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Manila, Phillipines

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Manila is home to more than 10 million people and home to the Philippine government. At first glance, it is intimidating, noisy, unkempt and with appalling traffic. There are few open spaces and only a handful of remarkable buildings. It is often difficult to find your way around the city by the absence of significant modern or historical landmarks and woefully inadequate or misleading directional signage.

It has been said that its flaws are what make the city human, giving it an anarchic charm that sweeps you along. It is a sociable city, with a populace who take pride in their cultural affinities to the West and their embrace of all things American. Most tourists, however, use Manila as a transit point, a place to spend a day or two on the way to the islands and beaches of the south or the mountainous tribal areas of the north.

A couple of days is all you really need to explore the key sights in and around Intramuros, the city's only notable historical enclave or Binondo, (Chinatown) outside the city is good for a day trip. There's plenty to see and do in the vicinity of the capital, from the Manila Bay island of Corregidor, a fascinating reminder of the horrors of WW II, to the rapids and waterfalls at Pagsanjan.

Manila also prides itself on the quality of its nightlife and the ability of its residents to kick up a good time. For many tourists, this will be their enduring memory of the place, primarily the funky bars and nightclubs in areas such as Malate and Makati.

In spite of a history that few other cities have endured; razed by an earthquake, bombed, occupied, bombed again and rebuilt, It still thrives and maintains a frenetic pace 24 hours a day just so it can get things done. The roads are always busy and the buses always full, but in Manila you learn to go with the flow, never worrying about whether you'll be late or whether your taxi is going the wrong way down a one-way street.

It doesn't matter who you are or what you are, you will have fun in Manila. All you have to do is take a deep breath and dive in. As the Philippino's say "bahala na" – what will be will be!

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