Manila’s moniker, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, couldn’t be more apt – its unappealing shell reveals its jewel only to those resolute enough to pry. No stranger to hardship, the city has endured every disaster humans and nature could throw at it, and yet today the chaotic metropolis thrives as a true Asian megacity. Skyscrapers pierce the hazy sky, mushrooming from the grinding poverty of expansive shanty towns, while gleaming malls foreshadow Manila’s brave new air-conditioned world. The congested roads snarl with traffic, but, like the overworked arteries of a sweating giant, they are what keeps this modern metropolis alive.
As well as outstanding sightseeing, visitors who put in the effort will discover its creative soul – from edgy galleries to a lively indie music scene. Combine this with a penchant for speakeasy bars, artisan markets and single-origin coffees, and it's clear to see that Manila is not only one of Asia's most underrated cities, but one of its coolest.