What’s up with Manila? It certainly is not as exciting and easy going as Kuala Lumpur. It is not as laid back and beautiful as Boracay. It isn’t actually anything I can rave about or would care to come back to. But we have committed to two weeks here (since one week was given to Boracay) and as always we are determined to nut out the best places to take toddlers while we are here.
So what have we been doing in Manila? Well not much. The weather is warm, but there's a persistent rain. We spend a lot of time working and in the apartment - by the pool, in the playroom, in the gym. Thank God we have such a great apartment.
We have ventured out a few times:
SM Mall of Asia is a shopping mall located in Bay City, Pasay. It took us approximately half an hour to reach with all the traffic that is unbearable in the Philippines. This mall is the 2nd largest mall in the Philippines, 3rd largest in Asia and 4th largest shopping mall in the world, attracting a daily average foot traffic of about 200,000 people.
Within this shopping centre is an entertainment precinct with a 4-story play world called Cosmic Kids. It is not very clear how to get in or what to do, but to the right is a small stand. You fill in the paperwork and then head to the entry.
30-Minute Play - P180 ($4.50)
One Hour Play - P250 ($6.25)
Unlimited - P480 ($12)
Adult Pass (none play/ 1 adult per kid) = P120 ($3)
Socks (required; if you don't have any, you can buy) – about 80 cents.
The first floor is primarily aged at the younger children; Mia and Caius loved this floor. There is suppose to be a plasma pool, but it doesn’t work. The kids still loved it as it was like a waterbed, probably would have been better if it worked.
There is also some kind of play water boat, which again doesn’t work. In fact this place may be huge and a pretty good playground, but anything that moved: electronic, games, etc. do not work. Not on the ground floor and not up high. It’s a little disappointing and if a place like this is not going to upkeep there grounds then perhaps they should lower the price or not have included such rubbish features.
One of Mia’s favourite features was the hyper slide. A giant red slide that is so steep and can cause major skin burn. It is only for 6 and up, however Mia convinced Josh to take her down several times. I went down once and that was enough, I think I scared the kids with my scream. Eventually I told the staff she was fine to go by herself and she did it a number of times by herself too.
Caius spent most of his time in the ball pit and I decided to get in some exercise using the bags outside the ball pit for some boxing and kickboxing.
We bought unlimited play and stayed for just over 2 hours. It might be the biggest playground in Manila, but it certainly is not the best and does not live up to even some of the places we went to in Bali.
Ark of Avilon
This small zoo is privately funded and a new offset of their bigger zoo. The outside replicates Noah’s Ark and it is a fairly new neighbourhood with lots of things being built around them.
300ph per person ($7.50)
Children below the counter 200ph ($5) and under 1 are free
Try to keep in mind this is a tiny zoo and for such a small area I found it quite impressive that they had big ticket items such as a White Tiger, Hyena, Panther, Orang-utan & more.
When you walk in the door there are numerous rodents, snakes and lizards in tanks for viewing. Also a buying area. Mia was above counter, Caius below, so we grabbed 3 tickets and went in.
The place is small, but really nice. Unfortunately small does not go well with big-ticket items and I have to say I was a bit shocked to see a tiger amongst other animals in the tiny enclosures.
Putting aside the living space of these animals the children had a blast as there are a lot of animals you can interact with. There is a sheep dog roaming about, birds to picture with, bear cats and ponies. There was a orang-utan dressed up in clothes also wandering around with a zookeeper who posed for photos or just held your hand while walking. Little Jenny was a soulful creature and when I tried talking and interacting with her she just had these big puppy dog eyes that seem sad and disinterested. I must say I fought the moment of awe in talking and holding this creature, but at the same time the pity and discouragement I felt at her circumstances. Here you can see Caius sizing her up, the kids were not sure what to make of the walking, hairy little human. There is also a Burmese Python hanging about, but after reading reviews on one child being bitten we decided to skip touching him.
Upstairs is pigs, goats and sheep. There is also a play area, which was closed. However the kids found two big sandpit tables and spent a good amount of time just playing in the sand.
This trip was a mixed emotion visit. The kid’s loved it and I would recommend taking your toddlers, but be prepared for a harsh reality on the treatment of animals within the Philippines. In saying that the Ark of Avilon is associated with a Wildlife Conservation Foundation and you can read more on their website.
After we headed out, we walked downhill to a place called The Ranch. They have a giant outdoor carnival type area where you can buy a ticket per ride or unlimited rides. There was also an indoor playground. We simply looked around.
At the Mall of Asia there is also a Science Discovery centre, which we were keen to visit, having had previous success at the one in KL. We took our $4 ½ hour taxi ride to the Mall, headed to the ticket booth and get told they are under renovations and shut. Disappointment. Perhaps this could be put as a sign at the front or at the least on their website.
Anyhow she mentioned the Robot Zoo upstairs and so we think we are already here so we might as well. Up the escalator right near Cosmic Kidz we get admission for 200ph ($5) per person, no matter what age or height.
Haha, what a waste of money or maybe just for us. If you are into robots or are a primary aged student with a school group I can see how it would be beneficial, however I was not impressed.
There are 8 robot animals that move. You can move their parts. They don’t speak or do much else. There are things for the kids to play with, a few games, a reading corner, etc., but it really is geared towards school kids. I think we might have spent less than an hour in there and then we were out.
It could be so much more, but it just misses the mark, shame.
I’m guessing you can feel my disappointment with Manila. Not only are there limited things to do, unlike KL city, but also what there is to do is poor quality and low entertainment.
There are not many daycare options within the area. We found one, but it is a preschool from 8:30am – 11:30am and no hours after that. It seems there is a good majority of people who just have live in nannies (yayas) so daycare is not popular. I have been struggling again with what to do with my kids since there is nowhere to go and nothing to see. I even bought a packet of biscuits so my daughter and I could do some cooking together, but when we got home we realised the major thing we forgot - there is no oven. Whoops!
Manila is nothing like Malaysia. Armed security guards guard the malls. There is an entrance for females and males and you are patted down on entry. One guard outside the bank gave me the scare of my life as Mia ran to him and touched his giant rifle/shotgun. How to explain a weapon to a 3 year old and why someone is just walking around with it?
They love their malls, it seems to be the only form of entertainment and they flock to them. The heat and rain probably has a lot to do with that. It is best to avoid malls on weekends. The malls hold a few mini playgrounds for kids, but really who wants to hang out in a mall?
Filipinos also love their fast food. There is a McDonalds, KFC, and Jollibee on every corner. And on top of that plenty of other chicken fast food places, mostly served with rice, of course. We have found vegetables so expensive here. Carrots are over $2 a kilo and sold in packets of like 2. Lettuce is old and so expensive, we haven’t bought tomatoes, as they were nearly $7 a kilo. The quality is real low, supposedly because they actually ship the vegetables far from the north or south. It’s cheaper for us to order vegetables from a restaurant, delivered to the house. There is a massive choice of delivery. I guess in a city where traffic is horrendous at all times, people prefer to eat in. We can have nearly anything delivered and often do as if you walk out down the street you will only hit fast food places.
Taking a cab or transport at dinner time is near impossible. The roads are so busy it takes forever to get anywhere and so often we just opt to stay in. Last night we decided to walk around and see what we could find. Thank God we walked, we passed all the traffic and made it fairly easily to a nearby Chic-Boy.
It’s the perfect city to stay home, eat in and do nothing. That is not the perfect city for me. To say I am eagerly awaiting our exit next week would be an understatement.