Going ashore in Manila

Manila

The capital of Philippines, Manila, is the biggest and most crowded port and city of the country. The Metropolis of Manila – or Metro Manila, how the locals are calling it – includes the city of Manila and some other smaller cities and municipalities and it has an area of more than 600 sq. km. The Port has 2 distinct port container terminals – Manila North and Manila South – and our vessel called both terminals, with an average stay of 24 hours in the North and 12 hours in the South.

Going out of the port of Manila is not difficult as shuttle buses are available and quite reliable, working 24/7. However, in the North Terminal, the shuttle bus service does not always attend the vessel that is docked at the farthest end of the pier and people are sometimes requested to walk 500-700 meters up to the shuttle bus waiting area which is a sheltered cabin. In the South Terminal, the shuttle buses are attending all the vessels, regardless of their docking position. When returning to the vessel, the shuttle buses always bring the seafarers to their vessels, in both terminals.

At the gate, immigration formalities are simple, but usually taking a lot of time, as shore leaves are checked and names are filled in more than once, at different checking points.

If reaching the gate is quite an easy task requiring maximum 20 minutes (with immigration formalities included), going out into the centre is a totally different challenge as traffic in the city is the biggest problem a seafarers has to overcome. There are taxis available in front of the gates (North and South Terminals) or just a few minute walk away, close to the big junction.

During weekdays, traffic can get very crowded during pick hours – after 4 in the afternoon – and a normal 15 minute drive can extend to one hour. The worst traffic is on Friday and Saturday afternoons when cars can get stuck for hours, especially on the most important boulevards. On top of that, if rain is coming, traffic gets not only worse, but completely jammed and people are requested to continue their ride on foot as taxi drivers step out of their cars and leave them on position until rain has passed and traffic has resumed. Sometimes, the drivers will try to avoid the traffic jam by taking secondary roads which may shorten the waiting times, but not always. The secondary roads are full of small carts and tricycles and the taxi driver will have to slalom continuously and use the horn – making the ride uncomfortable. The best day to visit the city is on a Sunday, when traffic is at its lowest level.

If you want to go out of the North Terminal and into the city – no matter where – you have to be prepared to face even a bigger challenge as the taxi will have to pass through one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. You will be able to have a better look at this neighborhood – known by the name of ‘port slums’ – when your vessel enters the South Terminal as this is the area that separates the North and South Terminals.

Manila

You will have to be very careful when passing through this neighborhood – never on foot even during daylight – and always try to avoid eye contact with the people walking on the street, along your car. Sometimes, the taxi can move at a very slow speed – due to the heavy traffic going in and outside the port – and the last thing you want is get involved or caught in the middle of a local fight. When returning to the vessel during night time, be sure that your taxi driver agrees to take you to the gate of North Terminal, through this dangerous neighborhood. Some taxi drivers do not want to cross this area during night time and are not willing to take you to the gate even if you pay a bigger fare. Others are reluctant at the beginning, but they agree as soon as you tell them that you agree to pay more (maximum 15$).

Things are completely different in the South Terminal. There are no problems whatsoever, taxis are available everywhere, the streets are clean and safe to walk on even at late hours.

Manila is a big metropolis which can not be covered during a port stay, not even during more. All you can do is try and visit a different area each time your vessel comes alongside in one of the terminals and always experience your visits during daylight and night time as well.

For only a few hour gateaway, the best option for seafarers is the Robinson Mall, situated ~ 20 minute drive from the port (one hour with traffic). Here, you can find a wide display of shops, restaurants, money changer, bars, a big supermarket and other entertainment options.

The best and most diversified shopping and entertainment area you will find at Mall of Asia.

Manila

A taxi can take you there in half an hour (maximum 2 hours on a Friday evening) for ~ 10$. There you can find a very wide display of shops – all famous brands, but also local or Asian brands – restaurants and fast food diners (including Mc. Donald’s and KFC), bars, clubs and other entertainment opportunities. In front of the Mall there is a very beautiful waterfront where you can have a stroll at sunset among thousands of tourists and locals, you can have a ride in the wheel, ‘fly’ over the ground in the zip-line or enjoy the fireworks show which takes place every Saturday at 7 pm.

Manila

Manila

Manila

You can have dinner in one of the many restaurants along the waterfront where live music is played every evening until late at night.

Manila

If you have more time available you can visit the Makati neighbourhood, one of the newest and most modern districts of Manila where you can admire the financial district with its skyscrapers, luxurious malls and restaurants, green parks and gardens.

Manila

Manila

If you want to mingle with the locals, spend an evening in Luneta ParkRizal Park – especially at the end of the week. In the middle of the park there is a beautiful fountain that displays a colourful show of lights and sounds every day at 7 pm.

Manila

Manila

Manila

Manila

For a fantastic culinary experience, you can visit the Dampa Fish Market, situated close to the Mall of Asia. Here you can choose your dinner from a wide display of fresh fish and seafood which can be cooked by your choice in the restaurants nearby.

Manila

Manila

Dampa Fish Market

Manila is one of those ports which will remain in your heart forever – with all its flavors, colours, smells and tastes – and no matter how difficult the ride towards the centre might be, it will worth the effort.

Try and make the best of your visit, always remain alert and aware and do not venture yourself into dangerous areas!

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