(So the internet at the hostel isn't working, so this will be posted whenever I get a connection again)
I know I just posted yesterday, and I don't want to spoil you readers by thinking you will get updates daily, but here is one because I have time I guess... day two in Manila.
I ended up sleeping until 10:30 because I have a windowless room, I had earplugs in, and I was exhausted. Upon waking, I had breakfast downstairs, then took a pedalcab which is a bike with a makeshift sidecar. These things are all over the city.
I took that to the Baclaran Market, which is a giant flea-market type place, of clothing, food, shoes, bags, electronics and nearly everything else.
I then decided to have some major contrast, and went to The Mall of Asia, a complete western-style mall that had everything from an IMAX to an ice skating rink to a Coach store. Like all malls, it was all decked out for Christmas.
From the mall I took one of the public taxis, which is essentially a small SUV-type vehicle they cram as many people in as possible. There were the two front seats, four people in what would be the back seat in a normal vehicle, and then the very back had two bench seats facing each other with me and 3 other people. Very crowded, but also very cheap, 30 pesos for my ride.
I ended up at Rizal Park, which is dedicated to national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. It has a large open grass area, and various gardens off to the side. I walked through the 'Japanese Garden', which can only go in quotes, because to my untrained, but not totally clueless eye, it had very little Japanese influence, not to mention it was totally run down. I did notice I was the only solo person in it, it costs an extra 5 pesos to enter (the main park is free) and as near as I can tell is just for young couples to have some place quiet to lay down with each other. The Chinese Garden was better, but not by a huge amount.
(having trouble getting the video where I want it, it's at the bottom of the page)
At the park I found a group of kids doing flips and whatnot, and when I pulled out my camera, they got very excited, and put on a bit of a show. I thought about busting a move of my own, but you know, I had too much stuff in my pockets :p. (also they were a million times better than me!)
And here is the monument to Dr Rizal himself, complete with honor guards.
From the park, I walked around the Malate area and came upon Malete Church, which was built in 1588. There, I sat and listened to part of a service for kicks, much of it was even in English.
From there, I wandered around for probably two hours. According to the map I was handed at the airport and put out by the Secretary of Travel, this is supposed to be “the center of nightlife, dining, leisure and entertainment in Manila”, but go figure, I mostly found prostitutes. All I wanted was a bar and some live music, but every place that seemed to offer those things was also swarming with 'lades' out front so I just kept saying “No” and walking away. I walked quite a while tonight in search of a place to sit down at, but just couldn't find what I was actually looking for. The places that looked the most legit, also looked way more expensive that I was looking for.
Oh, the picture, ha. It's a central square in the area, that even at 8pm (after dark!) had tons of little kids playing and having a great time. One of those things you just don't see in the States.
I spotted a lively looking bar that I even saw had some westerners in it, and a sign on the door that said “No prostitution or drugs allowed!” Relieved, I came in. Right away the man at the door sat me at a 2-person table. With a prostitute. Ugh. On top of that, I looked at the drink menu, and it was nearly as much as a bar in Seattle! I grabbed my bag and walked straight out the door.
So I walked and walked, in search of the kind of restaurant I was looking for. I ended up at this Japanese place, and they were all very friendly (and not in the prostitute kind of way!), telling me about the Philippines and practicing their English skills. It was just the kind of relaxing place I needed, and the food (pork with an egg over rice) was very good. When I said I was from Seattle, an older (Japanese?) man who was sitting at the counter as well said “Ah, Ichiro!”
Back at the hostel, I sat down to write up this blog post, and the internet kept going out. However at the table I met Sandy and Kathrine, from South Africa (I forget the mans name). Well, we got to talking and tomorrow I am going to join them on a bus trip up north to see some of the mountains and the famous rice terraces. This kind of flexibility and ability to meet and explore with new people is exactly what I was hoping for on this trip, it's nice to see it all actually happening.
Well, that's it for now folks. Tomorrow I will be taking a 6-hour bus ride and getting the heck out of the smelly, dirty city!