Trip Report - Manila, Phillipines

Mar 21st, 2005, 04:15 AM
  #21  
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Day 6- March 6th

Breakfast at the Hotel. Then we were off to Tagatay with another bunch of relatives.
Again we head south towards Batangas- it took about 2 hours or so. The major attraction here was a view of the smallest volcano in the world- Taal Volcano. We were headed for the Highlands- an exclusive private resort that again one of the realtives belongs to. Visitors to this area can visit some public areas that have horseback riding and get closer to viewing the volcano- which is situated in the middle of Taal Lake- it is a beautiful site. After viewing the volcano from the Highlands we moved down to Dasmarinas Village for lunch. The kids accompanying us went swimming at the pool.

After a leisurely lunch we headed back to Manila.

Dinner that evening with another set of relatives.

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Mar 21st, 2005, 05:45 AM
  #22  
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Day 7- March 7th

The previous day we had spent at Tagatay – the weather up there was cool and breezy. It seems I may have caught a slight fever as that evening I was not feeling that well. The next morning I seemed to have gotten over it and was ready for the day’s activities.
Breakfast as usual but this time we had one of our cousins join us for breakfast.
This was to be a day of shopping with the cousins. After breakfast we headed back to Greenhills for more shopping- mostly to get more bargain on pearls. Again the approach was that I was distant from the group while they bargained for the best deals.

Lunch- we crossed the street and had lunch at Max’s. This is a famous chicken chain in Manila. They are famous for their fried chicken. We all had fried chicken and it was really good. After lunch we decided to strike out for Market Market- another big mall somewhere in Manila- without a map I really was not sure exactly where we were heading!

At Market Market we purchased a number of local sweets- I even found some sweets that I discovered one time in our trip to Singapore. Its called vegetable chips- a somewhat spicy/sweet crunchy chip like confection that tastes nothing like vegetables but is really good. This item is made in Indonesia. We purchased it at Mata Hari- a sweet stand in the mall. I bought 300 grams for myself and another 300 for one of our ly members in New York who is Indonesian.
There was a trade fair ongoing at Market Market ( you will notice over time that the Philippinos have a habit of repeating words to describe certain things/food etc.). At this trade fair I was able to buy some unique key rings- these were hand made by tribes from Baguio (a mountain resort area north of Manila - about a 6 hour drive). These were really different in that they were made from small burls of wood with little totem pole characters carved/painted on them as well as some sayings written. My cousin asked about the price- she then told me they were 8 pesos each.
I said you mean 80 pesos, no she said 8- then I motioned a figure 8 in disbelief. She said yes. Folks 8 pesos is about 15 cents! I bought a bunch to say the least.
There were plenty of really nice bags made form local materials but at that point we had been loaded up with bags from a number of the relatives- the wife said NO MAS to getting any more bags!

Back to the hotel to freshen up and then dinner was at another of the wife’s uncle’s house- big family reunion there well into the night.






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Mar 21st, 2005, 06:04 AM
  #23  
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Day 8- March 8th.

Breakfast as usual and then we were picked up by a bunch of our cousins for a day at Punta Fuego. This a private beach resort located about 2 hours south. (Notice how everything seems to be located two hours south of Manila- strange huh!). I think it is on the South China Sea if my geography serves me well. This was middle of the week so when we got there and cleared security we had the place to ourselves. We had the beach to ourselves as well as any cabana we wanted. The beach had soft sand and the water was warm and clear you could see the bottom. The cousins and wife relaxed in the cabana while I took a swim in the sea. After that I beach combed for a while picking up interesting shells and coral. The wife and I are not ones to spend days on a beach- so having an afternoon to enjoy the beach scene was just right for us. This is a very picturesque area. The private resort is bordered by public resorts/beaches so access to this area is available to everyone.

After my swim, it was lunchtime. We headed to the resort restaurant.We dined while enjoying the view of the beach/sea from our table.

