Tourist Friday: An Impromptu Visit to the Philipines and My Fear Factor Challenge of the Year!

by xin on February 1, 2013

It’s a super picture heavy post so be warned!

2 weeks ago,  I visited Manila on a spur of the moment (partially), and had it planned out in just a few days.

I had no idea what to expect in the Philipines – except for the massive traffic jam. But I was armed with an intention – to meet my soul sister in another country!

Just a little background, Metro Manila, is made up of 16 cities + 1 Municipality, and Makati is one of the cities.

From the airport:

We took Malaysian Airlines and reached Ninoy Aquino airport (in Manila), whereas Air Asia will only fly to Clark airport which is quite a distance (about 40-50 mins car ride to Manila if no traffic).

To head to the city, you will need to take a cab. There are plenty of airport cabs by the exit, but tipped off by a friend in the last minute, we made our way to 1st floor of the airport and hail a cab from the exit. Apparently the white cabs are cheaper, their meter starts at 40PHP instead of 70 PHP. That’s about a difference of RM2+.

And don’t be surprised if the driver shortchanged you, apparently, it’s a norm to self-tip over there (2o-50PHP).

Accommodation

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It only cost us around RM15 to get to the hotel as it was only about 8km away. Be warned if you have a weak stomach, the cab we rode in, drove as if he just robbed a bank and on a flee.

There are quite many hotels around but geographically, InterContinental is one of the best hotels to stay in because it’s smacked right in the middle of 5 huge shopping malls! 5? or rather,13 shopping malls!!!!!

Surrounded by the malls, it’s also a business district. I think the whole area is known as Ayala Avenue, which is also nicknamed as the Wall Street of Philipines.

Shopping

Don’t be shocked if you see each mall has a few security guards screening for metal/weapon or checking your bags upon the entrances. Apparently, there was a bombing before, so I guess they got to at least try to prevent it from happening again.

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The surroundings of InterContinental.

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The major malls in Ayala are:

SM Mall – with a huge Forever 21, and it is a department store. It has categorized products by levels. It’s not really like our Malaysia department store.

The Landmark –  It’s a one department store with LOTS of inexpensive stuff. This mall has an interlink to overhead bridge leading to Greenbelts, therefore it’s perpetually packed!

Rustan’s – It’s also a department store with more high end brands, it’s not like our Isetan nor Parkson, they even had a Tifanny’s counter!

Glorietta 1 – 5 : According to them, this is counted as only 1 mall although it has 5 interlinked malls.

Greenbelt 1 – 5: From low end to high end, each mall carries different range of products, with Greenbelt 4 being the most luxurious (like Starhill KL but with more brands)

To say I was overwhelmed, it’s an under statement, I was STUNNED!

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From the main road, you are able to see how the malls are interlinked.  It’s hard to know the roads when you cross under the roof.

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The Pinoys seem to love numbers since most of their malls are number coded.

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The Greenbelts has a very tranquil surrounding as it seems like a series of malls in a circle, with gardens and ponds in the center.

It’s a nice place to relax your mind before busting your credit card.

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Greenbelt 4 has the most high end stores and the least customers.

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There’s also a Hard Rock Cafe nearby the Greenbelts and Lanamark if you are a fan. It’s easy to find if you are taking the main road.

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I was introduced by Lisa to check this Beabi shop out in Greenbelt 5 if I am a fan of organizers.

Well, indeed, I went crazy.

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You see, they have tons of organizers in all the bright colors. I really wish I could buy the entire shop!

Among my purchases, my proudest purchase would be a jewelery wallet and an electrical case that keeps all the cords and adapters during travel. They will be in another post of organizing idea ;)

The prices are relatively reasonable, ranging from RM10 onwards.

Spa

Interestingly, there is only ONE spa in the whole of shopping malls chain. It’s called The Spa at Greenbelt 1 and it’s always fully booked, especially on weekends. Make sure you make an appointment if you want to try out.

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Food

One interesting sight to note was – no matter what time is it, the cafes and the restaurants are ALWAYS FULL!

Local Delicacy

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One of the hits in Philipines is I believe Jolibee. It’s a chain fastfood like Macdonalds, but at a lower price.

A set of ‘luxury’ meal as the above cost around RM10; if you opt for the rice, it will cost you about RM7.

The fried chicken is really good! It’s tender, hot, and juicy, and you must have it with the gravy! I can totally understand why is it a hit!

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An exotic local delicacy that you may want to try is this – balut, which is an duck embryo.

It might be gruesome to some but it is actually not that bad.  Usually, the seller will give u a small pinch of salt wrapped in paper for you to go with it.

You can see the ‘yolk’ when you crack it open.

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Depending on your luck, it’s best to get a young egg, so there isn’t much bones or feather.

It just tasted like egg yolk, a little fishy, and nothing else. It can be quite overwhelming if you have a whole egg.

