I planned a trip to Manila as a pit stop on our way to see some incredible diving in Puerto Galera. Check out my dive trip to Puerto Galera here.
We decided to stay in Makati at the City Garden Grand which I would highly recommend as it was a mid level price range, nice rooms, in a great location and their customer service was phenomenal.
I would recommend staying only 2 days in Manila. Here are my top recommendations.
Manila Chinatown Dimsum Experience-We came across this on Airbnb experiences when we originally were going to do Ivan Mays tour which Anthony Bourdain did. It wasn’t available so we tried this one. Jian was an incredible guide. Dimsum can be translated to mean snack. In this experience we tried out iconic dimsum as well as some other snacks beloved by the locals. We started with history of the area and then made our way towards our first stop where we had some baked savory filled pastries reminiscent of an empanada. We then made our way to a hole-in-the-wall dumpling place and try out some fresh hand made dumplings. Next, we walked along the main street of Chinatown as we take in the different sights and sounds before making our way to our next stop and try some fluffy meat buns stuffed with sweet and savory pork. Then we tried out some dimsum classics such as Crystal Shrimp Dumplings and Beancurd Rolls washed down with iced milk tea. We continued our walk deeper into Chinatown to try a different kind of bun, filled with a meatball. Then to top off our experience we had sweet treats from 2 different bakeries. We ate our way through one of the oldest Chinatowns and then he came to the market with us so we didn’t get tourist prices on the pearls we wanted to buy.
Intramuros Bike Tour-take one of the bamboo bikes through the Intramuros area. When you’re exploring a district as historic as Manila’s Intramuros, it pays to choose a traditional form of transport. Soak up the sights, discover the history, and even ride along the walls on this small-group bicycle tour with a difference: bamboo bikes. After choosing a style and size that suits you, tour sites including Fort Santiago, Plaza Roma, and the Puerta del Parian gate, then finish with some Filipino snacks.
Masungi Georeserve-Hike the Masungi Georeserve with park rangers. Book this through Tanlines. This is honestly one of my favorite tours I have ever done. It was a harder hike than I thought it would be and you can’t be afraid of heights. Located about 1.5 hours from Makati, Masungi Georeserve is a geological park and conservation area in Baras, Rizal. It’s home to a hiking trail featuring rope walls, hanging bridges, and unique viewing platforms suspended over limestone karsts and overlooking a lush tropical rainforest. The local people are extremely proud of the area and do everything they can to preserve it.
Dinner at one of Anthony Bourdains stops when he was in Manila. We went to Sarsa Kitchen and tried the famous Halo Halo.
Make sure you try some of their local delicacies; Balut, Civet Coffee, Lechon, Halo Halo, Tapsilog, Pancit Palabok and Lumpia.
Go to the Greenhills Mall to get jewelry, bags and knockoffs. I got some great earrings and sunglasses. Prepare to negotiate and be very aggressively sold to.
Stopping in Manila was a great way to learn about Philippine culture from some of the locals. The food, culture, shopping and nature were worth the short pitstop!