Landing in Manila

My flight to Manila landed nice and early but immigration involved standing in a slow queue for most of an hour. I collected my bag and got cash out from an ATM. I checked three different banks and they all add 250 Pesos (£3.70) for a foreign bank withdrawal. I took out around £100 worth while I establish whether it is entirely cash-based here or not. I paid 1,000 Pesos (£15) for a 1-month 8GB prepaid SIM with Globe, who I read has slightly better coverage than Smart. I think it’s the most expensive prepaid SIM I’ve bought but the flexibility it offers is worth more.

I couldn’t decide whether I was hungry or not but decided to have breakfast once I spotted the Jollibee outlet in the terminal. It’s the Filipino version of McDonald’s and my friend Luke had told me about it before I left. I knew I wanted to try one so why not now?! I had a TLC Yumburger (I just love the name Yumburger and TLC stands for tomato, lettuce and cheese) and paid 135 Pesos (£2) for a meal deal. The menu has all sorts on it including burgers, fried chicken and spaghetti – something for everyone.

The taxi app Grab is a big thing here so I Grabbed for 310 Pesos and paid 35 to use the Skyway toll road.

Traffic is unsurprisingly terrible and I suppose it’s like that most of the day but it doesn’t really matter if you build in time. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I immediately spotted what I know to be Jeepneys; the backbone of the Philippines public transport system. I’m in love with them already and I can’t wait to hop on one.

The journey took around 35 minutes to reach my hostel in the Malati area of the city. Tambayan Capsule Hostel and Bar has been described as being more like a hotel in the reviews and I can immediately see why. For starters, it’s hella fancy in the lobby but it’s also not a very sociable place to hang out (which kinda sucks as I would have liked to chat to people about the gazillion things to do in the Philippines).

I arrived at 9:30 and check in isn’t until 2pm so I stored my bags, did a little map browsing and then I went to a travel agent nearby because the woman on reception was pretty useless.

My first major thing I want to organise is a daytrip to Corrigidor Island, which is way out into the bay from Manila and it was an enormously important defensive position throughout history including during WWII.

The travel agent tried to sell me a really expensive day trip (around £60), which is a shame because I fancied talking to someone about my options but not if they are peddling super expensive trips.

So I left the travel agent to find a cafe where I could change my phone for a while. They love their chain stores and fast food here! I bought a mocha at Starbucks for 170 Pesos (£2.50) and did some online research about the island tour then emailed the operator directly as it seems much cheaper.

Then I took the Metro (MRT) one stop North to UN Avenue. The single journey ticket cost 15 Pesos (£0.22) and the only thing to bear in mind is that you have to go up the set of stairs on the correct side of the road as there is no joined concourse. Simple, quick and efficient.

I hopped off at UN station and then walked through Rizal Park to reach the Philippines National Museum of Anthropology (free entry).

Security is everywhere here, particularly noticeable at the entrance to every public venue, where you get your bag inspected and your body patted down or scanned.

The men in particular are very courteous and almost every single one has cheerily wished me a good morning, even the guard outside the mall who was carrying an almost comically huge shotgun.

The anthropology museum was pretty interesting and had a few floors of exhibits starting with the history of the ivory trade in the Philippines.

Most of the exhibitions were interesting and my favourites were the pottery, woven mats and the arrows.

The signs are in clear English and I’m not sure how but I always seemed to be going in the wrong direction through the exhibits but never mind. There is a powerful photograph exhibit showing the buildings damaged during the 2017 rebellion in Marawi when rebels attempted to declare the southern area an Islamic caliphate.

I quickly popped my head into the Natural History Museum but I was a bit too hungry with sore feet so I’ve decided to go back another day.

I caught the MRT back to Pedro Gil station and walked towards the hostel, stopping at Ersao for noodles with dumplings and a taro milk tea, for which I paid 265 Pesos (£3.90) and enjoyed every mouthful!!

Checking in to the hostel took a little bit of time but a porter dude helped me with my bag so I can’t complain.

My little pod is pretty cool, literally. It’s got a vent and a fan and all the plug sockets you could dream of so it’s been a nice place for a little nap this afternoon.

I woke up and did some travel planning for this next month and then I came to the upstairs bar for drinks and ended up getting dinner. Two strong Red Horse beers and a portion of linguine with meatballs set me back 450 Pesos (£6.70). A live band spent a very long time setting up and I like the music but it’s just too loud and harsh so I’m gonna get an early night in my capsule with my feet up. I don’t think I mentioned that I’ve broken a bone in my foot and the swelling isn’t great after so much walking and the flights.

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