The Philippines’ capital Manila is a labyrinth of great restaurants, karaoke restaurants, malls and nightlife. But in some unsuspecting places, you’ll find a corner for meditative silence that you would never expect.
Arroceros Forest Park
The word ‘forest’ should be your biggest hint for in-city relaxation here. Arroceros Forest Park is in the middle of the city and the definition of an urban escape. Based on the riverside, Arroceros is where your lungs will be re-oxygenated with clean and crisp air as you traipse its 2.2 hectares of lush green grounds. Incidentally, it is known as ‘Manila’s last lung’. Note that it is gated and requires permission to visit – this is accessible from security outside. Be that as it may, it does mean that it’s a more exclusive experience.
The Henry Hotel
Let’s put it this way: The Henry Hotel’s meandering driveway takes you away from heart-thumping noise and to an oasis of calm. A colonial boutique hotel, its architecture and design provide old school charm with white-washed columns, wood panelling and overgrown trees sheltering you from the outside world. Even if you’re not a guest at the hotel, you can still take some time out to enjoy the grounds whilst sipping a mocktail on their rattan furniture.
If you’ve got the time for a full day trip, put Corregidor Island at the top of your list. An island (of castaway proportions) is a sure way to relax and side-step the hustle of the city. Located 48 kms away from Manila, the Corregidor Island is located at the mouth of Manila Bay. During the Japanese invasion in World War II, Corregidor was the headquarters of the Allied Forces. A memorial now sits on the island fortress in remembrance of the courageous Filipino and American men who defended the country. History buffs among you will be able to spend hours here. As far as staying overnight is concerned, there is an inn, but the island is only an hour’s ferry ride away so you can easily do a roundtrip in a day and sleep back in the city.
Coco Bango Café
Another leafy, closed-off find, Coco Bango Café is a friendly neighbourhood hangout in the centre of Intramuros, which is a busy area in Manila. As far as their food goes, it’s a safe choice of international cuisine (burgers, wings, country style chicken) and then local delights (ox tail, char-boiled squid, soups and soy-vinegar sauces). Don’t expect grandeur, but do expect to feel the love of the friendly staff and the warmth of a local haunt.
Treskul Records and Café
This one’s for the solo travellers and vinyl enthusiasts. Treskul Records and Café is an old tunes emporium, which is sure to bring about waves of nostalgia: think the Beatles and Nirvana. The location is almost hidden, but if solitude is what you need, you’ll get that in full here – you’ll probably even lose track of time as you sip your cup of beautifully roasted coffee. And if you’ve got space in your suitcase, they have record players and speakers on sale.
Words: Georgie Bradley