After lunch we drove around the area visiting some other locations where there were spectacular views. The weather continued to be in the mid to high 80’s by my calculation and on this day the humidity was a bit higher.

We headed back and arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon.

Dinner that evening was at Manbanteri- a Japanese restaurant in the Greenbelt mall across from our hotel. We were treated by our relatives once again- I tell you the hospitality we received was second to none, they really took care of us during our stay. The food here was delicious- we had pork, asparagus, chicken, fried rice- it was all-good.

After dinner we all (there was about 10- of us) headed downstairs to a very nice place for ice cream. I had Chocknut ice cream- an ice cream version of the popular chocolate made in the Philippines.

Back to the hotel to crash!









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Mar 21st, 2005, 09:13 AM
  #24  
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Day 9 – March 9th

Breakfast as usual
We were then picked by my wife’s Aunt- the seventy something doctor- and headed for a day on the river- Pagsanjan Falls to be precise. Located … you guessed it - two hours south. (remember the saying all roads lead to Rome- well I guess all things worth doing here lead south- about 2 hours!). As we approached the area of the river/falls we were approached by a man on a motorcycle. He was trying to steer us to an area where there were – shall we say scalpers- who would take you for a “ride” at a much higher price. We told this person we were not interested. He was persistent and would not leave us. We pulled over once he drove on ahead of us thinking that we would lose this character- but he doubled back and found us and stuck to us like white on rice. We could not lose this guy. Eventually we found the Hotel where we would purchase our tickets and start the journey. Avoid all of these characters and stop only at the Hotel to buy your tickets. Our tickets were paid for by our Aunt. I remember a sign indicating that the cost is about 600 pesos per person.

You board a long canoe- with a guy at the front and a guy at the back who paddle you up river. You wear a life preserver and the boat holds two passengers. You will get wet on this journey so be prepared. Wear sunscreen and a large hat and maybe take a large towel along. This river is the same river that they filmed Apacolypse Now with Brando and Sheen. I felt like Martin Sheen- there we were going “Up River looking for Charlie- only you don’t find Charlie, Charlie finds you! And remember never leave the boat”
OK back to real life- we set out on a very leisurely river ride. The ride will last about an hour. The river meanders along- you get to see river life as there are water buffalo, kids swimming, women doing their laundry in the river etc. Its very peaceful and scenic. There are a number of these boats on the river in both directions. At times you go thru some rapids- very gentle ones- more like eddies than rapids. Also the day we went the water level was not high so at times the boat men would navigate rock formations by picking up the boat over the rocks (with you in the boat!). A portion of the journey takes you thru some 300 foot high cliffs on both sides with vegetation growing down the sides. It was shady there at times so
It is very relaxing. The ride up river culminates at the main falls. Here you disembark the canoes and board a bamboo raft. All us were on one raft.

The raft takes you out in front of the falls for some nice picture taking then it begins to draw you closer to the falls. There are ropes that the raft people use to pull you along. OK we are going to get close to the falls and then maybe go around it for a better view right?- wrong! They take you through the falls- yes you get soaked head to toe. Needless to say you stash all of your things to protect them (in my belly bag in this case). It was refreshing to get soaked – the wife had an umbrella which protected her head and shoulders- but the lower half gets drenched! To say that it was an experience is putting it mildly! Then the raft brings you back to the dock.
We tipped the raft folks as well as the canoe people as they do not make a lot of money from this line of work- about 100 pesos each.

Now you get back in your same canoes, same drivers, and head back down river (with the current this time so it takes only about 30 minutes). The ride back allows time to dry out- almost!

This was the high point of the vacation by far as it was really a wonderful experience- you must do this if you come to Manila.

For lunch we were back in the car and continued south for about 10 minutes until we came to the “Exotic Restaurant” on the right hand side. This place was a really unique place, up on a hill you had views and it was wonderfully landscaped. They had many exotic dishes on the menu- we had typical Philippino fare.

Dinner with the relatives again.









