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Old Mar 29, 11, 4:39 am   #1
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SIN-MNL...Part 1

I'm heading to MNL today and staying at the Shangri-La, Edsa. Wherever the hell that is.

My normal hotel is either "the Pen" as in the Peninsula. Or the InterContinental.

But I have a new client, and apparently, there is a large workshop taking place and I have to go and watch and listen. And behave. And not talk too much. Which is a bit like asking Tom Cruise to sit still on Oprah's sofa.

Before I bore you with these details, I had better tell you that I recently received a visit from the Queen. Of FT. Actually, we are supposed to refer to her as the "Community Director" because for all intents and purposes, she is The Boss. Of everything. She is the real deal "She Who Must Be Obeyed".

Or something like that.

Community Director sounds sort of weird, don't you think? This is hardly a community. Full on freak show is more like it.

It sounds like the title you might give someone who runs a sheltered workshop. Or a social out reach program. Or a non-profit, staffed by hundreds of volunteers, which really does make money and is actually owned by some vodka swilling tyrants.

Wait!!!!!! Eureka!

That's FT in a nutshell.

I'm kidding. The people who own FT don't drink vodka at all. They drink bourbon. But I digress.

Anyway, I receive this email from SanDiego1K, telling me that she was going to be in Singapore with her better half and could we catch up. I thought of calling my attorney, thinking that I was surely going to be presented with some sort of lawsuit, given my tirades of late.

Sadly, the CD just wanted lunch. Minus alcohol. Which I can do. It is possible. So we went and ate our bodyweight in steamed dumplings. Had a very nice time, I might add. They were staying at the Conrad and as you would expect of our very own Community Director, they had access to the Club Lounge - which we decided to go and test.

Truth be told, we needed a bit of a lie down after our marathon lunch session.

The lounge however, was just getting ready for afternoon tea. So more eating and drinking. Well, let me clarify. We all did the eating part (slowly at first). And I did the drinking alcohol part. I think CD+1 just watched me for entertainment value. I mean, I didn't want to offend any of the staff - so when a cute little wait person came over and offered to refill my glass every 2 minutes, of course I said yes. And then I started eating quite a lot of cheese.

Because I am a relative newbie to FT, I amazed when I meet people like SanDiego1K who have been on this site for 10+ years. So we shared stories, spoke about work stuff. And family. You know the normal stuff adults talk about. Harmless banter really.

Actually, I made that last bit up. FT'ers don't waste time on chit chat. No one cares how many kids you have - much less wants to see a photo of the ugly things. We don't care how many times you've been married, where you live or if in fact, you're sleeping with your sister-in-law. Nor do we care what you really do for a living. All we want to do is just talk about travel. Airlines, Hotels, Mileage Runs, and anything to do with status. As it should be. I reckon we should extend the FT philosophy into a speed dating site. Chat between members could go something like this.

eightblack: "Hello"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "Hello"
eightblack: "1KMM, EK Gold, QF LTG"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "Freak…"
eightblack: "RTW with me?"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "As if, loser..."
eightblack: "What about EK F Suites, Or SQ R?"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "Go away moron"
eightblack: "A380 EK Shower?"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "Security, security, help, help, help!"

Ok, maybe I need to work on my pick up lines. But you get the general idea.

Where was I?

Right, this client. Their travel policy may tip me right over. Actually, to be fair, their travel policy is fine. It's the people who manage it.

I shall elaborate. Just this once.

I think I might have explained previously that I suffer from a mild case of OCD when it comes to all things travel related. I like to book everything online and take care of everything myself.

So when this new client came knocking (and my contact is a guy who I have worked with in the past) told me "don't worry, someone will take care of all the travel and hotel bookings for you", I immediately panicked.

See, that's where it went wrong. Pear shaped in fact.

You'd think that arranging a simple 3-hr flight from Singapore to Manila would be child's play. Plus some accommodation. And it is.

Normally, I would take the cheapest option to Manila. Which is Jetstar. It leaves at o dark hundred in the wee hours of the morning. But the schedule is convenient as it gives you a good start to the day in Manila. And at S$200, how could you really complain?

But my client is a hardcore SQ flyer. So we're flying SQ - at three times the cost. Which is fine by me as its their money and as a wise man once said, the people with the gold get to make the rules.

