Views: 5160|Replies: 5

Streetwise in Manila [Copy link] 中文

Rank: 4

Post time 2012-3-25 12:45:43 |Display all floors

The color drained from Steve's face, his eyebrows raised and snapped together in a flash of fear. This was the moment I realized achondroplasiaphobia was very real, even though I couldn't pronounce it.

It's not every day you discover one of your friends has agenuine, uncontrollable, panic-inducing, heart-thumping fear of dwarfs.

We were sitting together on a sunny terrace overlooking Manila, discussing what to do with our weekend respitefrom the bitter cold in China,when I first mentioned The Hobbit House.

"Under his care, hundreds of dwarfs have adopted newcultural identities," I intoned, reading a review of the infamous bar thatwas started by a former US Peace Corps worker themed on J.R.R. Tolkien'sfantasy novels.

"They're no longer shunned or even feared as supposedevil spirits, but have become popular characters called hobbits - merry figureswho serve drinks, crack ribald jokes and even entertain onstage."

But this was no joking matter. Steve was not amused anddemanded we not laugh as he revealed the secret phobia he had held sincechildhood.

There would be no dwarfs tonight. No small humor. Not even alittle attempt at some friendly banter as I bit the inside of my lip, keepingmy promise not to laugh while thinking about a myriad incongruous childish gagsI could make.

We had arrived in the capital of the Philippines afew hours earlier. Direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen in four hours or less for around 2,000 yuan ($316)make a weekend trip to Manila a quick easywinter getaway for those wanting an escape from China's biting cold.

A mass of more than 600 square kilometers is home to nearly10 million people who live in the 14 cities and three municipalities that makeup what is officially known as Metro Manila.

At first glance Manilais an overbearing, dirty, vociferous megalopolis where the drive from theairport to the hotel can take longer than the flight. The traffic is, quitesimply, abominable, as you nudge an inch a minute past streets of nondescript concrete buildings, shopping malls and giant billboards of Cristiano Ronaldoand Paris Hilton. Did I mention overbearing, dirty and vociferous?

There is no real center to Manila, where the locus is really a matter ofopinion, necessity and desire. Each area is a city within its own right.

Makatiis the central business district, which is home to most of the high-end hotelsand shopping malls.

Roxas Boulevardand Manila Bay are also tourist magnets, with amixture of bars, clubs, hotels and even more shopping malls surrounded by theslums and shantytowns that connect these cities, and house the millions whohead to the capital chasing a dream to strike it rich.

For tourists and business people heading to Manila to splurge their riches, the singlemost important decision is where to stay. Comfort, safety and security shouldmatter as much as location in a city riddled with crime and where it is notunusual to have traffic jams even at 4 inthe morning.

The Edsa Shangri-La in MandaluyongCity, one of Manila's flourishing commercial areas, ticksall four boxes for any leisure or business traveler seeking an urban oasiscocooned from the chaos.

Nestled in lush greenery and basking in natural light, the632-room hotel has four international restaurants, a deli-style caf, a bakery,two lounge bars, a business center and even its own medical center.

After a quick arrival cocktail, we head to dinner at Paparazzi, a well-established Italian restaurant famous for its authenticdishes and chef who was taught to cook by his restaurant family back in Italy.

The cured beef carpaccio with salsa verde, green apple andsnow pea sprout salad is simply divine and washed down very nicely with a finepinot grigio.

My main dish, roasted sea bass with capers, roasted cherrytomatoes, black olives in a white-wine broth, left no room for dessert. Butafter a brief break, the tiramisu looked too tempting to turn down.

Satiated, loosed by the pinot and with a desire to see thisvibrant city at night, we head out into evening with the solemn promise toSteve there will be no little people. He sighed.

It soon became clear there are three types of entertainmentin Manila:ladies, girls and lady boys. The city's predilection for sex tourism wassomething that had not escaped our attention in planning this trip and it wascertainly not on our itinerary, but try telling our cab driver who started toresemble Cheech Marin's club welcome in the movie From Dusk Till Dawn.

I attempt to tell him our partners back home would not beimpressed and we were just looking for a quiet beer and maybe some live music.He bursts out laughing, raises his thumb as he turns his head to smile at meand flicks on his radio, "Here, listen, live music. Now you go havegirl?"

