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Philippines with a side of Bangkok (BR J, Shangri-La, GH Manila, and more)

Philippines with a side of Bangkok (BR J, Shangri-La, GH Manila, and more)

Old Feb 19, 19, 5:26 pm
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Philippines with a side of Bangkok (BR J, Shangri-La, GH Manila, and more)

Here we go. It was time to take the almost 2 year old to meet the rest of her family in the Philippines. This was an opportunity to introduce the little one to all of her lolas, lolos, titas, titos, and the hundreds of other family and friends. We figured we'd get one trip like this out of the way before we have to actually pay and/or burn significant mileage for her to travel.



Original Itinerary:
JFK-TPE-MNL on BR Royal Laurel J Class (B777)
MNL-BKK R/T on TG and SQ (A350 and 787-9)
MNL-AUH-JFK on EY Business Class (A330 and A380)

Actual Itinerary:
JFK-TPE-MNL on BR Royal Laurel J Class
MNL-BKK via PAL and TG (somehow I convinced my wife to let me go to BKK for a 1.5 nights to get sushi...more on this later)
MNL-TPE-JFK on BR Royal Laurel J Class

This would be the longest we traveled with the toddler. We were somewhat nervous that she'd be all over the place and cause a ruckus in J class, but the flights were timed well and she slept a significant amount of each flight and was adored by the FAs and some of the other passengers. We received many remarks that they didn't even realize she was there, which is a success in my book. It helped that the cabins were at about 50% capacity on each leg, less for the TPE-MNL leg, where we shared the cabin with one other person.

JFK Terminal 1
Pretty terrible. If you can avoid it, I would.



The Lufthansa lounge was a bit cramped and not anything to write home about, however, they did have some decent beers on tap.








Our ride for the 15+ hours:



We boarded early and settled in fairly we quickly. We were in the second business class cabin and it was a bit more than half filled. My wife took the window and I was in the middle seat across the aisle.




Yes, I wore shorts on the plane. I don't normally subscribe to this, however, it was a hot day in NYC and between packing, shlepping luggage in and out of the car and other maneuverings with a toddler, I succumbed to dad life and said F-it.




The expected controls, power, light, etc.



Plenty of room for these two cuties.


Water, chocolate and a warm towel were served prior to departure.



EVA has moved on from the Rimowa kits. These new Georg Jensen kits are actually fairly nice and I find to be more useful than the Rimowa's.









Pajamas and slippers.






Menus were distributed prior to takeoff and orders were taken.


Lighting was turned on prior to departure.







Amuse bouche.



I think I said to myself prior to the flight "I'm not going to drink much, I need to be on my toes with the little one in TPE"
Then they had to go ahead and pull this out:



Yea, see you later wise one.



Tuna starter



Pre-ordered the stir fry lobster with noodles. I enjoyed this quite a bit.



Chocolate mousse cake, fruit and tea



The kids meal was fairly substantial.



Breakfast/pre-arrival meal. I was feeling really hungry so ordered both the eggs and sandwich they had on offer. Both very tasty.







We arrived very early at TPE and most of the stores were still closed. Made our way to the Infinity lounge and immediately into a shower room. Nothing better than a hot shower after a long haul to revive you.




Neon blue really wakes you up.



Hello.






I had envisioned the lounge being larger but it's fairly narrow and not huge, however, it didn't get too crowded and we carved out enough space to comfortably lounge and let the little one run a bit without bothering everyone.




Food options included salad, dim sum, ice cream, booze, etc. We didn't eat much, just pecked a bit.













Shower room. A bit tight for the three of us but we managed.




Views of TPE landside from the lounge.



If you didn't know, TPE is Hello Kitty/Sanrio heaven, which was perfect for our almost 2 year old daughter. They have a playground in the terminal and it seemed as though we were leaving from the Hello Kitty gate as well. (Which is only upstairs, once you head down to boarding area, it's generic terminal)







Our ride to MNL



Boarding was efficient and we were a total of 4 people in the business class cabin. We chose two window seats for this quick hop to MNL.



EVA has changed up their menus recently. I really enjoyed the intricately designed menus in the past. These were a bit boring.




Excellent leg room as expected.






Party cloudy as we took off


Tablecloths are so choice



Roasted sesame chicken.