Or something like this.

Sadly, the flight and hotel bookings started to go downhill from the time the poor, hapless Admin person started to get involved. I wont mention whether or not this assistant was a male or female - because i will be clearly labelled as a misogynist pig if I say a woman. And labelled as homophobic if I say "man".

After she screwed up the bookings by booking everyone on separate flights then the fun started with the hotel. She had booked us all into the Horizon Club floor at the Edsa Shangr-La. Now, this aint cheap. But worst still, everyone was on different rates.

My new boss, who would probably have a resting heart rate of 12 (despite the fact that he has a 14-year old daughter) started to turn red and foam at the mouth. But rather than create a scene in the lobby - we decided we would wear the hotel staff down over a series of days. Which we did.

Wait. I forgot to tell you about the flight. Now, I'm not about to include pictures of SQ's Y regional product. I would rather watch paint dry. But I suppose if you have to fly Y somewhere, then SQ probably is right up there. IFE is good, meals are edible, they actually serve wine out of bottles, the hot towel service is a nice touch and the 3-3-3 config in Y is not quite as claustrophobic as EKs zoo class.

I don't typically fly on SQ much - because i reckon they do bugger all for their frequent fliers. And I lost my PPS status years ago, when I moved countries. But recently, I re-joined KrisFlyer as I am trekking down to Cambodia a lot. And it looks like I'll be spending way too much time in Manila for these crazy Germans.

SQ's regional product is about as reliable as your teenage daughter telling you she is going to keep her cellphone bill to a minimum this month. Its hit and miss which aircraft configuration you'll receive.

SQ run 4 x777's to MNL every day. Which is quite a lot. 3K run 2 services a day. Plus a slew of indirects (ie TG, CX etc)

The Singapore locals call the flights from SIN to MNL "the maid express" because the plane is typically filled with FDW's (Foreign Domestic Workers) traveling to and fro. Or old male westerners with Filipino girlfriends. Or old single males who are going to the Philippines to look for a girlfriend. But I digress. A story best left for another time perhaps.

Boarding is a shambles. Trying to get luggage into the overheads is worse. Most of the passengers have zero clue about airplane travel. And given that everyone is around 5 foot tall, it resembles a trapeze event at the Olympics for the vertically challenged.

Because most of the patrons are not the sort who might typically complain, SQ must roll out whatever config they want.

But the seats. Let me tell you about the seats. Man, the cushion must have been designed by someone who had serious issues. With something. Actually the older 777 config (the one without KrisWorld on demand) - has better Y seats than the newer config if you ask me.

I know its only a short 3-hour hop, but I kid you not - it would have to be the worst Y seat to sit on I know of. And I've sat on some shockers. I think it gave me bedsores. You've got no idea how much I had to drink when I got to the hotel before I felt normal again

Anyway, the meeting in Manila involved the typical project team. This new client is a German company. So for this workshop, we required 2 techie types from the head office. They decided to be quite possibly the most humorless 2 individuals ever created.

Now I know we shouldn't generalize here on FT - a site heavily consumed with the truth and all things factual, but if you met these German guys - you would just about try and slit your own wrists with a butter knife. Or stick your own head in the toilet until you either passed out or drowned. I would like to think that even at my age, I still have my sense of humor, despite a 12-year marriage, 2 children who treat me as a walking ATM machine and a cat who insists on urinating in all my shoes. A lot.

Obviously, my 2 new european friends weren't let out of the little town they lived in very often.

Apparently, home to them is a quaint little german city, north east of Munich. Sort of like Fargo, North Dakota. Except for the fact that the last time I saw a movie about Fargo, North Dakota, some deranged lunatic was stuffing his parents into a wood chipper. Or was it his wife. I cant remember. Maybe it was his wife and his mother-in-law. No wonder I enjoyed the film.

So Hans and Olof (the 2 German guys) had flown into Manila on KLM (via Amsterdam) and wherever the hell in Germany they connected from. An Indian guy who is a VP of Strategy flew in from London, the Consulting Director (another Indian) based in Singapore, was told to be in Manila for the 3-days (but promptly ignored the request) and decided to just come when he did - which was 1 day later. And my new boss (an American) who has lived in Singapore for 20+ years. Oh. And me.

