When in Manila, discover the magical city like its citizens – try the artisan food, visit the markets and head to the bay for a spectacular sunset snapshot

The Philippine capital, Manila – an old town, yet full of new discoveries – has such a diversity of culture, tastes, ideals and beliefs that it can be hard to know where to start your visit. So here are the top four things you must do.

Shopping here is such a way of life that locals have a unique word for it – ‘malling’. There are international brands at Greenbelt Mall in Makati, close to Mandarin Oriental, Manila, or at SM Mall of Asia. My favourite is the Greenhills Shopping Center, which houses some of the city’s coolest finds. For some of the more local buys, however, you need to employ your negotiation skills. The many stores and stalls around the capital have tough gatekeepers, who can either sweep away a rookie shopper’s money or give an amazing deal to a veteran bargainer.

I’m a firm believer that in an Asian country the most authentic way to experience its varied cuisine is to try the street food. So in Manila you have to visit the Midnight Mercato Centrale food market in the centre of Bonifacio Global City, which has served artisan food to the capital for the past two years. The founders, inspired by the European food markets of Florence and Rome and south London’s Borough Market, which they visited on their honeymoon, were determined to re-create a covered food market back home, where gourmands, party people and the after-work crew alike could all find something to satisfy their taste buds. The market, which has rigorous hygiene standards, live music and an assortment of daily offerings, attracts up to 5,000 people in an evening. With delicacies such as durian cheesecake alongside the more traditional fish balls, spicy meat (adobo), delicious spit-roasted pig (léchon), who can resist? The more culinary adventurous may even be tempted by the Philippine classic, betamax (cooked pig’s blood that is shaped into cubes, anyone?)!

I have travelled to many countries all over the world, but there’s no sunset quite like the one that descends over Manila Bay. So take someone special – and a camera – and head to the waterfront (near SM Mall) to see the greatest sunset of your life. Finish the day with cocktails at one of the city’s most sophisticated bars, Martinis at Mandarin Oriental, Manila.

In the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan last November, there was overwhelming support from around the world. The staff at Mandarin Oriental, Manila took an active part in helping those in other parts of the country who were worst affected. Colleagues donated to the Philippine Red Cross and volunteered directly to help sort relief goods. Guests also made a kind contribution though the hotel’s Red Cross donation boxes.

Vince Golangco is the founder and publisher of online magazine wheninmanila.com, and is a TV and events host in Manila. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @VinceGolangco
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