Quick hop south to MNL





Had friends pick us up and we arrived at the Shangri-La at the Fort in the early afternoon. We were staying in the Residences section, which was a great option. We had a 1 bedroom residence, which included a full kitchen, W/D, living room and dining room.






Hotel lobby (different from the Residences check-in, which is much more intimate and subdued)






















Amenities at Shangri-La at the Fort were great. The gym is by far the most comprehensive hotel gym I've ever seen. It's a Kerry Sports facitility and essentially ticks all the boxes, including a multi-level fitness facility, full size basketball court, pool(This is separate from the hotel pool), tennis courts and more. Suffice to say, I was impressed.













Hotel pool






Breakfast was almost exclusively via room service.






We ate dinner at the hotel buffet, High Street Cafe, one night, extensive choices.

















Make your own Halo-Halo



Bonifacio Global City is a great place to stay in Manila. It is a westernized portion of the city that seems insulated from the rest, which, if that is what you're looking for, then this place has it all. Many large office building and condos line the streets, along with all your favorite chain stores and restaurants. Shopping malls and outdoor pedestrian malls abound, with Bonifacio High Street, being the main strip.
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Old Feb 19, 19, 5:27 pm
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In the middle of this trip, I was able to pop over to Bangkok. A chef that I was friendly with in NY, who helmed Michelin starred 15 East, moved to Bangkok a few years back and opened up a sushi restaurant just off Sukhumvit 31. I was scheduled to fly SQ 787-9 in J to SIN and A350 SIN-MNL or vice versa, but ended up coming down with a stomach bug. I was also scheduled to stay at the Park Hyatt. I had to scramble to reschedule, rebook, cancel, all while sick and was able to push dinner reservation for a day, rebook flights on different lines and changed hotel (not sure why, but I did). Ended up on PAL outbound and TG back to Manila and staying at the Westin.

Used the Shangri-la car to transfer to NAIA Terminal 2, where I checked into PAL Business class. Security was a bit confusing, being told to go one way and then to another line and then another. Finally through and went into the bland Mabuhay lounge. Offerings were slim and as I was just getting over a stomach bug, I stuck to bottled water.

You have to pass through security before entering the airport.

















My ride



Comfortable recliner seats for the quick hop to BKK






Amazing how these carriers offer a multi-course meal on a 2.5 hour flight.








The fan favorite, Colt45


Ipads and headphones were distributed



Now this is what I call service.



Ginger Ale and some warm nuts to start



Salmon and scallop starter, very tasty!



Lemongrass chicken was so so.



Straight westbound shot to BKK



Did not realize Away Luggage was founded by a Filipina, very cool.



Landed on time in BKK and was met by a hotel representative and straight into a waiting E-class.









Greeted in the lobby by a nice front desk agent who then escorted me up to the club lounge for check-in formalities.






The Westin is a bit dated and not really my style but it was convenient and within walking distance to my dinner reservation and a good home base for 1.5 nights.




Was upgraded to a corner suite


















oh Bangkok...fruit chips, pringles, nuts, and condoms.



Hotel had a small but functional gym



Pool area, where they apparently host some wild pool parties, according to their Instagram account.



It ended up pouring the whole first night I was there and after dealing with the stomach bug, traveling, I was completely beat, so ended up crashing for the evening.
Next morning I went down to the main hotel restaurant to check out breakfast there. I've heard the buffets are next level in BKK and this did not disappoint.



























I also popped up to the Club Lounge during breakfast to do some work. A nice spread to be had up there as well.









It was my first time in BKK and figured it would be best to just walk around as much as possible. I savored the opportunity of traveling solo, where I had the chance to walk at my pace, pop in and out of whatever nook and cranny I found. I put on some comfortable sneakers, grabbed a bottle of water and headed out into the heat and humidity. I had a rough plan to walk to Sathorn Pier, get on a longboat, head to Wat Arun and Wat Pho, and then taxi it back to the hotel. All in all, it was about a 7km walk and with stops and exploring, took about 2.5 hours.






















Was really hungry when I got back to the hotel, so ordered pad thai and mango sticky rice, both were really tasty.




Lounged around for a bit, answered some emails and made my way over to Sushi Masato, which was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel via Sukhumvit.

