My first, and continuing impression of Manila, is just pure madness! It is chaotic, crazy busy and unbearably humid! Yet there is actually something quite endearing about this city.
I arrived into the airport and was collected by my pre-arranged hotel transfer. Hotel Jen is actually only about 7Km away from the airport but due to the insane Manila traffic, it took a good couple of hours to arrive at the hotel. I can see why they say ‘if you can drive in Manila, you can drive anywhere’. Hats off to those who do drive in Manila, I certainly am not brave enough! Driving in Manila is like a game of Chicken, he who dares, wins. And I do not dare!!
Luckily, I did not need to drive around this city and instead I could take in the crazy traffic, winding streets and colourful buildings of this vibrant city, whilst relaxing in the back of the car. The one thing that really struck me about Manila, and in fact all of the Philippines, was the juxtaposition of poverty and wealth living side by side. There would be homeless people sleeping under a bridge, opposite a large manor house, which would have small huts either side housing large families. There was no division at all.
Hotel Jen was not quite in the location I was expecting, we drove along a road laden with homeless and these small huts, and right in the middle of it, is the hotel! It was also a bit unnerving having to pass through full on airport security to even gain access to the hotel. However, once you enter the hotel and are met by the super friendly staff, you soon feel at ease.
Check-in was relatively smooth actually, my room was ready even though I had arrived early, always a bonus. I have stayed at this chain of hotel before (previously known as Traders) and have found them to be rather good for their money. They are not exactly the cheapest option but for what they offer, I really do think they make great value for money.
Hotel Jen is part of the Shangri-La chain of hotels (my favourite chain of hotels ever!), and this is mirrored in the level of service and small details they offer. Granted, you can tell the difference, Shangri-La hotels are in a whole other league, but the basic principles are carried through to their cheaper sister hotels.
I had a Club Room, which is on one of the higher floors of the hotel and I was lucky enough to have an incredible view across Manila Bay. The room was quite large, with a huge bed, and plenty of seating. There was also the usual facilities you would expect, TV, free WiFi, tea tray, safe etc.
The bathroom was smaller than I expected but perfectly adequate for a few nights. It was clean and well decorated and the shower was rather powerful, always a plus. The toiletries provided were of a good standard, I particularly liked the toothbrush/toothpaste kits, which I took to use on the plane. Very handy.
The hotel is located just off of a very busy main road but the room was well soundproofed and this wasn’t ever an issue. In fact, once in your room, you could easily forget where you are! Especially when you are watching the incredible sunsets across Manila Bay!
One of my favourite touches that Hotel Jen offered was the mini bar in a bag. As I was staying in a club room, this was complimentary. It was full of drinks and snacks which proved very useful on our day trips! I think other rooms could get this for around 500 pesos, which really isn’t alot.
The Club Lounge
This is one of the main reasons I always try to book a club room if a hotel offers it. There are fewer people attacking the breakfast buffet at the same time, so breakfast is often a more relaxed affair, and I manage to avoid my usual buffet panic, where I grab everything in sight, usually missing what I actually want! You also get complimentary soft drinks throughout the day, including tea and coffee, use of all the usual business facilities, complimentary laundry for a certain number of items, afternoon tea and the best bit, cocktail hour (or rather 2/3hours!).
The Club Lounge at Hotel Jen was located on the top floor of the hotel in the Windows by the Bay bar. There was stunning views across the bay from here and it was the perfect place to watch the incredible Manila sunsets, whilst sipping on complimentary wine.
I do have to point out here, Manila was not somewhere I ever thought of for sunsets but I have to say, some of the best, most incredible sunsets I have ever seen happened during my 3 nights here.
The pool was located on the third floor of the hotel. It is an outdoor pool which was a bonus, as I could get in my last few rays of sunshine before heading back to rainy England. After having spent the past couple of weeks lazing by palm tree lined pools and on pristine white sand beaches, this pool location was somewhat less than desirable. It was certainly the opposite of peaceful. The pool was located just above one of the main roads in Manila, and there was a constant sound of cars whizzing past, horns being honked and sirens going off. It was definitely the opposite of peaceful! That said though, the hotel had done a lot to try to create a relaxing atmosphere, despite the deafening traffic.
The pool was lined with some super comfy sun loungers, arranged in pairs with a large parasol to create some shade if wanted. There was also a table between each pair of sun loungers which had a small icebox perched on it. This was one of the best things I have seen a hotel do. The icebox contained around 4 bottles of water, lots of ice and flannels. Perfect for a bit of respite from the humidity and blazing hot sun. Even better? It was all complimentary!
Once you had settled into your sunloungers, the staff would come over with a plate of fresh watermelon (again complimentary) along with the bar menu for snacks and drinks which you could enjoy poolside. The staff would also periodically throughout the day provide a new cool box, with fresh ice, water and flannels. In the end, once I had gotten used to the traffic sounds below, I actually found myself rather relaxed whilst chilling by the pool!
The pool itself was a good size and crazy deep. I couldn’t put my feet down in around 80% of the pool. It did make it very good for swimming in, and the fact so few people were around the pool at any one time, I often found myself enjoying the pool all to myself.
I am a huge fan of the Hotel Jen chain and often look to see if a city has one when booking accommodation. They are very reasonably priced but still have a somewhat luxurious edge to them in the slight nods they take towards their Shangri-La link. I would definitely recommend paying the slight extra to enjoy the Club benefits. The cocktail hour is always a great start to an evening out exploring whatever city you are in.
If you choose to stay at this hotel in Manila, just be prepared for airport security to get into the hotel, random security sweeps of the communal areas, and signs advising you not to use the lifts in the event of an earthquake! Although, these are pretty standard for anywhere you stay in Manila. Also, a quick note, the super cute dogs accompanying the security staff are not to be approached. It is frowned upon. No matter how much you want to stroke their cute doggy faces.
Have you been to Manila? Where did you stay? Have you stayed at a Hotel Jen (Traders) before? What were your thoughts?