This writer and his family found themselves at the newly-opened (as of May 2016) Shangri-La at the Fort, located at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) business district in Metro Manila. As a long-time Manila resident, I know first-hand how traveling families might feel put-off by the capital's congestion and general grittiness. As soon as you're over BGC's boundary line, however, these concerns simply don't apply.
“[We're] opening in Bonifacio Global City, one of the fastest-rising urban areas in Southeast Asia, and an emerging financial/corporate district in the city,” explained John Rice, the Shangri-La at the Fort's General Manager. BGC, Mr. Rice told us, is one of Manila's safest and most modern neighborhoods, albeit one flowing with creative juices.
“What’s great about the neighborhood is its vibrant and youthful energy that comes from its infrastructures and the community,” Mr. Rice explained. “It’s also a place where you can live, work and play, and we decided to explore that niche market.”
The Shangri-La's Rooms & Amenities
Armed with Mr. Rice's gracious invitation, we found ourselves heading to the Shangri-La at the Fort's gleaming glass tower off the western end of BGC's posh High Street shopping district.
To my mind, the whole complex was designed to dominate: the 62-story tower, rising over 250 meters above the street, is one of the tallest in the Philippines, with space to spare inside as well. Entering the high-ceilinged, well-lit lobby, you feel tiny in comparison to the rest of the interior.
Thankfully, just as cavernous as the lobby was, our deluxe king room up on the 19th floor felt cozily intimate.
The Shangri-La's Hirsch Bedner Associates-designed rooms strike a number of harmonious notes for family travelers. At our 48-square-meter deluxe room, understated earth tones and plush finishes gave off a warm glow, thanks to the natural light thrown in from the floor-to-ceiling glass window.
The Shangri-La's 576 guestrooms occupy floors 18 to 39. If you're traveling with a bigger family and have a little more cash to burn, the Shangri-La offers 41 Premiere Suites; four Specialty Suites; and a capacious 235-square-meter, three-bedroom Shangri-La Suite.
Working up a Sweat at Kerry Sports Manila
“The Hotel [is] not the focal point for this property,” Mr. Rice explained. “What sets us apart from a regular hotel is the expansion of the personalities we’re welcoming into our property.”
So it's not just executives the new Shangri-La hopes to hook with its facilities: “We target the foodies through our 15 restaurants and bars in the complex, the fitness enthusiasts for Kerry Sports Manila, the families for Adventure Zone, and many more,” explained Mr. Rice.
The Kerry Sports Manila complex occupies three levels, accessible only from its sixth-floor lobby. The 8,000-square-meter complex is the largest indoor dedicated recreation space in Manila, with a massive menu of activities for the sports-minded. Free weights and weight machines; a full-sized, NBA-standard indoor basketball court; a squash court; two tennis courts; treadmills and spin machines; and session rooms for yoga, aerobics, and pilates.
With the eighth-floor hotel swimming pool still under construction, guests temporarily had access to Kerry Sports Manila's 25-meter long lap pool. We headed there at mid-afternoon; not long after, the pool was alive with other guests and their kids, all warding off the summer heat in the cool pool water.
Full Speed Into the Adventure Zone
A second elevator lobby at the Kerry Sports Manila complex led one floor down to the Adventure Zone, an indoor playground that was right in my daughter's wheelhouse.
Access to the Adventure Zone isn't free to guests. You'll pay an additional PHP 600 (about $12.80, read more about money in the Philippines) per kid if you're a guest; only Kerry Sports Manila members get free access to the Zone. Non-guest walk-ins are not allowed at all.
Assuming your kids have the proper attire to get in (long-sleeved shirts; socks), they'll enter a multilevel maze of slides, rope bridges, and ladders, interspersed with four party rooms; a roleplaying area; and a toddler-friendly play zone – all designed for maximum little-one fun.
High Street Cafe's Library of Flavors
Breakfast at the lobby-level High Street Cafe felt like we'd been turned loose in the equivalent of a culinary library. The effect is intentional: nine different food stations are installed like “bookcases” down the length of the Cafe interior, with guests “browsing” through the aisles for a different food experience per stop.
I had a laksa craving that morning, which the High Street Cafe's Chinese cuisine station promptly obliged: a creamy noodle-and-coconut-milk stew that I garnished on my own with fried garlic, raw onion slices, and a single hard-boiled egg.
Eaters looking to fulfill other cravings can take advantage of a Mediterranean station that serves up a variety of tapas; a Japanese station serving sushi and sashimi made out of line-caught yellowfin tuna; and a pastry station with a gelato selection and desserts you can flash-freeze in liquid nitrogen.
Other dining establishments at the Shangri-La at the Fort include the Samba poolside resto-bar serving South American cuisine; Canton Road, a Cantonese and Huaiyang restaurant; the Raging Bull Chophouse and Bar, and Limitless, a two-level watering hole.
Exploring Bonifacio Global City at Your Doorstep
The rest of BGC, so easily accessible from the hotel lobby, is just as much a part of the Shangri-La experience as the hotel's interiors.
BGC, given its recent vintage and international aspirations, feels more like a global business district than an organic part of Manila (for the real, nitty-gritty heart of the capital, you'll need to go to Intramuros and its environs – fun, but not exactly kid-friendly). But you can walk safely to a number of nearby attractions, including:
- Mind Museum – a science museum for kids and teens, just on the next block
- Bonifacio High Street – a manicured lawn flanked by premium retail outlets, restaurants, and entertainment centers
- Burgos Circle – a roundabout full of fine-dining options and bars
- Mercato Centrale – a weekend food market
- Manila American Cemetery – the Arlington Cemetery of Southeast Asia, an American-run cemetery housing the remains of over 17,000 American and allied servicemen who died fighting in the Pacific Theater during World War II
“We highly encourage the neighborhood to bring in their energy to us,” Shangri-La's GM, John Rice, explained to me later. “The area in itself has its own distinct and unique personality, and it can be seen in the murals on walls, the daily grind in the morning and evening, and the endless energy that lasts 24/7.”
Shangri-La at the Fort, at a Glance
Rooms: 62 stories. Hotel: 576 guestrooms, including Deluxe rooms, Premiere Suites, Specialty Suites, and one three-bedroom Shangri-La Suite. Shangri-La Residences: 97 serviced apartments in one, two and three-bedroom options. Horizon Homes: 98 bespoke private homes.
Amenities: Free WiFi access in all rooms. Kerry Sports Manila, the Philippines’ largest indoor sports complex at 8,000-square-meters over three levels. Swimming pool on the 8th floor. Adventure Zone for kids on the fifth floor. Retail Podium, with 36 attached premium retailers. 15 F&B outlets. Horizon Club lounge on the 40th floor; Horizon Club guests get exclusive privileges. Direct access to Bonifacio Global City's potent mix of dining, drinking, shopping, entertainment, and business.
Contact Details: Phone +63 2 820 0888, shangri-la.com