We have been curating some of our favourite Hilton Honors experiences in Asia this year. In the process, we’ve written about a lot of scenic and experiential stays in India, Thailand, and even Australia. But for our last experience, we wanted to pick something that would be ideal for travellers who likes the hum-drum of the metropolis and absolutely love shopping – that was how we landed at Conrad Manila!
I should point our that if you’re a Hilton Honors member, you can bid for this experience in Manila using just your Hilton Honors points and if you win the auction, you can savour this entire Hilton Honors Experience for free. Even sightseeing, transfers, and meals are included, so you don’t have to spend a penny from your pocket.
Upon arriving at Conrad Manila we were greeted at a rather monochromatic lobby and guided towards an elevator. It was only when the elevator opened, that we felt we had truly arrived at Conrad – floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the shore and opulent chandeliers, complemented by luxurious carpets welcome guests to the reception. The hotel boasts of one of the best views in Manila, so make sure you request a bay view room for yourself to wake up to a gorgeous view. This experience actually takes that up a notch and includes the executive bay view room, which also warrants access to the exclusive executive lounge where you can enjoy breakfast every morning and cocktails every evening.
Make sure you are well-rested when you head out to Manila – it is a sensory experience like no other. Traditionally tourists use Manila as a jumping point to explore the islands of Philippines, but the city has a few unique things to offer. Here is what we savoured as part of our Hilton Honors experience:
- Explore Intramuros, the historical part of Manila on a guide tour. It’s an easy way to acquaint yourself with the history of Manila, especially the years of Spanish colonialism. You will see iconic landmarks such as Fort Santiago and Manila Cathedral Houses. The fortified city offers the perfect introduction to Manila before you delve headlong into its more chaotic areas.
- If you enjoy tasting local food or cultural sites, then we would also recommend a visit to Manila’s busy Chinatown, better known as Binondo. It is famous as the world’s oldest Chinatown and offers alleyways crammed with shops selling local snacks, gold jewellery, and lucky charms.
- If you have some time and enjoy experimenting with street food then make a quick pit stop at Quiapo Market or Concepcion Public Market. It is an easy way to sample local food at low prices – try skewers, spring rolls, and do not miss out on desserts – they’re finger-licking delicious.
- You might have seen the historical and cultural parts of Manila, but no visit to the city is complete without a bit of shopping. Manila has several sprawling malls selling everything from Asian skincare and fashion to designer bags and shoes. Luckily, you won’t have to venture too far to shop in Manila because Conrad is connected to one of the largest malls in the world. SM Mall of Asia is no less than a tourist attraction and it is easy to spend the entire day exploring it to your heart’s content. You will find everything from high street brands like Forever 21 and H&M to pharmacies like Watsons and Asian skincare boutiques. The mall also has several restaurants and cafés, so one thing is for sure – you won’t go hungry.
- Talking of food, we’d recommend working up an appetite while shopping and saving up those calories for the hotel’s gourmet offerings. Sample Conrad Manila’s signature afternoon tea, which is extremely popular with locals and you can enjoy it to a gorgeous view of the bay. Expect a mix of traditional afternoon tea such as scones and finger sandwiches and local delicacies such as sweet rice cakes, and ube pastries.
- If you enjoy Asian food, make sure you try the dinner experience at China Blue where the menu is curated by the famed Jeremy Leung. His food uses traditional Chinese recipes but with a smattering of modern ingredients. Some of our favourites included their famed truffle mushroom buns, fried shrimp wasabi with mango salsa, and their chicken hotpot. Make sure you ask for a table overlooking the ferris wheel, which is all lit up at night. China Blue ensures gorgeous ambience for a dinner that is ideal for a special occasion or celebration.
- For another culinary experience, make it a point to drop by Hilton’s sister property, Hilton Manila (close to the airport) for a meal at Hua Yuan, their Chinese Brasserie. It serves several Shanghainese delicacies such as roasted duck and braised pork, but their adorable dessert buns are a firm favourite. Take a look:
- After all that food comes dessert, am I right? Well you’re in luck. Manila has a whole museum dedicated to desserts – yes, you heard that right. The Dessert Museum is an ode to the mighty sweet tooth. Here you can waltz through rooms filled with donut walls, marshmallow ceilings, unicorn-themed candy, pink typewriters, and giant bowls of cereal. Think of it as Willy Wonka’s world – you even get a different sweet treat in every room you visit. You must drop by The Dessert Museum, especially if you’re travelling to Manila with kids, they will love it!
- Wrap up this relaxing break, full of food and shopping, with a luxuriant massage at the Conrad Spa. Ask for a room with a view so you can see the sun go down over Manila or just enjoy great views of the waterfront. It is no secret – massages in Asia are the absolute best. But here at Conrad Manila, the masseuses ensure you feel thoroughly rejuvenated before the treatment ends. In fact, at one point during our couples’ massage, I might have heard a tiny snore coming from Vid’s massage table. Is there any better way to end a successful city break?
And that’s how you enjoy a food-fuelled sensory break in Manila. While there might not be much to do in the city in the traditional sense of the word, a quick getaway in Manila will definitely leave you wanting more. The city makes for the perfect pit-stop on your way to the islands of Philippines:)
Here’s a short video from our trip 🙂