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What to do in Manila or day trips from Manila

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We will be going to a graduation at the Manila Doctors College in April. Traveling from the U.S. We want to sight-see in Manila and take some day trips. Can anyone give us some ideas of things to do. We like to see nature, wouldn't mind one mall ( I have been told there are many), some history of the country, etc. We are 70 but in excellent health and have traveled extensively.

Thanks for any help.

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    For day-trips from Manila:

    Corregidor Island - for its World War II significance

    Tagaytay and Taal Volcano Lake - for scenery and ambience

    Laguna - old colonial houses, hot natural springs

    Batangas - nice beaches

    If you really want to experience nature, you have to take more than a day-trip and fly to one of the provinces in the Philippines.

    Bohol - nature, beaches

    Palawan - same as above

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    There's not much of "nature" in Manila since it's really a huge city. If you want to try the mall, go to Mall of Asia. You can go to some amusement parks like Enchanted Kingdom or Star City, or you could go to Manila Bay and the likes.

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    If you're interested in history, try taking a tour in Intramuros, the old Walled City. Carlos Celdran gives an interesting tour (its quite theatrical, and is practically a "performance").

    Here's the link

    The Corregidor tour is also very nice, and is a nice ferry/boat ride to the island.

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    Pasted below is my trip rep[ort to Manila in 2005. It will give you many ideas on what to do in Manila and day trips outside of Manila.

    Departed on 2/27. Houston to LAX (on Continental). LAX to Taipei (EVA Evergreen Deluxe Class). Taipei to Manila (EVA).

    Airfare - $1025. Continental miles accrued for the entire trip. Evergreen Deluxe Class- this is a class between true Business and coach. The seats are wider and there is enough legroom for me (6’2”) to cross my legs. At the front of the plane the seating is 2 by 2, a little further back it is 2 by 4 by 2. We always had the two seats together. Meals- a cut above coach meal service, hot towels, amenity kit, wine and beer free, individual entertainment system in the seat backs, etc. There is not separate boarding for Evergreen Deluxe class unless you have their premium elite card- you board with the coach class. EVA boarding procedures need a little help- sometimes it works fine and other times they foul it up.

    Day 1- March 1st.

    We arrived at Manila airport at about 11:30 am – right on schedule. The airport is old and is probably one of the few in the world that has not been renovated or is not under expansion/construction. As we left the gate area and approached the immigration point- there was an immigration officer holding a sign with our name on it. Our relatives had arranged for us to by pass the line at immigration. The officer took our papers and whisked us around the lines to the baggage area- he even got a luggage cart for us and wished us well on our vacation. We were then met by my wife’s aunt and her husband (a CEO of a local bank). They loaded our luggage and drove us to our hotel. They also exchanged our US$ for Pesos. The exchange rate is 54.6 Pesos to the US$.
    Upon arrival at the New World Renaissance Hotel we were met in the lobby by a cousin of my wife. She had already checked us in and presented us with our keys.
    Our room rate was $50/day, which included buffet breakfast for two each day. (This is the rate for locals) Actually what we had was 825 Pesos per day each of food credits to use. Breakfast for two amounted to 1625 Pesos. (Inclusive of tax and service charge) This is a four star hotel in my opinion. The room size was fine- a bit smaller than what we had in Bangkok at the Peninsula. Décor was modern; bathroom had the separate shower and bath but only one sink. It was showing a little age. Working desk and sofa and chair with a view of the city. Safe for valuables with a mini bar, etc.

    The hotel is located in Makati- the central business district of Manila. It is by far the best-located hotel as there are a number of shopping malls across the street as well as a super market and lots of restaurants. We had considered the Peninsula, Mandarin, Shangri La- but these were not located well in relation to the shops and restaurants. (The famous Manila hotel was too far away to consider)

    Manila is a city where you are either with a tour group, or you have access to a full time driver. Traffic is as bad or even worse than that of Bangkok. There are really no transit options except for taxis. The locals use what are called Jeepneys- not recommended for tourists- these are not air conditioned for the most part and are jammed with locals- as many as ten per Jeepney. Cost to ride the Jeepney is 5 pesos.
    The taxis are metered- we did not take them so I cannot relate costs here. English is spoken everywhere by everyone so language is not a problem in the Philippines.

