Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and the most densely populated city in the world with over 42000 people per square kilometer. Metro Manila is a complex of 16 different cities which are home to over 12 million people. It is a mix of Spanish colonial architecture with modern skyscrapers and the perfect exemple of an Asian megacity.
Travel-wise, Manila is definitely not a must-see. There are a few things to see in the city such as the Fort Santiago, the San Agustin Church, the Pinto Art Museum, the Chinese Cemetery, the Ayala Museum, the National Museum of the Filipino People, the Manila American Cemetery, and the Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas.
Manila is also the last place I visit in the Philippines before going to Hong Kong.
Unfortunately, I had to cut down a month of traveling the Philippines to less than 3 weeks due to an unexpected event. I decided to explore Luzon Island extensively as my time was limited. I am not convinced I have made the right decision!
Exploring Luzon was not easy. It is impossible to rent a motorbike or a bicycle. There is no dormitory outside of Manila. As a solo traveler, it was almost impossible to meet fellow travelers. Traveling on a budget is a hell of a journey for accomodation hunting. The travel information available online are very limited and mainly addressing Asian travelers (in a way that Asian travelers and Western backpackers travel in a really different way). Transportation is extremely slow … a hundred kilometers is worth 3 to 6 hours and you have to take up to 4 different kinds of transportation to complete a few hundred kilometers.
Every single place felt off the beaten track. I can count on one hand the number of foreigners I have bumped into. I have been slightly disappointed by the places I have visited. Only Batad, Pagudpud, Mount Pinatubo and Lake Taal are really worth it. Knowing that the Philippines is one of the most exciting country in the world, leaving the Philippines with that feeling is frustrating! Sometimes things do not go as planned and this month was the perfect exemple.
Does it really matter? NO. Filipinos are nice, friendly, generous and by far the most honest people I have met in Asia! This is the unique and most important reason I will definitely love to go back to the Philippines to explore the Southern Islands!