Terminal 21 mall is directly across from the Westin Grande



Masato is a block or two off of Sukhumvit, down a little alleyway. Google Maps to the rescue

Here starts your quick trip to Japan for the night.












Look who I found.





























Until next time.



Amazing meal, highly recommend it. Stumbled back to the room after a bottle or two of sake and set my alarm for a 4am wake up to get to BKK for my flight back to MNL.

Up next: TG J BKK-MNL, The Farm at San Benito, Grand Hyatt Manila and BR J JFK-MNL
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:33 am
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Sucks to have got a stomach bug.

I have been to Bangkok numerous times and I have had a stomach bug on a couple of occasions - though I suspect it was more my fault of drinking too much. The only time I've been to Manila, I got sick on the first night ... and I only ate the hotel (The Peninsula), as I thought that was the safest option.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 1:44 am
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An amazing journey. The buffet at Shangri-La Looks very nice as the suite does.
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Old Feb 21, 19, 11:02 am
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TG J and The Farm at San Benito

Stumbled out of bed and into a waiting car and made our way to BKK. No traffic at that time, so it took somewhere around 30 minutes or so. Check-in was empty, as was security.










Made my way over to the Royal Silk Lounge. They had a few bites on offer and overall is was a pleasant place to wait for a few before my flight.



















After lounging around for a bit, made my way over to Gate D7, where a Thai 777-200 was waiting to take us to Manila.




Two jet bridges are always nice and appreciated.




First impressions were wow, this is quite dated but wow, what a surprising amount of room to move around in this cabin. This may be my first 777-200 experience and I found it to be extremely wide and roomy. The seats are comfortable for a quick two hour hop to Manila and Thai service was warm and welcoming.
















Landed in Manila and had one more night at the Shangri-La. We checked out and headed two hours south to a two night stay at the Farm at San Benito, a wellness resort and spa in Batangas.

Mixed feelings on this place. The location, setting, and hard product are really beautiful and done well. Wide open spaces with beautiful landscaping abound, along with a random peacock hanging around. Service is decent, but not too friendly and not really prompt at all. Check-in was a complete mess and had us waiting for over an hour after they reported our room as not ready. We were literally sitting in front of them for an hour and after asking them if our room was ready, they said "yes, it's been ready, we were looking for you but could not find you"...uhh, what?
Food is all vegan and well, I just don't get the vegan palate. It was pretty bad. We left the resort for lunch as we were all in need of some sustenance.












We stayed in pool villa 36. Beautiful room and setting. Perfect place to unwind and relax. It's a jungle setting, with a river running below the room, providing a soothing sound.






























I'm glad we stayed, but it would not be a place that I would go back to. The food borders on inedible and the staff/service were not enthusiastic at all, almost to the point of dismissive. We checked out and made our way back to Manila, where we headed to the brand new Grand Hyatt Manila. What a world of a difference in terms of staff and service from The Farm.
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Old Feb 21, 19, 11:05 am
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Originally Posted by SQTraveller View Post
Sucks to have got a stomach bug.

I have been to Bangkok numerous times and I have had a stomach bug on a couple of occasions - though I suspect it was more my fault of drinking too much. The only time I've been to Manila, I got sick on the first night ... and I only ate the hotel (The Peninsula), as I thought that was the safest option.
That's unfortunate SQTraveller . Thankfully it was a quick bug and I was able to continue on. Have never been to the Peninsula in Manila, but as you say, you'd think it was a safe option.

Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
An amazing journey. The buffet at Shangri-La Looks very nice as the suite does.
Thanks offerendum , quite a journey. The Shangri-La was great on all fronts and would not hesitate to recommend it.
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Old Feb 22, 19, 3:54 am
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Great TR!! The photos of the Westin in BKK brought back happy memories - my first trip to Bangkok many years ago, and as you say, it is a bit dated - it looks like nothing changed.

Thank you for taking the time to do this - and look forward to the rest.
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Old Feb 25, 19, 11:27 am
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Grand Hyatt Manila, BR J MNL-TPE-JFK

A fairly easy two hour drive back to Manila, where we checked into the brand new Grand Hyatt Manila. As reported, still some lingering smells of paint in the hotel but nothing too bothersome. Gorgeous, gleaming new property. We were staying in a Grand Suite, which was nice sized, with amazing views. The recently opened Club Lounge on the 57th floor had even more impressive views. Staff were over the top friendly and accommodating. My wife knew the Front Desk Manager from high school/college days and he was very welcoming. Club Lounge had a nice spread in the afternoon and a generous spread for breakfast.


