    You will also see the Philippine equivalent of the Bangkok Tuk Tuk. These are motorcycles with a sidecar attachment. Some are bikes with sidecar attachments.
    I have seen as many as 8 people riding in these things- you have to see it to believe it!

    Security- the hotels, malls – all have very tight security arrangements. They check the cars as they approach the hotels and you pass thru metal detectors and all packages are searched as you enter malls and hotels. We felt very safe in our stay there.

    After we dropped our luggage in our room we were treated to lunch by the relatives at a local restaurant in the mall (Greenbelt Mall) across the street from the hotel. We had local Philippine cuisine. Weather seemed to be the mid 80’s with little humidity. Although the water is safe, we were advised to dink only bottled water.

    After lunch we were taken to our relative’s seamstress across town. My wife had brought her own material. She had 5 pairs of pants, 1 blouse, 1 shirt, and 1 blazer ( a Cheong-sam) made. The pants and blazer were lined. She also had her trench coat sleeves shortened and the waist taken in a bit. For all of that we paid $110. One fitting was all that was needed. We would pick up the clothes in about 1 week.

    Dinner consisted of my getting some fast food at a food court/supermarket close to the hotel. The wife had had a big lunch and was not hungry for dinner.

    Jet lag was setting in and we slept at 8pm.

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    BillT on Mar 15, 05 at 1:41pm tttttt
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    Kathie on Mar 15, 05 at 7:08pm Interesting - I'm looking forward to more.
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    Martinan on Mar 16, 05 at 9:26am Hi BillT! DId you get a chance to visit Tagaytay while you were there? We ate at a wonderful place called Antonio's. There are 2 of these restaurants. We had a lovely dinner at the original one. The ambience was wonderful, reminded us of Thailand. The food was excellent and so was the service. The chef/owner comes out and greets the guests when he gets a break from the kitchen.The dinner was inexpensive at $20-25 per head. Glad you enjoyed your trip.
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    BillT on Mar 16, 05 at 10:23am We did go there- we visited a private resort that my wife's uncle is a member.
    We had lunch at the resort- it was high up (Highlands). I'll get the name and will refer to it in my trip report to come. Day 2 trip report will be posted today. I'm doing it day by day.
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    BillT on Mar 16, 05 at 11:06am Day 2 March 2nd

    Breakfast at the hotel. This was a breakfast buffet. Aside from the usual eggs, omelets, pancakes, bacon, sausage, they had a variety of Philippino dishes such as Adobo, Menuedo, Pancit (noodles) also Shomai (steamed dumplings), chesses and fruits. Not quite the top of the line buffets offered by 5 star properties but very good. This turned out to be the only time that my wife and I had time to ourselves!

    After breakfast it was off to Quiapo. An area Northwest of Makati. As usual we had a group of Aunts/cousins taking us there. Picture Hong Kong’s street markets with food stalls, souvenier shops, crafts etc and you get the picture. This is the nitty gritty world of Manila. If you like visiting such markets- then you want top pay a visit here. There is a place there called Balakayan Handicrafts (sort of like Nara Phand store in Bangkok) where in air conditioned comfort you can shop for all sorts of interesting handicrafts from the Philippines. In this shop (they also have other branches around the city but we suspect one would get the best prices here because of its location) you will find items made out of batik, shells, and a lot of embroidery work. That day they were giving us a 36% discount on items purchased.
    Everything in this store is quality and the prices were very reasonable. We also walked the market and did some shopping from the stalls there.

    After Quiapo we headed back to Manila. We had lunch at the Aristocrat- a restaurant chain famous for its barbeque. The location for this was Rojas Boulevard which is the main drag that fronts Manila bay. At night the sunsets here are magical.

    After lunch we went back to the hotel to rest. The a bit later we were picked up for a dinner at the home of one of the relatives in Pasay – another part of Manila. This was the first of several family reunions.

    After a long evening we were taken back to the hotel.

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    rhkkmk on Mar 16, 05 at 11:35am nice report...looking forward to more..

