Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mabuhay! We've landed in Manila.

Manila, also known as Intramuros (within the wall), the latest place on earth that we just got back from. Intramuros is the oldest district and historic core of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Known as the Walled City, the original fortified city of Manila was the seat of the Spanish government during the Spanish colonial period. Anna, who’s responsible for this trip, has been wanted to go to Manila for so long. As usual, from booking the tickets, hotels and research has been Anna’s duty since we’ve got married. He..he..biasalah kan.

Anna@Diocasdo Macapagal Airport, Clark
We went for 5days 4nights trip that started off taking Air Asia (it’s been quite some time not taking this airline). Landed at Clark Airport (Diocasdo Macapagal Airport) after almost 4hours. Small and simple airport yet complete enough for budget travelers.

Since Clark Airport is quite far from Manila, we had to take a shuttle bus from the airport (Philtranco, 450peso per person,RM38) that took us almost 3 1/2 hrs to the city. It was amazingly tiring and restless journey. From the terminal we had to get taxi to the hotel. We stayed at Lotus Garden Hotel (RM180 per night inclusive breakfast), very strategically located and easy access hotel. One thing we've learned, never fly again (hope so) with Air Asia to Clark, and make sure the taxi driver turn on the meter otherwise ask to jump off from the cab.

Diocasdo Macapagal Airport, ClarkPhiltranco Bus ticketAre u ready for traffic?Lotus Garden Hotel, ManilaView from our room

Kebab for lunch & dinner
Since we arrived at the hotel almost 4pm, we decided to spend the rest of the day at the huge mall nearby, Robinson Place (just 3mins walk). We managed to find only one HALAL place to eat. Located at the entrance of Robinson supermarket, it’s a kebab kiosk. Not bad, sedap jugak!

The next day, we started with Fort Santiago, one of the must go places. We’ve got conned by the taxi driver. He refused to charge us according to the meter, so he got his way with 400peso(RM32) for a 100peso(RM8) ride. Dang!!! Another con man was trying to be our guide but we escaped this time by telling us we prefer to walk rather to naik kereta kuda! Don’t fall into this trap!

Fort Santiago, is actually one of the most important historical sites in Manila. Several lives were lost in its prisons during the Spanish Colonial Period and World War II. José Rizal, the Philippines' national hero, was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896.Dr. Jose Rizal is so synonyms with the Filipinos, he is the most venerated and acclaimed patriot in the Philippines recognized for his unselfish and non-violent contributions to the historical and social transformations in the country.

Fort Santiago, ManilaJose Rizal StatueJose Rizal MartyrdomFort Santiago, ManilaAnna@Fort Santiago, Manila
It is very interesting to read about him. Among places inside Fort Santiago, I like the Chamber of Text where it has writings form Jose Rizal. Excitement, frustration, encouragement and sacrifices are what he was up to and also lie the various objects owned by him. You could spend the whole day here, unfortunately we decided not to. We walked out from Intramuros after a half day trip to Rizal Park which located opposite the Intramuros. Here, you can see the famous monument of Jose Rizal and Diorama of Rizal's Martyrdom. On an area north of Rizal monument stands a set of statues depicting Rizal's execution, situated on the spot where he was actually martyred, contrary to popular belief that the monument is the spot where he was executed.

Fort Santiago, ManilaJose Rizal Museum@ Fort SantiagoRizal Stone carved, Fort SantiagoJose Rizal Prison CellChamber of Text@Fort Santiago
Rizal Shrine, Fort SantiagoFort Santiago, ManilaBudgetCouple@Fort Santiago, ManilaIntramuros Visitors CenterAnna@Fort Santiago, Manila
Manila CathedralIntramuros, ManilaAnna@Intramuros, ManilaFaizal@Intramuros, ManilaCasa Manila Museum, Intramuros
Rizal Park, ManilaRizal Park, ManilaRizal Monument@Rizal Park, ManilaRizal Park, ManilaRizal Park, Manila

Words by Jose Rizal
What we've learned today, regardless of nationalities, races, colors or religions, there'll always be a hero that will always be remembered. As for the Filipinos, Dr. José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda is their pick. How about us? We ended the day with dinner at the same kiosk in Robinson Place.

Day 3 - Today we decided to go to Makati, another city that make up Metro Manila. It is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. Makati is the financial center of the Philippines. As the host of various embassies, it is also an important center for international affairs.

