This year, the tourism and sports ministry of Thailand forecasted a 32.4-million tourist arrival which is not impossible to happen. Last year, the country recorded an all-time high of 29-million foreign visits. Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, we are working hard to achieve a 6-million tourist arrival before the end of 2016. Fingers crossed, I know we can hit it!
Despite the country’s world-class tourist spots, the Philippines still lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and even Vietnam based on tourist arrivals in 2015.
It’s my second time here in Bangkok and for someone who has been here for quite a long time, seeing scores of foreigners walking around, taking the train, partying on the street, and shopping at the street market is normal. In Manila, we somehow get surprised when we see travelers using our terrible trains.
Bangkok is not a perfect city, but as I walk on the street every day, I could see how hard the government is working to make it more attractive.
Walking around Bangkok is similar to walking down the crowded streets of Manila. There are homeless folks, heavy traffic, motorcycle riders without helmets, and pounds of trash, but generally, most of the streets are clean. The neighborhood is like Manila’s. Only better.
Here’s a list of things that Manila should consider to entice more tourists.
1.Build an Airport Train and improve the MRT and LRT
I’m not an Engineer, so I can’t debate with the government and question them for keeping on building roads outside the Airport. They probably know better than I do.
From a traveler’s perspective, however, a train system that is linked to airports will help alleviate, if not eliminate, the suffering experienced by people going to NAIA. The government keeps on constructing roads, connecting a skyway to another skyway, and all of these to another road. Traffic in Manila is terrible and the best way to reach the airport is via train.
This is something I love about Bangkok. They have an airport train which is linked to their Sky Train and MRT. It’s convenient and cheap. From the airport to the last station (Phaya Thai), fair is at 40 baht or less than US$1. Travel time runs about 30 minutes. The Airport Rail Link covers a distance of 28 kilometers. Imagine, it’s like going home from NAIA to Valenzuela City in 30 minutes instead of, uh, not less than 3 hours.
2. Hotel accommodation rates should be more reasonable
This is something that I still can’t figure out. I understand that these hotels are supposed to be expensive, but given the Filipinos’ standard of living, aren’t hotel rates supposed to be more affordable? I’m surprised to find many luxury hotels in Singapore and Hong Kong whose rates are at par with those of the regular hotels we have in the Philippines! Try to book a 5-star hotel here in Bangkok and you will get a luxurious room for around PHP3,000. Try to find one in Manila with the same rate and I will just wish you good luck. Why? Because it’s next to impossible.
3. Cheap and delicious street food.
I’m not a picky type of person, but I rarely eat Manila’s street foods for one obvious reason: I’m not confident that they’re clean. I eat some if I know the person, but eating one straight from a random stall on the street of Manila, thanks, but no thanks!
Here in Bangkok, I can be sure of the street foods’ integrity. I can feel its generally safe. But of course it’s still your call. Check closely how they are preparing the food and if you think its clean go for it. So far, I’m enjoying them. And I see a lot of foreigners who are delighted to indulge in Bangkok’s street foods.
Let’s admit it, some of the street vendors in Manila don’t look clean, so how can people be sure that the food was properly prepared?
Bangkok’s street foods have become one of the top reasons to visit the city. In fact, Bangkok is known as the unofficial outdoor dining capital of Asia. Why can’t the Philippines get the same standards?
They have a top-notch yet affordable travel clinic
I’ve been thinking to name one clinic or hospital in the Philippines that cater exclusively to the needs of travelers. Unfortunately, not a single one popped in my head.
I trust Filipino doctors and nurses regardless of whether they’re working at a public or private hospital. I know we have the world-class medical personnel. However, the facilities in most of the public hospitals are not. So chances are, you will take yourself to big and private hospitals in Manila to get a better treatment. With that, I’m setting your expectation. Prepare yourself to shell out a big sum of money.
For the time being, I was sent to the travel clinic here in Bangkok to which I was referred by my friend Aliyah who is studying here. The moment I entered the clinic, my jaw dropped and my eyes widened as I saw its modernity. The first thing that came to my mind was the bill. This place would surely charge me big. But I didn’t have a choice. I needed to get checked-up soon.
Thai Travel Clinic is a specialty clinic at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases located at 420/6 Rajvithi Road, Tungphyathai, Bangkok 10400. It’s just walking distance from BTS Victory Monument.
I was the only patient that night. Communication was a bit challenging. The nurses couldn’t speak in fluent English.good thing the doctor does. After the check-up, she gave me a piece of paper with scribbles that I couldn’t understand since they were in Thai. She just told me to proceed to the cashier and the pharmacy.
The moment of truth came: How much would it cost me to get a check-up in Bangkok? Believe it or not, I paid only 170 baht. Twenty baht for the new patient’s registration fee, 50 baht for the hospital facilities fee and 100baht for 40 pcs of antibiotics and paracetamol.
Now tell me, how can you not love Bangkok after they built a clinic dedicated to the dramatically increasing number of travelers? This is something I wish we could have in the Philippines.
These are some of my observation in Bangkok that I hope our Tourism Sector would take into consideration. We have all the reasons why it’s more fun in the Philippines, but we are not using our full potential to show them to the world. And to my fellow travelers, I ask only one favor: Can we please stop saying there’s nothing to do in Manila? Whether we love or hate the city, Manila is the capital of the country. We should be proud of it, as it’s the first thing they experience when foreigners visit the Philippines.
You will frequently hear people inviting foreigners to the Philippines saying, “There’s nothing to do in Manila. Don’t stay there and head out immediately to your destination. I admit I was once like that. But if we keep this mindset, it’s never going to be helpful in inviting more foreigners, as we are giving them a bad impression of Manila and the Philippines in general. There are things that you can do in Manila. However, there are so many awesome things to discover outside.
We have old churches, streets, Intramuros, parks, museums. We have a vibrant city, beautiful skyline, nightlife, shopping centers and more. There are things to see in Manila. It’s for you to open it to our foreign friends and make them feel at home in our city. Someday, I believe Manila can be the next Bangkok!