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    BillT on Mar 17, 05 at 8:01am Day 3 – March 3rd.
    Breakfast at the hotel. Then we were picked up by my wife’s uncles (his driver and them) and we headed over to the waterfront (Manila bay) to board the boat for Corregidor- the island fortress of World War II. I believe the cost for this excursion was 1,350 Pesos ($24). The wife's cousin who is a travel agent arranged for our tickets ahead of time. This included an hour-long boat ride over to the island and back, a fully escorted tour of the island and a buffet lunch. You should buy your ticket ahead of time as reservations are suggested. The boat leaves as I recall about 7:30 am. The boat has several decks and you are assigned your seats. I think the boat can hold about 100 people. For history buffs this is a must do.
    The island played a key role in the battle for the Philippines during World War II.
    It was here that General MacArthur and the US and Philippino troops battled the Japanese during the invasion of the Philippines.

    After the boat ride over you are met by a guide and ride in an open-air trolley with a group of about 12. You tour all of the facilities of the island. The guide is an expert on the island’s history. I learned a great deal about the island and its role during WWII. The island housed some 20,000 US and Philippino troops. You tour the ruins of the barracks and other buildings as you traverse the island. Numerous gun emplacements and war memorials are visited. The highlight of the tour is a tour of the Malanta Tunnel. This is a huge tunnel in which MacArthur and the troops operated out of during the bombing of the island. The tunnel has a vast array of laterals off the mail tunnel, which is built into the hills of the island. As you walk down the main tunnel at each lateral entrance there is a display and story being told about the battle for the island. This part of the tour ends at the far end of the tunnel. Back on the trolley you also visit the point on the island where MacArthur left the island via a PT boat before the island surrendered to the Japanese.
    We then proceeded to have a buffet lunch at a restaurant there. There was a three-piece band that played while we dined on local specialties and fried chicken.

    After lunch the tour resumed finishing up with a visit to a museum where there were a number of exhibits of war items, pictures, etc.

    We were back on the boat at 2:30 for the ride back to Manila. This was the first time the 2 uncles of my wife have been to Corregidor and they were born in the Philippines and are in their 70’s- they enjoyed the tour.

    The driver picked us up and we were back at the hotel by 4. Dinner that evening was with my wife’s best friend – who lives in Manila. We had Chinese at a restaurant in the Greenbelt 1 mall across the street from the hotel.

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    rhkkmk on Mar 17, 05 at 11:11am great addition to report
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    BillT on Mar 17, 05 at 11:16am Thanks Bob- I really believe the well traveled Fodorites need to go to the Philippines instead of their nth trip to BKK. BKK is great but for something different the Philippines will surprise them!
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    rhkkmk on Mar 17, 05 at 10:51pm i have put it on my list but it is below places like india, costa rica, st petersburg, laos, south africa, kenya and others...
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    BillT on Mar 18, 05 at 7:58am On second thought maybe its better that people don't discover the Philippines, that way the low prices on everything will stay low!
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    BillT on Mar 18, 05 at 8:41am Day 4- March 4th
    Breakfast at the hotel. Picked up by our relatives for some shopping at Greenhills Shopping Mall. This is about a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Greenhills is sort of like MBK in Bangkok only on a smaller scale- 2 floors. On this day they had a lot of vendors selling designer knockoff bags and other leather products. In addition to these vendors which apparently stay for a period of time and then move on to another venue, there are about 75 permanent stalls selling all manner of pearls- fresh water, south sea baby, Mikkimodo, you name it they sell it in pearls.

    The wife likes to buy the knockoff bags for fun and gifts. We have come to understand over time that when women observe other women carrying designer bags more often than not the first thought that comes to mind is…Oh that’s a knockoff… so why buy the originals, pay hundreds of dollars, when people will just assume you have a knockoff anyway (yes its illegal but the practice is widespread and I don’t think we will see any designers on the breadlines any time soon)… ok I’ll get off the soap box and back to the trip report. The wife was looking for particular designer bags- in certain designs/colors. There were dozens of vendors selling these bags of all types and designers. We have come to learn that the best quality knockoffs come from South Korea and the knockoffs are actually rated as 1st class to 3rd class- pertaining to the quality/workmanship. The vendors would identify their bags as 1st, 2nd or 3rd class.
    You can tell the differences if you have been shopping these products over time. You look closely at the stitching, the lining, labels, fittings etc. The wife was able to get 4 bags- Prada and Ferrgamo and was able to negotiate these for about 450 Pesos each. Not bad based on our experience in BKK, Hong Kong, and KL.

