Things to remember when you are driving in Manila: watch out for speeding buses. Be aware that some traffic lights could be malfunctioning. And above all, do not run down the man trying to sell you the plumber's snake. Let me tell you, it is quite a good snake, too. The steel coil has a handy crank at one end and looks like it could do some serious unblocking work on your toilet pipes. I know, I bought one. Motorists in Manila can get some interesting bargains on the streets. Not along the streets. On them. You cannot really call it an underground economy when it is very much above ground. I have little doubt that the streets in many countries teem with vendors selling food and drink. Here, though, the choice of products is more varied. Yes, you can get hot and cold drinks, peanuts, newspapers, magazines, chewing gum and cigarettes. But why stop there? On the street where I bought the snake, other vendors were offering plastic covers for driver's identity cards and passports. Other great items I remember seeing on offer include towels, cleaning rags, balloons, car spare parts, toolkits and toy helicopters that fly. With Valentine's Day coming, you can be sure vendors will be hawking roses. And when you see one walking between vehicles trying to sell a huge garden umbrella (his stock is on the pavement) you know you are in the twilight zone known as the Philippines. Let the traffic slow to a crawl for even a minute - which is to say, most of the time - and the cars will get swamped by hawkers. Transactions are swift, done under an unwritten honour code. The buyer is not supposed to speed off without paying, and it is expected that the exact change will be forthcoming. The prices are a bit higher than at the markets, but there is the convenience of being served right at the car window. And you can bank on the enthusiasm of the vendors, too. While we were waiting for the light to turn green at a major junction, one man tried to sell us a couple of punnets of strawberries. Unfortunately, the light changed and as we started off, we tried to warn him that there was not enough time. This, however, did not stop him frantically trying to thrust the punnets through the half-open window while shouting that he would meet us across the junction to get his payment. We pulled away before he could squeeze the fruit in, but even then, when we got to the other side, we checked the back seat to make sure there was no basket of strawberries with a hand attached to it.