Manila can wait

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JO MAK­ITO

With a but­ler at beck and call and the skyline of the cap­i­tal of The Philip­pines viewed through panoramic win­dows from our 10th-floor suite, this high-ceilinged abode feels pleas­antly dis­con­nected from the hec­tic streets be­low. There are con­ceal­ing plan­ta­tion shut­ters, pol­ished hard­wood floors, pan­elled walls and pat­terned rugs and, thanks to the iden­ti­fi­able Raf­fles brand­ing, a pleas­ant sense that Sin­ga­pore has qui­etly upped and moved to Manila.

In the heart of the Ayala Cen­tre dis­trict, Raf­fles Makati is all about com­fort and colo­nial-chic style. Less showy than its five-star com­peti­tors, and with im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice and at­ten­tion to de­tail, you can rely on the Raf­fles rep­u­ta­tion to de­liver pri­vacy, prime lo­ca­tion and a lux­u­ri­ous sense of space.

With just 32 suites, the rel­a­tively small scale is a def­i­nite plus. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is on the ninth and 10th floors of the 30-storey Fair­mont tower com­plex, which houses 237 pri­vate res­i­dences and sis­ter ho­tel Fair­mont Makati, with 280 gue­strooms. You won’t, how­ever, be bump­ing into other res­i­dents as Raf­fles Makati has a sep­a­rate lobby and ded­i­cated swimming pool. The cut-above suites fea­ture a din­ing area com­plete with gen­er­ously stocked cof­fee ma­chine and mini­bar, bed­room with walk-in wardrobe and mar­bled bath­room. There’s lit­tle sense of tra­di­tional lo­cal de­sign el­e­ments but, in keep­ing with its ded­i­ca­tion to the arts, the ho­tel fea­tures more than 1000 com­mis­sioned art­works across the prop­erty, all by lo­cal artists and blend­ing seam­lessly into the un­der­stated decor.

Although my wife and I are right in the mid­dle of the best shop­ping dis­trict in Manila, it’s just too tempt­ing to stay put. Af­ter a good buf­fet break­fast at Fair­mont Makati’s busy Spec­trum all-day diner, surely it’s time to head to the malls? Not just yet. Wil­low Stream Spa is call­ing and a cou­ples mas­sage awaits. On the menu to­day is the tra­di­tional Filipino Hilot body and feet treat­ment, a com­bi­na­tion of Swedish and shi­atsu mas­sage tech­niques us­ing vir­gin co­conut oil and aro­mather­apy. It’s 90 min- utes of co­conut-per­fumed heaven; then a spot of re­lax­ation in the eu­ca­lyp­tus-scented steam­room fol­lowed by a dip in the ninth-floor pool, a snack and a snooze in a canopied lounger.

Shop­ping now, asks my wife? She points out there is a pri­vate un­der­ground walk­way with ac­cess to nearby ar­cades. No, it’s time to freshen up and head down to the Writ­ers Bar, a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Sin­ga­pore orig­i­nal. As much li­brary as bar, this el­e­gant space with res­i­dent pi­anist of­fers af­ter­noon tea (sand­wiches, warm scones and cakes), to be savoured while brows­ing a col­lec­tion of clas­sic nov­els.

With af­ter­noon tea over, it’s al­most din­ner time, but com­pli­men­tary canapes and cock­tails await at the Long

Ac­cess to en­tire ho­tel with mod­i­fied suite avail­able.

BED­TIME READ­ING

The Writ­ers Bar in the lobby in­cludes a well-stocked li­brary. The ho­tel also runs an “Au­thors in Res­i­dence” pro­gram, wherein well-known writ­ers hold pri­vate read­ings for guests, and it hosted the 2014 Philip­pines Literary Fes­ti­val, at­tended by Amy Tan.

STEP­PING OUT

The city’s best bou­tiques are min­utes away at the Green­belt Shop­ping Cen­tre; also nearby is Ayala Mu­seum, where the ex­hi­bi­tion Philip­pine Gold: Trea­sures of For­got­ten King­doms is on un­til Jan­uary 3.

BRICK­BATS

A lack of public trans­port op­tions in this precinct means taxis are re­quired for ex­plor­ing fur­ther afield.

BOU­QUETS

Af­ter­noon tea at the Writ­ers Bar is a must, as is a treat­ment at Wil­low Stream Spa, open to 11pm.

The main lobby, Raf­fles Makati, Manila, top; the ho­tel pool, above left; the Long Bar, above; and colo­nial-chic suite, left

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