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Indigenous tribes like the Bagabo, B’laan, Mandaya, Masaka, Manobo and T’boli mingle with migrant settlers, bohemian, Muslim and expatriate communities and a steady flow of tourists. Add to this a vibrant business and investment sector, a large seaport that handles cargo in and out of the country and you have a mix that makes Davao one of the most engaging and busiest cities imaginable. To the people of the Philippines Davao is, above all, one of the most charismatic and culturally diverse cities. Its population comes from all corners of the globe. Davao, or Metropolitan ‘Metro’ Davao as it is often referred to, hugs the southernmost coastline of Mindanao island to the south of the Philippines. Although, technically, independent of any province it is generally linked with Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and the Compostella Valley. The four areas are known as the eleventh region of the Philippines, with Metro Davao being its capital. All the areas have their own distinct characters. Davao del Norte is known for its acres of banana plantations and citrus groves along with the beautiful Samal Island just off its coastline. Davao del Sur is where visitors will find the Mount Apo National Park dotted with orchids. The white beaches and waterfalls make Davao Oriental a natural haunt of visiting holidaymakers while the Compostella Valley affords the cream of earth’s natural wonders.
Davao is famous for many things – eagles, gold, exotic flowers, eye-popping attractions and landscapes to name just a few. Look out for the Puentespina Orchids and Tropical Plants centre where the colours and scents will leave you bewildered, or the shops selling beautiful works in gold – the city is a major producer of gold and crafts. For adventure seekers there’s the Davao River where white water rafting is a popular and the Crocodile Park where it’s best to keep a distance from the residents. No visit to Davao would be complete without sampling some of its great local fruit (durian is best kept outside your accommodation!), or enjoying one of its colourful festivals. Visiting the Arawng Dabaw Festival in March, the Padigo San or the Sambuokan in September or the Banayan Festival in October is an excellent way to see local tradition at its best.
Dining out in Davao is an international affair. Restaurants that serve traditional Cantonese style dishes of beautifully prepared seafood, fruit and vegetarian dishes sit surprisingly well with Mediterranean themed eateries specialising in kebabs, pizzas, mezes, hamburgers and grills. There are French, Italian and Indian restaurants too, plus Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Davao is a culturally diverse city and this is reflected in its vast range of places to eat. Davao is famous for its grilled tuna, known as inihaw, and its version of tuna sashimi, called kinilaw. Both should be tried.
Cafés and coffee shops are scattered throughout the city, but head to F. Torres Street and you surely won't find yourself at a loss - the avenue is lined with restaurants and cafés serving all manner of local and international food and drinks.
Nightlife in Davao might not seem quite as vibrant as one would expect from a cosmopolitan city with over a million residents - this may be partially due to the alcohol curfew currently imposed here. The curfew forbids the sale and consumption of alcohol in public places between midnight and 8am - a regulation that has forced many business owners to convert bars into restaurants and massage parlours, a transformation most noticeable in Torres Street - the former Davao nightlife hot-spot. However, some popular evening venues still in operation do include jazz clubs and piano bars, excellent restaurants with live music and even nightclubs, leaving visitors with quite a few options to choose from.
Shopping in Davao is a serious affair and a collection of huge, impressive multi-floored malls that have emerged in recent years proves the point effortlessly. For a fine selection of local and international brand boutiques, visit the Abreeza Mall, and do not skip the Aldevinco Shopping Center for some of the beast deals on "pasalubong" (a Filippino word referring to gifts and souvenirs brought to loved ones from foreign lands). Davao has some fabulous markets, too, where everything from fresh produce to jewellery and crafts can be found. Haggling is acceptable.
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