Day two of our adventure in Manila began with what us, but ore eating through a market. Our destination: Binondo aka Chinatown. The enclave in Manila is the world’s oldest Chinatown and primarily populated by the ethnic Chinese living in Manila. The district is one of commerce and trade specializing in all things Chinese: food, herbs, medicines, jewellery and housewares hailing from the homeland can all be found here. Like most neighborhoods in Manila, Binondo is frequently and easily serviced by taxi, jeepney or tricycle for little more than a dollar.
As with our first day in Manila, Krystina and I began our food quest through these narrow streets. Eating one’s way through Manila’s Chinatown is a popular activity. Many groups travel companies offer half day tours through the neighborhoods highlighting the best grub. One popular tour to take is the Big Binondo Food Wok with Old Manila Walks. Reservations for the tour is required but they are simple to make and will be easy on your wallet. Even if you’ve made your reservation, reconfirm before your scheduled departure. Krystina and I were supposed to join the tour, only to find out the day before it had been unfortunately cancelled. Instead, we were left to wander the streets of Chinatown on our own.
When deciding which restaurant to patron and which dish to try I have one simple rule: go where lots of locals go. This generally has suited me well. Of course there are exceptions to this rule (see below) but I find that people who live in a neighborhood really do know where the best bites are. When nibbling your way around any market, neighborhood or city I highly recommend taking this approach.
After our little mishap at Delicious restaurant we were feeling a bit over the chinese food. With nothing else planned for our morning we continued to stumble through the street and soak up the Manila experience…
Seeming to be wandering aimlessly, groups on the street kept pointing us in the same direction. Subconsciously following their guidance we found ourselves at the Ling Nam noodle shop and decided to give the Chinese treats one more chance. Hopefully, their beef and wonton combination soup and a soft steamed bun could save our day.
And thankfully, they did. Lung Nam was the perfect end to our morning in Chinatown. Done with the tasting portion of our day, we stopped to get the first of our daily massages (massage parlors are quite ubiquitous here) before heading off to Intramuros, this historic center of town.
Intramuros is Manila’s oldest district. Dubbed the “walled city” the area was the seat of government during the Spanish rule of the Philippines. To guide us through the area, Krystina and I enlisted the help of Carlos Celdran of Walk This Way (email firstname.lastname@example.org or text +63 920 9092021 to confirm reservations). A mini Manila celeb in his own right, Carlos is the go to man of informative and humorous- and possibly slightly overly political- walks around Intramuros. His tour is wildly popular, and by most standards slightly pricey for Manila. Students (ID is required, but my drivers license worked just fine) pay PHP600 and regular admission PHP1100 for the three hour. Though steep in price, Carlos provides his guest with a rich history of Manila, Intramuros and Filipino culture.
With Intramuros, our day was spent. Luckily Manila offers a wide variety of nightlife for tourists and locals alike to continue their days.Cockfighting is a popular Filipino past time. The Libertad Cockpit close to Malate is a popular venue for those who with to partake in the experience. If you do, Sunday is the best day to visit the venue located at Dolores St. Pasay City. Malls are also a bustling part of manila life. The SM Mall of Asia is one of the continents largest and offers thousands of shops, restaurants and entertainment zones for its customers to peruse. If you plan on visiting, make sure to get there on the earlier side of the evening as the mall closes at 10 PM. For those wanting to eat and drink their night away, you are in luck. Manila is a vibrant city who’s bars and restaurants are open all evening. A few recommendations from local friends worth exploring include M. Cafe (corner of Makati Ave and Dela Rosa Street, Makati, +63 2 757 3000), Nuvo (Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati, +63 2 757 3699) and Mesa (Greenblet 5, Legaspi St. Legaspi Vill. Makati) for dining with OPUS (2/F, Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Newport Blvd, Newport City, Pasay City) being the go to for dancing. Regardless of what you chose to do with your evening, if anything at all, your time in Manila will not disappoint.
Krystina and I chose the latter and tuckered into our hotel for the evening. We had to be up at 4 AM the next morning for our next adventure and needed all the sleep we could get.
But more on that tomorrow…