Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Manila, Philippines

When I found out we were going to the Philippines I was thrilled since I have never been in this part of the world. Between flight and layovers, it takes about 24 hours to get to Manila from Ohio and then you have a 12 hour forward time difference.  Overall the trip went really well and I was able to sleep a good amount.  We are staying at the Pan Pacific Hotel which is a very nice hotel in the Malate neighborhood. Malate, not my favorite area, is better known as the "red light" district of Manila. Here you will see poverty, beggars, heavy pollution and "girly" bars. It is a fairly safe area but like anywhere you go, you have to watch your belongings.
Since we are staying in the hotel for 6 weeks they upgraded us to a suite. It is a very spacious room with a separate living room.
View from our room.
On the 7th floor is a nice pool where I spend a lot of my time. 
On the 21st floor, top floor, is the Pacific Lounge and Dining Room. The entire level is floor to ceiling windows with 360 degree views of the city. Truly spectacular both day and night! They also serve the most amazing breakfast buffet as well as an elaborate happy hour with heavy hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. 
The rooftop garden and gazebo.
Views from the top floor.
I have never stayed in an area this "gritty" before so it has been an eye opening experience. Here are some pictures of the neighborhood. 
Jeepney's are a very popular form of transportation with the locals. They were originally made from US Military jeeps that were left over from World War II. Each Jeepney is decorated differently so I have enjoyed watching them go by on the streets. 
There is a shopping mall around the corner from our hotel called Robinsons Place. The mall is always busy with locals who I assume are in there mainly to eat and enjoy the air-conditioning because the shops are never busy. What amazes me about all the malls in Manila are the numerous culinary choices inside the malls. Just inside this particular mall there is at least 20 restaurants in addition to the food court area.
The food court in the mall serve some very interesting food which I am not brave enough to try.
About 4 miles from the hotel is the 4th largest mall in the world called Mall of Asia. If you can't find what you need at this mall, then you don't need it.
There is even an ice rink inside the mall.
After you have dined and shopped you can go on the Ferris Wheel.
When I arrived to Manila I learned that Manny Pacquiao, you know the first eight-division world champion Filipino boxer, was staying at our hotel. Saturday night there was an event held with his family and friends. Later that night he was heading to Las Vegas to prepare for his upcoming June fight with Timothy Bradley. Of course all the hotel guests were bustling around the lobby trying to find the best area to get his picture as he left the hotel.  We started talking with Tyson, who is one of his local trainers. Tyson took us under his wing and introduced us to all of Manny's entourage.  
Manny's brother.
Tyson had planned on introducing us to Manny but the lobby got a bit crazy when he got off the elevator so this is as close as I could get.   Manny is in the green shirt if you don't know who he is.
After all the excitement died down we ventured out of the hotel to check out some of the local "non-girly" bars! 
The Bedrock bar and grill is a Flintstones themed bar with popular bands. The two female singers were excellent and they sang current American hits.
I ventured out of the hotel and walked to Rizal Park which is located along Manila Bay about a mile from the hotel. In the late 1800's, during the Spanish period, the park was called Luneta Park and was actually better known for public executions of criminals and political enemies then a place of leisure. Now the park is named in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal, a national hero and prominent advocate to reform the Philippines during the Spanish colonial area. On December 30, 1896, Rizal was executed here and in 1913, a bronze and granite monument was unveiled near the ground where he was shot.
In a section of the park there is a Chinese Garden which was developed to resemble a Chinese landscape. This gentlemen looks very relaxed in his surroundings!
 Manila Ocean Park 
Ocean Park is also in the Manila Bay area and a big destination spot. Along with the oceanarium there is a hotel and spa, several restaurants, shops and various entertainment. The oceanarium has over 5,000 varieties of marine life creatures all in a large viewing tunnel that stretches roughly 80 feet. There is a seaside deck bar on the second level of Ocean Park called White Moon Bar that is supposed to have the best sunset view. Hopefully before we leave we can check it out.
 From Ocean Park I decided to walk along Roxas Boulevard toward our hotel. Lined with palm trees and numerous park benches, this paved pedestrian area stretches about one mile from the US Embassy to the Manila Yacht Club.  
Makati and Bonifacio Global City are two areas in Manila that I call Beverly Hills. In both neighborhoods you will find high end hotels, upscale shopping centers and fine dining restaurants. From our hotel it is about a 15 minute taxi ride and costs $3.00 so this is where we spend most of our evenings.  The two main shopping complexes in Makati are Glorietta and Greenbelt.  Both are near each other and Glorietta, shown below, is the older mall.
 The very nice Shangri-La Hotel
 Greenbelt shopping center that is a complex of five buildings.
 Inside the mall.
 One of our favorite restaurant / bars in Makati is Spicy Fingers.  They have great live music.
 Our new friends Gordon and Fionna from Australia but living here now.
Market Market is another huge shopping center.
Cajun in the Philippines.  If anyone can find it we can!
Delicious ice cold San Miguel beer.
Enjoying San Miguel beer on a hot day.

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