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Mar 21st, 2005, 09:55 AM
  #25  
 
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now i understand the pictures better...real nice trip....good you wife had the umbrella....
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Mar 21st, 2005, 11:44 AM
  #26  
 
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there are tram bassed mass transit systoms in manila..
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yep I hope the free spending fodorites stay away as well since mania is another of my occasianal living spots..
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philapinos are cool as hell asian with the latin spice..
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Mar 21st, 2005, 12:40 PM
  #27  
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Lots of Spanish influence in the culture here. Manila need some folks like Ratt in BKK as its not a place you want to try to get around on your own.
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 04:50 AM
  #28  
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Day 10- March 10th

Breakfast as usual and then we were picked up by the relatives. Today we would tour Intramuros and Fort Santiago in the heart of Manila.

Fort Santiago is located at the tip of the delta where the Pasig River meets Manila Bay. It was named in honor of Spain’s patron saint James- Slayer of Moors. This fort served as military headquarters of the Spanish, British, American and Japanese regimes. It has massive stone walls and is surrounded by a moat.

We had a guide to take us around both Fort Santiago and Intramuros. Intramuros is a walled city within the city. It was constructed in 1571 in defense of threats by Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Portuguese pirates.

The guide gave us a great tour of both Fort Santiago and Intramuros. We both walked and rode in a horse drawn carriage for the tour. The Intramuros tour also included a complete tour of Casa Manila . Casa Manila is a colonial lifestyle museum depicting how the well to do lived circa 1850’s. We also learned quite a bit about the George Washington of the Philippines- Dr. Rizal. Its quite a moving story.

After the tour we headed out to another Manila Mall- Mega Mall. Here we were looking to do some shopping for people on our list. A request was made to pick up a certain brand of shirts for our grandsons. We found these at Shoe Mart – a department store chain.

By this time in our trip I was ready for good old American food!!! We all did Pizza Hut for lunch there at the mall.

Returning back to the hotel we freshened up a bit. That even it was McDonalds for dinner- I had to satisfy my burger craving and the gang was ok with that. We ate just across the street a bit from the hotel.

This was our last night in Manila, we were off to the airport the next morning- so we had a lot of relatives pack our room for the farewells. We had been warned that this would happen so we did about half of our packing the night before.

Lights out about 10 pm.









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Mar 22nd, 2005, 06:22 AM
  #29  
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Day 11- March 11th – Departure day

Last breakfast at the hotel.
The relatives that picked us up upon our arrival took us back to the airport.

I think it appropriate to do a Letterman Top Ten list for this trip- but I’m doing it best to last order:

#1. The hospitality shown to us by everyone involved – a special thanks to all of our relatives for making this a truly memorable experience. Kudos to the hotel staff at New World and for all the family drivers as well.

#2. Pagsanjan Falls- what an experience this was- it is a must do for anyone visiting the area.

#3 Villa Escadero- unique and entertaining day at this location

#4 Punta Feugo- beautiful resort and beach.

#5 Singing Cooks and Waiters Restaurant- we had a great time at this place!

#6 Greenhills Shopping Center- what great buys we had there- nobody beats these deals on pearls.

#7 Corregidor- a must for the history buffs, it was a very relaxing tour and I learned quite a bit about the history of the island.

#8 Tagaytay- great views of the smallest volcano in the world.

#9 Intramuros and Fort Santiago- interesting tour and history of this area.

#10 Quiapo- nitty gritty feel of the city at the open air markets.














