Dessert Museum in Manila.
Dessert Museum in Manila. Vicki Wood

What happens when you get lost in Manila?

Although I wouldn't recommend getting lost in a foreign country, the misadventure that may take place can lead to the perfect escape.

Deciding to take a Jeepney for the pure experience, we were sent on a road of discovery, witnessing the lifestyle of the Filipino through back-streets, rather than the main roads of Manila.

Jeepneys are refurbished American military vehicles left over from World War II. They are now manufactured in the Philippines and are a mainstay of the country's public transportation.

On our little adventure we also tried to hop on the many other modes of transport to get us back on track, including motorbikes, tuk tuks, rickshaws, taxis and horse and buggies that contribute to Manila's bustling atmosphere.

 

Roman Catholic Cathedral of Manila
Roman Catholic Cathedral of Manila Vicki Wood

The city of contrasts is even more apparent in Makati, one of the 16 metropolitan cities that make up the district of Manila.

It is home to sleek skyscrapers, slick hotels, churches dating back to 1620 and high-end malls. It is the financial hub with lots of banks and businesses lining the streets among world-class shopping centres that seem to engulf the surroundings.

The best known is Greenbelt Park, a sprawling 2.8 hectare garden integrating an indoor experience of retail and dining.

Travelling on a weekend meant the city was quieter than the usual hustle during the working week and less congested than the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong.

It made it easier to explore but it was when you travelled outside of the central area that you got to see the rich history and diversity of Manila.

Filipino culture has been influenced by both the East and the West with significant change brought by Spain and the US.

Its intense lifestyle has been directed by several major events throughout its history. The Spanish colonised the country more than 300 years ago, Japan seized the Philippines in 1941 during World War II, and the islands were granted full independence in 1946.

It was a sobering feeling to walk through the Manila American Memorial where more than 17,100 grave sites lie, and more than 36,000 names are engraved in stone for those never found.

 

Philipinne American Memorial from World War II.
Philipinne American Memorial from World War II. Vicki Wood

We were taken through the "old Manila'' on Bambikes, made by a small boutique business benefiting tourists and residents alike.

The strong bamboo frame carried us through the cobblestone streets to churches, museums, and a rooftop bar with a 360-degree view of Manila.

Bambike Evolution Cycles founder Bryan Benitez-McClelland is reinvesting in the community by helping tourists learn about the Philippines. Part of the proceeds from tours goes back into the region in the form of feeding programs for students, providing safe places to play and offering full-time employment with benefits.

 

Bambike Tours lead you through the streets of Intramuros
Bambike Tours lead you through the streets of Intramuros Vicki Wood

Baron Travel was exceptional in helping us navigate our way through Manila and giving us the highlights of the region in three days.

If you only have a short time to visit, the Ayala Museum is the perfect place to find out about the detailed and compelling history of the Philippines. The Diorama displays were the best I had ever seen and the exquisite gold exhibit left your eyes boggled.

 

But for something totally different, for little and big kids, is the Dessert Museum, eight rooms of deliciousness, each designed according to the latest trends. Four of the mouthwatering rooms have already been changed in the year and a half it has been open. More than 1000 people a day follow candy rabbits through donut holes, slide down a sprinkle slide and swing on cake puffs.

If you are not too full from this treat you can explore the Salcedo Markets on a Saturday. The food community is full of fabulous flavours and rich traditions in the heart of Makati.

 

Isaw or chicken intestines were the flavour of the day at Salcedo Saturday Market.
Isaw or chicken intestines were the flavour of the day at Salcedo Saturday Market. Contributed

Formed in 2005, the market meets every Saturday at the Jaime Velasquez Park of Salcedo village. Its stalls offer a wide range of wet and dry food, with cuisines from all over the world.

The most interesting we were tempted to try was Isaw, chicken intestine wrapped on a stick. This is something Filipinos enjoy, but I can now say I have tried it and probably never will again.

An added bonus to the trip was to travel out a bit further to Marikina, the home of the shoe industry in the Philippines.

You can dine in the 200-year-old building once owned by Don Laureano Guevara, recognised as the father of the shoe industry, stroll the streets and purchase some shoes, visit Our Lady of the Abandoned Church, the oldest church in the Philippines, lay your eyes on a giant floating heel, and see the fitting tribute to the city at the Shoe Museum which includes a number of shoes worn by former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos.

There is much more to explore in the Philippines considering it comprises more than 7000 islands.

But exploring Manila is easily achievable in a few days. Use the extra time to get on a quick flight and take an adventure to one or more of the famous islands like Palawan or Palaui.

Vicki Wood was a guest of Brisbane Airport Corporation, Fairmont Makati, Manila and Philippine Airlines.

STAYING THERE

Fairmont Makati was almost a vacation in itself. The luxury five-star hotel is a striking 30-storey structure with impressive amenities that you could lose yourself in.

The building encompasses Raffles, which is a new concept of two hotels in one property providing a choice for business or leisure travellers. Furthermore, Raffles Residences are incorporated. The one to four-bedroom apartments offer residential accommodation for short or long-term stays.


 

The impressive interiors and modern lines gave way for a comfortable and indulgent stay.

You can unwind in the Willow Stream Spa, wash away the blues in the outdoor swimming pool and beautiful terrace, keep your fitness regimen on track in the fully equipped gym, or dive into one of the many bars and dining experiences.

The Mireio Terrace offers a panoramic view of the city while you sip on cocktails, the Long Bar is inspired by its namesake, the Long Bar in the Raffles Singapore, the Writers Bar is the perfect quiet place to relax, and the Mireio is an elegant brasserie-style restaurant. Then there is Spectrum, the all-day dining restaurant that has the most delectable array of culinary delights for a breakfast banquet I have ever seen.

 

GETTING THERE

Flying business class with Philippine Airlines is one of the best ways to travel to the Philippines, and now you can do it from Brisbane.

To take the pressure off getting to the airport you can spend the night before the flight at Ibis Brisbane Airport. The Accor hotel is within walking distance of the domestic terminal and it is a quick drive to the international terminal. You can easily explore the Brisbane CBD from here or just simply relax knowing that you're settled in prior to taking off.

You begin your wait at Brisbane Airport in the newly expanded Qantas Brisbane International Lounge, which offers a three-level space for nearly 400 customers. It has seasonal menus, a business centre and modern design.

You can sneak off to tempt your tastebuds at the Brisbane international terminal's Lotte Duty Free whisky tasting bar.

Whisky specialist Shane Batchler IMAGE (pictured) will share his expert advice on the world's best whisky selections. You can taste, you can learn, you can purchase to take away with you or pick up on your return, whatever your palate prefers.

By the time you hop on your flight on the A321neo Airbus you will be in a world of comfort that continues with the first narrow-body operation to Australia offering a flat-bed business product.

Brisbane Airport is the first with this service and with the opening of Brisbane's new runway in 2020 it will provide Brisbane with the most efficient runway system and the most capacity in Australia.Why do you need to go to any other major city to travel

 



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