Manila’s moniker, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, couldn’t be more apt – its cantankerous shell reveals its jewel only to those resolute enough to pry. No stranger to hardship, the city has endured every disaster man and nature could throw at it, and yet today the chaotic metropolis thrives as a true Asian megacity. Gleaming skyscrapers pierce the hazy sky, mushrooming from the grinding poverty of expansive shantytowns. The congested roads snarl with traffic, but like the overworked arteries of a sweating giant, they are what keep the city alive. The tourist belt of Ermita and Malate flaunts an uninhibited nightlife that would make Bangkok’s go-go bars blush, and the gleaming malls of Makati foreshadow Manila’s brave new air-conditioned world. The determined will discover Manila’s tender soul, perhaps among the leafy courtyards and cobbled streets of serene Intramuros, where little has changed since the Spanish left.
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Our top picks for Manila
Carlos Celdran Tours: See Manila in a whole different light, on a walking tour led by this flamboyant local eccentric
Intramuros: Hear echos of a lost past in Manila's old Spanish fortress
National Museum of the Filipino People: Take the country's cultural pulse at this wonderful museum
Shawarma Snack Center: Sit and watch the world go by while munching on a falafel kebab and puffing on a hookah pipe
Ayala Center: Experience the Philippines' booming retail culture at this massive mall complex
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