Angeles City in central Luzon (Philippines) was a unique stop on our travels. It was the only place where we had local friends. In particular, Robert and Mel, formerly of Boulder, Colorado, now live there again. This is where they met and married long ago. They lived here in the 1970s, and now again in the 2010s. So they know the place pretty well. Mel was born and raised in a small village not too far from Angeles, and has much extended family in the area. Bob has lived here both as a civilian and while in the US Air Force. They did some hotel scouting for us when we were first planning our visit, and made a few recommendations.
One of the biggest concerns when renting a hotel room in Angeles City is that a lot of the low to middle cost hotels are part of the vibrant local sex trade. The Imerex Plaza Hotel is one of few hotels that isn’t used for prostitution, and gets decent reviews on the travel websites I looked at. So we chose this and booked a room for a week. We checked in on Tuesday October 27, and checked out Tuesday November 3.
The hotel was a “mixed bag” but had so many problems I thought I should jot down the pros and cons for other travelers who might care. I’ll start with the bad things, but stay tuned for the good things.
- The shower floor was poorly constructed. Water pools up on one side of the shower instead of flowing down the drain. This is kind of a sanitation concern.
- Our room had an armoire to hang clothes, but only two hangers. It’s tough to live in a hotel for a week with only one shirt each. We asked for more hangers, and got about five more.
- The phone in the room doesn’t have a label to say how to dial the front desk. Dialing 0 doesn’t work; I tried! Next time we were on the ground floor, we asked the front desk attendant. Apparently sometimes you dial 0 to reach reception, and sometimes you dial 200. I guess in our room it’s 200. Why not the same number always? Why not label the phone with a note saying what it is?
- The hotel’s advertising brags about wifi in every room, with an outstanding 16 Mbps connection. The wifi in the lobby worked almost all the time. The wifi in our room worked about 20% of the time. Sometimes it would allow you to connect, but no data would flow. Sometimes you couldn’t even connect. Sometimes it would work for a half hour or so and then suddenly stop for another half hour, then resume. At the best of times, when it did work, we definitely didn’t see 16 Mbps performance, as the hotel website bragged. I saw about 4.5 Mbps download and 0.3 Mbps upload, when the internet connection was working well.
- When we checked in, the bath mat was soaking wet. We asked for a replacement, and got it.
- The spray hose next to the toilet leaks, causing water to pool next to the toilet. There is a drain there, but as with the drain in the shower, the floor isn’t built correctly and the water doesn’t naturally flow into the train. Instead it pools up. Since we didn’t have a squeegee, we left it pooled there, and after about a day, small worms started growing and wriggling in the water. After the bathroom was cleaned, the worms went away, but then they reappeared in the pooled water after about a day again. I don’t know what these tiny black worms are or where they come from. Maybe they come up from the sewer? I guess maybe these worms are the reason the Indonesians put mothballs on top of their bathroom drains.
- The room comes with a lamp on the nightstand, but there is no electric outlet there, and the power cord isn’t long enough to reach behind the bed where there is an outlet. So the lamp is a total waste. Did nobody think to measure how long the power cord needs to be before they bought these lamps? I just set the lamp aside on the floor, making more room on the nightstand.
- There is no stopper for the sink. No big deal; I brought my own.
- There wasn’t any sort of booklet or card or anything with info about the room or hotel. So whenever we had a basic question like how to get laundry service, how to call the front desk, when breakfast is served, etc. we just had to ask the front desk. Some hotels supply a notebook of useful information, but even a one page summary of the basics would be better than nothing.
- It took me a day to realize this, but the room has no art on any of the walls. They’re all just blank white walls. There is one mirror. The lobby and other parts of the hotel have great pieces of art, so why leave the guest rooms so bare?
- The second day we were there, we assumed and hoped there would be housekeeping service, but there wasn’t. So we asked at the front desk and learned that we need to explicitly request it. OK, that’s fine. So we requested it the next morning. But when we got back to the hotel later that day, the room hadn’t been cleaned. The second time we requested housekeeping, they did clean the room. But the third time we requested it, a couple days later, once again the room wasn’t cleaned. Out of four times we asked for our room to be cleaned, they cleaned it twice. I don’t know if the messages just often get dropped between the front desk and housekeeping, or if housekeeping just didn’t do what they were asked to do. Maybe we asked for the room to be cleaned too often? If so, nobody mentioned it; each time we asked, the front desk person always said that it would be done.
- The phone had a little label with the wifi password taped to it. But the password was wrong. I asked at the front desk and learned the real password. Why doesn’t someone take the initiative to update the labels on the phones? I have no idea.
- The hotel offers a laundry service. We arrived with a lot of dirty clothes, more than we could wash piece-by-piece in the tiny sink. So we dropped off our laundry at the front desk the first morning. They said it would take a day or two to get back, which was fine; it took two days. Later in the week, we had a more laundry, but since we were leaving the country on Tuesday, we wanted to make sure it would get cleaned in time. We asked on Friday, and learned the laundry would be finished by Monday afternoon. Perfect, that’ll give us time to pack up Monday night. Monday afternoon, we asked where our laundry was. The person at the front desk apologized and said that it hadn’t even been delivered to the laundry service until earlier that morning. We pointed out that we were leaving at 9am the next day, so the normal “one or two days” turnaround is a problem. Fortunately, they did whatever it took to get our clothes back to us about 8:15am Tuesday morning. But the whole thing made me wonder why they told us one thing Friday, and then dropped the ball.
And I guess that sort of sums up the experience with this hotel. Almost everyone kept “dropping the ball“. There were individuals who seemed to have a sense of customer service and they resolved problems — some of the servers in the restaurant were really good! — but as a team providing a hotel service, they were not good. To me, this is a sign of bad management.
There were definitely some nice things about this hotel, though. It wasn’t all bad.
- First off, there were no cockroaches, and very few mosquitoes in the room. That’s a plus in the tropics.
- As I mentioned before, the wait staff in the restaurant/cafe were usually really good.
- Security was good and we felt safe inside the hotel. There was a security guard out front almost all the time. This seems to be normal practice in the Philippines, for what it’s worth. Not only do banks have armed guards, but hotels and even fast food restaurants do! Can you imagine the reaction people would have in the US if you went to McDonald’s and there was a guy with a machine gun at the door?
- The main floor of the hotel is a big open area with several seating areas. It includes the reception desk, the restaurant, a section with some comfy chairs and couches for lounging, and a little coffee shop. The decor on this level was just amazing. It was beautiful! They had a lot of really, really nice pieces of wood furniture and art. And it was always clean. That ground floor felt like a whole different place than the upper floors with rooms, which were dark, dusty, and drab.
- There was no muezzin next door, waking us up early each day to come to prayer at the mosque. But granted, this being a Catholic country, that shouldn’t be a surprise. However, there was an insane rooster who crowed all day and all night who sort of made up for it.
- It was fairly affordable as far as “business” hotels go (meaning not sex hotels) in Angeles City. We paid about 40 USD a night for the place. I expected prices to be lower, more on par with Indonesia prices (or lower, since the Philippines is a poorer country overall), but apparently lodging in the Philippines is higher. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just the case in Angeles City.
- There was gelato available in the lobby!
- Lastly, the electricity worked the whole time we were there. No brown outs!
Oh, in case you’re interested, here’s my cell phone camera video I shot of a worm wriggling in the pool of water next to the toilet. We didn’t see these in any of the 20-or-so places we stayed on our trip before this.