It’s worth a try if you are able to find it. We bought this is in a food bazaar, and it is surprisingly hard to find!

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Thanks to dear friend, we managed to try out the local food at a buffet restaurant near Market Market which is another shopping area at Fort Bonifacio.

Pork is a big thing in Philipines and it can be difficult to find a halal restaurant.

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Then, we also had the opportunity to visit a food bazaar, it was an eye opening experience!

I had never seen so many types of BBQ intestines-on-sticks in my entire life!

The bazaar is really well maintained and very clean, even their floor was junk-free.

Western Food

If you are around the Glorietta malls, I’d suggest to try out at Heaven and Eggs, if you have no idea what to eat.

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My yummy dinner: Grilled pork chops with mash. At about RM25, it’s a juicy wholesome meal.

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Alternatively, there are also Yellow Cab pizzas. Their pizzas are really good!

Tourist Spot:

Since it was a business trip, we only had the last day free to do the tourist thing. We had no sufficient time to visit the island or beaches, but we had the time to visit one of the recommended tourist spots – a memorial.
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Located near the Fort Bonifacio, it’s an American cemetery for the soldiers who sacrificed in World War II.

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Tens of thousands of crosses were aligned so neatly that it is such a magnificent sight!

It took my breath away! No pun intended.

It was really quiet, and peaceful. Not a sense of horror.

Stepping on the grass is not allowed so you can only admire from a far. We spent a little while at the memorial and decided to take a walk back to the hotel as it was only about less than 4km walk.

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We walked past a beautiful chapel, and it was a nice day to walk in.

Along the way to the hotel, we saw many huge houses with security guard in each house. It’s such an extreme from some of the slum areas that we passed by on a cab.

And that was the end of our little holiday. We ended the day with a foot massage at the hotel, and headed to airport.

Conclusion:

Overall, it was quite a fun and eye-opening trip. Most will worry about the safety of being there, but well, living in any city in the world, there are always snatch thieves around. I believe in the business district areas are relatively safe. Just be mindful and keep an eye of your surroundings and belongings all the time.

Food prices and things in Philipines are not much different from Malaysia. So it’s easier to budget too. And, I find that the customer service is almost excellent in all the malls!  Malaysia definitely has a lot more to learn in the customer service aspect.

That’s all that I can recall of my trip now…I hope it helps one day if you are planning to visit Manila!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikki February 1, 2013 at 9:14 am

awwww you chronicled your very short trip quite well and seems like you can be a tour guide yourself! So happy I was able to meet you (thanks for the time) and I can’t wait to see you back here again (this time, bigger budget?) hahahaha

Take care li’l sis! We’ll see each other again I’m sure!
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xin February 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

can’t believe i forgot to take a pic of fort bonifacio!!! must be too excited to see u :D
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beetrice February 1, 2013 at 10:40 am

That Beabi place looks like a place I would have to avoid at all costs – I’d be way too tempted to spend my whole day there (not to mention melt my credit card)…eeks! Just looking at the photos of the place making my hand itchy already!
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xin February 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm

i went to the shop 3 days in a row!!! :P just to make sure i didn’t miss out anything
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plue February 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

sounds like you have fun!

i don’t think i could ever eat the balut though, feels weird! The boy travels to Philippines for work, and he always tells me that the driving skills of the people there is… speedy, like nobody’s business! Even on small windy roads!
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xin February 1, 2013 at 2:41 pm

balut didnt taste as bad as it looked actually :D yeah the drivers there are perpetually frustrated
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Paris B February 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I don’t know if I dare eat balut but I most certainly want to try! I mean, if the Fillipinos eat it, how bad can it be right? :P Ok I have to plan a short trip and I guess, stay at Intercontinental too ;)
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xin February 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

it really isn’t bad :P just tastes like concetntrated egg yolk!
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Connie De Alwis February 3, 2013 at 7:21 pm

You’re very brave to take on the balut! I’m still nervous about visiting Manila. Perhaps if I go with bigger groups or people who are familiar with the place.
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Vivi February 5, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I would also want to visit Beabi! I’m a highly disorganized person who likes hoarding organizers and keeping them in my cabinet, haha.

Oh! I have tried Balut before! The soup is nice but the ‘meat’ inside feels too weird in the mouth. I don’t think I can ever do it again.
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xin February 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm

LOL!!! i share the sentiments of hoarding organizers but keeping them unused. LOL!
I guess balut is like one of those once a life time things.
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Syen March 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Ok this comment is super late, but I’m so glad you enjoyed Beabi so much! Hehehe… if I ever go back to Manila, I’m definitely going back to Beabi for more stuff! *tee hee*.

The cemetery looks so peaceful. I’ll definitely go check it out when I’m there next. And Fort Boni is one of my fave hang-out places when I’m there. =)

Sounds like you had a great time! =)

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xin March 15, 2013 at 9:33 am

please lemme know if you are visiting beabi again :P definitely need to tumpang something to buy!
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