Solaire Manila

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Solaire opened to much fanfare a couple of years ago, and rightly so. It’s the Philippines’ first Macau/Vegas-type integrated casino resort. Casinos in this country, at least in my view, had a dark, shadowy and seedy atmosphere. Pagcor’s (the Philippine gaming agency) casinos used to occupy the less visited corners of hotels, and even stand-alone ones like the casino close to the Manila airport feels daunting enough for non-habitual gamblers. They were places that were hidden and protected, seemingly ashamed or afraid to be seen by the general public, like a lair of pirates, or something of the sort.

In this regard, the opening of Solaire Manila was a game changer. Unlike the previous casinos, Solaire does not hide, not even by a bit, the fact that it is one. The moment you go through the grand entrance, you see a sea of slot machines and tables. It makes no pretensions – it flaunts that it is a casino and makes no apologies for it.

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The first of four such integrated casino-resorts planned
for the Manila Bay area, Solaire is the standard-bearer of the ambitious project to transform Manila’s coast into something that rivals Macau’s Cotai Strip. Unlike the grand casinos of Macau though, the exterior of Solaire has a rather subdued elegance. It is beautiful, yes, but does not have the over the top, “I’m filthy rich” stature of Macau’s The Venetian or Galaxy. Inside, the design and decor of its gaming are seems to give the sutlest nod to Vegas’ Bellagio, while its common areas give the feeling of “Sands Cotai-lite”.

And similar to the integrated resorts sprouting elsewhere in the world,
Solaire is bent on becoming more than just gambler’s paradise. A top notch hotel, a large attractive swimming pool, an indoor garden and an up and coming retail area makes it a family vacation destination as well.

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The pool at night

The pool at night

Inside the new Sky Tower

Inside the new Sky Tower

Inside the new Sky Tower

Inside the new Sky Tower

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The outdoor garden at the fifth level

The outdoor garden at the fifth level

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The Mall of Asia complex, across the still empty lot.

The Mall of Asia complex, across the still empty lot.

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We very recently stayed at one of the hotel’s deluxe rooms (aka. the cheapest room you can get) for a weekend “staycation”, and throughout our stay we couldn’t help but compare Solaire to the Sheraton at Macau’s Sands Cotai Central, where we also had a one night stay over month before. Both are advertised as five stars and cater to the same clientele. Check-in and check-out was quicker on the Sheraton, as Solaire’s staff seemed shorthanded when the peak checkout time came, and they seemed less active in promoting their express checkout. In the room though, I would give both equal ratings. Room size difference was negligible, including the bathrooms, and in-room amenities were equal 1:1. As for the pool, Solaire’s is one of the best I’ve seen in the country, though the Sheraton’s was just a whole other level. If you can get a room at Solaire facing the bay though, then the view (provided the weather is good) is something few other places can match. I would stop at comparing prices though, as Macau’s room rates in general are just higher than Manila’s

Overall, though Solaire’s hotel has a bit of catching up to do to get to the same tier as Macau’s top guns, it’s not that far behind. And for locals wanting a true five star experience, without having to bother with airfares and exchange rates, a night at Solaire is certainly a good deal.

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* All photos taken December 2014, using an Olympus EPM-2 with M.Zuiko 25mm f1.8.

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