January 28- February 1, 2017
By the time we reached our hostel it was 3 am and we’d been up for more than 30 hours. By then I was overtired so sleep was elusive. The best thing to do is get out and do something so after breakfast we did just that. The Makati area in Manila doesn’t have a lot of sights so we just wandered and got lost a few times. People offered us directions and one nice fellow took the time to go over the map with us and point out places we should see and areas we should avoid.
We tried arranging tours but the hostel wasn’t very helpful and everything was closed for Lunar new year. Surprisingly, one fellow got back to us via email so we got up early the next day, ate breakfast (mistake) and arranged an Uber ride to China Town, called Bonondi in Manila.
The walking food tour was good with 5 stops at different establishments to try traditional foods. Our guide was great at explaining what each food was and the origins. Afterwards, I asked about visiting Intramuros and he offered us a ride there. Bonus. We visited the old city and saw the fortified walls, explored Fort Santiago, a garden where we chatted with a fellow who created bonsai trees, a couple of churches where watched a bunch of weddings and learned a lot about a guy named Jose Rizal who was martyred when he was executed by the Spanish for inciting rebellion and is a Philippine hero.
Manila is a massive city. The greater area has a population of 21 million and it’s the most population dense city in the world. That makes getting around difficult and traffic insane. It’s actually quite clean considering and the pollution is bearable and not nearly as bad as some cities I’ve visited.
Taxis are everywhere but we used uber since we were told it’s safer.
We asked people for directions many times but once a guy suggested a taxi as it’s “far”. When I asked him how long to walk, he said at least 25 minutes. We said “oh, that’s not so far” and he replied “OH, you foreigners DO like to walk!” haha
The malls in Manila are huge and I’m sure you can buy just about anything there. We checked out the Landmark mall as we needed a couple of things and were overwhelmed at the size of the place. You could easily get lost in there and we would have if not for the great signage.
One day we had a driver pick us up at 7 am and drive us to Taal Lake where we boarded a boat for the island Taal Volcano. The village of 5,000 people has electricity powered by generator or solar and live simply, harvesting cassava and living off the tourists who visit. We had the option to ride a horse but preferred the walk the 3.7 km to the rim. Taal is active and there are a few steam vents along the way. The lake in the middle of the crater also has several hot spots. The views were beautiful but the terrain a little treacherous. Sue slipped and fell, spraining her ankle and wrist. Van, our guide, quickly found medical help and the girl massaged Sue’s foot and took good care of her while I wandered around taking photos.
Sue got a ride on a horse back down and I walked while trying not to fall down myself. Back on the boat, we just covered our packs and plastic and got wet ourselves. It felt good as we were dirty and sweaty from the dusty walk.
Lunch was fresh tilapia from Lake Taal with really nice local vegetables. On the way back to the city we stopped for a fresh pineapple which the lady cut up and bagged for me. Next was a bakery famous for buka (coconut) pie. Jesse bought a couple and gave us a piece. The pastry was wonderful and the filling sliced, fresh coconut wit a wonderful naturally sweet taste.
The ride back to the city was awful. Toronto traffic is nothing after experiencing Manila.
Our last day in the city we spent wandering and found a pretty little oasis in the middle of the Greenbelt Mall. It’s got an organic spice garden, house cat sanctuary, Catholic church and koi ponds. The mall’s got all those ridiculously expensive stores in one section and plenty of normal stores in others. We enjoyed a gelato for lunch and headed back. While waiting out a thunderstorm under an office building awning we watched the traffic, people and water building on the road. In no time there were massive puddles which makes you understand how a typhoon could cause such damage. Drainage seems to be a big problem.
A couple of hours to chill was nice before a long night on the bus to Sagada which starts with an uber trip to the bus station. It’s only 10 km away and could take up to 1.5 hours. We could walk it in that time but Sue’s got a bum foot, it’s stinking hot and we’ve got to carry everything. Gotta love Manila traffic! We won’t miss it.