Ian's guide to Manila


City Guides: Manila

Ian is a Singaporean, studying in Nanyang Technological University and a contributor to Travel Made Different, a comprehensive travel hub initiated by NTUC Income where people can gather information on travel recommendations and guides based on first hand experiences.

What kind of traveler are you? (Eg. laid back, adventurous, anxious...)

It really depends where I’m at and who I’m with. With friends, I’m usually slightly more anxious as I usually take on the planning role. So I’m more or less a “complimentary” travel planner and this makes me slightly more anxious than usual as I have to make sure everything flows smoothly as all eyes will be on me whenever there’s a hiccup. When I solo travel, I’m definitely more adventurous and spontaneous (eg. Piloting a Helicopter in Sydney). When I’m with my family or when I’m visiting beach destinations, I become a full-time bookworm and a couch potato.

What is your favourite destination to date and why?

This is so hard to choose… But I’d say Manila! Mainly because of the hospitality I’ve experienced from its people. Other reasons include the food, Intramuros, Manila Bay and Chinatown. Last, but certainly not the least, Manila is also the gateway to the paradise destinations scattered throughout the Philippines.

Could you share some of your favourite places to eat, drink and do in these places?


  • Catch the Sunset along Manila Bay
  • Take a day trip out of the city to Tagaytay and hike up the active Taal Volcano
  • Spend a day wandering through the city of Intramuros as well as Fort Santiago


  • Try the adobo chicken. It is a national dish and every store prepares it differently (a reason to eat more!)
  • Dong Bei Dumplings in Chinatown (Binondo) for affordable and authentic handmade dumplings.

Ian Pictured above: Dong Bei Dumplings (credit: Ian Chow)

  • Street Food if your tummy can handle it
  • Jollibee – a local fast food joint
  • Sonya’s Secret Garden. They serve organic food freshly grown from their garden. Pop by on your way to Tagaytay. The food, the garden and ambience is worth the slight detour.

Ian Pictured above: Manila Bay (credit: Ree Dexter)

We can see that you're a contributor on Travel Made Different. What is Travel Made Different and what does it mean to you?

I believe every one travels for a different reason. Some of us travel to get lost, while others travel to find ourselves. Therefore to me, every trip is different and “travel made different” is what each of us hope to gain out of each trip. Apart from the usual sightseeing, I particularly enjoy learning the history and culture of the cities I’ve been to and this is why I make it a point to visit museums and chat with locals.

What made you decide to start contributing to Travel Made Different?

I admit to be shamelessly drawn to the vouchers given out initially. But as time passes, I started using the platform more to search for recommendations prior to my trips. I started contributing more as a result because I also want to help others who need assistance in their trip planning. Planning for trips have been made easier with travelmadedifferent and I’m glad I’ve found some like-minded individuals on this amazing platform.

Seeing your pictures on Instagram, you have an excellent eye for photography. Which is your first love: photography or travel?

Thanks for the compliment but my photography is still a work in progress. As for the question, without a doubt: travel. My parents make it a point to travel every time we have a school vacation and this is one of the main reasons why I fell in love with travel – it’s the only time we get to spend so many days together 24/7. Photography only came into the picture after I invested into a DSLR in 2011.

What are some of your must do's when you travel?

(1) Try local food (I guess this goes without saying ☺)

(2) Visit a Museum During my more recent trips, I’ve come to realise that the easiest and most convenient way to know and understand a place’s customs and history is a trip to a museum. Museums not only satisfy my curiosity, they also remove barriers between the tourists and the locals. Not forgetting, sometimes museums are even more attractive than places of interests.

(3) Take public transportation Because there is no better way to understand a city than by navigating around it via its public transportation system.

(4) Chat with the locals Because being a tourists makes it easier for one to approach others. Not only do I get to know more about the country and its people, I occasionally pick up travel tips from the locals. Chatting with the locals will change one’s perspective of the country

What are your 5 travel essentials?

My camera definitely! I can’t imagine not being able to document my adventures. Photographs are (in my opinion) the best souvenir! Not only do they capture a moment that would be lost forever in a second, photographs also serve as a reminder of what our world has to offer.

A map. I have trust issues with GPS-based maps so I still make it a point to grab a city map the moment I arrive in a new city/town.

A book. I love to read and because travelling usually requires one to spend a lot of time commuting from one place to another, I take this opportunity to dive into a book. I don’t do it a lot because the scenery usually distracts me from my book, but when I do, everything feels just right.

I have to constantly remind myself to bring a bottle because I tend to “forget” to hydrate myself when travelling. With a bottle, I tend to drink up more.

Lastly, I have to use my own towel. Because I am not comfortable with using a towel that isn’t new or mine.

Your ideal vacation,

a) Where would you go?


b) What would you do there?

Laze on one of the overwater bungalows on Bora Bora. Occasionally leaving the hotel compounds to explore the rest of the island.

c) Who would you bring with you?

My family!

In your travels, what would you say you appreciate more – experiencing iconic aspects of a country or going down the off-beaten road?

I would say I’m leaning more towards the iconic aspect of a country because every location has its own charm and character. As such, every town/city is iconic and this difference would attract me there. Although it is fun to go off the beaten road; sometimes, the effort, travel time and logistics involved is simply too much such that it overshadows the joy or sense of fulfillment.

Here are some photos that Ian has shared with us

Ian Manila Bay, after the sun sets
Ian A meal at Sonya's Secret Garden
Ian A citadel built by a Spanish conquistador in Fort Santiago

Stylish places to stay in Manila

This newly renovated apartment in Manila is the perfect place for staycations, business trips and temporary lodging.

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Going to Manila? Check out more places to stay in Manila on Roomorama.