Manila’s joie de vivre doesn’t radiate from crusty cultural heritage or iconic landmarks but from pulsating 24/7 energy reflecting Manileños’s love of fun, food and shopping.

First impressions of this mad megalopolis can be daunting. Snarling bumper-to-bumper traffic, ear-bashing street sounds and crumbling concrete edifices alongside shiny skyscraper suburbs. It leaves one wondering how Manila functions as a city?

But Metro Manila cannot be straightjacketed into a single entity. It’s actually a confederation of 17 different cities and municipalities. And like the Philippines’s hotchpotch national dessert halo-halo (shaved ice, sweet beans, fruit and leche flan), the sum of the parts should be enjoyed to appreciate the whole.

History buffs will sense the ghosts of Manila’s turbulent Spanish past within Intramuros’s 16th-century walls. Shoppers and bar-hoppers will adore trendy Makati’s air-con malls. Foodies will delight in Chinatown’s dim sum heaven.

Yet what really knits everything together is the Manileños who ensure this is Asia’s most gregarious capital. Their openness and love of conversation, alongside never-say-die endeavour, is something to behold and enjoy.

Manila is not the easiest place to spend days sightseeing as many of key attractions are spread across a city slow to navigate nor easy to explore on foot. Better to divide the city’s sights into blocks and spend a day of slow travel around them: such as a day in Chinatown and the Chinese Cemetery.

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