    Lunch was at a Korean restaurant across the street from Greenhills. We had Korean BBQ dishes- very good! After lunch it was back to shopping at Greenhills. The focus now was on pearls. Folks trust me when I tell you that if its pearls you want this is the place and the prices are nothing short of amazing. First of all most of the customers shopping here are locals- hardly a white face in sight- so you know that it is no tourist trap. The vendors are all Philippino Muslims. Most of the pearls come from the southern islands of the Philippines. These are all real pearls with either gold (10k) or silver fittings. They also sell turquoise and coral jewelry.

    The approach used here was that my wife and her relatives would circulate about and negotiate with the vendors on what they wanted. I stayed away from them – the reason being that if these vendors see me the price goes north. (Read – rich American). The wife was able to buy some fresh water and south sea baby pearls as well as some coral and turquoise items. Now the pearls- she was able to buy a set of earrings, matching necklace, ring and bracelet for about $18. Not only that but the bracelet and necklace were fitted for her-they adjusted the bracelet so that it falls properly on the wrist, the necklace so that it lays perfectly around the neck. They were also able to size the ring as well right there on the spot. Folks we have shopped many places in the US and in Asia- I have not found deals like this anywhere!!!!
    She also purchased a turquoise piece, which has an interesting feature to it. It’s a long necklace made of many turquoise pieces with small magnetic beads of some sort every so often. The magnetic beads allow the necklace to be worn long, or double wrapped (sort of as a choker), or can be worn as a bracelet (wrapped 4 times)- all made possible by the magnetic beads. They also have this type of item set in pearls. For this I believe we paid around $4. Other items purchased were a set of 4 single pearl bangle bracelets set in silver- we paid $1.90 for this set. Folks I’m not making this up- it’s the real deal. The competition in this place is so stiff (remember 75 vendors) that prices are low to begin with and some bargaining takes it even lower.
    South Sea Baby pearl earrings set in silver went for $2, coral set- set in either 10k gold or silver- earrings, bracelet and necklace went for $5. You can go to BKK a dozen times and not find these deals!!!!!!!!!!!

    After shopping was concluded we went back to the hotel. Dinner that evening was at the Banana Leaf- across from the hotel in the mall- it features Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine. We had Nasi Goreng (an Indonesian rice dish) with Beef Curry and Satay- pork and chicken with some Malaysian bread- it was fabulous.

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    rhkkmk on Mar 18, 05 at 10:25am bill we will nick name you the pearl farang king
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    BillT on Mar 18, 05 at 12:41pm Day 5- March 5th

    Breakfast at the hotel as usual
    Then we were picked up by the wife’s aunt- a Neurologist who is in her 70’s and other cousins. Today we were going to visit Villa Escadero- about a two-hour ride south of Manila. You travel on some highway but after a short time you are in the country and meandering thru coconut and pineapple plantations. You get a very good picture of life in the province outside of hectic Manila. This is a privately owned coconut plantation/destination. At Villa Escadero there are a number of activities. You buy your tickets when you get there- I don’t believe you need any reservations. As we were guests of our Aunt I cannot tell you the price of admission.

    The estate/plantation is very lush with coconut tress and other exotic plants. From the main pavilion you ride in an open-air trolley pulled by a caribou (water buffalo). About 10 people to a trolley. The trolley takes you to the museum, which is an old church, which houses the vast collection of artifacts collected over generations of the Escadero family. There are ornate religious floats that are used in a number of festivals/parades during the year. There are two floors of exhibits- many items from around the world too numerous to cite here. A guide escorts you thru the museum and adds commentary on each area/item. It takes about 30-45 minutes to tour the museum.

