Manila was a very pleasant surprise. Despite what you might hear about it, the city is a hidden gem with contrasts of colonial history and urban modernity. There are areas comparable to old Central American cities as well as areas on par with the nicer parts of Los Angeles! Manila has done well to grow and maintain its affluent areas, successfully attracting many large multinational companies with an expat workforce, as well as the largest shopping mall in Asia (aptly named Mall of Asia). Though on the downside, traffic remains a severe hindrance.

I visited here in January 2013 and the weather was nice. I had the chance to see most parts of the city and surrounding areas, attend some shows, sample the unique cuisine, and catch a part of favorite national pastime — singing karaoke!

Update: newer pictures have been added below from a more recent visit in June 2017.

A couple of aerial views on arrival

The modern business area I was staying in (Makati) with its large buildings & malls, colorful gardens and fancy hotels

Exploring the older parts of the city and historic area known as Intramuros (“inside the walls”)

The humongous Mall of Asia by the seaside — said to be the largest mall in Asia

The popular upscale shopping and dining complex known as “The Fort” or Bonifacio High Street, by night and daytime

Some other city views, from the streets and an observation deck

A nightlife complex called Metrowalk in the Ortigas district with live bands, bars and of course karaoke rooms

Mixed pictures from my latest visit, showing some of the modern areas and venues that have popped up especially around Bonifacio Global City (BGC) which is technically in the Taguig suburb of Manila, and the new waterfront near the airport side, which now look more like typical North American cities