Club Lounge

















Another excellent location for a fantasy football draft




We had a great two night stay here and I'm thinking this may be my new favorite Manila hotel. Rates are very reasonable and having access to a Club Lounge, while not necessary, always make a stay a bit more enjoyable.

Last day in Manila was spent enduring 6 hours of dental work. Dentistry is excellent in Manila and I was able to get all my fillings changed, new ones, and complete cleaning, flouride treatment, etc, for $200. Most likely wouldve been somewhere between 10-15x as much in NYC.

I won't bore you with too much BR J from MNL-NYC. Same equipment and same excellent service.

Security line getting into the airport was a bit hectic, so we hired a porter for about $1 per bag. Money well spent.






Check-in lines were somewhat outrageous at that time of the day. Thankfully the porter just skipped everyone and brough us to the BR J check-in, which was completely empty.




Terrible picture and I can't remember the name of the lounge, but it was pretty small and empty to begin, however, it did fill up. The only lounge at NAIA worth mentioning is the Cathay Lounge.
















One again, on the TPE-MNL route, J class cabin was empty



TPE-JFK
This flight consisted of more Krug, lots of sleep and a Glacier Blue Rimowa kit
















A little bit of everything.






Our ride to JFK




Once again, a successful trip with my girls. Glad to know the little one can handle the long haul travel. Now comes the fun part of figuring out our next trip and having to book a seat for her!
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Old Feb 25, 19, 1:19 pm
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Great report! BR J looks pretty good, the Shangri-La looks quite nice, and as for the sushi in Bangkok... Wow, I think I need to plan a trip to Thailand!
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Old Feb 25, 19, 1:53 pm
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Great report. Thanks for sharing with us.
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Old Feb 26, 19, 10:07 am
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I also flew JFK-TPE on AVA. It is my new favorite airline.
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Old Aug 21, 19, 8:47 pm
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Originally Posted by AJO View Post
Great report! BR J looks pretty good, the Shangri-La looks quite nice, and as for the sushi in Bangkok... Wow, I think I need to plan a trip to Thailand!
Thanks AJO I highly recommend Masato in BKK for sushi. Just booked my friends a spot at the sushi bar for their November honeymoon trip.

Originally Posted by Billiken View Post
Great report. Thanks for sharing with us.
Thanks Billiken Been bogged down with work and school, so just getting to responding. Next trip is back to the Philippines with some island hopping this time. Will for sure share as I can.

Originally Posted by rxgeek View Post
I also flew JFK-TPE on AVA. It is my new favorite airline.
I agree rxgeek , EVA has an all-around solid product and would not hesitate to fly them again.
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Old Aug 22, 19, 11:06 am
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Great TR! Thanks for sharing.

Originally Posted by benjahman View Post
The only lounge at NAIA worth mentioning is the Cathay Lounge.
The SQ lounge isn't bad either.
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Old Aug 23, 19, 3:37 pm
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Really really great trip report. Thank you for sharing
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Old Aug 24, 19, 2:24 pm
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Excellent trip report!

The wife and I visited Manilla in May of this year and we were impressed by the Shangri-La as well, the gym as you point out ticked all the boxes and it may have been the nicest gym that I ever used in my life.

With regards to Dentistry, I was impressed, somehow a brand new filling which was preformed back home in Dallas failed on our second day in Manila and I had decided to just tough it out till I got back home and my Dentist could take care of it, except it started to really hurt and my wife insisted that I see someone in Manila.

The front desk recommended a Dentist and they took care of setting up the appointment for me and arranged for a car to/from the Dentists office (which if I am honest was complete overkill, but it is what it is) and I will admit that I was extremely apprehensive about seeking any sort of medical care outside of the USA, however the Dentist was wonderful, he put me at ease and took the care of the filling with no muss and no fuss and the bill was like the equivalent of $45 which was shockingly low for someone accustomed to far more expensive Dental bills.
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