It's worth pointing out there are lots of good bars andnightclubs in areas such as Malate and Makati, but as we learned, most taxidrivers get a kickback from taking their passengers to the tacky bars and willtry their luck with newcomers.

Sina Weibo: LiHanWen007 manila 3.jpg

Manila 2.jpg

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 4

Post time 2012-3-25 12:46:02 |Display all floors
The next morning started much healthier with a trip to the hotel's fitness center, sauna and steam before heading to the outdoor swimming pool to catch some sun glistening through the palm trees. It is a great way to rejuvenate and offers a wonderful respite from the chaos of the city.

There are countless day tours to any one of the city's historic attractions highlighting its plight, including Fort Santiago, Rizal's Execution Site, Casa Manila, Palacio del Gobernador, Manila Cathedral, San Augustin Church, and the former headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur.

After a decent poolside cheeseburger we decide to ditch the taxis, tour guides and maps and jump onto one of the city's famous Jeepneys and see where we end up.

Emblazoned with bright color, a funky horn and cheap fares, the famous giant Jeeps, hundreds of which crisscross the city's main arteries, dropped us off as far away from any notable attraction possible and smack in the middle of one of Manila's poorest slums.

Everywhere we looked people stared. Some curious, others a little more sinister, or perhaps slightly amused that a group of tourists had dared venture into their neighborhood.

But as we advanced further into the shantytown, it was a warm awakening to real day-to-day life in Manila. Nobody was indoors, everyone, entire families were out on the street, talking, drinking, and playing board games.

It was like stepping into another world depicted in old novels where the shared poverty had created a strong community. One house on the street had a TV and it was placed outside for everyone to enjoy. Huge groups of children chased us along the street asking for their photo to be taken.

As we approached a crossroads in the slum and considered continuing deeper into the maze of concrete buildings and tin shacks, an old woman stopped us and warned us to be careful. "There's bad man around here, don't stay too long," she said pointing us toward the path that leads to the road.

It was wise advice we decided to follow, part of an amazing experience to see true Manila up close, real and away from the flag-waving tour guides. But the old woman was right to be concerned and it did not escape our notice that cab drivers locked all the doors every time we entered their cars.

Our wanderlust had left us feeling satisfied and courageous, so it felt like the most opportune moment to perform an intervention and get Steve to face his fear of small people.

The Hobbit House, a couple of streets back from the palm tree-lined, rubbish-strewn Manila Bay, is a medium-sized bar with a stage and a lot of little staffers, who have to walk up steps at the bar to collect drink orders for customers.

The harrowed look on Steve's face, hilariously illuminated by the fake smile he was attempting as his towering frame meandered through the bar, will stay with me forever.
Seated, Steve outstretched his trembling hand, knocked his drink over the table, stood up, looking like he had seen his own ghost, trembled, "I've gotta go," and beat a hasty retreat to the door.

His pace accelerated as the little waitress chased after him shouting, "You haven't paid for your beer!" At this point, we stepped up and said we would settle the bill, adding, "Don't worry, he has a little problem."

Hobbits aside, the city is a great place to spend a day or two to capture the frenzied pace of the capital, and that is all you need to explore the key sites. For most it is a transit point to the paradise beaches of the south that make up one of the world's largest archipelago.
And as long as you follow the Filipino proverb bahala na - Whatever will be, will be –
Manila will leave you with a smile.

Contact the writer at

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 6Rank: 6

Post time 2012-3-26 11:50:02 |Display all floors
It seems the  Manila travel is very nice,Any chance,we should go there,Is the visa easy or complex?

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 4

Post time 2012-3-26 15:11:12 |Display all floors
This is a helpful website for visas ... tes/resident-China/

or contact your nearest Philippine embassy for more information

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 1

Post time 2012-3-26 21:34:58 |Display all floors
It seems the  Manila travel is very nice,Any chance,we should go there,Is the visa easy or complex?

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2012-3-28 06:04:20 |Display all floors
Shangri La is a nice hotel. I've stayed there. The prices are about the same as a Western hotel. The main difference is that there are a bunch of guys with automatic weapons on the front door who smile and greet you.

It is right in the centre of Makati, where there are typical malls.

Intramuros is well worth a visit and the nearby cathedral is amazing.
(beast ex machina)

Use magic tools Report

You can't reply post until you log in Log in | register

Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email:
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.