DAY 2 – Manila (Sofitel, Intramuros), Makati City (Green Belt)
Sofitel Plaza in Manila is said to be the best in the city. It’s a 4 (or was it 5?) star hotel, and I was so lucky to get a very great deal from a friend, super super cheap. I’ll keep the ‘how’ as a mystery though, teeheehee.
Breakfast was lavish with yummy-looking food! The Filipinos are big on pork, leaving me less to choose from (trying to stick with the ‘rules’, here). The chicken longanisa, which translates to chicken sausage, is delish as Bu Susan had told me before. It’s sweeter than the usual sausages I’ve ever tasted, so even though it’s good I can’t eat as much as I can with the usual sausages. (I’m big on sausage, by the way.. Sausages FTW!!!)
The thing about comfort…
The whole hotel’s ambiance was so cozy that we really took our time enjoying breakfast. The outdoor part of the restaurant was laid back with swimming pool and the ocean in sight. The lobby was obviously cooled with AC, and even sitting on the room’s balcony felt nice with the breezy wind and, again, ocean and garden views.
I don’t usually stay at high-end hotels in my trips. This time, the stay at Sofitel made me come to a conclusion that comfort makes me lazy.. and sort of kills my adventurous side. But did I enjoy it? Very much! I mean, who wouldn't?
Boyo and I were enjoying our lazing around so much that we almost forgot we had plans for the day. Oops! Usually my “city tour” would start as early as 7 or 8 AM, but this time we stepped out of the hotel at 10.45 AM..! Heehee..
Hotspot and the comparison to Jakarta (sorry can’t help it)…
Just as I thought, a deluxe hotel as this wouldn’t have a free wifi connection in the guest rooms. We had to go down to the lobby, the dining area, or the pool area to use our wifi-ed gadgets (Boyo mostly chatting with his then girlfriend, and me tweeting to my sister and friends).
Not a lot of my friends in Jakarta were interested to see Manila, with a thought that Manila is so much like Jakarta. Wrong!! I found it a lot easier to be connected wireless in this city.. (ooh I’ve become the child of the tech era, …or am I just plain geeky?). The malls and the airport for example, though not 100% of them provide wifi connection, it’s certainly much more difficult to get connected in Jakarta.
Not only that, there are a couple of other differences between Manila and Jakarta, like the streets are much cleaner (ironically trash bins weren’t easily spotted, so do the people put their trash in the pockets until they get home?), and the Old City part of town is much more preserved, the Intramuros.
The Walled City of Intramuros
We killed our wanting to go by Jeepney, Philippines’s public transportation similar to angkot that we have in Indonesia, to get to Intramuros because we were too lazy to hassle ourselves by connecting the Jeepney route with taxi to really get to Intramuros. By taxi, we went. I think the meter was about 100-200p from Sofitel.
I loved Intramuros, so many beautiful old European buildings (look it up for some Philippines colonial era if you wanna know the history). And as common tourists that we were, we took (and got scammed by) the pedicab to go around the district for almost 3 hours with some stops at:
San Agustin church. It’s located near the entrance gate of the district, and it was our first stop, even before taking the pedicab. Lovely church with painted ceilings that looked a lot like reliefs.
Stunning and at the same time spooky statues and paintings of religious figures were displayed in the medieval styled museum next to the church. The admission fee of 100p, and cheaper for senior citizens, college and grade school students.
Manila Cathedral. I don’t go to church, so I wouldn’t know the usual facilities in churches. Bu Susan stressed that this cathedral is air conditioned, and I think I’ve read that information as well somewhere. Hm, so churches don’t usually have aircons? Is it because they have high ceilings that they don’t need aircons? Manila is quite hot, I would think that any big building like these churches would definitely be air-conditioned. Hmm.
Fort Santiago. It’s where Jose Rizal, Philippines’ biggest (on the contrary he was only about 5’2” tall they say) national hero was imprisoned in the 19th century. You can learn about his and the rest of Filippinos’ patriotism of that era in the museum here, but to me the coolest thing was the planted bronze foot steps that reconstructed Jose Rizal’s path from his prison cell to the spot where he was executed.
The day was super hot and sunny, we decided to lunch before going to other historical places.
Ristorante delle Mitre. That’s where our pedicab driver took us for lunch, and a great choice indeed. The name originated from the word Mitre, which is like ‘friend’, and it refers to the friends of the bishops. So, this restaurant used to be an eatery for bishops of the church that stands nearby. But later they allowed others who were working to build the church (if I’m not mistaken) to eat there too, and these people are the ‘friends’ or the ‘mitre’.
Hence if you look at the menu, you’d see they use a lot of the word ‘bishop’ in naming the food. The place was cozy and cool, such an oasis in the middle of the hot day, and the food were great.
We ordered a soup of salmon, a fish steak, and halo halo (as Bu Susan described it: Halo halo literally means "mix, mix”, and when taken as dessert or refreshment is a mixture of sweetened fruits with crushed ice and topped with a scoop of ice cream.)
A few of other sites. The pedicab driver, who kinda took a role as a tour guide as well, took us to some other historical sites. This building with old cannons surrounded by vast land that now are golf fields, and then passing by statues of ex presidents, etc.
The thing with cheap pedicab fare… !D#!?!%&$@^>!!!!
I’m not a history buff myself, so a 3-hour tour of these things had become a bit too much for me. I’m glad Boyo felt that was enough also, so we called the tour quits. And surprise, surprise….! We were gonna pay the pedicab driver as we were offered, 200 for the whole tour of Intramuros. We even felt generous enough to wanna give him extra money because he’s taken us around by his own force to paddle the bike. And the sympathy and gratitude suddenly disappeared when he claimed that the initial fare he offered us in the beginning was actually the fare for each person, for an hour. What the hell??!!
We weren’t in the mood to argue, let alone in a foreign language. And we certainly didn’t wanna ruin our mood for the rest of the day, so we let it go. We paid him almost as much as he asked for (he asked for 1200p but we only gave 1000p). But of course I made myself clear to him that that wasn’t exactly a fair deal because he never mentioned the fare being only for an hour per person. He probably didn’t care. Boy, if I was in a bad mood I’d probably get furious and.. oh it would be just plain ugly. Lucky for him I was fed and full. And still had much money left in my wallet :P
More of other sites…
We took a little more stroll near the San Agustin, where we got off of the pedicab. There was this little restaurant that served Spanish food and reminded me so much of the movie ‘Letters To Juliet’ for its set of tables in the alley. My god, I so wanna go to Europe!
Green Belt, Makati City…
Why did we go the shopping mall again? I forgot. But I’m glad we did because it has some well-designed areas with gardens and a mini church in the middle, and we accidentally chose to sit at Mary Grace café for a light drink and wifi.
Turns out, the very ensaymada bread that my brother in law asked me to bring was available at this café, which turns out one of the best ensaymada in the whole Metro Manila, as told by Bu Susan later.
And then Boyo finally realized his thought of shopping at TopMan..teehee..
About 2-3 hours we spent at this huge mall (it’s a series of Green Belt 1 – 5) and we rushed to go back to Sofitel, avoiding the rush hour.
Keeping our fitness at the hotel…
Having facilities and not used them? No way. I went for a swim and Boyo went working out at the gym that night. The pool surrounding was nice, but it wasn’t really nice to swim at because it formed a circle and when I swam around I’d bump into other swimmers’ path, it wasn’t really convenient. It would be nice if you were just swimming a little and then chit chat n all. But I was there for swimming swimming, you know. But hey, I had done some calories burning when walking around the Fort Santiago, so only a little swimming was fine by me.