one (with Southern/Middle Vietnam next, and Cambodia after). Since I’m skipping KL for now, this brings us to January, where I was in Tokyo having spent Christmas and New Years with friends.
I originally wasn’t planning to include the Philippines in my itinerary but I found myself with an extra week in January. My choice came down to either that or Indonesia. Not feeling like I could do Indonesia justice in just a week, I decided on the Philippines, with 3 nights in Manila and 3 nights in Cebu. Unfortunately, I split it 2 nights Manila, 3 nights Cebu, and 1 night Manila. Should have just instead did 3 and 3 as I found out later I could’ve booked a direct flight from Cebu to Ho Chi Minh after. Live and learn.
With the way my itinerary was, this is how it played out:
- January 8th: Arrived in Manila and got to my AirBnB which was just outside the airport. Convenient! Ended up pinging a friend who lived in Manila and was duly informed that the one full day I had in Manila to explore the museums and cultural sights was none other than the biggest Catholic festival in Manila and the Philippines and even possibly the world. The short form of it’s name is La Traslación and basically it’s the moving of the famous status of the Black Nazarene from one church to another through downtown Manila. It starts at 5 AM, although millions are already downtown having camped overnight, and winds it’s way through the streets, finally ending up where it needs to go at approximately 1 or 2 AM the next day. Roughly 5 million people follow it around with anywhere up to 20 million showing up at one time or another to pray and try to touch the statue.
- January 9th: By the time I wake up at 6 in the morning, La Traslacion has already started. By the time I make it downtown at approximately 10 AM, it just passed the museum and park I was going to explore. Of course, said entire park and all nearby museums were closed. I ended up heading towards Fort Santiago, managing to check out Casa Manila Intramuros, the Minor Basilica, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception along the way. Most of the side streets were empty, which was an interesting feeling but after the Fort I had enough of the constant helicopters, police, medics, and passed out people in red t-shirts that I decided to head back to my AirBnB.
- January 10th: Checked out of the AirBnB and headed across the road to the airport where I caught my flight to Cebu. This was the only time (round trip) I had to check my one bag due to weight (2 kg over from 7kg maximum) for this entire trip so far. Was on AirAsia Philippines. Arrived in a downpour.
- January 11th: The weather cooperated enough that I managed to spend the day at the Movenpick resort, enjoying their small beach, a fantastic buffet lunch, and generally just lounging around. Can’t be running around seeing sights all the time!
- January 12th: Took a walk through Mactan Newtown area and explored the monuments where Magellan was killed.
- January 13th: Returned to Manila and spent the evening at the SM Mall of Asia where I printed out my Vietnam and Cambodia eVisas and had a tasty dinner.
- January 14th: So long Manila, but time for Ho Chi MInh/Danang/Hoi An!
So as you can see, I stayed primarily at AirBnBs as the trip was short and the prices were decent. The first AirBnB I stayed at was across from the airport, had a pool, and was near several restaurants and convenience stores. The only thing was the bed could be sturdier as the slats easily dislodged from the plastic inserts and both mornings I had to reinsert several of them.
The AirBnB in Cebu was the best one with a fantastic little kitchen and definitely a sturdier and much more comfortable bed. The kitchen was an added bonus as I decided to make my own breakfasts (longanisa and eggs) and with a grocery store nearby that was perfect.
The final place I stayed at was pretty much the same as the first place since it was in the same complex right by Manila Airport.
I think I’d want to come back to the Philippines, only to be able to knock off the few cultural sights that I missed in Manila and then spend the rest of the time on a nice island like Boracay. The food was tasty, the people are friendly, but the heat, incredibly poor traffic, and mosquitoes doesn’t make it one of my go-to places. Perhaps if the infrastructure were improved, like more metro lines including one that goes all the way to the airport, Manila would be more tourist friendly, but overall, I would say go to the Philippines for the beaches, as you can find good food out there as well.
Now let’s check out some random photos!