We had just over two hours to stretch our legs whilst in transit at Hong Kong airport. As it was early morning many of the airside shops and cafes had not yet opened so we settled for McDonalds where we had some hot drinks and took an opportunity to catch up on the news on our iPads. Our Cathay Pacific flight to Manila was delayed by 25 minutes but this short delay was insignificant and didn’t really matter.
Our gate was located about a 15 minute walk from the food court providing us with a little more exercise. The aircraft was an older style A330-300 with quite small seat back screens. The seating configuration was 2-4-2 and as we were by the window, we did not have a passenger next to us. All seats on the flight seemed to be taken, mostly by Filipino’s returning home. The in-flight entertainment was identical to that on our international flight but apart from the route map we didn’t make use of it as we were both tired after such a lengthy journey.
On-board snacks were distributed soon after take-off and consisted of a scrambled egg and smoked ham lattice pasty, an Anzac (coconut) biscuit and a bottle of water which was served in an attractive small brown bag. The snack was quite generous for the length of flight and after eating we both managed a short sleep before coming into land at Manila’s airport.
Stepping off the plane there was only a short wait at immigration but it then seemed to take ages for our luggage to appear on the baggage carousel. Finally re-instated with our suitcases we obtained some Filipino Pesos in the arrivals hall and then went outdoors in search of the Grab taxi stand. Grab is the local equivalent of Uber and as public transport in Manila is practically non-existent it appeared to be the best way to get around. We had booked accommodation at the Sofitel and it only took a few minutes to arrange a taxi which cost 245 Peso (£3.50) for the 20 minute journey.. It was our first visit to the Philippines and we eagerly looked out of the taxi windows, getting our first impressions of Manila.
Arriving at the Sofitel Plaza, the concierge assisted us with our luggage and as we often stay at Accor hotels we were able to use the express check-in desk. Here we learnt that our room had been upgraded from superior to luxury which was exceedingly good news. A porter showed us to our spacious room on the 6th floor which was beautifully appointed with delightful views of the hotel’s pool and the sea.
After quickly unpacking and making ourselves cups of tea, we freshened up and were soon ready to go out and start exploring. We took the lift down to the ground floor and followed a path along to the attractively landscaped pool area. It was a slightly overcast day but the temperature felt comfortable with a gentle sea breeze.
We flopped down on a comfortable wicker sun lounger but decided not to linger too long as otherwise we would have probably fallen asleep. The path led us to the seafront and after leaving the hotel’s grounds we continued along the bay walk where we found little evidence of the recent typhoon which had ravaged the country.
It was very pleasant strolling along the palm tree lined seafront and viewing the small boats tied to their moorings. Soon we came to a cluster of restaurants and cafes and before returning to the hotel, we paused in one of them for cooling drinks which were extremely cheap by British standards.
Back at the Sofitel we relaxed awhile on our extremely comfortable bed before deciding to go out for something to eat. We could see forks of lightning across the bay and although it wasn’t raining, we set off armed with a large brown Sofitel umbrella that had been left for our use in the wardrobe. We couldn’t have timed it better as large raindrops started to fall just as we were approaching the restaurants we’d passed earlier so we decided to go in the first one we came to.
It proved to be a good choice as our shared pork noodle and vegetable dishes tasted delicious and were nice and light after our lengthy flights. Unlike many Asian countries, Filipino’s always use cutlery rather than chopsticks when dining. Rain was beating on the windows but fortunately by the time we were ready to leave, the storm had all but passed and we kept dry huddled beneath our large umbrella.
Before going to bed we enjoyed glasses of wine in one of the hotel bars. A pianist was playing a medley of tunes and it was so relaxing that we felt our eyes closing so we returned to our room to get a good night’s sleep. On opening the door we discovered that a tasty ginger cake had been delivered so we shared that with a cup of tea before climbing into our super comfortable bed and falling asleep in seconds.
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