Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Out and About in Chinatown via Ramada Manila Central's Discover Binondo Tour

I've been to Binondo, Manila a few times before. I find it an interesting place steeped in culture and awash with brilliant colors. This is, after all, the world's oldest Chinatown that developed from a simple Chinese settlement in the 1500s, into the quite busy area it has become. 

The 400-year-old district now houses distinctive landmarks as well as a wide variety of merchants and artisans who offer unique finds that would delight any business traveler or pleasure seeker. 

2013 is the right time to uncover Manila Chinatown's hidden treasures through Ramada Manila Central's Discover Binondo Discover Ramada tour. Launched last October, the campaign makes it  rewarding for Ramada's guests to unearth good bargains, great food, and the rich heritage of Binondo.

The four-star international-standard hotel has prepared a comprehensive map where guests can easily find Ramada's partner retail stores within Binondo and avail of discounts and freebies. Hotel guests simply have to show their hotel room key to avail of various deals from over 50 partner establishments. The map also points out notable landmarks and heritage sites that visitors may not normally find on their own. 

There are three main reasons why you should come and experience Binondo firsthand -- the history and culture, the exquisite food, and bargain shopping. All these, and more, are very much accessible from the doors of Ramada Manila Central.

This very nice hotel can be found at the corner of Quintin Paredes and Ongpin Streets. The venue offers guests enchanting views of the beautiful Binondo Church and the historic plaza where you can spot colorful kalesas and the famous Binondo purple fire trucks.

Want authentic Chinese cuisine? There are lots of places you can go to which are just steps away from the hotel's entrance. You won't run out of dishes to rave about. In addition, bargain hunters would definitely find a shopping paradise in nearby Lucky Chinatown (read my post on celebrating Chinese New Year in this mall here) or 168 Mall. There are also quaint shops that line Binondo's streets where good quality items can be bought at very reasonable prices.

I love the walking tour we did the afternoon of Chinese New Year's eve. We passed through a dumplings shop, a store that sells Chinese lucky charms, an open shrine at a corner where anyone can light an incense stick and pray, and a long and narrow street called Carvajal where you can find different kinds of fresh fruits sold at low prices. We also went inside the cool interiors of Binondo Church after dropping by the Roman Ongpin monument and the Binondo Fountain at the plaza.

Touring a new place can be tiring and one afternoon is not enough to enjoy everything. Thus, I was very grateful that my son and I got to spend the night in a well-appointed room with comfortable beds and first-rate amenities. 

Ramada has delicious dining options from breakfast to dinner. Since we were there the day before Chinese New Year, we also got to sample some tasty dishes at the Kiong Hee Huat Tsai Food Fair at the lobby for our afternoon snack. Breakfast the next day was also very filling.

There was one incident that made me appreciate Ramada's friendly staff members very much. As my son and I were going up to the roof deck before midnight to watch the fireworks, a drunk guest entered the elevator. The bellboy, who was bringing a lot of luggage to the 8th floor, didn't get off there. Instead, he accompanied us until the other guy got off at the 11th floor, and waited for us to get off before he went down again to deliver the bags. That was very thoughtful of him. Too bad I wasn't able to take note of his name plate because I was too busy being wary of the drunk man. Whoever you are though, thank you for your thoughtfulness!

Before I retired for the night, I took a long, hot bath and was very pleased at the fragrant shampoo, conditioner, soap, and shower gel in the bathroom. The lotion likewise smelled heavenly and I dozed off enveloped in a cloud of fragrance. Morning came too fast but I met the new day with enthusiasm because we still have several hours left to enjoy Binondo and all the nice things it has to offer. 

This visit to Chinatown has been my most memorable so far. I'm looking forward to going back there soon. I agree with Ramada's General Manager Karl Velhagen, a veteran in the hospitality industry, when he said Binondo has a lot to offer and it's about time local and international tourists discover these for themselves. I did, and the experience was awesome! :)

FYI, the Discover Binondo Discover Ramada tour costs P2995+ per room, per night, which means it is already good for two persons :) For more details, please visit www.ramadamanilacentral.com or call (+632) 354-4151.

To view more photos taken during our 2-Day Binondo adventure, please view my Facebook albums here and here.

*Ramada Manila Central is managed by Hospitality International, Inc., a vibrant Filipino management company that is considered one of the foremost specialists in the operations of world-class lodging facilities, with over a dozen expertly-managed properties in its roster. Hospitality International, Inc. operates under a license agreement with the Wyndham Hotel Group International for the use of the renowned Ramada brand and reservation system.

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