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Mar 23rd, 2005, 03:56 AM
  #30  
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Most of the Fodorite regulars are silent here???? (Except for Bob).
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 07:15 AM
  #31  
 
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you can't shut me up...
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 07:43 AM
  #32  
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I continue to wonder why the Phiippines is not getting much exposure here on this board. For me I would rather go to a different land than repeat a destination. Ok I understand that it sometimes takes 2 or 3 trips to do it all in an area- but beyond that I should think that one would want to explore other cultures/areas.
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 09:47 AM
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I have enjoyed your trip report, BillT. I recently made my first trip to Asia and loved it. The Phillipines wasn't a destination that first popped into my mind, but reading about it in your report made me want to go! I too would rather see a lot of different places than repeat destinations...that's why I decided to start travelling to Asia-I loved being in a place that was so different to anywhere I'd been before! Going on first trip to India late this year!
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 10:13 AM
  #34  
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India! - thats a challenge unless you are doing a tour. When you are ready to give the Philippines a try I'd be happy to help and if you need some travel agent help with day trips our cousin there is with a travel agency. If you can do India on your own then you won't need a lot of help with the Philippines!
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 10:21 AM
  #35  
 
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Thanks for the offer of help, BillT! I hope to take you up on that sometime in the near future! For India, I actually will be going with a tour, kind of -- it's privately guided--my friend and I will have our own driver and guide. I'm fairly adventurous, but didn't want to do India for the first time on my own! Thanks again for the travel advice offer!
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 11:13 AM
  #36  
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Thats the best kind of tour! have a great trip!
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 03:02 PM
  #37  
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Yes, a great trip report! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us BillT. By the way, it was asked above why so many Fodorites were silent on this posting, and why so few go to the Philippines. Only my personal view of course, so here goes: perhaps the incessant negative publicity about purse snatching, pickpocketing, and other petty crime plus the occasional reports of squalid and deteriorating conditions right in Manila plus the periodically publicized episodes of Moslem terrorism in the south of that country all in a way contribute to the "oh, no, how could I possibly go there" attitude many of us have. Moreover, most of us do not have relatives there to greet and welcome us, and to show us around. Most of us travel on the other hand simply as strangers among strangers, and so we find that such a report, though interesting to read, might simply be not applicable to us in our own travels. Simply some random thoughts, of course.
 
Mar 23rd, 2005, 09:32 PM
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GREAT report!!!! I have noted some places I will check out when I am there again in January. Ah, I too am sent away whenever we are at markets, I wander around fish markets by myself with people staring at me.

I cannot believe you made it out of the Exotic restaurant without eating unique food! We ate snake of some sort (this right after we took pictures of Sue the boa).

Sounds like such a nice trip....makes me wish I was there now. Is Roxas Blvd still all nice (landscaping, etc)? The last time we were there it looks like they were doing up the whole street.

Do you know the name of the company you used for the trip to Corregidor? That sounds awesome...I would love to do it.

Sounds like a great trip and thank you for posting such an amazing detailed trip report!!!!!
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Mar 24th, 2005, 04:20 AM
  #39  
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Kikihead:

I will get you the name of my cousin's travel agency- she can put together a Corregidor trip for you. Re: Exotic restaurant- I'm a very picky eater so that explains it. Yes I saw the snake and took a picture- I feel though that they should release it back to the wild- that's no life being kept in that cage.

On the other comments about crime and the poverty- during our trip we did not feel threatened at any time. I would venture to say that petty crime is at the same level experienced in any large Asian city (except maybe for Singapore).
The terrorist threat in Manila is overrated- most of the problems happen in the southern islands. Yes its a poor country and people will have a tendency to stare at whites- but they mean no harm, its curiosity. The poverty in the Philippines is a lot less than in places like India and on this forum there are plenty of people heading for that venue all the time.
What Manila needs again are a few people like Ratt of Bangkok who can take you around- get you thru the traffic and minimize transit times.
So I'll say it again- if your planning your umpteenth trip to BKK- why not do something different for a change????
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Mar 25th, 2005, 04:12 AM
  #40  
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Kikihead:

Here is the e-mail and address of the agency of our cousin there in Manila who can help arrange day tours such as Corregidor and others.
Tell her Uncle Bill from Houston referred you.
Myrna Casas. E mail is:
[email protected]
American Express Travel Service Inc./Adventure International Tour Inc.
Tel 8674888 to 93
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