So six in total. All staying at the Shangri-La on the Horizon floor. All paying different rates. See - this is whats wrong with big business. No one cares. I was starting to wave my arms and hyperventilate, but then the bar opened in the lounge and I calmed down as soon as I realized you could make your own Bloody Mary's.

But to the hotel's defense, they treated us very well. And I did my best to get maximum value from happy hour in the lounge, which was from 6-8pm in the evenings. Except I would be there at 4 o'clock, looking at my watch rather pensively and inquiring "goodness me, look at the time…it's nearly 6!"

So here I am. Actually, this is the second trip to Manila. Because as we were leaving last week, my new boss turned to me and asked "when can you come back, next week?"

It's Ground Hog day.

More to come…

Last edited by eightblack; Mar 30, 11 at 6:21 pm..
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Old Mar 29, 11, 5:06 am   #2
 
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Eightblack. You are THE MAN!!!!!!! all that alcohol and fun.

I loved Jessica-Alba-baby-oil part. More like, I'd love to.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 7:48 am   #3
 
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He used the woodchopper to get rid of his partner in crime. You know it could happen to you. I would keep an eye on those Germans.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 8:38 am   #4
 
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A superb job on not identifying the gender of the assistant, if I may say. I'm sure she'd be grateful.

You misogynistic, homophobic pig
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Old Mar 29, 11, 9:01 am   #5
 
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My eyes light up when i see you have posted (trust me....this worries me greatly) Flying from HKG - SYD tomorrow night - wish you were at the airport for a cleansing ale! Looking forward to the next installment. Travel well.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 3:44 pm   #6
 
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Subscribed with a gin & tonic!
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Old Mar 29, 11, 9:00 pm   #7
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Good stuff; kept me amused during my lunch break ...
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Old Mar 29, 11, 10:59 pm   #8
 
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Arrow

Eightblack when I was reading this post the banner ad at the bottom of the thread was for filipino cupid! Oh well on AFF I accidentally clicked on a banner ad to be a sperm donor at the Monash Institute which I'm sure you could appreciate presents some serious logistical challenges.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 2:23 am   #9
 
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Don't suppose I could entice you on a BNE-DXB-LHR flight in May? Just for the sheer entertainment value alone...
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Old Mar 30, 11, 5:24 am   #10
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Wait until you hear this. Unbelievable.

Ok, many of you who have travelled to the Philippines will know that it is something akin to controlled chaos. The airport makes a mockery of any organization chart. Or management philosophy.

I mean, take a look at the arrivals hall. This is what greeted me as I deplaned from my butt-numbing SQ flight from Singapore



Now don't get me wrong. I have sort of taken to Manila. It's taken it's time. But I'm there. I think.

It's sort of like that dorky kid at school. But then one day you talked to him and discovered that his sister is a lingerie model.

Or something like that.

Like everything travel related, it's the people that are the glue of any city. And the Filippino people are some of the warmest, friendliest (and polite) folks you will meet.

They love all things American. Quite why is beyond me. Actually, no it's not. You just have to look around and see the remnants of the war and the fact that up until not that long ago, Clark Air Force Base was an absolute monster of an operation.

But like a lot of Asian countries, the Philippines is plagued with its own set of problems. Mainly too many people. And not enough to eat. Not enough clean water. An unstable power supply. And a government that makes Bernie Madoffs ethics look well, "ethical".

Corruption is rife. The white guys who have been here too long will tell you that this is just a way of life. That if you want to do business here, you will need to make certain allowances. Lets not delve too far into this here. Not the time nor the place.

So, after I slowly lost the will to live in customs - I finally managed to free myself from the man with the gun and a stamp and escape to the next challenge. Catching a taxi.

In most cities - airport taxis are pretty straightforward. Most governments know that airport cabs are sometimes the first contact you will have with their city and their people, so they try hard to set a good example. The Philippine Airport Authority were obviously all sick the day they gave that talk. And pity the State Government of Victoria doesn't take any notice - given the rancid state of affairs that plagues the Melbourne taxi industry.

I'm surprised visitors to Melbourne actually don't ask the driver to turn straight back around and take them back to the airport. Problem is, the guy wouldn't have a clue how to get there. He was already lost by the time he left the cab rank. Do not even start me on this.

Anyway, back to Manila.

