Tuesday, 24 January 2017


The first thing to say is that Manila is not a city, it's several cities jammed together. So far I've made out four distinct types.
The first is the private subdivisions, like the one my hostel is in. These have guarded security gates, new range rovers with tinted windows and big houses. Next comes what I think of as the in between, which is basically a giant gridlock scattered with buildings made of breeze blocks.
The most interesting part is definitely Intramuros, the old walled area with Spanish architecture and museums. Which is where I spent most of the day. The fourth type of city I saw only from a distance but unlike the others it has skyscrapers. 

Getting in and out of Intramuros is an endurance challenge due to the gridlock and the fact no one knows where anywhere is resulting in taxis and buses doing U turns across the traffic, which really helps the traffic. 
I first looked at the cathedral, which seemed disappointingly modern. This turned out to be true since it is the 7th on the site and was only built in the 1950s. After that I decided the best way to see the sites and minimise hassle was to pick one guide to protect me from the others. So I got a three and a half hour tour in a kind of bicycle sidecar. This included the Augustinian monastery, which was much more what you expect from an old Catholic Church, Casa Manila - a replica of a 19th century house, and several parts of the old fortifications. 
Afterwards I ate at a road side café and chose the first thing on the menu. This turned out to be a pork bone with some meat and a lot of skin left on it, but it was authentic.
Next came the challenge of getting back. I started the journey in a motorcycle version of the sidecar taxi. Driven by an entire family complete with baby and able weave through the traffic. This would probably have been terrifying if it wasn't for the limited view. After 20 minutes or so they gave up and handed me over to an actual taxi. He of course didn't know the address and spent a couple of hours asking everyone if they recognised the card with it on. I'm back now and don't think I'll risk going anywhere for the evening. 

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