First of all let me say that, while my intention for this blog was to be about dancing in all the greatest festivals around the world, I found it pretty hard to write about places I haven’t been to. So instead I have decided to write about the travels I experience through my dance career. I am a part of the cast of Phantom of the Opera (POTO) and this is the first leg of an Asian tour that extends to 2013.
So here I finally am in Manila, Philippines with the cast of POTO. After a long flight (16 hours) I have to say my first impression of this city was a little jaded given we arrived in the middle of some of the worst floods the city has seen in over 10 years! This is the view from my hotel room, not very summery is it?
However, the hotel we are at is AMAZING! The Diamond Hotel is on the Roxas Blvd,right across the road from Manila Bay so when the sun is shining the view from the 10th floor is quite spectacular. And the rooms themselves are highly luxurious. Every morning we wake up to an enormous breakfast buffet with food to satisfy guests from both East and West. There is also a gym with sauna and steam room, a spa, a pool with outdoor jacuzzi, free broadband internet in every room, a pastry shop and a Japanese restaurant all within the hotel. Even one of the TV channels advertises the show every 30 minutes, we all feel like real celebrities here! We also have the Sky Lounge on the 27th floor which is a restaurant that stays open till late and often has live bands and a great view. Another bonus is the location. We are on the same block as a Starbucks – a real necessity for the less-adventurous Westerners and we are a 5 minute walk from a huge shopping mall and supermarket.
One strange thing about the supermarket was the 20 to 30 minute queues at checkout?? Perhaps it was out-of-towners stocking up in preparation for the flood as I did see a lot of bulk buying going on. Man oh man every cashier had around 12 trolleys queued up behind it. On the plus side the malls have every Western food item, including an abundance of protein powder, so there really is nothing to worry about when visiting Manila. And the sweets and cakes….I guess Philippinos have some serious sweet teeth, my mouth was watering constantly!
Another interesting thing about the Philippinos is how polite they are. Every time we walk past the hotel staff, down the street and into the malls we are greeted by absolutely everybody in sight and every one of them is helpful and forthcoming. I also appreciate the strong work ethic here. The room is always spotless and cleaned twice a day. At my 20 minute gym sessions the guy manning the area wipes down all mats and equipment at least twice and there is always iced water with orange slices waiting for you on exit. The only slightly irritating thing is the strangely heavy security. Every time we enter the hotel our bags are searched, even if you only stepped outside for a few seconds. However, this seems to be the norm at all major mall entrances and shopping complexes and the security guards at our hotel have the sweetest dogs standing on-guard.
The first few weeks we are here we are still mounting the show so it’s usually full day rehearsals and the evenings are off. From about week 4 we open so the schedule reverses where we have the days free and work in the evenings. 8 shows and 6 days a week, double shows on Saturday and Sunday and Mondays are off – don’t you dare tell me this ain’t a “real job”! Just cuz we love it doesn’t mean we don’t work hard.
So for some reason, even after a week here I am still waking up at 4:30 am every morning. At least I can get a gym session in most days and I can catch up on all the rubbish reality TV we know we all love. After a long day at rehearsals I feel like passing out by 8pm (must be the humidity) but we usually go out for dinner. The first night we went to a Thai restaurant in the mall nearby but the next night we went to a fantastic restaurant in a place called “Greenbelt 5“. Instead of bread on the table they had crustini’s with eggplant spread and free water. Every time we finished the food they just brough more and more and more….I find that quite excellent. We ate al fresco and the food was great!
When Monday finally rolled around we had every intention of spending our day off at an outdoor market but it was raining so we did what every Westerner does – hit another mall. This time it was the Mall of Asia, apparently one of the biggest malls in the whole of Asia as the name suggests. At the end of the day, a mall is a mall and I’m ready for something different, perhaps a walk around the Harbour Square across from the theatre where we have lunch everyday.