Introducing Manila

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If you like big cities you’ll love MANILA: it’s a high-speed, frenetic place, where you can eat, drink and shop 24 hours a day and where the Filipino heritage of native, Spanish, Chinese and American cultures are at their most mixed up. Like many capital cities, Manila bears little resemblance to the rest of the country – something to remember if this is your first taste of the Philippines. With 12 million residents, much of it is chronically overcrowded, polluted and suffers from appalling traffic jams, yet in between the chaos lie tranquil gate-guarded “subdivisions” that resemble affluent parts of the US. There’s extreme poverty here, with young children cleaning car windows, dancing or just begging for food at every interchange; while in enormous shopping malls thousands of wealthy, middle-class Manileños are as fashionable and hooked up with iPhones as any of their contemporaries in London or New York. And while the older parts of the city remain shabby and run-down, sparkling districts like Makati, Ortigas and Fort Bonifacio are smart and skyscraper-smothered, like any other booming Asian metropolis.

Technically sixteen cities and one municipality make up what is officially known as Metro Manila covering a vast 636 square kilometres. However, you can explore the key sights in and around Intramuros, the city’s only notable historical enclave, Manila Bay and Makati in a few days. Manila also prides itself on the quality of its restaurant scene, nightlife and the ability of its residents to whip up a good time. For many tourists, this will be their enduring memory of the place: fabulous food, funky bars and nightclubs in areas such as Malate and Makati. And don’t forget, Manila is still a great place to pick up bargains, from the latest goods cranked out by Chinese factories to intricate native handicrafts.

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