Saturday, August 12, 2006

Shopping via the Rails

Who said you can’t roam around town on rainy days? It’s just a myth, really! For anyone interested in seeing various places, you may like to know that there are a lot of things to discover during the rainy season. Of course, as with any travel on any kind of weather, there are necessary precautions that one must consider. And I have discovered wiser ways of roaming this country during various moods of our dear inang kalikasan!

Technique: when the monsoons are a blowing in the Luzon area, head to the western and southern islands like Palawan or Mindanao. While some parts will be cloudy on some days, rains will usually be sporadic. Then again it’s always wise to check weather underground or weather.com or even the local PAG-ASA! Example: last August 1, some colleagues were surprised when I appeared in the office with a skin darker than usual cuz I literally burned under the sun in Samar during the weekend. That was a weekend where rains were pouring to the max in Metro Manila!

But going far to western, southern and central islands seem expensive to many poeple (even if I know that you change phones every time Nokia releases a new model)! Asus!

Anyway, for those with itchy feet like me, even if the ulan and baha are aplenty, we still have the option to go around and find interesting things to do than sit and eat champorado at home while watching Daisy Siete! Gosh!

Here is one interesting idea: go for a mall hopping tour via the rail network in the metropolis! This is best done if you are a true-blue window shopper so you don’t have to lug heavy shopping bags. Consider this trip as a sight-seeing tour than a shopping spree. You can start at your nearest MRT/LRT Station. Due to the number of shopping hubs near and along the rail stations, if you visited them all, a day won’t be enough. So choose which areas you want to hit for a day. Let’s examine them.

The MRT’s North Ave. Station along EDSA is a walk away from SM City North! Note that aside from the original building, there is the Annex that’s also along EDSA (where the bowling lanes are) and there is another Annex that houses cyber everything (I’d rather call it a cellphone hub for obvious reasons!). The upper floors of this building are parking areas. Then across from the open parking space, there is that big Super Center that has everything from steering wheels to sardines and wines and baby dresses! It even has its own ATM hub!

Hop to Cubao Station as there’s nothing to see at Quezon Avenue or GMA Stations. Roam the Farmers Plaza that connects to Araneta Coliseum and the Gateway Mall. Walking a bit more from this area, you of course have Shopwise, Pure Gold, Ali Mall and SM Cubao. Not to mention that fish is still cheap and abundant at the Farmer’s Market!

I suspect you’ll probably spend more time at Gateway Mall since it’s swankier. So, from there, you can step unto the LRT 3’s eastward route to Santolan Station (I learned it’s in Pasig and not Marikina). From there it will be a short jeep-ride to Robinson’s Mall Marikina which is just beside Sta. Lucia East. After some roaming in those two malls, head back to LRT 3 going Gilmore Station to check out the conglomeration of tech malls and stores. Whoa, too many gadgets there that will have you salivating. Phones, PCs, modems, motherboards, speakers, games, cameras, peripherals, software… grabe! And there are also the repair shops. Everything is just there! Careful here though, I once saw an altercation between the LRT guards and a family that just bought a new PC. I heard that the guards won’t allow them to board as the CPU box could contain a bomb or something. Also learned that the kids won’t open the CPU, since the PC warranty would be lost. Onga naman. Well…

From Gilmore, take the tracks again onwards to V. Mapa Station that sits right beside the SM Centerpoint. From there, you can re-board westward to its last station – Recto. There is a covered elevated walk that connects the Recto Station of LRT 3 to the Doroteo Jose Station of LRT 1. Thus, no need to go to ground level if you are connecting trains. But Recto Station is also right beside Isetann Recto. There is some kind of a phenomenon in that mall! When I went to see the place, I chanced upon a big crowd at an upper floor. There was a long queue of people waiting for their turn to sing at a videoke machine – the type where you drop coins to be able to sing! Whysoever they were all too eager for their turn to sing, I did not anymore ask.

From either Isetann-Recto or LRT 3-Recto, you can walk to Doroteo Jose Station of LRT 1 and head north towards the Monumento Station. Relax… don’t entertain the thought that you are just a few clicks away from Arranque Market and Divisoria. If you did so anyway, then your rail tour ends here since you will spend the rest of the day at 168 – am sure of that!

Anyway, right beside the Monumento station is another mall called Ever-Gotesco. I know it’s the tiangge kind of mall but a mall nonetheless. Golly I had fun hopping from one stall to another. The mall is dominated by cellphone repair stalls and pirated DVD/VCD discs! And it is only there (in one store) that I saw another brand of my dream PDA-Phone. No it’s not an O2-XDA. It’s a Qtek! Going across Rizal Avenue (yes, this is the end of Avenida Rizal), there is another newly opened mall called Araneta Square Mall. You can also check out the various shops there. The too many policemen roaming the vicinity of this mall gives you a feeling the area is safe.

Then you can go up to re-board the LRT 1 towards Carriedo Station. Oh my, oh my, one of the stations along the way is near SM San Lazaro! And you can consider that too!

At Carriedo, ahh shopping! First there is the Isetann Carriedo. Hmm, if nothing interests you, then go to the oldest SM Mall of them all just behind Isetann. Next you may find yourself threading the crowded street named Hidalgo. Oh my badness! Too many camera (and photographic paraphernalia) stores on both sides. You will need to remind yourself this… “control control control… relax, you don’t need this, you don’t need that”! As you keep roaming the shops and the stalls in the middle of the street, you will suddenly find yourself already standing at the historic Plaza Miranda facing the frontage of the Quiapo Church. Whoa! So, go in for a mass or just wander around. During my tour, I went in and heard mass. Promise, I did, peks man! After church, and after seeing that Plaza Miranda is now clean and clear, you can skim through this Divisoria-type mall just across the church entrance. Ah yes, this was where I bought my USB Card Reader worth P200 after haggling with the Koreana owner-cum-tindera who speaks “sporadic English”! What an experience!

