Hotel H2O: Sleeping by the Bay

Water is calming, relaxing, cleansing and refreshing, and that’s probably why we’re so attracted to beaches, or lakes, or swimming pools, or bath tubs. We do ridiculous things to make ourselves at home in the water, like strapping a third lung made of metal into our backs, and attaching a pair of flippers on our streamlined feet, attempting to temporarily reverse thousands of years of evolution, for a few precious minutes of swimming like fish.

We’ll even go as far as trying putting up hotels under the sea (yes, there is such a project in Dubai), so we could temporarily live like starfish, or corals…firmly planted on the seabed. That of course is an expensive proposition, and the next best thing you can do to putting up a hotel in the sea, is put a bit of the sea in a hotel, and that’s what they did at Hotel H2O in Manila.

Hotel H2O sits at the third floor of the Manila Ocean Park, a marine-oriented recreational complex right in the city. The complex’s signature attractions are its large indoor aquariums, but there are other things to see such as a fountain with light shows in the evening, and a small shopping mall with restaurants, bars and a large kiddie playground.

The hotel had been on our “hit list” for quite some time, and we needed only the slightest excuse, to log into their website and book ourselves an Aqua Supreme Room for a weekend. Hotel H2O is on the third floor of the Ocean Park building, and is accessed through the same entrance where all the Ocean Park’s visitors go through. Due to the sheer number of people going into park during weekends though (which is not a bad thing), entry could be less than comfortable, with people banging shoulders while jostling to go through the narrow entrance. Once you get past it and go inside the elevators though, things start to quiet down, and the hustle at the ground floor is replaced by the calming environment at the reception lobby on the third floor.

The check-in was not that pleasant for us though. The check-in counter was undermanned, and it took such a long time before we got entertained (and they only made the effort to accommodate us  after we showed visible signs of being annoyed). This is no cheap, run-of-the-mill hotel, and the thought of it annoyed me even more, but I didn’t let it ruin an otherwise exciting weekend.

The hallways of Hotel H2O
Our room number. Manila Ocean Park was developed by a Hong-Kong based company, hence the abundance of circles.

We got our key card, and were led along the hallway to our room on the other end of the building. It was a long walk from the lobby, but it gave me enough time to cool my head, and since this was a relax-to-your-heart’s-content weekend, I appreciated the fact that there would be few noisy people passing by.

What greeted us as we opened the door was a sight that would make any child and child-at-heart yelp with delight. An entire wall of the room, from the bed to the bathroom, was a big aquarium, filled with some of the world’s most colorful fishes and corals.

How's this for a wall?
That's a mighty cool headboard

Our room also came with an uber-comfortable queen-size bed, wi-fi internet connection (which was pretty fast), a 37-inch LCD TV, a bath tub, a separate toilet and bathroom (with rain shower), plus a complete set of complimentary toiletries (including a loofah, mind you) and a mini-bar with complimentary chips, water and coke. Except for the hot water in the tub, which didn’t seem to work, everything else was perfect for a lazy weekend.

I hope you don't mind the fish invading your privacy.
A closer look at the tub
This toilet and bath is as big as our master's bedroom back home.
They looked so nice, I didn't want to use to them.
Not your ordinary shower head.
It's not often that I see hotels give these kinds of toiletries
The working desk, but who in the world would want to work here?
Coffee? Check. Coke? Check. Chips? Check. Sit back, relax and enjoy the weekend.

I think this is the Philippine’s first theme-park hotel (I can’t remember any other hotel that can claim that title), and while it may not be on the same scale as those found in Disney and Universal Studios, it does pretty much give you the typical things you expect from such places. Apart from the well made rooms – which can make it a challenge for you to get out of the comforts of your bed, there are also a multitude of things to do here.

There is of course the Ocean Park, which can take up half a day to get around, and you could also spend the evening watching the Musical Fountain Show. You can also get free passes for the Ocean Park swimming pool, and if you don’t fancy getting wet, you can go to the open decks facing Manila Bay and spend a bit of time for “pagmumuni-muni”, while waiting for the sun to set on the horizon.

The Club H2O lounge
Another look at Club H2O
Waiting for the sunset by the bay
Manila Bay, early in the evening

If all that is not yet enough, you could also go for a food binge. One floor down from the hotel is an asian-themed restaurant-slash-food-court named Makanmakan, which offers a variety of asian cuisine, from Thai to Malay to Chinese, and they also have some western dishes. Makanmakan also hosts the complimentary breakfast buffet for the hotel’s guests, though the discounted hotel package that we got didn’t include the complimentary breakfast. Since we didn’t want to pay for the buffet which costs around Php650 if purchased separately, we contented ourselves with their “ala carte” breakfast menu, which was not bad actually.

It reminded me a little bit of the Singapore Food Trail, the food court underneath the Singapore Flyer, although Makanmakan was not quite as effective as the Food Trail in capturing the Asian theme.

Our breakfast table
No morning is complete without a hot cup
Early morning buffet
Cereal station
The fancy bread station
Boneless Bangus. Two large slices of flavorful milkfish, with rice, eggs and a medley of asian vegetables, plus unlimited brewed coffee, for Php 300-plus. Not bad, in terms of typical hotel prices.
Mango Pancakes. For Php 200-plus, you get three large, chubby pancakes. What's unique about these is that they have bits of mango inside the pancakes

There’s also a mall downstairs, still part of the Ocean Park complex, where you can also get some food, and do little bit of shopping (though there really isn’t much to shop there). They have some food outlets like Gerry’s Grill, North Park and Pancake house. These however observe the mall hours (10AM to around 8PM-ish), and so are not options for breakfast. The mall also has a large indoor playground called Seriland, where the kids could spend some time. If there’s one thing missing from the hotel though, then that’s a nearby 24-hour convenience store. There may be a lot of shops in the mall, but once they shut down past 8PM, then getting even a bottle of water would be problematic (so stock up early for your needs in the evening).

The mall
Inside Seriland

Aside from the few quirks and niggles, Hotel H2O is definitely ideal of a relaxing weekend stay. It’s no business hotel (it’s far from public transportation for one), and it’s not the most convenient for tourists either (no 24-hour food outlets, quite a distance from the main roads, etc.), but if you’re looking for a good hotel where you can just bum around for a couple of days, with nothing to think about apart from what to eat on the next meal, or what movies to watch next, or leave your mind blank and just appreciate underwater life without getting wet, then this should definitely be on your list (and get an Aqua room, it’s definitely worth it).

Wall art
The hotel lobby, early in the morning.

Early morning, by the bay.

* We stayed at Hotel H2O last May 2011. All photos taken with Olympus E420 and Zuiko 14-54mm f2.8-3.5.



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