makati city

It’s More Fun in the Philippines!

Well hello there! As you can see, I’ve made it home safely from my vacation to the Philippines. Since I’ve already written a few posts about my Philippine vacation last year, I will try to keep this one short. Just like last year I went to Manila and Boracay, unlike last year we hired a driver and Peter’s parents joined us on our vacation! After co workers of both Peter and mine had recommended their driver, we decided to give it a try. Bright and early at 8:00am Rally, the driver, was waiting for us at the airport in Manila. It was nice not having to worry about finding a taxi. We just asked Rally to take us where we needed to go, and he knew exactly how to get there. He also suggested places for us to visit and helped us out when we went to Greenhills and needed to get good prices on things. On the other hand, it was VERY weird for me because he opened EVERY door and held my bags. It took me awhile to get used to all the services he provided. Overall, I am SOOOO happy Rally helped us out during our stay. He showed us parts of Manila that we’d read about and wanted to visit, but didn’t know how to get to.

When we arrived, Rally took us to Hotel Celeste to check in and freshen up. Hotel Celeste is a boutique hotel located near Landmark department store and just down the road from where we stayed last year. That was the first time that we stayed in that Hotel.  We didn’t enjoy our stay in Metro Manila last year, so we decided to stay in Makati City for our entire time in Manila. Hotel Celeste is very nice, the furniture is unique, the shampoos and lotions provided were by L’occitane, we received delicious welcome drinks and the pillows were extra comfy! It’s also in a great location for walking to Greenbelt. Very safe!

Peter and I asked Rally to take us to Greenhills so that we could shop around. Greenhills is known to have all the replica designer clothes and accessories. This time, we explored more and had Rally with us to show us around. Greenhills is a neverending maze of vendors. Upstairs are electronic items, mostly for phones. Downstairs is where EVERYTHING you’ve ever needed would be. I knew exactly what I wanted to buy, whereas Peter knew what he wanted but couldn’t make up his mind. We went again a few days later without Rally to show Peter’s parents around.

When Peter’s parents arrived, we asked Rally to take us sightseeing. He took us to Quiapo and we shopped in the street markets where all the locals shop. I found an AMAZINGLY affordable bead shop where I stocked up on beads for my bracelet making. We visited beautiful churches and I was touched by how big of a role religion plays in the lives of Filipinos. It seemed so pure and the epitome of what religion SHOULD be like to people. Locals stopped by the church to leave a prayer on their way home from work or while they were going about their daily business. In Quiapo, the Black Nazarene is very important. Peter and I stopped to say a few prayers and it brought tears to my eyes. I was very overwhelmed by the hope and faith I felt around me.

Rally drove us through China Town in Binondo, we also drove through Metro Manila and past Coconut Palace.  He was very helpful and I recommend him to anyone visiting the Philippines. In Manila we went to Fort Santiago, where we learned about Rizal’s history. On one of the evenings in Makati, past Greenbelt we found Ayala Triangle Gardens and walked throughout the park. This trip to Manila was so much better than last year’s trip!

Shop ’til You Drop in the Philippines!

Even though this vacation was planned on a tight budget, one of the main things we wanted to do while in Manila was to take advantage of how much the dollar is worth! The exchange rate is great for the US Dollar, so we planned to do a bit of shopping and a lot of eating. We limited ourselves to a few shopping places: Greenhills, Tiendesitas and Greenbelt. Tiendesitas turned out to be a disappointment. It was filled with pet shops and furniture, both of which we didn’t want nor could we even bring back with us. I don’t plan on going back there. If you want to do authentic designer and name brand shopping, Greenbelt and the Glorietta malls are good for that. These shopping centers are massive and never ending. It was fun just to window shop. We shopped at Landmark, where we got good deals on shoes and clothes. Makati City shopping is very tourist friendly and VERY nice. Since our hotel was near the Greenbelt and Glorietta shopping centers, we spent most of our time in this area.  It’s also a very safe area to walk around in at night.

One evening we decided to take a taxi to Greenhills, which is a large shopping center. There’s a regular shopping mall and then there’s a market with rows and rows of individual vendors. Here you can find anything your heart desires. I would have liked to have spent more time at the Greenhills market, I’ve never been to anything like it. This is a cash only place and you have to be good at bargaining. Seller’s prices usually start really high and you have to bargain with them to lower the price. They can be very pushy and even grab your arm but just stick to what you want and don’t get overwhelmed. We went once at night and once early in the morning. I suggest early morning, less people and if you’re the first buyer of the day you might get an even better discount (so they say).

As you can see from the photo, the Philippines is VERY densely populated. Not an inch of space is wasted. In additions to living areas being packed with people, the roads are just as hectic. Philippine drivers are insane. I got carsick every time we drove anywhere. I’m not even sure how their traffic laws work or if they have any, but it was like riding in a roller coaster. Our average taxi ride cost about 270 pesos depending on traffic. Traffic is usually very bad and slow, but drivers find ways of getting around it. I don’t recommend renting a car in this city.

Jollibee is sort of the McDonald’s of the Philippines. We ordered two medium pizzas, a burger and fries for about $8.00!  Another day I decided to try a Philippine restaurant that served BBQ chicken and red rice. It was absolutely delicious! I suggest eating this if you can find it. We also bought a bag of sliced mangoes from a street vendor, another disappointment. The mango was not good at all. I guess it’s just a hit or miss thing with the food. I was worried about eating because I didn’t want to get sick. I suggest just sticking with restaurants and taking some Imodium before and during the trip.

At the end of my trip to Manila, I was ready for relaxation. I really enjoy my time there and learned a lot of useful things for my next visit. Next stop, the island of Boracay!