Next you wade through thick crowds of humanity along a street full of VCD/DVD stalls and other bargain thingys. Hop back into the LRT 1 moving south. At Central Station (Lawton), you can check out SM Manila near the City Hall.

At UN Ave. Station, you may feel like getting off to check out Luneta. But no if it’s raining! Oh no no no, don’t walk towards that hotel where Casino Filipino has a branch. You are on a rail tour, remember?! At Pedro Gil Station, you may have the itch to get off and walk towards Robinsons Manila. Why not?! Just don’t stay too long on the street watching UP-PGH Nursing students and those lovely Paulinians! It could be raining you know!

Oh, Vito Cruz Station straddles the two La Salles! That’s La Salle Taft and La Salle Tapat (St. Benilde) hehehe. But you know very well Harrison Plaza is just a few brisk steps behind the sports stadium. And Century Park Sheraton has an interesting bakeshop called Deli Snack with mouth-watering breads and pastries. Have you tried them yet?

At Quirino Avenue Station, Manila Zoo might tempt you! But you are on a shopping area tour, and it could be raining. So resist the urge, okay?! At Gil Puyat Station (Buendia) there is some kind of a mini-mall attached to the LRT. It’s nothing great but if you’re curious, go! At Libertad Station, you may feel like going down to check-out the palengke. But control yourself. That palengke is better visited from midnight till dawn when everything from sayote to pork are freshly delivered and very cheap!

At EDSA Station, another mall hugs the LRT. You just walk around this mall and at its southern exit, presto, you are already in front of the turnstiles of the MRT’s Taft Ave Station! There will be a funny dilemma. You could be torn between proceeding to Baclaran on board LRT 1 or going down to street level and take the short bus ride to SM’s Mall Of Asia. But then again, that can only be resolved according to how you planned your time, your pocket and your stamina! Do you have the time and zest to roam the hundreds of stalls in Baclaran? Or would you rather watch Superman at the iMax theater? Or you can skip any of these and head north via the MRT.

Along the MRT tracks, you can opt to get off at Magallanes Station to check out those home improvement shops at Pasong Tamo. From tiles to kitchen ware to carpets to chandeliers, they’re all there!

You can also head straight to Ayala Avenue Station which in itself is already a mini-mall. From there, you can get off its north-bound side and walk towards McKinley Road where you can catch the shuttle buses to The Fort. Or you can get off at the station’s south-bound side where SM Makati is. From there, the great expanse of Glorietta, Landmark and Greenbelt awaits you. Rain or typhoon, you will never get wet in this place. Everything is under a roof!

Back at the Ayala Station, you may continue northwards. Skip Buendia as there’s nothing to see there. You may of course check out anything that the ABC Mall has to offer and that is after you get off at Guadalupe Station. And from this place, it’s just a jeep ride away to the power-plant mall.

At Boni Avenue Station, the new Robinson’s Mall may be smiling at you! And yes, this mall was the previous location of SOGO. Of course you know that along Pioneer St. and little streets parallel or intersecting it are warehouse shops known for their “bodega sales”. Those are good options but you will have to take a tricycle from near the MRT Station – EDSA cor. Pioneer.

Shaw Boulevard Station is just another commercial hub! You get off on either side; you will be browsing through many shops. The Shangri-la Mall of course connects to this station. Rustan’s, Crossings and hundreds of shops are in there. You can cross to the western side of EDSA and you smack unto Star Mall. This probably is the most inviting of all rail stations. Three corners of the EDSA Shaw intersection are shops and shops and shops while the 4th corner has an interesting little fast-food frequented by many, plus an unfinished building that houses basketball and badminton courts and some tiangge. Whew! And we all know that walking northwards from Shangri-la Mall is the gigantic Mega Mall.

Then again, if you head straight to Ortigas Ave station (which actually falls short of reaching Ortigas), there too are various irresistible shopping options. Getting off on the eastern side of the tracks you have another decision to make if you should veer right to Mega Mall’s other end – and probably hop onwards to St. Francis Square and Podium; or if you should veer left, then walk towards Robinson’s Galleria Mall.

Next station from this place is the Annapolis Station which I prefer to call Crame Station since the stairs are actually beyond Annapolis and right by the fence of Camp Crame! While the station may seem devoid of commercial activity since its just straddling two military camps, Annapolis St., is actually just a few steps away from it, and from there you can walk about a hundred meters more to find the Greenhills Shopping Center. Oh temptation!

After Annapolis, you are back in the Cubao Station. Let’s just say it’s already night time and you move on to GMA-Kamuning Station. We said there are no shops in the area, right? But, at nightfall, Timog Avenue which is just a few steps from the station will already be bustling with a lot of restaurants, bars and comedy lounges. Same will be the case at Quezon Avenue Station. You just walk a few meters along Mother Ignacia Avenue and you hit the other row of night venues in Quezon City’s South Triangle! Wouldn’t that be a nice way to cap your rail tour?! Oh these trains do sleep at 10PM.

There your are, a unique tour of shopping malls and shopping districts in Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan, Manila, Caloocan, Pasay, Makati and Mandaluyong. That’s 9 cities and thousands of shops to drain your pocket and tire your feet. And you don’t have to let your car drench in the rain or swim in the floods! No traffic to ruin your day!

So enjoy shopping during the wet season!

Nota Bene:You can even push your shopaholicism to the extreme by hopping into the old PNR (ground level train) which can still take you to Tutuban (shops shops shops) or Bicutan (SM) or Sucat (plus a jeep ride to SM near Olivarez) or Alabang (where up to 4 other big malls await you). Next time I’ll try this! Promise!

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