Thursday, October 16, 2014

A day in Manila, Intramuros

I had a day in Manila prior to heading heading over to Palawan.

To be honest, I was exhausted from the trip over. I ate breakfast at the hotel buffet, which wasn't terribly impressive, but was fine. I lay about my room for a while longer, trying to muster the energy to head out into Manila. Then I went out, making my way over to the nearest mall hoping that they could fix my smartphone issues.

As far as I can tell, Manila is a huge city made up of a series of districts that all blend into one another. I wasn't staying in a terribly popular area for tourist hotels, but I was in the historical part of town, so a popular destination for tourists to come and walk about. When I asked locals what I should do in Manila, they all seemed to suggest going to the mall. No my normal activity of choice at my destinations, but that seems to be the thing that one does in Manila.

There's not much interesting to say about the mall, other than the security on the outside, scanning everyone on the way in. And separated lines to enter, probably to do with security pat-downs. Otherwise a mall tends to be just a mall.

After the mall I headed back into Intramuros. Intramuros is the walled old Spanish city that is the historical heart of Manila. It's got the old church, administrative buildings, fort, etc. It's surrounded by massive walls 20+ meters wide with cannons on them.  It would have been impressive to find a way in back in day.

Intramuros is also surrounded by the Intramuros golf club, which is lit up so you can apparently even play at night. Knowing my love for the game, you'll be shocked to hear that I didn't play. While not an expensive course, it didn't fit with my budget for this trip, nor my one-day in Manila. Plus, it was really hot out.

After a forgettable lunch at a restaurant recommended by my hotel I wandered about Intramuros to see the rest of the sights. St. Augustin is the very old church in the centre and the top tourist destination in Manila. It was good to see, but as far as grand churches are concerned it wasn't terribly interesting or impressive. Just old.

I then walked over to the Manila Cathedral, which is the active church in the area. Much more modern. Nice from the outside, uninteresting on the inside. The sign on the outside was fun though, as it just explained how many times the Cathedral had been built, then destroyed, then built, then destroyed, ...

Next I headed towards the river and came to Fort Santiago, which used to be the great Spanish then American naval base. It's a nice little park in the middle of the city, that costs about $1.50 to get in. It's a peaceful break from the chaos outside, although it was pretty odd as there was Christmas music playing on the speakers as I walked through. Colleen would have enjoyed that. There is also a museum in memory of Rizal, a Philippino national hero from the end of Spanish colonial times, that I went through. That was worth it, because it gave a bit of context, and explained why every town I've been in seems to have a Rizal street.

After Fort Santiago I headed back towards my hotel. I tried to get some cash out and failed, which was a little disconcerting, since I wasn't sure how accessible cash would be on Palawan, where I was heading the next day. Sadly, on the walk back to the hotel, I tripped and broke my sandal. I know, who cares, but these had been my sandals for years and I'd become attached to them. And I kind of needed them. But I jumped in a tricycle and headed back to the hotel.

Back at The Bayleaf I planned to make good use of their rooftop bar. When I got up the rains began, and everyone got drenched. It's pretty impressive how much it can rain in a tropical country. I sat under a canopy in the thunderstorm, probably not a great idea, but the rain wasn't going to go away. I gave up, went to my room and ordered dinner.

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