It was serendipitous to find oneself in a sturdy, solid bulk of a newly built hotel building in Clark, Pampanga while a typhoon was raging outside — especially since the area was right smack in the typhoon’s path.
There was a thrill when, right before the solidness of the glass window, you could see the storm before you as if daring you to come out, confronting the building you were in with gusts of wind and spiky sharp rain that seemed to want to penetrate the glass pane protecting you from its might.
Protected in the controlled temperature of the room, one felt snuggly in the down-filled pillows and wanted to dive deeper among the thick comforter and the bed that had just enough firmness and comfort to put a tired traveler to deep sleep even as the noise of the howling winds and sharp gusts of rain barely penetrated the room. The traveler would just yawn, shrug off the typhoon and go back to sleep.
Perhaps, such was the situation of most who stayed in the 260 rooms and suites of the Clark Marriott Hotel that opened its doors recently as typhoon “Ompong” lashed Luzon.
First five-star hotel in Clark
Designed to cater to domestic and international leisure and business travelers, each guestroom of the first five-star hotel in Clark incorporates the latest technology and design, and more importantly, in the case of this writer, it is smoke-free. To add, the hotel’s world-class services and amenities include mobile check-in and check-out, premium Wi-Fi capability, speaker docks and over-sized connecting bathrooms.
Of course, that is to be expected because it is a Marriott, but then it is also not a Marriott. According to Goeran Soelter, general manager of Clark Marriott, this hotel is built on the needs of its guests.
“It’s a brand-new hotel. Marriott develops the concepts of the hotels that cater to what our guests need. You know why are they coming to our hotel, what’s their business need, what’s their leisure need, so the hotel is built on that way so that we can cater to the needs of our customers,” Soelter says.
Peter Foreman, senior director, Sales & Distribution Philippines, elaborates further. “I think you can see as well the evolution through different Marriott hotels that here we’ve got a very modern and a very current design of the hotel.“
If there something that this Clark Marriott has focused on, it is the attention to the smallest details.
Take, for instance, a traditional hotel desk which has a leather chair, phone, the big letter pad.
”All of that is now gone and that’s not that way the traveler wants to work. We see that leisure and business are starting to sort of blend together. So when you go to your room, you’re going to see still a table in the room but a big circular glass table with a working lamp on it,” says Foreman on the hotel desk that can also be used as table for meals and also as a work desk, which is usually how it is done in most homes.
Another example is the luggage rack. “Many years ago in a hotel, you’d open the closet, take the luggage rack out, and open the suitcase. But now it’s a part of the fixtures of the room. As everyone travels with a wheeled suitcase, you just put it up there, you open up and you’re ready to go,” says Foreman.
The bucket-styled chair is also gone, replaced by a big bench. “It’s a big bench, from wall to wall right up against the floor to ceiling windows. You could put your back to the outside view and focus on your laptop and do work. Or you put up a pillow behind your back, with your laptop on your lap and you look at the view. You’ve got the TV going and you start to sort of get that blend of social and work. It’s a very modern interpretation of what today’s traveler is looking for.”
Food, glorious food!
Of course, other than the room, cuisine is traditionally one of the most-watched-out for attractions of any hotel. Clark Marriott Hotel houses five restaurants and bars, namely, the Goji Kitchen + Bar with a noodle bar feature, Smoki Moto, Urban Coffee Co., Pool Bar and the Lounge.
Goji Kitchen + Bar is an innovative all day dining restaurant that features a compact central live kitchen. It has a limited buffet breakfast service which transitions to a blend of station and a la carte service for lunch and dinner.
“Basically, the concept of the three-meal restaurant Goji Kitchen is a concept which Marriott was used in other Marriott hotels before. But there’s one important factor and that is it should reflect local cuisine. We hired new associates in the culinary team. Chefs who have lived their life here in Clark Pampanga and surroundings obviously bring their experience back. We are happy to put up these dishes on our menu and you will see that in an a la carte menu you will find Kapampangan dishes in different variations,” Soelter says.
And the + Bar in the name is not a bar as we know it, but a micro noodle bar within the restaurant. This noodle bar is operated throughout the entire day independently of the main dining area and can be found through a separate entrance. Called Noodle Inc., it has a short selection of Asian noodles, garnishes and condiments.
Another option is the Smoki Moto, a Korean barbeque restaurant that also has two private dining rooms featuring Japanese teppanyaki. A breathtaking terrace as relaxing and quiet atmosphere completes the dining experience of built-in barbecues or a la carte Korean favorites along with the largest selection of soju cocktails in town.
Coffee, whether hot or iced, light or strong, and to-go, can be enjoyed at Urban Coffee Co. It also offers freshly baked goods and guests can also choose freshly roasted coffee or tea on display, smell it, have it packed and take it home.
The Pool Bar is a casual destination that offers perfectly blended drinks and innovative bar snacks, including few local comfort dishes, iced-cold beverages are prepared with fresh fruits, and coconut water.
And lastly, the Lounge has a feature bar that transitions from a coffee and pastry focus during the day to alcoholic beverages and snacks in the evening. The separate tea corner showcases the wide-ranging tea selection, as well as both sweet and savory treats. Part of the lounge may be used as an informal business center (with all its equipment is hidden in plain sight).
To add, the Executive Lounge at the 15th level is an open living room that is composed of a lounge area and a residential kitchen with a communal table. A simple and elegant breakfast spread is available every morning and the place keeps its living room ambiance with refreshments and snacks available throughout the day.
About the various restaurants, Soelter says, “It’s the place where local customers want to go eat, want to entertain and want to be seen…Our bars are quite exciting as well. There’s a flexibility to it as it changes from daytime to nighttime. There’s a tea and coffee aspect in the morning, and in the evening, we go more into fun aspect of cocktails.”
The GM also mentions the hotel features the Quan Spa located at the second level, The
Fitness Center which is a fully equipped fitness center and outdoor swimming pool.
All taken, it’s a different Marriott Hotel as they claim, but it has the same trademark hospitality.
“It’s service from the heart. You want to connect. We have a credo which we live by. It’s about the art of hosting so, for starters, how can we listen to our customers to make exceptional experiences? Very often you will remember years down the road, and you will remember a specific experience not necessarily a name or anything. But if you create those experiences, those customers come back,” Soelter says.