Monday, March 4, 2013

Traveler's Hostel in Manila - MNL Boutique Hostel

Come, Stay, Play: Have a Social Staycation at MNL Boutique Hostel

by Beatriz Acosta

Wanderlust has led me to far off places, but it has also brought me back home at this new and colorful backpacker haven in Makati called MNL Boutique Hostel.

Hotel grade comfort meets backpacker hospitality and fun
While I am not new to the concept of hostels, I often wonder why traveler's hostels are not so commonplace in Manila. I remember my first try at hostel life back in 2009 in Singapore. Apart from the place being accessible to the nearest public transports and key commercial areas of the city, what I appreciated most is the social aspect of hostel life -- the owners were hands-on and conversed with you daily, you get to meet and greet and mingle with dorm mates and other guests, and just feel downright at home, no stiff environment whatsoever.

My Singapore hostel experience
So it's pretty awesome news to hear that MNL Boutique Hostel started the year with a bang -- it's been receiving good reviews at Agoda, and received Best Atmosphere Award at in January, barely a month after opening doors to its very first guest. 

MNL Boutique Hostel is a two-level hostel conveniently located at the street right behind A. Venue Mall in Makati Avenue. It's exact address is Valdez corner Santiago Streets, but the best landmark would be just to look out for the most colorful structure in the street. Purple, green and fuschia patterns decorate the facade of the hostel. Bad with directions or are a Manila first-timer? Not a problem. If your smartphone's maps fail you, MNL's website has a printable map, with driving instructions for your taxi ride from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Getting there
New to this whole hostel thing? If you're a curious cat and just want to check the place out, no worries as well. The hostel is run by a young group of friends that are warm and accomodating, and will gladly give you the 'grand tour' (which takes about 5 minutes, really) of the place to see how everything looks like.
Common areas
Fun with color at MNL
Maica La'O, one of the owners, shared to me that they decided to put up MNL as they were inspired by the many chic, comfortable, and friendly hostels that they have encountered in their travels to Europe. 'Most locals are still new to this concept,' Maica tells me, sharing how there are people inquiring that are still quite shy to the idea of having to share a room with other people. One wall at the common area of the hostel is painted with the quote, "There are no strangers, just friends waiting to be made." And if you enter MNL with that mindset, you will definitely make friends from around the world (and learn more about the world while you're at it).
Start a conversation
Maica shares that currently, majority of the guests are tourists from different parts of the world who arrive in Manila for a side trip, and fly out to different beaches and regions of the country as their main vacation. There are some, though, that extend their stay for days, weeks, and sometimes over a month, just simply declaring the hostel as their second home. With such a fun and friendly atmosphere at the hostel, you will be tempted to stay longer (even I wanted to stay an extra night just to hang out!).
As a hostel conveniently located just nearby Makati Avenue, backpackers can just walk to check out the different malls, restaurants, shops and attractions of the city. Just a few steps away is a 24-hour convenience store, an ATM, and a supermarket.
Tour around, plan your next trip
If guests want to explore places beyond Makati, the staff at MNL have prepared commuting directions pinned on their wall -- popular destinations for their guests are Intramuros, Binondo, and Divisoria. The staff are ready to assist guests, too, for all sorts of local travel inquiries, as they have materials such as posters, brochures, and books available inside the hostel.
(Re)Discovering Manila with Manila (and MNL) Guests
Room rates are affordable, be it their dorm type or their double/twin rooms. Beds start at P550/night, and they occasionally offer discounts. Don't let the shared bathrooms scare the picky traveller in you. Maica tells me that they, too, are very particular when it comes to toilets and showers ('What we have here is a place where we'll stay ourselves," she says). They made sure each toilet and shower has its own separate door, shower heads are wide and will generously cascade water on you, and the common bathroom areas are always kept clean by their maintenance.
Spick-and-span shared bathroom
Inclusive of your stay are an 8-inch spring matress, hotel grade linen and pillows (honestly comfier than ones I have at home), duvet for all private rooms, a personal console per bed (for your electronics, accessories, and other personal items), a lamp, and an electrical socket. There are lockers for dorm rooms. All the spartan space of the house that it once was has been given a makeover by MNL: splashes of color, wall art, and local vibe. It spells out hip, fun, and young.
Staying in at MNL
Also included in your stay is a simple breakfast spread until 10am of toast, assorted jam, coffee and tea. A refrigerator, toaster oven and microwave are available at the kitchen and pantry, should you wish to bring in food or bring home leftovers. At the common area, you can read books, use the computer (free Wi-Fi as well), or watch television or pop a DVD. MNL is very casual and laid back, so always feel at home there.
Feel at home, and clean as you go.
What keeps people coming back to MNL is not only just to rest their heads and have a good night's sleep -- their BYOB (Bring Your Own Beer) afternoons and evenings (even late night) have gained a following for both locals and tourists alike. Just grab a beer or your drink of choice at the nearest store, and hang out on the hostel's side walk to meet new people and hear their stories.
Sidewalk Stories: More fun in The Philippines
Make friends with people all around the world by asking them where they're from, and why they travel--and be prepared with your own stories as well. If a balut vendor happens to pass by the street, expect some food adventures to be made with the foreign guests. At one BYOB, it was interesting to hear a South African's perspective of how he found Manila; it was also refreshing to receive travel tips from a foreigner on the best beaches he has visited in the country (there's still so much to discover!). Some guests were curious to try out chicharon after we talked about it, so we bought some at 7-11 to let them taste it. Other guests were familiar with our delicacies, and wanted to know if the 'happy horse beer' is just an urban legend (let me know if you've tried it yourself!).
Late night BYOB session
Just by making tambay at this little corner of the hostel will make you appreciate Manila, and it will also take you to places around the world with every person's little hometown and travel anecdotes.
Not all who wander are lost.
MNL's photo wall of friends around the world. Don't be a stranger!
I'm glad that I discovered a little place in Makati that bursts with a colorful hostel life that uniquely caters to the new breed of backpackers in Manila. 'We want to encourage guests to stay and enjoy in Manila,' Maica shares, 'we are more than just a jump off point to our beaches.' I agree with this completely, and cross my fingers that with efforts from our own tourism department partnered with establishments like MNL Boutique Hostel that push for Manila as a lifestyle destination, we can all make our Manila the place to be.
Book now at and Like them on Facebook (MNLboutiquehostel). Additional photos courtesy of MNL Boutique Hostel and Gonzalo Santos.
Establishment Info

No comments:

Build A Semi-Passive Income on the Internet that You and Your Family Can Enjoy