At the end of 2019 we had just spent two months in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in a serviced apartment to focus focus focus on launching our tea blog and shop. We had a found a place with a rooftop bar and terrace, fast internet and decent restaurant in the building. A new experience for us that we enjoyed! Apart from the nights on the terrace with live music and both our birthdays, we spent most our time working away on our screens.
During this intense period of work, we decided: we need a Christmas off, and so booked our flights to the Philippines. From our own earthquake experience, we went against everyone's advice and avoided the tsunami- and volcano-prone south and coasts, and instead opted for the capital: Manila. When we say everyone, we mean 1) multiple Filipino friends from Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines, and 2) two American diplomats who worked for over a decade in the US Embassy in Manila, that we met in Singapore. They were celebrating the end of their terrible secondment there. They all told us Manila was awful. Which meant we simply had to see for ourselves!
Well, maybe we didn't see the right parts, but we LOVED Manila. It had a wild American-Spanish-esque flair, with big bright fluorescents, brands we'd only ever seen in America, and so much Spanish language and pork. We would need another visit and more investigation to work out what's indigenous, what's Spanish and what's American. For this visit, though, we simply basked in the heady mix. Oh, and there were a LOT of Korean BBQ restaurants, like a lot, a lot. Being able to speak Spanish again was a fun thing for us as we couldn't speak the languages of most the countries we were visiting.
We discovered and were told that visiting at Christmas means you eat pork. Lots of it. It is the festive dish, and is cooked a thousand different ways. Also, extra-large buffets are everywhere, with restaurants putting on enormous spreads of every food we could image: from classic Filipino dishes to sushi to French fries, to jamón Iberico to chocolate fountains to shrimp towers, to pizza and lasagna. And brightly coloured drinks, as you'll see. Each buffet we tried also came with a group of musicians who went table to table, regaling us with Filipino pop classics, Christmas carols and some unexpected Beach Boys renditions thrown in.
We met up with a few different friends while there, including Angie and her husband who took us to the aforementioned Beach Boys buffet. One of the best we've ever had! We also met up with our virtual assistant Rizzie (not so virtual!) and Jules, a friend we made in Laos who was home for the holidays. Thank you all!
When not socialising, we wandered the streets and were met with endless smiles and kindness, and some of the best street photography opportunities - especially at the neon end of the spectrum. Because the Philippines is the 3rd most Catholic country in the world, they really do Christmas - churches were bedecked, the streets were lit, we saw so many people out celebrating together. We also saw a lot of Santas, roasting in their suits.
In short, exactly the break and change of scene we needed, and one of the last footloose and fancy-free times before Covid arrived. Happy memories indeed!
So please enjoy this trip to Manila by clicking on the image above or: https://500px.com/p/vientiene/galleries/christmas-in-manila
Once on the first image, we recommend tapping the Full Screen icon top right.
~ Vientiene & Elizabeth
P.S. Interested in seeing other galleries? https://www.travellingfortea.com/photography
Our IG travel photography feed: http://instagram.com/radiant_travel
Our US loose leaf tea shop: http://MatchaAlternatives.com
Our adventures in tea and travel: https://instagram.com/travellingfortea/
For any photography enthusiasts or professionals reading: I use a Panasonic G95 (micro four-thirds), a 20mm f1.7 pancake and 42.5mm f1.7 portrait lens. In terms of zooms I have a 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 standard zoom and a 45-200mm f4-5.6 telescopic. (For all figures double focal length to get a 35mm full-frame field-of-view equivalent)
The best camera is the one you have with you!