Even though a client is picking up the tab this trip, I still like catching local cabs. Its a good way to get to know the place. I could have easily arranged a hotel car, but I personally think the fees the hotels charge are extortionate so I normally "go local" and opt for one of these.



They are some sort of Toyota (I'm assuming made from the offcuts on a Friday at 5pm). Powered by nothing stronger than the engine in your lawnmower. They are supposed to be "regulated" and because there are a lot of officials waving their arms and someone actually asks you your name and where you want to go - and pretends to write it on a piece of paper - this process is then supposed to give the average tourist a degree of comfort.

Trust me, it is nothing more than a charade.

It all went pear shaped when 3 unwashed fools pushed into a line that was already starting to snake back into the terminal. Now, I think that as I have aged gracefully, I have become more tolerant. (Do not attempt to ask my wife or children this). At seeing this act of rudeness, I mildly objected and let the closest offender know of my displeasure.

(The fact that I used the F word a lot and was doing push ups quickly in readiness of a full blown assault was of minor inconsequence)

The miscreant started waving his arms. I started waving back. The crowd started to disperse. Then I thought, maybe I had better take a deep breath. It's been a long time since I have actually been in a physical ding dong, and I will have you know that I have won every fight that I have ever been in.

By 500-yards.

Or more in some cases. I'm still a good runner.

I eventually make it to the front of the line and let the man on the desk let it have it as well. The locals simply shrugged their shoulders and said something derogatory in Tagalog. I returned fire in Australian.

The waiting cabbie smiles at me - and the smile widens even further when he hears of my destination. The Edsa Shangri-La is probably a good 45-minutes away, minus any hi-jacking or attempted kidnappings. I kid. Sadly, they don't happen too much any more. I think it would be rather exciting - don't you?

But then it went wrong.

We were no more than 100-yards out of the airport and the toothless driver turned to me and said

"Will you be paying in 1000, 500 or 100 peso notes?"
"What?" I said rather amazed
"Yes Sir, I just wanted to know how you will pay?"
"With cash" I abruptly answered

The driver persisted. He then proceeds to tell me the cab has zero gas, a fact which I confirm by peering over to look at the dash and I see the most anorexic looking fuel gauge I have ever seen in my life. The little 150CC Toyota was running on fumes. Nothing more.

He actually wanted me to pay him now and he was already veering towards the closest gas station.

I sigh. And then, still with the remnants of anger left over from my airport queue incident, let the driver have it as well. By this stage, he must have been thinking his passenger had completely lost it. He decides to take refuge at the gas station we were approaching. I was convinced we were going to have to push the damn thing, but amazingly we limped into the driveway.

I think I insulted the mans village. His manhood. And his general incompetence. Infuriatingly, he continued to smile at me as he helped me with my luggage and pointed me in the direction of another cab. If you could call it that.

The outrageous hotel car service was now, not looking so bad. I was standing in the middle of a gas station forecourt, in the middle of east jesus, holding my luggage and now wondering what to do.

Thankfully, there were other cabs. But these made the little yellow airport buzz box look like a Maybach.

So as I write this, I am stuck in the worst of metro Manila traffic imaginable. I am hell and gone from the hotel, the driver is wearing an oxygen mask as the amount of carbon monoxide entering the cabin would silence Al Gore.

Actually, I lie. I'm writing this from the Executive Lounge at the hotel. It just sounded better the previous way.

The local cab cost all of US$5 (just under in fact). The hotel charges US$65, which in Manila, is lunacy. I mean, if you were pampered by beautiful looking massage therapists, were able to drink copious amounts of champagne and could watch re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillies, I might think about it.

There is more to come. And yes, I managed to take some photos of the hotel. Even the bathroom. But you may have to tell the kids to avert their eyes as I was nude the whole time. I think I must have been holding the camera the wrong way around as I have no idea how I ended up in some of the shots.

I kid. I kid. I wasn't nude at all. I had my Borat man-kini on. The green one.

Last edited by eightblack; Mar 30, 11 at 1:08 pm..
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Old Mar 30, 11, 7:19 am   #11
 
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When I need to catch a cab when arriving in Manila NAIA T1, I take the elevator to departure level. Simply wait for a cab dropping off passengers. Make sure to agree on price or tell the driver to start the meter. It almost always happens that the drivers "forget to start the meter" in Manila. Then when you arrive they will triple the price. Lots of scamming going on for the foreigners. They love to give you "Mabuhay" treatment.

