Story and photography by Sharon King Hoge
Additional photos courtesy of Shangri-La Makati
A Stay at the Shangri-La Makati in Manila, the Philippines
With a highly favorable exchange rate, historic sights and a wealth of clubs and restaurants all within easy access to sandy beaches, Manila is one of the best travel bargains around. At the same time, eleven million people crowd the Philippine capital in streets clogged with cars, pedicabs, sidecar tricycles, horse carts, and garishly painted stop and go jeepneys (sic). A taxi ride all the way across town may cost only three to four dollars, but it may take an hour crawling through stationary traffic. Logistically, it doesn't take long to get your fill-a of Manila and that's where the Shangri-La is an oasis in the chaos, an urban resort located right in the heart of the trendy upscale business district of Makati.
After a day spent touring sites in the historic city, the Shangri-La was a welcome refuge. Set amidst picturesque but sprawling luxury malls, the hotel rises 26 floors behind a spacious oval fountain in its courtyard. Greeted at the door by hostesses in long skirts and pearls, I entered a huge lobby decorated in burnt caramel marble backed by a glass wall of greenery camouflaging it from the city outside. Large enough to include the reception desk, entrances to the restaurants, a concierge area and a sunken seating area the lobby is an event space in itself with its grand double staircase deliberately calculated to showcase dramatic red carpet party arrivals.
I was instantly escorted to the 24th floor Horizon Club where the concierge promptly checked me in and showed me to room 2423. A bellman arrived instantly with my luggage from the main floor lobby, avoiding that all too customary aggravating wait.
The room was spacious. Dominated by a huge king size bed, it included a comfortable couch seating area and ledge desk, both framing a floor to ceiling window overlooking the skyscrapers and malls below. A corner console held the Nespresso machine and complimentary bottles of water. There was an indented nook for the suitcase with drawers below and a closet equipped with umbrella, ironing supplies, and two types of bathrobe: light cotton batik and terry cloth.
Framed by a bathtub and shower stall on either side, the marble bathroom console included the regular shampoo, shower gel, and soap amenities along with a charming complimentary brocade "dop kit" bag with emergency hair elastics, lip balm, and pantyhose.
Invited to dinner by the hotel's vivacious Director of Communications Lesley Tan, I met her in the newly revamped SAGE's Restaurant on the second floor. Again backed by leafy greenery, the sleek modern decor felt removed from the city's bustle. The menu is exquisite. I started out with the crab cake followed by a fillet of lacquered sea bass in teriyaki sauce and Chao Mien prawn noodles. Lesley shared bites of her delicious lamb chop, which was encrusted in pistachios and served with lamb candy, zucchini and goat cheese cannelloni, and black garlic. Both entrees cost around $20. Dessert was the piece de resistance. Who knew that a dish described on the menu simply as vanilla cremeux would be Pastry Chef Romain Renard's amazing concoction of a spun glass sphere which cracks open "like an egg" to release a frothy cream and the ultimate treat, a nugget of solid chocolate.
As we dined, Lesley explained that Sages is the upstairs of a duplex dining room and tapas bar with the lounge below decorated in the "perfect cut" style with traditional lines, patterns, and material mixed with a pop of teal to create a bespoke couture decor. An alternative to the comfortable Lobby Bar, it attracts a local crowd of fashionable young professionals who sip banana coolers, cherry Daiquiris, berry sangria, savor amazing foie gras-filled "phyllo cigars," and listen to live and DJ music.
Relaxed after an amazing dinner, I fell asleep catching up on the news from CNN and the BBC on the giant flat screen facing my bed.
In the morning I went down to the pool to exercise off some of the delicious dinner calories. What a pool. Outdoors, fully half an Olympic length, it is surrounded by more greenery and includes a full bar area and lots of chaise lounges -- it wouldn't put a beach resort to shame. Adjoining it, also on the fourth floor, the double fitness room was full of guests working out on treadmills and stationary bicycles. An instructor offered to take me through my paces in a separate room set up for soul cycle and yoga.
Just off the dressing area, the full fledged steam room, dry and wet saunas, and Jacuzzi are first class installations -- not the lip service facilities found in too many other urban hotels. Besides shiatsu, hair and scalp treatments, aroma wellness packages the spa offers the Philippine "Hilot" massage, in which virgin coconut oil, banana leaf and selected essential oils enhance the traditional technique. An hour massage costs $70. The gym and spa facilities are open and available twenty-four hours a day. A separate salon offers daytime hair dressing and manicures.
I looked in on the attractive breakfast buffet laid out in the Horizon Room, but decided to go down to the main breakfast buffet served in Circles off the lobby. Good thing I had worked out, it was truly memorable. Where to begin -- first a choice of health juices in shot glasses -- I selected a cucumber concoction which claimed to be excellent for complexion and anti-aging and good for nail and hair strength. Beside that a full array of mango, pear, and other fruit smoothies plus the option to order one in any flavor combination of my choice.
Then a whole counter of breads, roll, pastries, and toast. There were waffles and scrambled eggs, "streaky bacon," and the option for an omelet of my choice. I sampled some Philippine specialties; classic chicken adobo and homemade bibingka, a dish of delicious salted eggs and cheese. Then a whole ledge of cheeses, smoked salmon, breakfast meats, yogurts, along with onions, olives and assorted garnishes. And in a country where coffee refills aren't customary, a full carafe was left on my table.
It can't go without noticing that the service was impeccable -- the lobby hostesses, the bellmen, the room cleaners -- everyone greets guests with cheery "Hello, Ma'am," and their courtesy extends well beyond that. Returning to my room one day I found an elaborate rabbit the housekeeper had "sculpted" from a towel. When I rushed in one morning to grab a quick breakfast while my car was waiting, the hostess voluntarily packed me cups of juice and coffee to take along. Hearing that I planned to sit up in the airport from midnight until I could check in to my 3 am flight, the Horizon hostess took the initiative to arrange for me to spend the early morning hours at the hotel's private airport lounge, one last chance to relish the Shangri-la before reluctantly checking out.
For people visiting the Philippines’ second-largest city Cebu, the near by Shangri-la Mactan is a full fledged resort with luxury accommodations and activities. http://www.shangri-la.com/cebu/mactanresort/
© May 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.