    After touring the museum it is lunchtime. At this location there is a lake and a waterfall. You go down some stairs to get to the picnic/lunch area. It’s an outdoor buffet. The unique thing about this venue is that it’s located at the base of the falls.
    Before entering this area you take off your shoes and socks and store them. You then walk out in the picnic area where the water from the falls is flowing. Its about 6 inches deep. There are picnic tables set up in this water as well as the buffet line.
    You eat lunch with your feet in the water flowing from the falls. Your food is served on a banana leaf (that’s your plate). It’s very refreshing- and different to say the least! The food consisted of local Philippino specialties as well as BBQ chicken and fresh pineapple (and since this is a coconut plantation right in the middle of pineapple plantations- its as fresh as fresh can be!). Also there is fresh coconut juice served in coconuts (cut out the top and insert a straw!).

    There are maybe 100 people or so picnicking in this fashion. Our table was right next to the falls.

    After lunch we proceeded to the main building for a cultural show. This show consisted of a number of dancers and singers performing native songs and dances in native costumes. This went on for about an hour with many different arrangements including the stick dance. (Picture two people one on either end with two long bamboo poles on the ground held about 12 inches apart. Dancers step in and out of these poles to the beat of the music. As the tempo increases the poles are tapped together and apart to the beat. The dancers then must step in and out quickly so as not to get caught when the poles are tapped tgether. There are several sets of these poles- its quite a feat.)

    After the show the group can wander the grounds for picture taking. This concluded the activities and we headed back to Manila.

    Dinner was with the wife’s aunt and best friend at a place called Singing Cooks and Waiters located on Rojas Boulevard near the waterfront on Manila Bay. This turned out to be one of the most entertaining events of the trip! Its not a big place and has two floors- we ate on the first floor. They serve Philippino cuisine. There is a three-piece band there. We sat near the front where the band is located. All of the cooks and waiters in this place sing- and I mean they banged out those tunes for our entire time there. I was the only “American” in the place and so needless to say we attracted a lot of attention from all of the staff. These guys/gals were highly animated and very very good singers- they got us into the action at times, put funny hats on us and generally entertained us for a full 2 hours. The headwaiter seemed to have a crush on the wife- good-natured fun. They said they were dedicating the “show” for her and that they usually don’t put on a show on the first floor but they made an exception for us! The wife was up dancing Cha Cha with him and I was singing tunes as well with the staff. It was a great evening that I will long remember.
    And oh yes the food…. Not bad either I had BBQ and rice.

    Back to hotel to sleep by 9:30.

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    BillT on Mar 18, 05 at 2:31pm ttttttttttt
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    hiraya on Mar 18, 05 at 9:26pm Hey Bill you seem to be enjoying your
    Manila trip. That's nice to hear that you find this place great. I am a local here and I personally like Greenhills when it comes yo shopping although if you want a relaxing mall experience you should go to Greenbel 3 and don't forget to check that new Market!Market!. This place is full of malls you wouldn't even believe you're stepping on a third world country. Btw Bill, have you already set yourself to the videoke? Hahaha.

    As fore everyone feel free to ask me any questions about Metro Manila.
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    rhkkmk on Mar 18, 05 at 9:36pm now you are a dancing pearl laden farang
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    BillT on Mar 21, 05 at 8:15am 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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    BillT on Mar 21, 05 at 9:45am 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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    BillT on Mar 21, 05 at 10:04am 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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    BillT on Mar 21, 05 at 1:13pm 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.

    Report Abuse
    rhkkmk on Mar 21, 05 at 1:55pm now i understand the pictures better...real nice trip....good you wife had the umbrella....
    Report Abuse
    orgy7 on Mar 21, 05 at 3:44pm there are tram bassed mass transit systoms in manila..
    yep I hope the free spending fodorites stay away as well since mania is another of my occasianal living spots..
    philapinos are cool as hell asian with the latin spice..

    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 21, 05 at 4:40pm 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.

    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 22, 05 at 8:50am 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.

    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 22, 05 at 10:22am 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.

    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 23, 05 at 7:56am Most of the Fodorite regulars are silent here???? (Except for Bob).

