On the strata of finances for travelers, I lie somewhere above dirty backpackers (God bless ‘em!) but right below hippie couples who are trying to save the world to justify their trip abroad. While that’s not a ringing endorsement for my willingness to part with a dollar, remember that I live abroad – not just vacation or travel – and make a humble (tips, anyone?) living as a blogger.
So, it’s understandable that I would want to spend in the range of $20 to $50 at the most for a hotel while I’m traveling away from my comfy and cozy apartment in the Philippines (for $200 a month).
The reason that I’m telling you all of this is because every once in a while, I freak out and just go big, booking a super nice hotel for a couple of nights of opulence.
Of course, “opulence” and “luxury” doesn’t cost what it would in the U.S. here in Southeast Asia, and you can get a super swanky hotel (4 or 5 stars) for about $125 to $150 just about anywhere.
That was the case a few years back when I first booked three days and two glorious nights at the AG New World Manila Bay Hotel here in…yup, Manila – capital of the Philippines.
Back then, it was my Taj Mahal of hotels, so I decided to book it again for a couple of nights as I had an insane 72 hours of straight work and wanted to treat myself to something special while I typed away.
My second impressions of the AG New World? It’s nice. In fact, it’s really nice, and I can’t really argue that it’s a 5-star hotel, albeit borderline. But there are some cracks in the perfect façade that need mentioning.
First off, the hotel price you see when booking online is a little bit of Fool’s Gold. Sure, you can book a night for an average of about $110, and sometimes find specials as low as the $85-$90 mark, but when you show up, they’re going to hit you with 23% on top of that in a service fee, taxes, etc. 23%! If we were booking a $35 room, that’s no big deal, but my already to-high $135/night jumped very quickly to $175 per night!
Ok, enough about me being a cheap-ass. Let’s talk about the actual hotel. It really is pretty gorgeous, with a lobby ensconced in marble with chandeliers and organic wooden and metal artwork, sculptures, and nice paintings throughout. Still, the lobby of the Waterfront Hotel near IT Park in Cebu is way nicer and for far less.
I’m lucky enough to stay in a room with a view of Manila Bay, and the room really is up to a 5-star standard, with the glass and color-tiled bathroom being one of the highlights. But the view of the bay is no solace since the area around the hotel is…how can I put this delicately…a sh*t hole.
Seriously, the streets around here are rat and cockroach infested and there are beggars, homeless, and even pickpockets and hookers on every corner. Not a good idea to walk around here at night.
Luckily, the hotel has a really nice gym that spotlessly clean with great equipment and amenities including a sauna – all for free, a nice swimming pool on the 8th-floor roof deck, and a casino and beautiful piano lounge inside.
Still, I’ll look for options in Manila next time that are half the price and deliver maybe 4 out of these five stars.