Welcome to readers from Turkmenistan
First impressions of Manila are less than favourable.
The city appears grey even in tropical sunlight.
The traffic is execrable. The bus from the airport, only 5 km away, took an hour to make the centre.
That journey took us through some tough neighbourhoods.
Of course merely first impressions.
At the traffic lights I was reminded of Manuelita Mascarenas - Green an environmental lawyer recently executed at the lights while in her car with her children. One of twelve such lawyers murdered in the last year alone.
And of course it's hot.
The Mexicans and the Spanish got to the Philippines hundreds of years ago at the beginning of the 16th century. Both their influences are palpable here.
The big draw here is that most everybody speaks English.
I travelled with my partner and Sophie ,who was 4 and a half months old so ... the journey was especially interesting to me.
Manila really is a bit hot so every time we went out we ducked into Robinson's Mall or a 7/11 for the air con which was fierce.
Manila grows on you though. People (in the daytime at least) are friendly and will engage you quite easily though they are more removed than people in Vietnam where I live or India say. Thailand, Costa Rica and Mexico too come to think of it.
The Philippines is pretty free and easy. You need no visa to get in nor pay no exit tax to get out though the flight costs were painfully high going with the national airline - the alternative going through the budget airlines where you select everything through to the ply of the toilet tissue threatened to cause me an aneurysm during the booking process.
Not everywhere was rugged like the neighbourhoods fringing the centre.
The highlight of Manila for me.
See wikipedia for historical detail on this area
The Philippines is the only spot in Asia with Spanish colonial influence.
Young Filipina Daniella with her grandmother in Malate
A few damp walls and an old gaol.
Looking over to the Binondo district from Fort Santiago
Inside Fort Santiago
A typical bride and groom on photo shoot in the Intramuros district.
The demands of the bride on this shoot were interesting to experience.
The Manila centre at night didn't feel wholly salubrious with hard-faced men in singlets glowering from stools on the pavement, hot girls sneering.
Little bit of sex tourism and arrangements to that effect going off throughout. In fact the day felt like it was snoozing, waiting for night.
Inside Manila Cathedral
A representation of the Virgin Mary in Manila Cathedral
Police Officer patrols Casa Manila
Thuy and Sophie - Casa Manila
In Rizal Park, central Manila.
Where we went next ...