Squashed onto a thin strip of land between Manila Bay and Laguna Lake, traffic in the capital of the Philippines is forced through a few central avenues as it crawls from north to south.
Commuters, confused tourists and locals packed onto buses can sit for what seems like hours as they snake slowly through the choking streets.
So, when Marco Polo Ortigas appeared on the horizon during a recent visit it was something of a relief.
Whisked directly to Level 24 for a sky check-in, the world below was immediately forgotten as I sank into a haven of exclusive luxury.
Recognised as the Philippines’ Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards, this is the preeminent hotel in the Ortigas commercial district – a mixture of tasteful art pieces, rich layered finishes and unique textures.
Muted neutral tones predominate the chic interiors, while the fine furniture perfectly blends modernity and nobility.
As Kristine Facto, director of marketing and communications for the hotel, explains: “Guests in Manila, and the Philippines, have become more discerning; they know what they want and the value of their investment when they elect to stay here with us at Marco Polo Ortigas.
“Guests are seeking the best use for their time when they are in a particular hotel.
“This is something we are very aware of; a room can be as expensive as they come, but if we are not able to create an experience, a memory of something treasured to them, then the money will not be worth anything.”
Arrival at the sky lobby at Marco Polo Ortigas
With stunning views over the surrounding areas, the luxurious Marco Polo Ortigas reception area offers a taste of what is to come, with the intimate atmosphere utterly detached from the tumultuous city.
This is a hotel that will appeal to the modern traveller.
Built new for the brand just four years ago, this is a place for those who appreciate elegant design, sophisticated style, modern comforts and impeccable service.
In terms of segmentation, the property caters to a business market, drawing guests from the Philippines, United States and, less often, Europe.
Frank Reichenbach, general manager of Marco Polo Ortigas, adds: “There is not much leisure travel in Manila, we are predominantly a business hotel.
“We have a lot of corporate guests with us during the week, but then when Friday evening comes, or Saturday morning, we are very well located for some of the more affluent residential areas here in the city.
“Green Hills, San Juan are visible from the windows here on the higher floors, while Quezon City is close by, and families from these areas check in over the weekend.”
Industry veteran Frank Reichenbach has led Marco Polo Ortigas to the title of Philippines’ Leading Hotel at the World Travel Awards
While portrayed as rather erratic in western media, president Rodrigo Duterte has also been instrumental in improving security in Manila, adds Reichenbach.
“There has been a huge reduction in crime, especially petty crime here in Manila, and we have not seen any terror incidents, touch wood, like those in Bali, Indonesia.
“From that point of view, the new president has been a success; security has been controlled well,” he explains.
“However, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao did not help; people read ‘Philippines,’ they do not read it is one small area.”
Marco Polo Ortigas is the product of a well-planned development, with a team of internationally renowned designers contributing to the property.
It offers 316 spacious rooms and suites to discerning guests, with the best located on two Continental Club floors.
Located on Level 44, the club allows guests to sup complimentary cocktails as they gaze over the impressive view of the Rizal mountainside.
I spent a few hours here, watching the world go by, and it seemed the perfect place to enjoy the city.
The suite life at Marco Polo Ortigas
On the dining side, there are four specialty bars and restaurants guests can choose from.
Cucina, the all-day dining restaurant, features live kitchens, while Lung Hin, the contemporary Chinese restaurant serves traditional and authentic Cantonese cuisine in a fresh and modern style.
Downstairs, Café Pronto, a relaxed and friendly refreshment area, offers a wide range of designer coffees and specialty teas, and VU’s, the sky bar located at the topmost 45th floor, offers Mediterranean tapas and signature cocktails amid awe-inspiring vistas.
During my visit, the latter was packed to bursting with karaoke-singing businessmen enjoying the time of their lives.
For the more adventurous, Marco Polo Ortigas is great as a base to sightsee.
As Facto adds: “One thing we are proud of, as part of the Marco Polo brand, is that motto: Explore, Discover, Experience.
“We have partners within Manila who allow guests to experience local flavours – be that those travelling as a family, solo, or in couples.
“Whatever you are looking for, historic Manila, for example, or Pasig city, which surrounds us here in our present vicinity.”
Outside, the walled city of Intramuros, built during the Spanish colonial period, provides a break from the bustle elsewhere in the capital, while Fort Santiago is another highlight for those with a taste for history.
For bars, head to the Poblacion district in Makati, where the Spanish influence can be seen as evenings start late and carry on until the early hours.
If you have cash to spare, then the casinos that run the length of the Manila Bay will be only too happy to take some of it off your hands.
There is plenty to see – for those brave enough to take on the traffic!
Watch as Marco Polo Ortigas general manager, Frank Reichenbach, is recognised by the World Travel Awards:
Marco Polo properties are well-known and established addresses for business and leisure travellers throughout the Asian region, with a proven reputation for exceptional service and an appreciation for their local identity.
The brand maintains its long-standing ethos of discovery, creating unique guest experiences and drawing on the key philosophies of its namesake, Marco Polo: an adventurer, a traveller, an entrepreneur and a connoisseur of culture – just as Marco Polo’s modern travellers are today.
Find out more on the official website.