I just returned to the Philippines last night after about six weeks away in Thailand Cambodia. Boy, what a shock it was coming back. Even though I’ve lived in the Philippines for the last year and a half and I knew that a drastic change from the culture in Thailand the most of Southeast Asia, it still was overwhelming. And the hotel where I stayed just for the night (writing this review as I sit on the plane in Manila waiting to take off for Dumaguete), typifies but the best and the worst of what you’ll experience traveling through the Philippines.
My trip from Koh Samui, Thailand back “home” to Dumaguete, the Philippines involves three days and three separate flights. I got airport hotels in Bangkok and, again, Manila last night because I didn’t want a soul-crushing day of waiting at airports during long layovers and running around between terminals (it can literally take an hour or more to get from Terminal 1 to 3 in Manila because of traffic!). So, I booked an airport hotel in Manila, the Mabuhay Manor.
It’s actually difficult to find airport hotels in Manila, not because they don’t exist but because everything is so disorganized and chaotic that the hotel booking sites don’t even know what to classify as an airport hotel. For instance, the neighborhood of Makati is usually a great option for travelers, as it’s only a few miles away from the airport as the crow flies, so should only be twenty minutes away. However, with traffic, you might find yourself sitting in a hot, stop-n-go taxi for one hour or even longer just to get there!
So I was looking for an airport hotel that was REALLY close. There are some nice airports right across the street from the terminals, but, of course, an internet search didn’t yield any clear, accurate information about which hotels those were.
I settled on the Mabuhay Manor because it was only a couple kilometers away in Pasay City – the same general area as the airport. While the 4:30 PM taxi ride did only take me 25 minutes or so (which is nothing in Manila!), the neighborhood – and the hotel – left a lot to be desired.
In fact, the neighborhood and side street my hotel was on was downright dicey, and my immediate thought was that I wouldn’t want to be walking around there with my computer or wallet at night.
The lobby was outdated, but the staff were attentive and friendly. The room was big and clean, but still a little old, dingy, and smelled either musty or like smoke. They had a gym, but it contained three pieces of archaic equipment. There was hot water; sometimes. Free Wi-Fi; that didn’t really work so well.
They even charged me $7 for breakfast, although I thought it was free. Just when I was ready to start complaining like any uptight and angry foreigner in the Philippines, the sun started shining. (Figuratively, of course.)
The dining room got crowded for breakfast, and some unknown melodic instrumental music was playing in the background. Soon, I could hear some collective humming from people all over the room, and a few actually started softly singing the words.
That made me smile. Was the smile worth the higher cost, bad food, dirtier conditions, and inconvenience of this airport hotel? Probably, since that’s what I’ll truly remember.