Riding the MRT in Manila

Even though I almost always have my phone with me, which has a camera, I am still not in the habit of using it to take pictures.  So this will be another blog post without a photo.  Google ‘Manila MRT rush hour’ to get a feel for what it’s like!

A few weeks ago we had tickets to see The Killers at Smart Araneta Coliseum, in Quezon City.  Quezon City is one of the 16 cities which make up Metro Manila and is to the North of Makati where we live and work.  We had planned on getting a taxi there after work, but one of my colleagues reckoned that it could take 3 hours to get there at rush hour.  She suggested we take the train.

We have been in Manila for about 9 months now and we have never taken the train.  No time like the present then, I suppose.

One of the reasons we haven’t taken the train is that the stations just aren’t conveniently located.  We both work on the main street in the CBD.  There are 2 Mass Rail Transit (MRT, the name of the train) stations to choose from.  But both are a good 30 minute walk away.  Getting a taxi to one of the stations is an option, but it’s nearly impossible to get a taxi at rush hour, especially if there is any rain at all threatened.

We decided to head to Buendia station as we thought we would have a better chance of getting on a train there; it should be a bit quieter than Ayala station.  Ayala station is situated next to a massive shopping centre, and has more offices nearby.

The walk was mostly ok.  However, the last 200 metres or so are along a very narrow, unlit path where you are hemmed in against a big wall with a protective railing (protecting you from the road).  Not somewhere you’d want to be by yourself.

We found the ticket desk easily enough.  Tickets were only 12 pesos (about 17 British pence) each for a one-way journey.  Good job we could save some money here.  Tickets for The Killers were more than 6000 pesos each!  That’s about 100 quid.  We followed the masses of people down to the platform.  The signposting was poor.  I think there was an indication of the route direction, but there were no route maps.

One of the good things about the MRT is that they reserve the front 1-3 carriages for women, pensioners and disabled people.  If you’re pregnant, we found that your husband can accompany you on this carriage.  But, this doesn’t make these carriages any quieter than the rest of the train.  There were hundreds of people on the platform.  We didn’t manage to squeeze into the first train.  Luckily the trains come along every 2 minutes or so.  It took us 4 goes before we squeezed ourselves into a carriage.

I don’t think I have ever been so closely packed in with other passengers anywhere in my life.  Apart from maybe at an Arctic Monkeys gig where the crowd went mad for “Brianstorm” and charged forward to the stage.  I was really shocked at what lengths people will go to, to squeeze onto the train.  Really, you could not move at all on the train.  If there was nothing to hold onto, it didn’t matter because you couldn’t fall over anywhere anyway.

But the train got us there in 15 minutes, whereas a taxi from the same point would have probably taken about 1.5 hours.  The train station was joined to the mall which was joined to the Coliseum, so there was no wandering around trying to find the venue.

Would I do it again?  Probably if I was travelling to the other side of the city.  But probably not at rush hour, especially as my belly grows!

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