It is totally different from places we've been yesterday. It has huge shopping malls and office buildings; Glorietta, Greenbelt, SM Malls, National Bookstore are among the stars in Makati. Those who are "kaki shopping" would love to come here, Home of shoes and handbags!

Anna@HRC Makati
Anna, as usual, HRC Makati was her priority; nothing else matters. In a country as big as Philippines, there's only one HardRock Cafe..., which is in Makati. If you wish to come to Makati, there's two ways; is either by taxi or mrt. The best part to travel by mrt is that the cabins are divided to three section; women, men or unisex. So pick which is comfortable for you. Plus it's quite cheap though (8peso-14peso, RM0.60-RM1.20)

SM Mall, MakatiSM Mall, MakatiAnna@HRC MakatiHRC Makati, PhilippinesAnna@HRC Makati
Day 4 - We made a tour to Quiapo, it is a district and a primary city square of Manila and also known as Old Downtown of Manila. The centre of Quiapo district is Plaza Miranda, and a home for Quiapo Church, where the feast of the Black Nazarene is held with millions of people attending annually.

If you're to find how muslims community live, this is the place too. We had a chance to visit Golden Mosque; it is so-named because of its dome is painted in shining gold. It was constructed in 1976 under the supervision of former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, for the visit of Libya's President Muammar al-Gaddafi, although his visit was cancelled. It now serves many in Manila's Muslim community, and is especially full during Friday prayers. I hope after the historic signing between the Philippines government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will gives a new hope for Muslims community called Bangsamoro a better life and opportunity. InsyaAllah...

Golden Mosque@Quiapo,ManilaInside Golden Mosque, ManilaInside Golden Mosque, ManilaGolden Mosque@Quiapo,ManilaGolden Mosque@Quiapo,Manila
As a backpacker as well as secondhand goods hunter, Faizal introduced this area called,Cubao where you can find antiques, books and rare stuff. Even though we're not allowed to take pictures, Anna managed to snap a few. The best part was, Anna shopped at this place called Marikina Shoe Expo, discounted place from shoe vendors.

Faizal@Cubao, ManilaAnna@Cubao Expo, ManilaVinyl Dump@Cubao ExpoVeggie Pizza for lunch...Faizal, Anna & Starbuck Coffee
There's one more place u guys should go, SM Mall of Asia. It is the 2nd largest mall in the Philippines, 3rd largest shopping mall in Asia and the 4th largest shopping mall in the world. No Other Mall Comes Close, is the tagline, i'm sure you can imagine how big it is. To tell you the truth, we're a bit frustrated to go on our second last day to this mall as it is so big that we didn't have time to explore more.

Faizal@SM Mall of Asia, ManilaInside SM Mall of Asia, ManilaAnna & The King of the Road, Jeepney!Jeepney is The King expoJeepney is The King expo
There's one big souvenir shop that has everything made in Philippines, from clothing, household, food or even women accessories in this mall. Price range, ok ok, not so expensive. It seems everyone knows this place, so it is very easy to come here. Just hail any Jeepneys that come here and pay around 8peso (RM0.60-RM0.70).

Ready to go home...
Even though, the transportation not as perfect as Singapore or Hong Kong, but Manila has a lot to offer. It provides us a different kind of experience; but just to find out that we are actually are the same around the world. What made us different is our culture, belief, food or even historical places, other than that? Nothing... Why do we have to fight?

Here are few tips:
  1. Try avoiding Clark airport unless you have to. 
  2. Ask the cab driver to turn the meter on. 
  3. Ride on MRT or Jeepney, cheaper and faster. 
  4. Find a hotel nearby MRT station or main road.
  5. Bring your own food from Malaysia. (maggi, biscuits or apa apa). For those who are concerned about halal food. 
  6. Beware of pickpockets in crowded places, MRT/LRT or.... No, actually they are good people, not so worry about that, just be careful. 
  7. They speak English, but different a bit... Ask them to repeat if you don't understand. 
  8. If you need to travel back to Clark, give yourself 4-5hours to get to the airport. 
  9. Prepare airport tax (450peso, RM38), o don't shop till you drop. 
  10. Last but not least, Gear up and Have A Blast !!! Nice place to be. Mabuhay!