If you’re going to spend some time in Manila, the capital of the Philippines and one of the craziest, most intense cities on earth (and not in a good way!) then you’re probably going to end up in Makati. In fact, Manila is so huge (about 35 million people in the metropolitan area, or one out of every three Filipinos!) that it’s divided into about ten smaller cities. While they claim to be independent, like Quezon City, don’t let that fool you because it’s really all a big offshoot of Manila. And my favorite sub-city in Manila is Makati.
It’s definitely not a novel concept since Makati is the business capital of Manila and therefore the entire Philippines, with towering skyscrapers, gigantic business centers as big as city blocks, and other malls and entertainment complexes that look like the Super Bowl all day, every day. For that reason, it’s also where you’ll find the lion’s share of foreigners and expats, many of them there to do business and working for foreign multinationals like banks, trading companies, and even language schools.
But you’ll also find plenty of expats that can tolerate Manila’s ant’s nest in molasses traffic, pollution, and high cost. It’s true – everything costs about twice as much in Makati as the rest of Manila, and it’s by far the most expensive part of the Philippines.
Guide to the City of Makati
So, when I’m in Makati, I try to stay for at least two or three days so I don’t have to rush around or spend half of my life in traffic getting to and from the airport. Most friends you want to meet up with might work or play in or near Makati (but probably not live there), so it’s a commonly accepted center point.
There are also plenty of great hotels that cater to foreigners, especially tourists that are just coming in and out for a couple of nights. I used to stay at the Best Western Oxford Suites (make sure you add that last part because there used to be two Best Western so taxi drivers will confuse you). It’s a nice enough hotel by modern western standards for less than $50 a night, and the location is unreal. You’re situated right in the heart of Makati’s Red Light District.
Of course, there are crazy girlie bars everywhere, but the real circus is on the street in that area, with touts, dealers, sellers, beggars, street hustlers, massage girls, plenty of trannies, and women of the evening all vying for tourist dollars. It’s an absolute shit show and worth witnessing once, but be super careful.
But that really doesn’t define Makati anymore because it’s also home to a wide array of restaurants with food from all over the world, like tons of Korean joints, steak houses, sports bars, and my favorite Mexican food places in all of Asia.
There are plenty of great little tequila bars, brew pubs, and other hangout places to get a libation and meet and greet some friendly locals.
These days, I’m too old and slow for hanging out in the Red Light District, so I stay a few blocks away at the Century City Mall complex off of Makati Ave. The A Venue Hotel costs about $65 a night but is a nice, clean setup and there are plenty of restaurants and a mall all around there – but suitable for the family. There’s even a night market that’s fun and perfectly safe to hang out.
Try out Makati next time you’re in Manila!