Like its parent hotel in Thailand, the Dusit Thani Manila has distinctive Thai elements. I FELT I was in another country. If only globe-trekking was this easy. Walk through a set of doors and you’re instantly transported to the country of your choice.
Outside, dotted with shopping malls was the sprawling, chaotic city of Manila. Inside was a refuge of Thai hospitality, culture and glorious food. Designed to reflect its parent hotel in Bangkok, the award-winning Dusit Thani Manila is a truly five-star experience. The difference is you are “wai-ed” by mainly Filipino staff clad in traditional Thai costumes who have obviously absorbed the basic social niceties of the Thai culture. But, Filipinos are generally friendly and charming people so perhaps it is also part of their etiquette. Still, I got startled every now and then when I was greeted Thai style. But it was much appreciated. Equally appreciated was the variety of dining venues available at the hotel. Filipino food is usually quite bland and even their fast-food outlets don’t come up to mark when it comes to taste.
I always had problems finding good dining places in my previous visits to this city. So Benjarong, the hotel’s Thai restaurant was heaven sent. Thanks to restaurant manager Kullanit Yingkayun and the celebrated Thai lady chef Phacharaporn Noinak, the food and dining experience is authentic. Be prepared to be thoroughly charmed and entertained if Kullanit decides to stop over at your table. It helped that I knew some Thai phrases to bond us further. And Phacharaporn is apparently legendary for not taking any days off because she can’t bear to be away from her kitchen. And she refuses to even come out to greet guests. Instead, her passion is reflected in the divine and sublime food offerings. Some of them were even better than the ones I sampled in Thailand. Like the flavourful Tom Som Pla (fish tomyam) which earned my BitW rating (Best in the World). The Suea Rong Ha (grilled marinated beef eaten with vegetables and dips) scored the same as did the Yam Pla Duk Foo (crispy fried shredded catfish served with spicy green mango salad). Another spectacular find is their Japanese restaurant Umu. The lead hostess could fool anyone into believing she was Japanese, with her refined and graceful manners, combined with her sunny disposition. But she was actually a Filipina. The appetiser was Nankin tofu, which was actually pumpkin tofu. I have yet to taste such delectable tofu anywhere. It gets an OofW (Out of this World) rating. Despite not being a soup fan, I enjoyed the Dobin Mushi (a clear soup) . Making it a triumvirate was the Gindara Teriyaki (codfish with teriyaki sauce). The codfish was yummy and cooked to perfection. A 10-burp meal indeed. Its other dining outlet Basix, the all-day eatery specialising in buffets and Tosca, the Italian fine-dining restaurant were just above average. And when not feasting on the delectable food, I spent time in my cosy room − the Grand Room. It’s the third biggest of the rooms and suites available in this 538-room hotel. The bed was ginormous and the room included a separate living area that also had its own LCD flat-screen TV. The room came equipped with all the amenities any five-star hotel should have except for one. There was no Wifi in the room! As the room was on the club floor, it came with extra privileges including personalised check-in and express check-out services, a choice of breakfast at Basix or Tosca, complimentary drinks (cocktails at different times), complimentary local calls to landlines within Metro Manila and complimentary use of Internet, among others.
With all that food and pampering, you might want to try out their international-standard fitness centre to remove those extra pounds. I took the less strenuous way and opted for their award-winning Thai-style Devarana Spa. From the facilities to their masseuses to the actual massage and scrub, the experience was sublime. A tip though, make sure you make a reservation before your treatment as the Spa is highly sought after not just by guests, but by the city’s “Spa-nizens”. It was with a heavy heart (and body as I had piled on a kilo) when I checked out.