Don't get me wrong. Fillipino people are truly some of the nicest people in the world despite of it all. The corruption and rampant dishonesty are still huge turnoffs.

BTW, you must be the runner I saw in NYC marathon running in that green Borat Man-kini. I saw him at 20th mile, his a%# crack looked like it was on fire as it must have been riding up on him. Ouch.

Last edited by FJY787; Mar 30, 11 at 7:28 am..
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Old Mar 30, 11, 7:26 am   #12
 
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Keep it coming. Your reports just crack me up.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 12:57 pm   #13
 
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What a treat to read and laugh along with your stories. Even though I am making copies of all your superb contributions to this forum, I will eagerly purchase your first book whenever someone finally offers you a publishing deal ~ if indeed that hasn't already happened!
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Old Mar 30, 11, 3:09 pm   #14
 
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Great little read to end my evening, keep up the good times eightblack!
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Old Mar 30, 11, 3:54 pm   #15
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To prove to you all that I can actually write a trip report with photos, here goes. Strangely, there's not a lot on FT about the Shangri-La Edsa, which seems rather odd.

Overall, it's a pretty good hotel. A little pricey for Manila standards - but because my client was picking up the tab, the price suited me just fine!

The client's mentally challenged assistant had booked us all into the Horizon Floor - which is the club floor. I must say, it was (or is) quite impressive. The lounge is well equipped, the meeting rooms are available on a first come first served basis at no charge, the Nespresso machines are a nice touch and the quality of the food is very, very good.



Breakfast is included in the rate, and you can drink as much coffee/tea/bottled water/soft drink as your bladder will handle. They serve complimentary afternoon tea and then between 6-8pm, its on for young and old as they open the bar. I'm not a spirits drinker - so didn't take much notice, but they seemed to have a decent selection.

The wi-fi throughout the hotel is free (I think for everyone) as there is no password to access. It's sometimes painfully slow which drives me mad. They either need to get a bigger pipe or flog the hamster a little harder, because obviously his little spinning wheel isn't generating enough juice to power the thing.

Or something like this.

The wines were just ok - some average Australian dogwash. Typical cheap Chardonnay and Shiraz. Beer was always cold and they had a good selection.

The hotel managers and supervisors seemed to take an unusually high degree of interest in the place and there was always some well dressed senior hotel person walking in and out of the lounge, barking at one or more of the staff, much to their chagrin.

Overall though, the staff almost trip over themselves to help you. They cant do enough.

And for those smokers out there, the lounge even has a glassed off smoking room, with a couch and some sort of air filter. Oh, and a sign which basically says that you probably will die. Soon. And not to blame the hotel for anything if you do. I think there are a range of different colored body bags on the shelf and a wall chart asking you to circle the body parts you wish to donate if you do expire while in there.

I've never really understood the whole smoking thing. About 3 times a year (which according to my spouse is 3 times too many) I smoke a cigar. Probably as a result of my football team winning or me drinking too much. Perhaps both. But the next morning I wake up feeling as if I swallowed a chainsaw.

Unlike most politicians, I will admit to trying the wacky weed though. During my University days, my best friend at the time had a VW beetle. He managed to procure some "stuff" and we sat in his car, outside the pub, doing a Cheech and Chong and trying to get stoned as fast as we could. Because I don't smoke, the whole inhaling thing was causing me grief. All I remember was the car filling up with smoke and me coughing up half a lung.

I abused my mate, and gave up in disgust, telling him that he had obviously been sold a bad batch and that it was having zero effect whatsoever.

Then I tried to get out of the car. I don't even remember walking. Or falling over. All I remember is the bouncer at the pub wouldn't let us in as we were "under the influence". Apparently, I kept telling the man with no neck that I loved him. A lot. Sadly, this didn't seem to upset him.

Anyway.

Here's the lounge.











But put all these photo's aside. In the next post, I will show you the very best machine I have seen. In my life. It's in the main restaurant on the ground floor.

I'm just about to go take a picture of it. It's only 5.45am and I might need to go deep undercover to get it. Hang on a minute. Be back soon.
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