One of the biggest privileges of my work is that I get to travel for business, and quite often (though not always!) it is to locations that are really enjoyable. This past week has been one such occasion, visiting the Philippine capital of Manila – a 10 hour flight from my current base in Jeddah.
I’d spent quite a bit of time in Manila back in the late 90s, and also had a short trip in 2009, but it is a place I always enjoy returning to, the people are so friendly, and have a relaxed outlook on life that is not so prevalent in other parts of Asia.
Although Manila is a large metropolis, this visit was confined to the central business district, known as Makati; a concrete jungle of shopping malls, restaurants, bars, giant office blocks, and 5 star hotels.
I stayed at the wonderful Peninsula Hotel, which has a great reputation, and it certainly didn’t disappoint – from the very personal welcome that I and my colleagues received on arrival, to the consistent, high quality service that we received throughout our stay.
One aspect of Manila that cannot be ignored is the weather – located in the tropics, it has a hot and humid climate, and is prone to very frequent bursts of heavy rain. Hotels thoughtfully provide umbrellas in their guest rooms, and when walking out, even if the sun is shining at the time you leave, it is quite sensible to avail of this benefit – the clouds come over very fast!
Makati is a great place to explore, it’s very compact and easy to navigate on foot, although taxis are also really cheap when compared to other major cities.
Whilst high rise towers and malls dominate the Makati landscape, adjacent to The Peninsula Hotel is Ayala Triangle Gardens – a 2 hectare park where Pinoys meet up, exercise, play, and eat and drink surrounded by some amazing flora and fauna, including the gorgeous trees that are found throughout the gardens.
One of my favourite haunts is the Hard Rock Café – I spent many a night there on my previous trips, and although its some 20 years since my first visit, it was really great to see it still in the same place, and still rockin’ – If like me, you enjoy live music, Filipino cover bands are always worth watching.
A unique characteristic of The Philippines is the ever present ‘Jeepney’ – a common form of public transport. Originally made from jeeps left over by the US Military after World War 2, they can be seen everywhere in Makati, often overcrowded, and brightly decorated. They certainly add a splash of colour to the morning and evening traffic jams that clog the city.
Even the hotel had it’s own 5 star version:
I enjoyed a variety of dinners throughout my stay, but one meal worth highlighting was at the themed restaurant, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co – if you’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump, you will be familiar with the name, and you may remember all of the things you can do with shrimp.
Faced with a menu full of broiled shrimp, fried shrimp, baked shrimp, sautéed shrimp, etc. etc., I chose Shrimp Rigatoni, preceded by one of my favourite starters, Clam Chowder. Although the food wasn’t quite 10 out of 10, it was a fun place to eat, as Forrest Gump is high on my list of all-time favourite films; plus Mel and I have a very ‘in joke’ centred on the line ‘Run Forrest, Run!’
So as another trip draws to a close, I return home with more great memories, and just a few photos! I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, but if and when the opportunity arises, you can count me in!
More information about The Peninsula can be found here
If you want to learn more about The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., click here