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Manila is an often-overlooked destination, both by travel writers and travel agents, but there is much to see and do in this cosmopolitan capital of the Philippines. The city is packed with people. It has a myriad of adventures on offer, yet with a laid-back, jovial and exciting atmosphere. It is a teeming metropolis with a rich history that has much to offer to visitors. From the small villages and rice fields to imposing buildings, Manila has it all.
The history of Manila is rich and deep. It was, in fact, the capital of the Spanish East Indies for more than 300 years. The previous city centre, Intramuros, was founded in 1571 by the Spanish. Aside from its age, Manila is also known as the Christian capital of Asia. It is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the region, thanks to its bustling population of almost two million people. Perhaps it is because of the Spanish influence that many people who visit Manila feel that they are in a Latin American city, rather than an Asian one.
In order to enjoy Manila, it will first help to understand what the city actually is - namely, a collection of small towns with no well-defined centre. Prior to World War II, the walled Intramuros area was considered to be the city centre, but it was wiped-out during the conflict. Much of the destruction from the war has never been rebuilt, but the raw energy of Manila is apparent. Visitors arriving on flights to Manila often find themselves exploring the bones of the city, shopping in the unique markets, and getting a genuine feel for what the Philippines is really like. What you really have to understand is that Manila is truly the sum of its parts - you cannot visit for a day and say you've been to Manila.
Do not let the mention of the destruction in World War II dissuade you from visiting Manila. Many parts of the city are lively and exciting. One of the most interesting and modern parts of Manila is Makati, which is the commercial capital of the country. Visitors can enjoy entire days spent eating, shopping and relaxing.
Though Manila is the main destination for people visiting the Philippines, it is actually one of 17 cities in a municipality that makes up the region known as Metro Manila. This is also referred to as the National Capital Region (NCR) of the Philippines. The entire area is located on the southern part of the island of Luzon, and lies between the inland lake of Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay. The parts of Manila worth visiting lie at the confluence of the Pasig River and Manila Bay.
There are two distinct seasons in the Philippines - wet and dry - within the country's tropical climate. The peak holiday season in Manila is during the dry season, which lasts from November to February. The tropical temperatures are a little cooler during this period, but the flights to Manila may be a little pricier than at other times of year. Though you may find cheaper flights to Manila during the wet season, from May to October, the region is subject to tropical storms and typhoons.
During your stay in Manila, do not miss spending a day at the famous Manila Bay, known for its beautiful sunsets. The combination of humidity and a cloudy atmosphere results in a natural light show that is incomparable with almost any other destination on earth. The sunset allows for an awesome backdrop to the sprawling city. The best views are along Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard, or from any cruise ship docked in the bay itself.
There are many landmarks to be seen in and around Manila as well. For a taste of history, be sure to take in the Bonifacio Shrine, dedicated to Andres Bonifacio, a Filipino freedom-fighter against the Spanish. Another shrine worth visiting is the Mabini Shrine, which is Apolinario Mabini's former home. He was a lawyer and fought for the country's independence. During the American occupation, the house became a centre of intellectualism.
In addition to being a spectacular city, Manila offers plenty of good eating, adventures and culture. Packed with museums, landmarks and history, you would be crazy not to visit the capital region of the Philippines. There are also plenty of companies and tour guides available to show you around. So, what are you waiting for? Just make sure you travel during the dry season and find a flight to Manila today.