Asia,  Philippins,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Manila (Philippines): the city that scares people

The Philippines: the country of the French nomads with Thailand. We came here (1) to understand why there are so many nomads here (2) to support financially this country which has done a service to the whole ASEAN by facing China which is invading all the maritime space of ASEAN (the Filipinos filed a complaint before an international court and won. BRAVO friends!!).

Yes, we were supposed to spend 1 month in Mainland China but after the Chinese government made its c$nnard to the neighboring countries (including Vietnam, my country), we preferred to spend our money elsewhere. Choosing the Philippines was an indirect (and silent) way to fight against China’s aggressiveness.

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

The trip from Hong Kong to Manila by plane is going well even if we almost didn’t get on the plane because of a mandatory exit ticket that we didn’t have (Hong Kong still has a certain dependency vs. China that’s why we didn’t sulk neither Hong Kong nor Macau).


Manila is a polluted city, with heavy traffic jams, all the time, all the time – and not very safe. We waited 30 minutes at the airport to get a yellow cab (vs. the standard cab which apparently is less secure). 1h to reach our hotel (which is in a safe zone, link booking) which is only 10km from the airport. On the way, the driver has plenty of time to warn us about :

  • The use of the jeepney: 8 pesos/person, really cheap, but snatching is very frequent
  • Manila’s safe and unsafe areas: in any case Manaki, where our hotel is located, is safe thanks to the call center buildings and many shopping malls that attract less fearful people and are well guarded.
  • The night walk in Manila: we avoid it, it’s like walking in the middle of the night in Evry

When you arrive at your hotel and the marketing messages highlighted on the hotel poster are :

  • 24h/24 7d/7 Security camera
  • Guards 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Secure, Convenient, Central location

Now you’re thinking “they have a problem with security or what?”. This answer is confirmed when you see bank guards with shotguns or M16s, policemen everywhere, streets leading to the courtyards of buildings protected by large iron doors, stores where you can’t get in, and where you communicate with the saleswoman only through fences.

But, brave as we are, we still decide to visit this city that fears, taking our precautions. This weekend is an extended weekend, thanks to the mid-autumn festival which corresponds to the full moon of August (lunar August, of course). Who says extended weekend says “not very safe” (we still remember the series of attacks in Thailand), so we decide to take an Uber instead of taking the subway. Precaution not so useless because the same day, a not very peaceful demonstration took place in Manila, causing a lot of transportation problems.

We visit Intramuros, finally, what remains of Spanish architecture in Manila. The buildings are all converted into government offices, so there isn’t much to visit, except for the big cathedral, the fort and an old prison converted into a garden. The cathedral is very beautiful and broadcasts a movie that runs in loop about the construction of this cathedral which was destroyed 7 times (earthquake, WWII). Each time it is destroyed, it is rebuilt, even bigger and more beautiful than before.

One opts for a horseback ride at 500 pesos for half an hour, the “driver” also makes his tourist guide.


At first he spoke in English and Filipino and since I thought he didn’t speak English very well, I didn’t immediately understand that it was Filipino. 10 minutes later, we realized that he actually spoke Filipino… for me 🙂 because I look too Filipino. Thank you thank you thank you thank you ! I like to be taken for a local (especially in Thailand and the Philippines where I find the girls super pretty, I liked less in India and Nepal where I was taken for a Chinese).


We’re having the time of our lives…img_3830.jpg

Speaking of which, we came across a shooting of the Miss Global 2016, coming from different countries. They have to wear traditional clothes and pose under 36 degrees at Fort Bonifacio. Frankly, they have a lot of merit. I also congratulate the photographers who have the courage to lie down on the ground, on this burning ground, to take beautiful pictures.

We pass several universities and high schools. Private universities have air conditioning, public universities do not have air conditioning, it is easy to spot them. Here, English is one of the official languages (along with Filipino), and different subjects are taught directly in English (math, physics…) which makes Filipinos speak SUPER good English. On the radio, they mix the two languages, switching from one language to the other, you can understand the content very well.

We stop in front of a university to taste the buko (coconut juice with a bit of young coconut flesh swimming in it), a very risky try because this drink contains ice cubes. I try it anyway (without being sick fortunately). JB, more disciplined, won’t taste it.

1h from Uber later, we go back to the hotel where we enjoy the beautiful view of Manila from the rooftop (it’s too good, by the way the hotel is well named: Our Awesome Hotel hihihi). We have dinner in a bui bui near the hotel for only 150 pesos (3€), it’s too good! It is surely the best economic meal of all our trip for the moment!

Restful evening for an early morning departure the next day to El Nido and its dream islands.

Day ? : Return to Manila

We are back in Manila after a dream stay in the islands. We hate so much this polluted city with permanent traffic jams that we spend our life at the hotel and eat in the local bui-bui. A quick visit of the Power Plant Mall is enough to make JB sick (too many people, too much traffic jam) and make me all happy (too many nice things to buy).

Next destination: South Vietnam.

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • 53 pesos = 1€
  • Hotel : Our Awesome Hotel (booking link) : 30$/night
  • Yellow cab : airport -> hotel : 260 pesos or 5€
  • Uber: between 160 pesos and 260 pesos for a trip of 5 to 7km (depending on traffic)
  • Intramuros :

    • 350 pesos/30 minutes for tricycles
    • 500 pesos/30 minutes for horseback rides
    • In general, there is no entrance fee, but if there is, it is between 10 pesos and 75 pesos

  • Food :

    • In shopping malls: between 120 and 150 pesos per dish
    • In the bui bui: between 50 and 70 pesos per dish, filtered and fresh water free of charge
    • Water bottle 1L: 18 pesos


  • For all your travels, prefer Uber or the subway
  • From the airport, queue for the yellow cab, more secure and cheaper of all (between standard cab, prepaid cab, bus)
  • Don’t come from/leave the Philippines with more than 10,000 pesos and more than 10,000USD per person
  • Before leaving for the Philippines, make sure you have an exit ticket from the territory
  • Don’t participate in any political demonstration, it’s illegal (for you)
  • Keep your pesos before leaving the country to pay the “terminal fee” at the airport (550 pesos/person)

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