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Picture it: Manila, December 2002. After checking out of the Manila Hotel, a newlywed couple gets lost on a self-driven road trip down south, envisioning an unforgettable stay at Villa Escudero and ending up spending their second night together in a godforsaken pool resort somewhere in Laguna (or is it Cavite)? After that horrific day, the newlywed couple heads back to Manila to start the rest of their lives together with a stay at the Manila Diamond Hotel. It’s a great start: four years later, the couple is still going strong, and the Diamond Hotel is going even stronger.

For us, the Diamond Hotel is arguably one of the best hotels in Manila, and with good reason. We had heard good things about the Diamond Hotel, and after viewing the photographs and writeup on the Diamond Hotel’s official website, we knew we wanted to stay there eventually. Little did we know the terrible trip after our wedding would bring us to the Diamond Hotel earlier than we anticipated. Much to our pleasure, the Diamond Hotel did not disappoint, and instead delivered delightfully.

The superior guest room we were given was spacious, clean, elegant, and afforded a wonderful view of the world-famous Manila Bay. A lovely fruit basket and complimentary bottles of mineral water greeted us upon check-in, and we truly enjoyed the comfortable – extremely comfortable 😉 – bed. Lighting was comfortable, air-conditioning was more than pleasant, robes and slippers were provided, and carpeting and beddings was spotless.

The bathroom facilities were no less impressive. Set in marble and immaculately clean to a fault, the Diamond Hotel’s guest rooms delighted us immensely, and has since set the standard by which we judge hotels in Manila. We were given the opportunity to use the exercise room, the swimming pool, and the jacuzzi, but only my wife took advantage of that; I stayed indoors and enjoyed my “me time” with the Diamond Hotel’s stellar cable service providing me quality CNN time.

A separate mention for the Diamond Hotel’s pool. While it wasn’t large by most five-star hotels’ standards, it was landscaped so prettily that my wife could not resist a dip in it. With landscaped waterfalls and plants all around, it was a lovely place. To rephrase Pacha, “when the sun hits the water just right, the entire pool area sings.”

We also had the opportunity to dine at the Diamond Hotel’s fine-dining facility, Le Bellevue. I had a steak well done, and my wife a lovely fish dish the name of which I forget at this moment.

The breakfast buffet is among the best we’ve enjoyed in Manila. Good selection of healthy foods – oatmeals, rice porridges, cereals, and breads – to go with the food that is good for the soul (corned beef, all types of sausages, eggs, and other meats). I even had the opportunity to speak with the omelette chef (!), who regaled me with amusing stories about how she ended up a chef, while she made me a killer cheese and tomato omelette.

The only flaw, if any, in the Diamond Hotel’s set-up is a relatively open parking area. While obviously patrolled by hotel staff and the occasional meter maid/man, its open parking does not lend itself to perfect security. Parking inside the hotel – its basement, I believe -is available, but that particular day we checked in, we parked outside, and I wasn’t sure we would wake up the next morning to our car still being there (thankfully, it was, and we would advise all travelers checking into the Diamond Hotel to insist on parking inside the hotel).

Service, accommodations, food… there was virtually nothing the Diamond Hotel could not provide that did not satisfy or thrill, and we would not think twice about staying there. Truly a jewel in Manila.

Original review on TripAdvisor.com

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1.jpgAfter spending a positively memorable wedding anniversary at the Discovery Suites in Pasig City, Philippines, I opted to select another Discovery property for the wedding anniversary the year after that, and I selected – as a surprise for my wife – Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay.

For those unfamiliar with Tagaytay, this city is an absolutely lovely place to be. It is famous for its pleasing cold weather (cold, of c2.jpgourse, in Philippine terms, is more than comfortable for international visitors more used to the biting cold of the West), its natural resources and parks, and a spectacular view of the active Taal Volcano.

After reviewing the photographs and room write-ups on their official website, I contacted the property directly and selected the Ceylon Room. One of only seven rooms at this extremely private property (it is more like a comfortable, large lodge than a hotel per se, and with only seven rooms, it is a great place to avoid the riffraff that come with larger properties), the Ceylon Room is located on the hotel’s garden level, and has a private entrance. It is the room closest to an outdoor jacuzzi and dining area.

The3.jpg Ceylon room was comfortable and cozy in its yellow and orange tones. A king-sized bed with smooth beddings, a divan (did I say that right?) beside the bed, a large T&B, and a TV with DVD player added to the many things we could do at the Country Suites. I really can’t describe the Ceylon Room better than cozy; it was a private getaway, after all, and we felt like we were the only two people in the world. It was a lovely room.

There were little culinary niceties that added to our enjoyment. For instance, in the afternoon, we were served ‘afternoon tea,’ which was a selection of cheeses to go with two glasses of wine. In the evening, after a dip in the jacuzzi that positively steamed in the crisp Tagaytay air, we were given warm milk and Christmas-themed cookies for a nightcap. The room came with an American breakfast, if I remember correctly, that was delightful and filling.

The services and perks that we got at the Discovery Country Suites are ver5.jpgy similar to the Discovery Suites in Manila. At the Discovery Suites in Manila, we were upsized for free when they learned it was our anniversary; here, the staff transferred the WIFI box – or whatever you call it – to our room because we wanted the free Internet access they offered but couldn’t tap into because the Ceylon is precisely that – private and separate from the rest of the hotel). Almost all the staff at the Country Suites knew our names, and we had the option of borrowing DVDs, VCDs, books, or board games from their (admittedly sparse) library for use either in our room or a large communal area.

As a reminder of our more-than-pleasant stay, we opted to purchase ceramic wall decor from their wonderfully quaint gift shop right beside the welcoming desk.

What we liked most about the Discovery Suites in Manila, we received in spades at the Discovery Country Suites. If you’re looking for a private getaway in the Philippines in a place with great weather and a host of things to do without leaving the hotel, the Deens wholeheartedly recommend Discovery Country Suites.

Original review posted on TripAdvisor.com.

With the advent of GannsDeen.com, my new personal website, I now have two websites that basically contain the same content.

Not one to waste my blogging time, I’ve decided to reformat this blog into a personal Philippine travel blog. If you’d like to stay linked to this blog, please change title links to The Ganns Guide.

The Philippine Blog Award list of finalists is posted on their official website. Neither of my two blogs made it to the finals, but that’s all good and okay.

I don’t know what the process is like, but vote anyway for Wifely Steps in the Home and Living category! Woohoo! Go Toni!

Meanwhile, since I don’t apparently have to care anymore about substantial hits from the PBA, I can officially promote my new domain, GannsDeen.com. I will still maintain this one, though, but it will be more targeted towards personals, while GannsDeen.com will be the ‘career’ website. Tadah.

My favorite radio station, Jam 88.3, has two new shows that you have got to listen to!

The first show is titled Nightlife: The Rick and Patti Show! Hosted by DJs Rick Rude and Patti, it’s a regular morning show… but at night! The show airs 9PM – 12MN, and it’s a talk show that listeners can call in to share their opinions on the topics of the evening. Phone line is 6318803. All you call center people and the rest of us who listen to the radio at night, this is pretty much for us!

I don’t have complete information on the second show yet, but I’ve heard INCREDIBLE things about it. It’ll air on Sundays, no time slot yet, and it’ll air positive, uplifting songs (including some praise songs, or so I’ve heard). More info to come, so please stand by. And tune in to Nightlife!

Welcome!

Hi! Welcome to the travel blog of James Michael Deen, or Ganns, to friends and family. Please feel free to look around, or visit www.gannsdeen.com to read about how awesome God is.

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