“You’re staying near Makati’s Red Light District.” Oh hell no.

Music editor Evan and I were in disbelief when we found out where we were going to spend the next four nights as part of our trip to Makati, Philippines for the Wanderland Music & Arts Festival.

However, when we reached the Airbnb-accredited apartment we were going to call home for the next few days, we were pleasantly surprised by the clean floors and the flat-screen television. It even had almost every possible cable television channel you could think of, which may have contributed to us spending a good amount of time watching television and sleeping instead of doing things other tourists might deem “productive”.

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Here are a few tips on enjoying your stay!

Tip #1: Never ever discuss prices — just (very nicely) ask the taxi driver to charge by the meter. 

A lot of tourists fail to realise that taxi drivers tend to charge exorbitant prices and purposely leave out the fact that they are able to charge by the meter. Once we hopped onto the cab, we just told the taxi driver where we were heading and asked the estimated price.

The drive lasted no longer than 20 minutes but it allowed us to see and hear the sights and sounds of Makati City. They were pretty surreal – we passed by a Moulin Rouge, a R-rated boxing club and rows of bars. Sure, the place seemed real seedy, but the apartment building we stayed in had electronic locked doors which required the host to buzz you in.

That being said, there were no less than two people waiting to greet you when you arrive. Checking in was a breeze: we just had to sign some forms and then we got ushered to our room on the second floor. We had a good chuckle when we saw that the only window in our room had a built-in grill. (If that ain’t an introduction to the hood, I don’t know what is.)

Everything was true to the pictures on the Airbnb listing, which was a major relief.

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Tip #2: Explore the surroundings of your apartment to have a grasp on the geographic location of your place

We spent the rest of the days walking around the neighbourhood and really getting to know our neighbours. Just down the lane from our apartment, there is a little makeshift ‘mama shop’ selling jars of cigarettes and (sometimes) food. If you get home just in time, you will see a family singing karaoke.

Just a block down would be the notorious hot spot for aged Caucasian men, Arabs and the likes. The street behind had a ‘pasar malam’ which sold street food, knock-off clothing and live entertainment too — lingerie-clad ladies singing to ballads and grinding men. (A feast for the eyes and for the stomach.)

All in all, we had a very enjoyable stay at San Augustin Residences and would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes the convenience of transport and food at the expense of having to listen to music being blasted till ungodly hours at night. That being said, staying near the red-light district was definitely an experience and a story worth telling!

Thanks to Airbnb for sponsoring credits for our stay in Makati.