Manila in the Philippines is a sprawling city. It’s so separate and unique from one area to another. And, just spending 24 hours in Manila is enough to experience the diversity the city has to offer.
Traffic is totally crazy. Cars are constantly pulling out in front of each other, traffic lights are a suggestion. In this friendly game of road co-op – and I haven’t seen a single accident – it can take 45 minutes to get from one adjoining suburb to another.
No wonder there are hawkers in and out of the cars, selling everything from bottled water to fishing rods.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Manila
If you only have 24 hours in Manila, here are three things I suggest you do:
1. Eat buffet dinner
Filipinos like to chat while eating. The buffet allows you to socialize and, of course, eat as much as you want. At Lola Maria, the buffet includes traditional Filipino fare such as chicken adobo, fried seaweed, grilled seafood, smoked tuna belly and DIY halo-halo desserts. I’m intrigued by the seaweed with the little “grapes” that are salty and pop in your mouth when you bite into the leaves.
2. Shop at least one major mall
Shopaholics, slow down in Manila. There are many shopping malls in Manila such as Greenbelt, Rockwell and the infamous Mall of Asia – the largest mall in the southern hemisphere. If you’re pressed for time and on a tight budget, I’d go to Landmark because it’s pretty cheap. I bought a bikini for $15, a headband for $2 and socks for 50 cents.
Metro Manila is hosted by Three of the top 10 shopping malls in the world.
The mall might not be the ideal destination for any visitor to the Philippines, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss it. Of course, besides shopping, here are 5 things you can do to make your trip to the Mall of the Philippines more interesting.
Take a Food Tour
Shopping malls in the Philippines have many restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. You can taste Filipino, Brazilian, Chinese, Japanese, British, Spanish, Ethiopian, Jamaica, Thai, Indonesian, French (the list goes on…) in just one mall. Prices are very cheap, with food options starting from Php 100 (Euro 1.5).
Insider Travel Tips: If you want to try some cheaper Filipino snacks, head to the supermarket and try some cheap food for as little as 15 Philippine pesos (0.25 euros). These stalls can usually be found in SM malls.
enjoy some local music
Head to an event center or food court in a shopping mall, and there’s a good chance you’ll catch a local (and sometimes foreign) band performing. Watching the show is free.
Insider travel tips: Shows usually run from 4-6pm
Watch the famous Manila sunset
Head to SM Mall of Asia (the largest mall in the Philippines at 4.2 million square feet) and grab a table with views of the coast. On a clear day, it’s one of the best places to watch the sunset and have a delicious dinner.
The mall’s department stores and some specialty stores offer an excellent selection of souvenirs – from wardrobes, postcards, shirts, food and liquor. I admit the prices may be a bit higher than local sellers and a bit lower than airport ones, but if you’re in a hurry – malls are the most reliable places to buy (the malls are usually open Monday to Sunday from 10am to 22pm).
people are watching
I admit this is my favorite activity on the list. Going to the mall is one of the favorite pastimes of Filipinos (as opposed to going to the park). So shopping malls are great places to observe people because you can see every aspect of people’s daily activities.Be aware that the mall can get very crowded in the afternoon to evening – especially on Fridays, weekends and the 15thday or 30day of the month.So if you want people to watch more quietly, avoid these time slots and go in the morning
3. Overnight at the fortress
If your 24 hours in Manila end on a Saturday night…you’re in for a night of fun partying!
Saturday night has to start at Bonifacio’s Fortress, but it doesn’t have to end. As a center of nightlife, the area is full of busy restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Pier One is a themed bar set against the backdrop of the high seas. The waiters are dressed in sailor suits, and if you’re feeling brave, you can say hello to them and order a cocktail. Bar food like sisig (the non-mystery meat variety) is a great accompaniment if you happen to be still hungry after the dinner buffet!
Once you’re ready to hit the dance floor, head to Encore. A chandelier hangs above the stairwell as you stride upstairs into the main party area on the third floor. DJs whip up a heady mix of old-school RnB and new pop, while the dance floor juxtaposes with a trendy 20-something crowd.
When you’re all done dancing, hop in a cab and head back to the hotel. You’ll know you’ve had a good night when the song “It’s Time to Go Home” comes on the radio.