I was back in Manila, Philippines in late April through early May for a quick family visit. March and April are the hottest months in the Philippines, which most western visitors would love but most Filipinos dreaded. The humidity makes us uncomfortable and most of us do not want to get more darker. Whilst western people use tanning lotion, Filipinos use whitening lotion. When we go out at daytime during these months we use umbrella. These are also the most expensive months for most households due to a longer use of air-conditioning. Most households have electric fans going on all day and night. Sometimes people go to the big malls for free air conditioning and ended up shopping or eating out.
I cancelled my beach plans; it was just too hot to be out there in the open. I decided to stay put in Manila and enjoy exploring the city’s new developments. Here are some places that my family and I have explored –
Grand Canal Mall – McKinley Hill, Taguig, Metro Manila
This was not here in 2013 when I last visited. This modern replica of the famous romantic place in Italy is a change from the standard malls in Manila. The pastel colors of the buildings are a breath of fresh air. The mall has shops, cafes and restaurants. This place is an ideal chill out destination for families and friends. Its a nice place to go and have lunch or dinner during the weekend. During April and May it could be busy because the schools are on their year-end break for two months. The children go back to school during June.
This trendy floating restaurant at the middle of the canal is a nice addition to the character of the whole place.
You can only admire the impressive interior of the place
In the evening the place looks even more beautiful.
The mall is surrounded by residential condominium buildings that were designed based on Italian concept like this Tuscan-inspired building. The whole project is close to Makati City, the financial capital of the Philippines.
Makati City, Metro Manila
Makati City is where the big businesses including banks are holding offices. Most of the tallest skyscrapers in the Philippines are here, mostly along the main streets like Ayala Avenue, Makati Avenue, Buendia Avenue and Paseo de Roxas and their sub-streets. Foreign embassies and millionaires condominiums and villages like Forbes Park and Dasmarinas Village are also in Makati. The hotels here can be much more expensive compared to other areas in Metro Manila but most business travelers prefer to stay in Makati hotels to save traveling time especially during rush hours.
Like any other cities in the world, Makati also has a good share of nightlife areas. Greenbelt and Bel-Air have good bars and restaurants. There are other nightlife areas within this city but it depends what you want to do. Most five-stars hotels here have pretty good bars and restaurants of their own and some have live music too. The Conway’s Bar of Makati Shangri-la Hotel has a live band. I’ve been here few times, it is spacious inside and has good ambiance.
Bonifacio Global City – Makati City
The center of Makati is getting more and more crowded and so the big developers like Ayala Land (freeholder of most buildings in Makati, hence Ayala Avenue carries their name) have expanded the commercial and residential developments in the surrounding areas like The Fort or better known as BGC (Bonifacio Global City). It is like a small city of its own. There are offices and residential condominiums, a hospital, five-star hotels, places to eat and drink, world-class international schools, a shopping mall called SM Aura and the The Mind Museum.
The Mind Museum
On the 6th Floor of SM Aura below are good restaurants. SM Aura is part of a big chain of malls owned by the Sy family. The Aura at BGC is a little bit high-end compared to all of the other 60+ SM malls in different parts of the country.
SM Aura Shopping Mall
Manila Bay, Pasay City
The commercial landmark of Manila Bay area is the giant mall complex, SM MOA or the Mall of Asia. Again, a Henry Sy mall. MOA is the largest shopping complex in the Philippines, if not in Asia. Within one complex is a one-stop shop for all your shopping needs from clothes to groceries, gadgets and homes appliances. The mall also includes skating ring, cinemas, cafes and restaurants. Shops in the Philippines stay open until 9:00 p.m. and most restaurants stay as late as after midnight. Like New York, Manila does not sleep too.
Photo credit: Skyscrapercity
Part of the MOA complex are the SMX Convention Center for international trade events, the Mall of Asia Arena for sporting events with 20,000 full seating capacity, the IMAX cinema and the Galleon Museum.
Museo de Galleon (maritime museum) and Imax
Most hotels along the bay (Roxas Boulevard) are cheaper compared to those in Makati. For business visitors, there is Conrad Hotel just across the mall; a very modern hotel with good restaurants inside. No, I did not stay here. I believe this is one of the most expensive hotels in the area.
Conrad’s impressive reception lobby
When I was at the hotel I saw these impressive art work by Filipino artists exhibited at the hotel lobby. I took some photos just to show the talent of Filipino artists plus I am a little bit curious about the art world.
The Miró of the Philippines (maybe?)
Conrad is facing the Manila Bay. By the bay’s perimeter wall, is a place for family entertainment and places to eat, mostly seafood restaurants. The place is particularly busy during the evening when the sun is out. There is a huge ferries-wheel plus other children entertainment stuff in this area.
Family entertainment area by the bay
We enjoyed our dinner in this restaurant here. For a platter of mixed seafood with rice and iced tea for six people it cost us about £40.00, which is a bargain compared here in the west. Most food places have tables outside so that customers can enjoy the bay view.
About 1.2miles from SM MOA is another development called the City of Dreams. It is a very impressive golden building complex with Dream Play by Dream Works for children, three 5-star hotels, shops and restaurants.
The main entrance. Car parks are on the right.
My family at the Dream Play. Here’s a link if you wish to see more what’s inside of the City of Dreams.
Developments here at the bay area are not ceasing anytime soon. Here is a billion peso upcoming project of Filipino-Chinese conglomerate, a project to answer to Dubai’s Palm City. It is called the City of Pearl project.
City of Pearl
The Philippines as one of the developing countries, is not all that bad, I must say. Like any other cities, there are rough areas and there are nicer areas. There are many universities in the Philippines and the medium of instruction is English. Most Filipinos speak and understand English. The upper class families speak English in and outside their homes. Sign posts in hotels, malls and other public areas are in English. When you visit the Philippines you will not struggle to communicate with Filipinos. According to the local newspaper, The Philippine Star (March 2017) the BPO sector in the Philippines is expected to generate $40 billion in revenues. Part of this is the ability of Filipino graduates to understand and speak English fluently. In general, Filipino people are friendly, and that is a plus factor to your visit or if you are thinking of outsourcing some of your services in the Philippines. 🙂