Getting our fill of the Philippines (Manila)

This was our first time visiting the Philippines. And even though we had heard mixed opinions about Manila, mostly warnings to watch out for ourselves as Manila was considered dangerous, we decided we needed to see it for ourselves. I always take these comments with a grain of salt; I think part of traveling to any country is to be aware of your surroundings and to make sure you don’t put yourself into risky situations. We truly enjoyed our trip to Manila, and it wasn’t just because we were ecstatic to get out of the freezing weather here in Seoul… LOL. During our trip, we experienced the luxury, real city, and the natural side of Manila. It’s an extremely diverse place and very interesting to see and experience for any travelers interests.

From Seoul, Air Asia was the least expensive carrier by far, so we opted to fly with them. Air Asia is a budget airline; the seats don’t have a lot of legroom (unless you pay extra to select premium seats), there are no free meals, snacks, or beverage service, and there is a fee for checked luggage. I highly recommend paying the extra money to pick your premium seats in advance (unless you’re super tiny), my 6’4″ husband just wouldn’t have fit! Our trip was pretty smooth and we were happy for the most part with our 4 hour flight to Manila.

Once you make your way through immigration and customs, you will see some stands with signs stating free SIM cards. We signed up for a plan with Globe that was 300 PHP (less than $7) and it provided unlimited data and 100 minutes for 5 days. Definitely note that the Internet is really slow, and I mean crawls, but it’s better than nothing and the GPS came in handy quite a few times to keep taxi cab drivers honest.

From the airport, taking a taxi is the easiest way to your hotel. But make sure you tell them to use the meter. This is a good tip any time you hop in a taxi though, as one of the days we headed into the city and experienced our first unscrupulous taxi driver. After our bellhop told him to use the meter he tried to get us to pay a flat rate instead of using the meter. Then as we’re driving and I’m watching on Google Maps, he takes a slightly longer route through Chinatown. So bottom line, make sure you stick to you guns so you don’t end up inadvertently paying 400 PHP when you should only be paying 200 PHP.

Seeing as how this was our first time to Manila, we decided to play it safe and book at a well known hotel, the Hyatt – City of Dreams in Parañaque. The City of Dreams complex is very close to the airport (but can take 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on how bad traffic is) and consists of 3 hotels (Hyatt, Nobu, and Crown), a casino, multiple restaurants, and extensive pool and outdoor areas.

The outdoor pool and courtyard area was awesome and very relaxing.

The rooms at the Hyatt were spacious and very clean. All of the staff that we encountered were eager to help and so polite. It is a great place to “get away” and if you really want to avoid the hustle and bustle, you could spend an entire weekend there and not leave the property. We enjoyed the “resort life” for the first of our three days in Manila.

Speaking of spoiling yourself, there is a Nobu Restaurant at City of Dreams located of course in the Nobu Hotel. If you decide to go there, make sure you reserve one of the cabana tables! The cabana tables have a great atmosphere and it will make your meal that much more special!

Each dish we had ordered was well thought out, nicely plated and served with care. Overall the food and service at Nobu Manila is wonderful which is of course to be expected, but also expect the usual Nobu price tag .

We would definitely stay at the City of Dreams again and I recommend it to anyone looking to relax a little more and still be close to a lot of activities. More to come in Part 2 of the Manila series!

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