When my friends told me about Philippines, the thought that came to mind was that it is dangerous, dirty, hot and crowded. How mistaken I was in my perception as much to my surprise, I found that it was totally amazing as it has great shopping, a colourful nightlife and affordable beauty centres to offer.
From the moment we exited the AirAsia plane after it landed at DMIA airport we were immediately greeted by a cool welcoming breeze. A one and half hour journey by bus to Manila from the airport costs us only 350 pesos each. It was just the right time to check-in when we arrived at the hotel we booked via AirAsiaGo and this decent hotel was only 3 minutes walk from the MRT station as well as shopping malls.
Once we had a quick rest at the hotel, we left in search of a meal as we were all starving! We spotted a shop while scouring for about 3 minutes called Inasal selling local Filipino cuisine. Our decision to try this eatery really paid off as there’s so much of mouth-watering goodness to be had such as Bangus Sisig (Minced Milkfish), Sinigang (Beef Sour Soup), Puto (Rice cake) and Mango Sticky Rice soaked in Chocolate Sauce. Delicious!
After lunch, we crossed the street and Greenbelt was right in front of us! Greenbelt is a huge shopping area which features plenty of local designers, restaurants, pubs and bars. We spent our time there chilling at the park and taking lots of pictures. I didn’t buy anything at Greenbelt as I prefer cheap local shopping than designers’ apparel but it was really nice to window-shop though. We decided to call it a night after an exciting day and to continue our adventure the next morning.
The following day after breakfast, we jumped into a Jeepney and went to Intramuros to indulge ourselves in Manila’s history. Intramuros was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century and is the oldest district of Manila! Its name in Spanish, Intramuros, literally translating to “within the walls”, meaning within the wall enclosure of the city/fortress; also describes its structure as it is surrounded by thick, high walls and moats. During the Spanish colonial period, Intramuros was considered Manila itself. Inside Intramuros are several Roman Catholic churches such as the Manila Cathedral, the San Agustin Church, convents and church-run schools like the Universidad de Santo Tomás, the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán and the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. These schools were usually run by religious orders such as the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Jesuits.
We stopped to buy some local snacks which can found in abundance along the streets of Intramuros, sold by street vendors. One of my favourites was the fried banana coated in brown sugar. It was pretty much like the ‘Pisang Goreng’ in Malaysia, but it is less oily and crunchier. Horse drawn carriages can be seen all around in Intramuros too! I felt that I had travelled back in time when people still milked their cows and brewed their own wine. This place truly provides a unique escapade from the daily buzz of the city.
I was mumbling about shopping and one of the locals told us to go to GreenHills for really cheap shopping with plenty of choices. I headed straight to GreenHills from Intramuros when I heard that and guess what?! Instead of open-air markets which are packed and sweltering (like JJ market), it was air-conditioned with organised stalls! Goods sold here are really cheap and of good quality! I bought 3 evening dresses for only 500 pesos! Some of my friends headed to the second floor for electronics, gadgets and IT stuff which doesn’t interest me much. They sell pretty much everything you need here; from clothes, food, electronics to IT paraphernalia. We also had the opportunity to try some popular sweets here such as Bibingka, Sapin-sapin and Suman.
After that crazy shopping, we went to check out SM Mall of Asia which is third largest shopping mall in Asia and fourth largest in the world! A huge colourful globe welcomed us upon arrival with quirky messages & icons inscribed on the globe. There are a lot of activities happening in this mall which really made it seem more like a theme park than just a normal shopping mall. Flying foxes, floating water balls and a great view of the sunset by the bay with live bands to enhance the mood can all be found here! Oh, and also not forgetting the funny street performers that we met as well.