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For many travelers, the Philippine capital of Manila is viewed as a stopover or transit city to the white sand beaches of Boracay and Palawan, or the vacation island of Cebu.
Despite not bringing in big tourist numbers, however, Manila is one of the most vibrant cities in the region.
The people, soul, camaraderie and fiesta attitude are all part of the best of Manila charm.
Where else in the world can you sing karaoke in an air-conditioned jeepney, cocktail in hand, while weaving in and out of city streets?
To help you find the best of Manila, here's a quick guide to the city's highlights.
More on CNNGo: How to be a Manila local: 10 tips for faking it
Manila's top business travelers and politicians come to play at the Makati Shangri-La.
Local heavyweights are often spotted buzzing in and out of the main and side entrances heading for the hotel’s restaurants -- Red, Inagiku and Shang Palace -- which are choice venues for meetings.
Rooms are Manila's swankiest, with dome-inspired ceilings and blonde wood, some overlooking the skyline of the Makati financial district.
Foodies take note: the breakfast buffet is one of the largest and most extensive in the country.
Ayala Avenue, corner Makati Avenue, Makati; +63 2 813 8888; from P10,600 (US$245) per night; shangri-la.com/manila/makatishangrila
The Peninsula Manila has quite the history. The 11-story towers were built in 1976 by former president Ferdinand Marcos and first lady Imelda to impress delegates attending the International Monetary Fund conference.
The walls came crashing down in 2007, when an army tank rammed into the lobby during an attempted coup in which rebel soldiers occupied the building and discharged gun shots and tear gas.
Nonetheless, the now-restored hotel remains one of the city’s most luxurious, with a four-story ceiling giving way to an iconic 12-meter “Sunburst” installation by National Artist Napoleon Abueva.
Rooms are dressed with classic Filipiniana touches, like native weavings on the sofas and curtains, and transparent shells for lampshades.
Corner Ayala and Makati Avenues, Makati; +63 2 887 2888; from P8500 ($197, promotional rate) per night peninsula.com/Manila/en/default.aspx
Joya Lofts and Towers
Across the street from upscale Power Plant Mall, Joya Lofts and Towers isn’t really a hotel. It's a residential building with privately owned units to let.
Situated in the Rockwell neighborhood of Makati, where streets are wide and clean, each unit is furnished with a kitchen stovetop, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and dining area.
Wired Internet is complimentary; however, there's a fee for Wi-Fi.
28 Plaza Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati; +63 2 798 0497-8; from P4,555 ($105) per night hii-joya.com
More on CNNGo: What's the future of Philippines tourism?
Rooms are small (not all have windows), but they're clean, comfortable and include a flat-screen TV with cable channels.
All rooms are non-smoking. Though the hotel does not give out complimentary drinking water -- strange -- it does offer free Wi-Fi and breakfast.
Only a few months old, Guijo Suites is located in the back streets of Makati. While only a couple of fast food joints are found within walking distance, a short cab ride will take you to the central malls.
Bring a printed map of the hotel's hidden location to show your taxi driver.
7644 Guijo St. (between Kamagong and Pasong Tamo), San Antonio Village, Makati; +63 2 553 8998; from P2,400 ($55) per night; guijosuites-makati.com
Sala Bistro/People’s Palace
Scottish chef Colin MacKay put these two restaurants right smack next two each other in Manila's prime Greenbelt neighborhood.
Sala Bistro is a modern European bistro that serves a mean steak tartare. The interior is rich and dark with white linens.
People’s Palace is a modern Thai restaurant with a long sexy bar, white chairs and tables inside and day beds outside. Shrimp pomelo salad, pad thai and green chicken curry often get repeat orders.
Given that Spain ruled the Philippines for 400 years, its colonial influence naturally spreads to the kitchen.Run by sibling chefs J Gamboa and Malu, El Cirkulo serves very good Spanish tapas (some with a Filipino twist), like roasted bone marrow, and a large selection of paellas including the Paella Montana (portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic,
It’s one of those early June nights typical for a New York summer—the air feels breezy, but it’s not cold. Two pretty girls cling to their spot on the sidewalk in front of the velvet rope of a club downtown.
One has a black pixie haircut that must have been labored over for hours in a salon, or it could be a wig. She resembles Zooey Deschanel. The other is a statuesque blonde, who whispers to me that they traveled all the way from Rhode Island to visit this West Village dive bar. They are college-age, possibly over 21.
“Are you here to see Mac?” Pixie asks me suspiciously. I nod, and the two girls relax. They don’t know him, but they read online about the flamboyant parties that he throws. Pixie seems to have a crush on him. She looks hurt when the bouncer says Mac dislikes brunettes, until it dawns on her that he’s only joking, and a small smile flashes across her face.
A few minutes later, the bouncer hands me a paper hat featuring an orange T-Rex about to swallow a smaller blue dinosaur. I put it on, with the understanding that I’m about to attend a birthday party. Nobody will tell me whose. We descend a flight of stairs, and scan the underground bar for our host.
Trying to make a love connection when you’re crampy and bloated isn’t our idea of a good time, but did you know you can actually double your chances of scoring a hottie if you wait until you ovulate?
Geniuses at the University of New Mexico wanted to find out if a women’s menstrual cycle had any financial consequences, so they diligently studied the books at a strip club to get the facts. What they found was that a dancer was likely to average a whopping $70 an hour during her peak fertile time of the month – a far cry from the dismal $35 an hour she’ll make during her period.The findings proved that even subtle or unconscious
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