Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our Melting Pot: Finding a backpacker sanctuary at the heart of Makati

Our Melting Pot - Hat Stand and Bold Colored Wall
Nothing drab about this hostel - bold colors, cozy lounging area
I paced several streets along Makati Avenue a number of times in broad daylight looking for the place.  My friend and fellow backpacker, Dong Ho, said the backpacker hostel was just in front of the A-venue mall cum event place so it's impossible to miss.  Still, I wondered where it was exactly.  A friendly European must've read my confused mind, showing me that the steel door of what seemed to be a deserted building, is open.  Turns out he's one of the transients and by luck, I'm showed to the old-fashioned elevator (hey, the sign even said it's a lift) to the fourth floor and a hall littered with footwear.

I step inside and is greeted by the sight of a warmly-lit living room, the faint smell of fresh paint trailing me.  The dining room with its long table is just adjacent to the sala and the round-the-clock reception desk, looking very, very homey.

Our Melting Pot - Living Room
Warm and inviting living area
The hostel is Our Melting Pot, newly-relocated to its third site in a little over two years of operation.   As a backpacker, I've stayed in my share of inns and hostels during trips overseas and have always wondered why there seems to be a dearth of similar accommodations here in the Philippines.  Our Melting Pot was inspired by a similar line of thinking of its backpacking owners who see that with our brand of Pinoy hospitality, there's no reason why it can't be replicated here.

Inexpensive options.  Accommodations is one big expense for budget travelers.  Personally, it's also a dilemma.  Get something downright cheap and I may have to sacrifice some un-negotiable points like baggage security (as a photographer always traveling with gear, this is a constant concern).  Get something costly and nice and I may want to stay indoors longer than I ought to.  Having seen the rooms on offer here, my impressions were: inexpensive but they sure didn't scrimp on the facilities.  There's a private room for those who want well, privacy (P1,100/night with free breakfast).  

Our group got billeted in the 6-person dorm room (P600/pax/night also with breakfast included) so we can experience firsthand the hostel concept.  The mattress was firm, the sheets very clean, the pillow eminently huggable.  The blanket can use more thickness though that's partly because of the aircon's efficiency.  There were swinging curtains for privacy and ample number of outlets for plugging mobile devices.  For the snore-prone, special pillows are available.  A word of caution though for the noise-averse:  this side of Makati Avenue can become noisy during Friday and weekend nights so you can either bring earplugs or opt for the private rooms located at the interior of the place.
Our Melting Pot - Dormitory Room
Surfing and enjoying the the six-bed dorm room
Kitchen musical. Pardon my use of a catchy blurb but there's a reason why the dining room seems to be a focal point of the hostel. The area becomes a place to congregate and to know the other guests in the way backpackers are familiar with. Far removed from the formality of a hotel setting, the long table with its long benches become a venue for sharing stories and perhaps, creating new friendships.  We got hosted to a Filipino-themed dinner (the laing or Taro Leaves stewed in coconut milk was particularly memorable) but the breakfast fare of pan de sal (local bread) and different variety of Filipino spreads such as coco jam (coconut jam) was a very inspired way of introducing foreign guests to Pinoy fare.

Chilling out.  The sala with its comfy couches can be irresistible after a hearty dinner or maybe just to read or surf.  There are also two personal computers for checking emails if the WiFi signal fluctuates in-room.  The rooftop lounging area is not yet completed but climbing up for a look-see, we found that it offers a rather nice view of the Makati cityscape especially at night.  
Our Melting Pot - Bold Cabinets II
Individual storage cabinets
Clean T&Bs.  Now, this comes as a real surprise -- the toilet and bath areas including the handwashing areas are very clean not just by hostel standards.  No mildew, no spots, no scurrying insects.  I really hope they keep it this way as the hostel matures (I read past reviews at TripAdvisor and the cleanliness is no doubt a reaction to past feedback).

Luggage storage and other really useful stuff.  Now, one thing a backpacker can appreciate is being able to leave stuff for safekeeping so he/she can travel lighter across the country.  I've seen it many times elsewhere and it's a delight to find it here.  Another is the valuable info the staff shares with all its guests.  There maybe volumes of guide books on the bookshelf but personally, I prefer the locals' knowledge of the place any day.

Other mention-worthy touches.  The barefoot policy is good for keeping the rooms clean.  Ditto the no-eating in the room rule (obviously, a lesson learned from the hostel's previous incarnations).  The staff's personalized way of greeting and attending to every guest is commendable, really reflective of the Pinoy hospitality which I thought was overran by modernity but happily finds itself very much at home here.  It's not usual nowadays to find Pinoys who are willing to go out of their way to help guests but the staff here seems genuinely interested in doing just that.  I find a kinship with the owners as they share the idea that the best way to promote the Philippines is by opening them up to our kind of warmth and hospitality.
Our Melting Pot - Collage and Guitar
Wall of memories
Our Melting Pot - Rooftop Ultrawide View
Makati nightscape from the rooftop

Info: Location: Our Melting Pot is now located at 4/F Mavenue Building, 7844 Makati Avenue corner Guerrero Street, Makati City right across the A-venue, the location is very strategic, walking distance or a short jeepney ride to attractions such as the Ayala and Greenbelt Malls, banks, restaurants, etc.  The building looks deserted but it won't stay that way for long as a McDonald's and call center are set to occupy the first three floors • Contact numbers: +639329500255 or +6326595443 • To book, visit this link.


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