    Report Abuse
    rhkkmk on Mar 23, 05 at 11:15am you can't shut me up...
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 23, 05 at 11:43am 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.
    Report Abuse
    Florida1 on Mar 23, 05 at 1:47pm 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!
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 23, 05 at 2:13pm 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!
    Report Abuse
    Florida1 on Mar 23, 05 at 2:21pm 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!
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 23, 05 at 3:13pm Thats the best kind of tour! have a great trip!
    Report Abuse
    JohnWM on Mar 23, 05 at 7:02pm 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.
    Report Abuse
    kikahead on Mar 24, 05 at 1:32am 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!!!!!
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 24, 05 at 8:20am 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????
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 25, 05 at 8:12am 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

    Report Abuse
    hobbes on Mar 25, 05 at 1:03pm Phililipines is very much on our plan of places to go over the next few months - in addition to everything you mentioned I want to go swimming with whale sharks at Bohol island and get some massage treatments at The farm which looks amazing - great trip report and thanks for posting details re agent, will use them for some stuff def...
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 25, 05 at 1:44pm Hobbes:
    If you have questions as you plan your trip to the Philippines - I'll be glad to help where I can.
    Report Abuse
    hiraya on Mar 26, 05 at 6:43pm If you are planning to go to Bohol, don't forget to visit the Chocolate Hills, it is like a large version of what you can find in Cocoa Beach, FL like there are Hills that looks like Chocolates only that it's not on the Beach and you better see it during summer when the Hills aren't green.

    WoW Pinas!
    Report Abuse
    hiraya on Mar 26, 05 at 7:07pm Btw, summer means march till may in the Philippines
    Report Abuse
    01pat23 on Mar 27, 05 at 6:17am Thanks Bill for such a comprehensive insight into the Phillipines. Having just returned from a 3 month trip in India (north only - absolutely marvellous (if cold!), I think I deserve a warmer holiday next year. Having never been to the Phillipines (nearest was a small island near Borneo), the account of your trip leads me to think that this could be my next location!!

    Do you know what sort of weather I could expect in mid-December, January and beginning of Feb, please. I would like to spend some time in Manila and north of Manila, plus some of the super places you have mentioned (each 2 hrs south of Manila) and then end up on one (or more) of the islands.

    I haven't started my 'homework' yet but would like to have some firsthand info about weather. Also, is it possible to hire a car and driver for some or all of this trip, please? If so, I wonder how much it would cost. Also, I wonder if that cost includes the driver's expenses.

    Where are you going next??!!

    Report Abuse
    travelmug on Mar 27, 05 at 2:13pm Nice report. The Phillipines is definitely on our list. I'm only afraid it will be too difficult to do on our own but we don't want to join group tours. Everyone, please keep those reports coming!
    Report Abuse
    kikahead on Mar 27, 05 at 2:42pm Thanks for the info re: travel agent. Sounds like a great trip--we will do it during our trip in Jan!
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 28, 05 at 12:53pm o1pat23:

    The weather in December/January should be fine - not much rain and the temps in the high 80's. I will ask my cousin- the travel agent- abou the cost for a driver and associated expenses. Will get back to you on this forum in a few days.
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 28, 05 at 12:58pm All the relatives want us to come back to the Philippines- and I'm sure we will return. At the moment I'm thinking China- Bejing and Shanghai.
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 29, 05 at 8:20am My cousin is working on getting the details for driver/guides for the Philippines. I hope to have that info in a few days.
    Report Abuse
    01pat23 on Mar 31, 05 at 7:35am Thanks Bill - weather sounds "just right" for me. Look forward to info about car/driver - incidentally, I don't normally have a guide - I like to do the research myself!!

    Hope you are 'settling down' after that super trip.
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Mar 31, 05 at 8:23am 01pat23:

    I have been communicating with my cousin on this issue. I think this concept of having a driver service- like what Ratt of Bangkok provides may be a bit new to them. Drivers can be had cheaply in the Philippines, but I trying to determine if they have folks that can drive but also advise you as well. I know that you said you do your own research- and thats fine- we did the same with Ratt in bangkok - but she was able to suggest some other things that we did not think of and adjustments to our plan that made sense.
    Stay tuned- I'm working on getting you this info!
    Report Abuse
    01pat23 on Apr 1, 05 at 7:12am I really appreciate your efforts and, from experience in several other Asian countries, realise it is not always easy to hire just a car and driver. However, I did eventually manage to hire such in my recent trips to the Yunnan in SW China and Vietnam and India and it was well worth the effort. Most agents recommend a guide but, in my experience, I have not needed a guide as well as a driver - even if I did hear my last driver mutter "where does 'madam' find these places!!" I think that sums it up - I confess I do like to get off the usual tourist routes if there is something special to see or to stay in 'character' accommodation!

