Traveling is possibly the best gift you can give yourself for it opens up your thoughts, learnings and discoveries of yourself. As I try to cross off the items on my travel bucket list, my family adds a new one for me – Philippines.
When my father decided to run his 100th half marathon in Manila, Philippines, we planned our itinerary (more like my brother, Tarun did 😉 ) and got to booking our tickets. Mumbai – Manila – Kalibo – Boracay – Mumbai. We applied for a Philippines visa at the embassy and got it within four working days – a fairly simple procedure.
With every new place I explore with friends/family – I’m going to share my experiences with you to hopefully help plan your trip and more to plan your meals (read for vegetarians) across the world.
Stay: Manila city has many options for stay, but it’s best to stay in an area that’s central to activities/malls/market so it’s easy to get around town. After our research on the internet, we decided on Joya lofts and towers in Makati, as it matched with all the criteria’s on our list. We got a service apartment with a kitchen, two bath, two bedrooms, a living rooms and a balcony/terrace area on the 34th floor. The hotel has various facilities if you have a little time on you if you want to dedicate to relaxation. With a gym, pool and various other facilities, Joya is a good choice and will certainly give you satisfaction for all you’re investing in here.
Food: Food is a VERY important part of our lives and especially when we travel – I love exploring new places and food, but being a vegetarian comes with its challenges. Therefore, I have set out on a journey with #GoVegwithFOI where I will sharing easy-to-find veg food that can be consumed across my travels. We start with Manila – right near Joya lofts and towers there’s a small little restaurant/café called pancake house, so head there for a heavy breakfast before you begin your day. If you don’t consume egg in food, then a safe choice would be to start with some bread toast and fruit/shake perhaps until you reach the markets. (https://www.zomato.com/manila/pancake-house-legaspi-village-makati-city)
Lusso – this is an absolute must-visit place for the ultimate food experience and yes for vegetarians, too! My sister-in-law was really excited to take us here and it was so well worth the time and money. We tried the truffle fries with a mushroom dip, portobello mushrooms with asparagus, spinach taglierini (pasta) which was rich and creamy and super delicious with Mediterranean vegetable sandwich. The portion sizes are good enough for 2 people but the food is heavy so can easily be shared among three people. Located in greenbelt 5, Lusso is well worth the time and money and if you are looking for a good meal over a couple of hours, this is the place to go. They also have an outdoor seating option. (https://www.zomato.com/manila/lusso-greenbelt-makati-city/info)
Beni’s Falafel – who would have thought Mediterranean food in manila would be a good idea? Must visit here for the hummus and the falafel – be sure to tell them no meat and no eggs. (https://www.zomato.com/manila/beni-s-falafel-poblacion-makati-city)
Manila Bay – manila by the bay reminds us a little of home and you must visit here post your shopping spree in the mall of Asia. There’s lots of games, rides, fun to indulge in here. They have a special cotton candy that they make in various designs/shapes that you can choose for 200 pesos. It’s all well worth it 😉
R.I.C.H. – as you keep walking you will spot a series of restaurants by the bay and you will definitely not miss RICH – an Indian curry house where you can stop for a meal in case you are feeling a little homesick for food. Must haves here are the pakora platter; freshly prepared and garnished with delicious chaat masala (tell them you don’t want gobi in the pakora platter though); dal makhani and garlic naan. (https://www.zomato.com/manila/royal-indian-curry-house-mall-of-asia-complex-pasay-city)
Market Market – this is the place where you will get to taste the local foods, fruits, juices and shakes. We really enjoyed the freshly squeezed juices they had kept on a table with exotic flavors to choose from.Sofitel – We hear from a friend, Alex, that the Sofitel in manila has a very luscious breakfast spread and is widely known for the same; a little on the higher side but with its spread and variety of food available – it’s worth it. If you have the time, do check it out and let us know about your experience. (https://www.zomato.com/manila/restaurants/in/sofitel-philippine-plaza-manila-pasay-city )
Others – and then there are the good ol’ cafes/fast food outlets which you cannot go wrong with like Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, Coffee Bean, Starbucks among others.
Getting around: We took ubers everywhere and as many locals suggested – this was a very good idea and super convenient. They also have a tuk tuk more like a share tuk tuk that can seat about 10-12 people, but we couldn’t figure out how this works. We’ve left this for the next time we visit the country!
To See/Do: there’s plenty to do in this city starting with shopping, markets, casinos and walks by the bay.
Entertainment city is a casino hub and must-visit to test your self-control! There are multiple casinos right next to each other – we went to the city of dreams Casino and who knew we would also win us some money enough for a couple of drinks in Philippines!
For all your shopping dose you can go to the mall of Asia, Market market, Green belt area and many more. But these three places are so huge with so many options even three full days aren’t possibly enough to cover it all. Mall of Asia possibly has all the international brands in every category, Green belt is divided into 5 areas with possibly anything anyone can want in it.
Market Market is perfect for all your street side shopping – souvenirs, clothes, flowers, food, and stationery. We personally really liked the gift and fashion market – great– deals! (https://www.zomato.com/manila/entertainment-city-restaurants)
Lastly, Manila bay is perfect to end the day over a drink or stroll which will remind you a little of home if you, like us are used to the sea or a walk on sea face every now so often.
Currency: the local currency is called Philippine Pesos and 1.30 Pesos = 1 Indian Rupee so it’s fairly similarly priced. A bottle of water (1 L) is about 35 Pesos for your understanding of the currency exchange.
Miscellaneous: Manila is a beautiful city and we wish we had more time to explore the city, the nightlife, some historic sites but we had to make a quick stop here for the marathon run (which went really well, by the way) and we pack our bags and leave for Boracay in the hopes that we will return soon to explore the city!
Tickets to Manila from Mumbai are approximately 22,000 INR return as on www.airasia.com via Kuala Lampur. So pack your bags and head to the city for a fun vacation where you can get the best of a shopping + beach holiday. More on our beach holiday part of Philippines vacation in the next blog post. (Hint: pristine blue beaches with plenty of water sports 😀 )