Funky Smells and Weird cars…welcome to Manila

Posted by on Feb 17, 2012 in Asia, Philippines | 0 comments

After 22 hours in transit we landed into the tropical city of Manila early in the morning. The weather was perfect and everyone was super friendly.

We noticed right away that the native language, Tagalog, sounded very similar to Spanish. This was the perfect city for our transition from latin america to south east asia.
Jeepneys where zipping around us in every direction. They are the Manila version of a bus. The Jeepney looks like a 50’s style jeep. Except someone had stretched it out to be as long as a bus. Here is a picture of one.

We checked into our hostel. We had a private room complete with Asian stench. The room was the size of a queen size bed, but was adequate for the two of us. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the smell was, but it was terrible. If i had to coin a term for the stench it would be “fermented asian food.”
The smell motivated our jeg-lagged-selves to explore the city. Right next to our hostel was a Chinese temple. Churches need to be designed like this, it would be easier to get kids to go in. The colors, statues, and smell of incense were inviting.

We meet a friendly Filipino guy named Lance who showed us around the main park area. He was extremely animated and full of stories. The main old city of Manila is surrounded by a wall. This area played a big part in WW2 as the allied forces based the South East Asia Theater around Manila.

Inside the walled city was a rough part of town as well. This was a bit surprising, because Manila is such a large town (over 20 million, bigger than New York City) but yet this historic part of town was not completely developed.

A golf course next to the wall gave us a great photo op. It also helps show the huge gap between rich and poor in the Philippines. Shanty town in picture, a stone’s throw away is a golf course and high rise condos.

Part of the walled city was closed because the Bourne Identity 10 or whatever they’ve gone up to now was filming. Leah tried to snap a photo of the film set but a very angry Filipino security guard flipped out. He said no photo. Leah put her camera down. Then he ran at us full speed hands flaring. I stepped between the charging guard and Leah, afraid he was going to run right into her. He took his job very seriously.
After our encounter with the over zealous security guard we headed to watch the sunset.
Volcanic islands and fishing boats painted the perfect frame for a sunset over the bay in Manila.

After the sunset Lance (our new friend) found a street vendor with Balut, the delicacy here and showed us how to eat it. We didn’t have one today, but I think it has potential for getting me a point ahead of Leah in the Asian Food Challenge.
Balut is a nearly hatched duck fetus still in the shell. You peel off the shell, and then eat the duck fetus. Since the fetus is nearly hatched the beck, feathers, and feet all give a couple unique textures.

We did have some dried then grilled squid dipped in vinegar. It was disgusting in its own right. Leah and I like squid, but this dried squid hit the palette like a freight train of fishy goodness with a hint of charcoal. Not my favorite. Dipping in the vinegar helped bring down the chewyness of the squid. It took a while to finish the whole stick of squid, cause each little bit needed to be chewed and chewed.

We took our squid chew-sicles to Rizal park to see Manila’s nightly light and water show. It was amazing! Music played in the background and water jets illuminated in every flourescent color shot into the night’s sky. The water didn’t move to the music like at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It kind of moved to its own chaotic beat, much like the city of Manila.

After the show we went to a seafood stand. They had all sorts of fresh seafood on offer. We opted for a whole fish grilled, skewers of chicken meat, and miniature crabs fried.

The crabs were great. We just popped them in our mouths like candy. They were a bit crunchy with the shell, and the legs kinda tickled the mouth a bit. After I had finished a half-dozen crabs I noticed that Lance wasn’t eating the legs. For a local to not eat something on a critter was weird. For instance the grilled fish, Lance bee lined for the head, grabbed it and starting eating the inside of the fish’s skull, and then he was upset because the cook had taken the fish innards out. His second favorite part of the fish, behind fish face. So I immediately started pulling off the legs before eating the crabs.
We had a great evening with Lance. He showed us around the city, had some interesting stories, and showed us a nice place to eat for cheap. ($10 total for the three of us)

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