Philippines: Manila - Travel tips, Ninoy Aquino Terminal 4, Tutuban Center & Orion Hotel

Monday, March 2, 2015

Last year, my family made it to Laos for our annual Chinese New Year holiday trip and it was the Philippines for year 2015  We only have 2 more ASEAN countries to visit and I can't wait to achieve that goal. Initially, we wanted to visit Boracay as the beaches are amazingly beautiful but my mom couldn't stand the heat. We decided to make a trip to Manila so we can enjoy the cool breeze of Tagaytay.

I do not enjoy travelling with tour groups because I can't experience and appreciate the true beauty of a country. I really do not enjoy hopping on and off a bus to visit places of a country. I did all the booking and planning for this trip and I tried my best to study about this country before we're there. It was kinda hard as they weren't many travelogues about Manila and the reviews online were so intimidating. If you are travelling to Manila, this post will definitely save you a lot of time on reading!

After securing tickets on AirAsia, I depend on TripAdvisor & VirtualTourist to guide me on my planning of this trip. It wasn't a pleasant experience reading tips on VirtualTourist as they were many horrible experiences of being robbed, pick-pocketed, cheated & etc. I wouldn't let those stop me from visiting Manila so I took extra precaution to warn my family members & study the places I want to go by reading reviews.

Here's tips on how to avoid unfortunate events from happening:
(given to me by Filipinos themselves and reading reviews online)
  1. Dress down. Try to blend in with the locals, they usually wear shorts/jeans and T-shirts. Ditch the expensive jewelry, watches and designer items.
  2. Try to avoid using your iPhone in public areas (especially if you are visiting Divisoria/Chinatown) and do not put them on the table. iPhone is considered as a luxury item and people will risk being shot by the police to snatch them.
    I exercised this tip the whole trip unless I see another Filipino holding their iPhone. I still see people using old Nokia phones and flip phones in Manila.
  3. Try not to display your camera and hang it around your neck. Try to avoid taking pictures in crowded areas unless you are in Makati areas.
  4. Avoid dealing with Money Changers. Too many bad experiences online.
  5. Try to study the country before visiting. There are NO basic information like maps and all sort. 
  6. Try not to travel alone. Again, too many bad experiences online.
  7. And as for Malaysians, we do not require a visa up to 21 days of stay.

At 3 in the afternoon, we finally arrived at Ninoy Aquino Airport Terminal 4. It is a very small airport as it is used for domestic flights according to locals. The line for customs is so long because they will ask a lot of questions before letting you go. Tip: You have to make sure you really know what are you doing or else you might take a long time to pass through.

I suggest taking an airport white van with a fixed rate depending on which area you are going. There is a small counter on your left when you exit luggage claim area. A van to Makati would only cost 400-450 pesos, our destination - Tutuban Center/ Divisoria cost 610 pesos.

Manila Bay from outside the window, look at the traffic!
Chow King - Chinese Fast food.

A Jeepney with the iconic KKK Monument.
Manila is famous for their horrible traffic jams all day all year, I suggest you stay nearer to the areas you want to explore. I was recommended by blogger Mary to visit Divisoria and it so happens to be near to the Intramuros, so I picked to stay in Chinatown/Divisoria area for 3 nights to explore the area.

I finally settled on Orion Hotel after researching so much on the hotels in that area. Orion Hotel looks the most decent in pictures and the reviews wasn't that bad compared to the others. The good thing is Orion Hotel is located on the 3rd floor of Primeblock building - Tutuban Center which is a shopping mall itself and it is located in the middle of the Divisoria area.

Deluxe Room with extra bed.

Excuse my airport look, I only slept for an hour and I look so fat in my baggy clothes :x
Orion Hotel is a very simple and basic hotel. We checked in smoothly and the staff here are great! They were also very helpful throughout our stay. I really love this place and would definitely choose this hotel again if we visit again.

Located in a shopping mall
Clean and basic room
Friendly, helpful and accommodating staff

Water heater not stable
WIFI connection not stable
Impossible to find a cab

We haven't eaten a meal from 7 in the morning so we were so hungry! The traffic was congested and we settled down at 7p.m. We went to Jolibee fast food because it seems to be very popular in the Philippines. P:s; The pictures below are taken with an iPhone 5, excuse the poor quality.

My thoughts on Jolibee:
It is a OK fast food. The fries cannot be compared to Mcdonalds, the spaghetti was quite delicious as compared to others. The ice cream is super milky so I quite like it. The food is quite expensive as compared to fast food in Malaysia.

After the meal, we walked around the night market around Tutuban Center. It was the first night so I was very hesitant to take out my camera and phone because of all the reviews I read online. It wasn't that scary after all, you still have to be extra careful with your belongings.

We experience the scariest incident possible on the first night, there was a loud explosion from the opposite building. It turned into a huge fire with sparks flying all over the sky. I panicked and was so ready to pack up to leave. Thank god the Orion Hotel staff calmed us down and the fire wasn't so bad after some time. It didn't worry the Hotel staff at all, I wonder does this kind of thing happens all the time in Manila?

Stay tuned for Day 2 !!

More on Philippines:
Day 3: Divisoria Market, 168, 999 & Lucky Chinatown Shopping Malls - coming soon!
Day 4: Trip to Tagaytay, View Park Hotel, Tierra de Maria, Olivarez Square - coming soon!
Day 5: Taal Volcano Hiking, Bag of beans, Massage - coming soon!
Day 6: People Park in the sky/Palace in the sky, Mushroom Burger, Sky Ranch, Robinson, Leslie's Restaurant - coming soon!
Day 7-8: Travel back to Manila, Tune Hotel Ortigas, SM Megamall - coming soon!

With love, 

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