Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to have a good time in Philippines

Had a visitor here last week and he gave me the comment that he was surprised by how much he enjoyed visiting given that he was told by friends who have been here before that they found coming to Manila boring.

Actually the truth is Philippine is badly marketed place as far as foreign visitor is concern. There is a string of reason why its badly marketed and hence many visitors come here and miss the great things here.

There is only one easy answer to enjoying the Philippines - you have to know the people who understand what you enjoy to show or introduce it to you. Other than that, there is no easy answer. From the right food, to the right beaches, to not getting ripped off by taxi drivers and shops, to nice/fun places to hang out, this is not a place where just one size fits all. There are different things for different people. AND here is the strange thing - while this is a society that has free and open media, most people here just don't understand what foreigners and tourist want. Most of them have never travelled and don't have deep understanding of foreigners even those that have influenced them like the Spanish, Americans, Chinese, Japanese. Even the well-travelled well-to-do have not travelled to many places in Asia because they don't speak the languages. The disconnect between what foreigners don't understand and what most here don't understand about them, accounts for the disconnect between those who enjoy coming here and those that don't enjoy it. Its partly why I started this blog in the first place.

So what would I recommend someone who comes here for a few days?

1. Go to the beach - Boracay for parties, top of the line luxuries in Palawan and the adventurous - just google. There are many choices but getting there is not all laid out for tourist and visitors cheaply.
2. Enjoy the nightlife - most nights places have people hanging out. But Friday nights, weekend and hollidays are the most happening. You need to check out the music scene especially the original works of local bands - not the cover band stuff.
3. Food - 1) Try some pinoy dishes 2) Seafood is a good deal - go to a Dampa or a decent Chinese restaurant and order simple fresh stuff. Don't expect refinement and complexity with your Chinese food. 3) Japanese food is a GREAT here. 4) If you like beef, this is a good place to come especially if you are a fan of wagyu beef which they raise locally here 5) Alcohol is cheap - you can have fun anywhere if you drink enough. This is the most cost-effective place to hang out at wine bars in all of South East Asia. 6) Korean food is also getting really good here.- Forget spicy food, its not in their diet. 7) There is a long list of choices for desserts - if you like the sweet stuff this is a good place too. 8) If you get a chance to get out in the country - all you need to know is just look for someway to try the food in its simple basic fresh form - whether its the seafood, the dairy, the meats, or even the fruits and vege. For pork, just do the lechon or pork belly. For beef, just get a good steak, for seafood just stir-fry or steam. As to vege, the quality is very inconsistent but the pineapples, mangoes, strawberry is a must try.

4. Don't take the public tranport - take cabs and plan for traffic jams. You just got to pay for it.

Again, get to know someone who is from your home country or have lived in your country. Its possible because there is very good mix of people from all over here. Not in abundance but there is definitely people from almost everywhere in the world here. Then socialize and meet people - pinoys are very sociable - nothing beats just meeting people you enjoy spending time with.