    I am in no hurry - sadly I cannot get away until early December but need plenty of time to sort out a route "in my spare time".

    Many thanks Pat
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Apr 6, 05 at 12:30pm I'm getting some feedback from my cousin there in manila on the cost of having a driver service. They don't quite have it all nicely packaged up in an hourly rate like what Ratt of Bangkok provides - but I'm working on them to try and get it there. The concept is a bit new to them. Give me another week or so and I should have some numbers to share with all.
    Report Abuse
    01pat23 on Apr 9, 05 at 11:17am Very many thanks, Bill. I know this takes time - that is why I am starting so early!!

    However, I like the sound of the temperature and think it is worth me pursuing this type of transport. I do have plenty of time to do detailed planning.

    Many thanks for all the trouble you are taking. Pat.
    Report Abuse
    nwgirl on Apr 9, 05 at 10:20pm Thanks for your informative report on Manila. I have lived in the Philippines for two years and you gave me some new ideas about where to travel locally. I will definitely check out some of your recommendations. Could you please provide the name of your travel agent/relative in Manila. I have found that a good travel agent is hard to find here, particularly one with good communication skills. Thanks!
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Apr 11, 05 at 7:22am 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 and help with getting a driver for you.
    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

    Note that she is about to go on vacation for a few weeks so if you do not hear back from her that is why. I hope to get some info from here this week about driver costs etc.before she takes off and I will post it on this forum.

    Report Abuse
    BillT on May 2, 05 at 8:05am I'm topping as there have been a number of people either going to manila or expressed some interest in going to Manila- my trip report will give them some good ideas on what can be done.
    Report Abuse
    KingOfTheSouth on Jul 12, 05 at 8:17am Bill,

    I like the Trip Report..very informative. I'm making a trip out to Manila in September with my Mom and Aunts. So this sort of gives me an insight through your eyes of course what it's like. Thanks!
    Report Abuse
    orgy7 on Jul 12, 05 at 8:52am Jetstar asia.. is a low cost airline that links singapore and manila (clark)

    finally the philapines is connected by a budget airline.
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Jul 12, 05 at 10:39am King of the South:
    Please post your trip plans and I can comment on them and give you some advice.
    Try to visit Baguio- its a vacation area in the mountains about 6 hours from Manila- very cool there as opposed to the heat/humidity of Manila. We will do Baguio on our trip in Feb/march.
    Report Abuse
    heavenly0410 on Sep 19, 05 at 2:02pm I truly enjoyed reading your trip report to the Philippines! I've been there a few times, my recent visit being last summer, and I have to say.. after reading this, I definitely want to book my flight soon hehe. I'd also have to agree with you on the hospitality! They're all so extremely kind, it's great. And having family living in La Trinidad, the city right next to Baguio.. you should definitely visit Baguio. Hopefully you on enjoy on your trip there next year and perhaps another trip report?
    Report Abuse
    BillT on Sep 19, 05 at 2:19pm Yes I will post another trip report after our next trip in Feb/March 06.
    Nice to hear your comments as the regulars on this forum seem to overlook the Philippines- they always seem to return to the same places year after year- hopefully your comments and others might change their minds and give the Philippines a try.
    Report Abuse
    daisy88 on Nov 13, 05 at 9:17am BillT- I agree, the pearls are a real bargain in Manila! somewhat of a secret from most foreigners. Did you know the Queen of Spain bought her pearls there on her last visit last year??

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    Hey Bill, thanks for your tips, planning a 2 week trip to the Philippines in April. You mentioned a local tour operator you can recommend (wife's relative or something?) Looking to book day trips.

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    Yes her name is Myrna Casas. Here is her email:
    [email protected]

    She works for American Express and can help you plan some day trips. Juest tell her you were referred by her Uncle Bill from Houston. She is located in Manila.

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