Skip Manila in the Philippines. It is a big, noisy, busy, dumpy, dirty city. Sorry to be so blunt, but that is the truth. Unless you like big, noisy, busy, dumpy cities, that is.
Leaving El Nido
Leaving the fantastic islands of El Nido, Philippines, was difficult, and as we flew over the Philippines towards Manilla, it was with a wistful goodbye. We will always remember these gorgeous plush lagoons and islands.
When we were told that El Nido was voted the best island in the world, we were a bit doubtful. We thought the Caribbean could surely give them a run for their money, but now, in retrospect, there is something much more special about the Philippine islands. The rainbow colours of the water, ever changing, was mesmerizing, and the mountainous islands dotting the horizon add a dimension of beauty you wouldn’t expect to be so powerful.
But it was time to move on. More places to go; more places to see.
Arrival in Manila, Philippines
As we flew towards Manilla, the coastline slowly came into view. It was an amazing view of the boats and city as they spread out over the ocean as if they were sitting on top of the water.
Our hotel in Manila was for only one night because it was the only way we could make our flight connection to Borneo, otherwise we would have avoided Manila completely.
In the Manila airport, while T was off somewhere, I had quite a chuckle watching this little girl. She was wearing a backpack and her Mother told her to take it off. The tantrum began. She stomped her little feet, and squinted at her Mother, clung to the straps of the backpack, and then screamed no.
But the minute her Mother turned her back, she started to put it on again with a defiant but wary attitude.
A Change in Hotels
We had arranged for the hotel to pick us up, and there she was, smiling warmly.
It was a short ride from the airport to the hotel, and then she explained that she had to take us to a different partner hotel, The Crossroads Hotel, but that it was even nicer than the one we had booked.
As you can see, the outside was nice enough with a marble front and it had wide glass doors. The desk staff were not overly friendly, and up in our room, it was pretty ugly. The room was big, but old and dusty. If this hotel was nicer than the one we had booked, we couldn’t imagine what the original one would have been like. We would likely have left, but the bed looked clean, so we decided that we could handle one night. The balcony, if you could call it that, was a narrow cement ledge, and it had views that left a lot to be desired.
Street Scenes in Manila
As we walked, or drove around Manila, scenes like these were common.
The Singing Cooks & Waiters Restaurant
There was one saving grace for our short experience of Manila, and that was the Singing Cooks and Waiters Restaurant, which offers some of the best fresh Filipino food in Manila with large portions. That evening so we took another taxi (124pp=3.36C) the 7 kilometres to the restaurant which is near Manila Bay for a nice view as you drive to the restaurant. The two muscled men holding up heavy slabs of marble or wooden beams were an interesting touch.
The service was top-notch and always with a big smile and welcome. Never have we travelled anywhere in the world where we felt so welcomed as we did in the Philippines.
First we got drinks. T had a local beer and I had a sweet bean drink that was delicious and refreshing.
Then they brought a free cup of flavour-filled broth. Nice.
On the menu: Crispy Pata, Chicharon Bulaklak, Kare Kare, spicy gambas, ihaw-ihaw special, Prawns in coconut milk, Sotanghon, S&S Lapu Lapu.
T had clams and squid in its own ink. I had a grilled dish of a variety of items with a special sauce, and we shared a noodle dish. The bill was a shocker when we received it, more expensive than we expected.
Not only did the Singing Cooks and Waiters have great food, but actual singing cooks and waiters, as well. What a great show. Just make sure you call and check the times that the waiters are actually singing.
Next Stop, Borneo
Our next adventure was Borneo, wild undiscovered Borneo, a tropical paradise with unspoiled, endless white sandy beaches, the oldest and most bio-diverse rainforest on Earth, and an abundance of natural wonders.
The next morning we would be flying into Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, for an exciting Borneo tour, with jungle safaris to see proboscis monkeys, red-leaf langur monkeys, local villages, stays at jungle river lodges and best of all – seeing Orangutans in the wild in the jungle!