There is only going to be one low on this list: Manila’s taxi drivers.
One after the other, without any shame, Manila taxi drivers will do their best to scam you. Although taxis are metered, most taxi drivers will insist on driving with it off. Or, upon comparing the different fares you are charged after taking several metered taxis, you realize some meters are “spiked”. One simple example: from our airport to our hotel, upon arriving in Manila, we paid about PHP480. On our way to the airport, with a stop for our taxi guy to get gas, we paid PHP252 (more according to what our guidebook said). So if you ever go to Manila, be prepared to deal with that “small” annoyance.
Now, some highs:
– All the karaoke singing: there are a gazillion karaoke places all across the city (some with some very scantily clad ladies that made me suspect that some of those places are more than karaoke, but we actually asked a number of those girls and they all said it was all karaoke), and well, seemingly Filipinos love to sing everywhere. One particularly funny instance was at a mall. All the employees of a CD store gathered around the karaoke machine taking turns to sing. Cause, you know, that’s what your work hours are for. Maybe they get commissions for that…
– Adriatico Street: Lots of food options, from Filipino to Chinese to Middle Eastern to Italian to McDonald’s. Something for everyone. Also, this street holds two bars with some of the cheapest beer in Manila. Erra’s and Rendezvous Adriatico. One has beer for PHP32. The other has beer for PHP34. It’s still less than US$1.
– The food is almost exactly like Dominican food…minus the beans: Rice without beans is missing something, I’m sorry. There are also no green plantains, and therefore no “tostones”, or fried green plantains.
– People are so incredibly friendly: Filipinos genuinely are nice in general, and friendly, and accommodating, and always say “Hello siiiiir, ma’aaaaam”, in a funny singsongy voice that will undoubtedly make you smile.
– Cheap massages! : We got hour long massages for PHP300 at a place recommended on our guidebook. Our masseuse was maaaaybe 5 feet tall, yet she could probably bend iron bars with her bare hands. I asked for my massage to be “medium” strength… I regretted that for the next 4 days.
Oddity of the trip: Radios playing “What Does the Fox Say” by Ylvis like it was a Top 40 Song. No joke – we probably heard that song 5 or 6 times a day coming from random radios. It was also the song they played during the New Year’s fireworks show. Which by the way was incredible!
Enough of that. Next up I’ll talk a little about our week in the loved-by-some-hated-by-some Boracay.