Manila – Seeing Things From A Different Perspective!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
Talk to many people leaving the UK for Manila in the Philippines and they will advise you that the capital is big, threatening and a place you should merely use as a transit destination for your onward flight to one of the country’s paradise islands.
However, there’s an alternative side to this fascinating city – one of 16 that make up the sprawling area of ‘Metro Manila’ and its huge 12.8m population - and a Korean couple is encouraging tourists to view the capital from a wholly different perspective! Leave the city too quickly and you will miss several Must Sees in Manila!
A couple of years back Insun Park and Kyu Sung Yi, realised there was a huge opportunity to capitalise upon society’s infatuation with smart phones.
So, rather than publicly chastising parents for allowing their kids to stay permanently glued to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, they decided to create an attraction that would embrace hi-tech through the clever integration of phones with something slightly more tangible – the Upside Down Museum was born.
Manila’s Upside Down Museum
Rolled out in Malaysia it can now be found in Manila and a tour of the museum reveals a world of optical illusions where upside down, life size room sets are fixed to the ceiling. Entire families – this attraction seemingly appeals to everyone – then grab hold of the ‘ceiling’ furniture and strike a pose while museum assistants use visitor phone cameras to take shots. Spin the photos 360 degrees in the camera and voila, you are standing on the ceiling with a truly amazing set of images!
This is just one of the attractions that is now seeking to turn Manila into a more meaningful stand-alone destination. It is a city that has something for everyone but first you much dispel the prejudice that has mired Manila for so long in order to see with a fresh pair of eyes!
Intramuros is the historic walled area with its traditional horse and carriage calesas costing two people around £5 for a thirty minute tour, or you can have your photo taken with one of the traditional uniformed guards whose costumes resemble those once worn by Spanish overlords.
The city’s stunning Cathedral sits cheek by jowl with nearby San Agustin Church and there is the opportunity for a spot of lunch at Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant or the gorgeous little café just a few metres away on the ground floor. One of my favourites!
The small outside café bar close to Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant.
However, if history of another kind is to your liking then it would be a mistake to miss the wonderful National Museum of Natural History, which only opened last year and now stands majestically in Rizal Park like a scaled down version of Washington’s Capitol Building.
The National Museum of Natural History, one of three within Rizal Park
However, it was only made possible by the National Museum Act, which was passed in 1998 and mandated the conversion of three civic buildings within Rizal Park namely the Legislative Building, the Finance Building, and the Tourism Building, into museums.
The Finance Building was the first to be repurposed and, in 1998, was converted into the National Museum of Anthropology.
The Legislative Building was converted into the National Museum of Fine Arts in 2000 and the Tourism Building later become the National Museum of Natural History with its magnificent ‘Tree of Life’ architectural centrepiece. Well worth a visit.
But, for some people, the word ‘museum’ is a total turnoff, If so, all is not lost, since Manila caters for young children and families as well as diehard shoppers! Manila Ocean Park is something akin to Hull’s The Deep……
………a magnificent aquarium attraction not only with an amazing ‘water tunnel’ through which you can view sharks and a multitude of other fish, but there is also an amazing outdoor stadium and sea lion show similar in size and stature to the one you might see at Orlando’s SeaWorld.
Manila Ocean Park. A massive draw for tourists.
And then there’s shopping; lots of it! Manila seems to have a never-ending supply of shopping malls and, for retailers, an endless supply of footfall to support them in a country of some 102m people, excluding tourists!
Manila’s Mega Mall, one of the biggest shopping experiences in Asia
Personally I think that two or three days will more than do the trick unless, of course, you want to visit everything listed in this feature but, for most two, three or even four attractions will be enough to more than fill a an action-packed 48 hours.
But where DO you stay? For the seasoned budget traveller there are a multitude of low-cost apartments which are best accessed by www.airbnb.co.uk.
Just make sure that you are centrally located otherwise you will spend all your time in a Manila taxi queuing your way from one place to the next!
However, if you want something a little more luxurious then look no further than one of the city’s longest established hotels, the majestic Dusit Thani in Makati city, Manila’s business district and the capital’s number one address.
A Hotel For All Seasons
Acquired by the Thailand based Dusit Thani International in 1995, the resulting hotel became one of the first ‘Thani’s’ outside of Thailand and comes with a certain Thai flair; gold temple-like columns in the main reception and staff dressed in traditional Thai attire.
The hotel group is undergoing major expansion in the Philippines with seven more properties in prospect including the first dusitD2, earmarked for opening this December.
And one of their Club Premier rooms (see below) comes with an array of Dusit Club Privileges, only open to guests with a special 17th floor VIP lift access pass
One of Manila Dusit Thani’s Club Premier Rooms.
The room was beautifully laid out with double bed, relaxation area and a bath with overhead shower but, as with so many hotel rooms in the Philippines, however big the property, hot water can still be intermittent. Dusit Club benefits include a private breakfast area, all day refreshments, evening cocktails – with a lovely array of finger food – between 5.30pm – 7.30pm and use of the club lounge boardroom.
A life of privilege in the Dusit Club
You can even have three garments pressed during your stay, enjoy free local landline calls if you have anyone to ring, over indulge in the Benjarong Thai restaurant, take breakfast in the more elaborate ground floor ‘The Pantry’ restaurant and then work it all off in the gym – if that is humanly possible! – with final, and total, relaxation in the Devarana Spa. Phew!
The Dusit Thani, and the city in which it located, have one thing in common. They are both eclectic. There is something for everyone but, be assured, if you listen to the critics, who often have an opinion when such opinions are not entirely valid, you will leave Manila too quickly. If you do you’ll miss out on the Thriller that is Manila and all its fascinating attractions!
Tour Operator - Manila JCA Travel & Tours – firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel +63 912 468 8604 Facebook – JCA Travel & Tours
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Manila – Seeing Things From A Different Perspective!, 7th October 2018, 14:01 PM