Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Eve at the Peninsula

The last day of the year found us still at work on next year's plans for Travelife Magazine. Just after lunch, there we were at the Dusit Thani Manila to meet with hotel GM Prateek Kumar regarding a plan to organize Travelife Magazine's India Night at his hotel on February 25. The Travelife India Night, the first of Travelife Magazine's Travelife Experiences, will feature a multi-course Indian gourmet dinner and a private performance by world-class sarod and sitar musicians from India.

It's being organized with the sponsorship of the Dusit Thani Manila and in cooperation with Ambassador Yogendra Kumar and the officials of the Indian embassy in Manila. We're going to be offering this to Travelife's readers and friends very shortly, so please stay in touch with us via this blog if you're interested to attend this special evening of Indian culture and cuisine on February 25.

Bringing you the world in every possible way

Travelife Experiences is going full blast this year, and it's part of our advocacy to bring the wonders of travel to as many people as possible. We bring the world to our readers and friends via Travelife Magazine, we bring our readers and friends to the world via Travelife Tours. And for those who can't go on one of our amazing trips this year for one reason or another, we've created Travelife Experiences as a way of bringing the experience of travel to those who can't do so. Basically, Travelife Experiences are very special evenings focusing on particular countries, that will showcase the excellent cuisine and culture of that particular country.

So Prateek, Dusit's hardworking GM, was quite game for a meeting on the eve of the 31st, even if he himself was quite busy preparing for the Dusit's own big party that night. And before the afternoon was over, we'd ironed out most of the details for India Night on February 25.

A night to remember

In the evening, we donned a vintage Leonardo gown we'd picked up in an Istanbul designer boutique and headed to the Peninsula to join Pen GM Jonathan Crook and his wife Beliz, and Oliver Duddler, Peninsula's # 2 boss, and his designer wife Cindy at their table for the grand black-tie Peninsula New Year's Eve party at the lobby. Everyone was dressed in their fanciest best -- the men were in tuxedos and the women were in long gowns. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Beliz had literally just stepped off a plane from Europe and headed straight for their own party -- but you'd never have guessed it, by their impeccable attire and energetic cheerfulness. Dinner was scheduled for 9 pm and when we arrived, the tables were beautifully decorated and ready for the merrymakers, while the lobby was filled to the rafters with blue balloons.

Delicious international buffet

We had a wonderful time partaking of a delicious buffet that included oysters, caviar, prime rib and an assortment of hot dishes from various parts of the world. I basically lived on the oysters and caviar. There was so much food that I didn't dare try everything, but I spotted prawn curry from India, a lamb couscous from Morocco and our very own lechon kawali. The music from two bands playing from the mezzanine floor, too, kept us entertained so that the hours passed very quickly; and before we knew it we were counting down the minutes to midnight along with everyone else.

At midnight, there was shouting, dancing, toasting, singing and merrymaking just like everywhere else in the country. But at the Peninsula, the atmosphere was made even more festive by the hundreds of balloons that began cascading from the hotel's grand five-floor high ceiling at the stroke of the New Year. The dropping of balloons from the lobby ceiling is done every year, so I've seen it several times by now. But it never fails to move me anyway as a most impressive sight on New Year's Eve.

Party moves to old Shanghai

At about 2 pm, we headed over to the Salon de Ning to continue partying. The place was full and they had a very good band on, which was alternated by an equally good DJ who played the kind of music Filipinos love to dance to. We ended up downing masses of champagne and a potent drink called Gummy Bear that comes in a shot glass with a salty gummy bear on a toothpick. For some reason, trays of gummy bears kept being delivered to us on the dance floor and by the time I left, I think I'd had five of those, along with an incredible amount of Moet.

One of our interesting encounters that night was with a 17-year-old girl who spent most of the night on Salon de Ning's dance floor. We all got to meet her because she was dancing all night, and most of the time by herself, so she ended up casually joining our large group in the merrymaking by osmosis. We marveled at the unique -- at least to us, from a different generation -- way she danced.

"Who's the cute guy?"

"You've got to teach us how to dance like a 17-year-old," I said to her, after watching her gyrate on the dance floor. She smiled at me and said, making it sound all so simple, "You just have to feel the music and move in the way you feel like doing."

"Who are you actually with?" Someone else asked her. We were all curious about this young girl who had the energy and guts to stay on the dance floor, even during those times when there was no one else dancing. She simply danced with abandon, seemingly without a concern in the world.

In answer to this question, she pointed to a table of two men and a woman not too far from ours. We all looked in that direction. "Who's the cute guy?" One of the girls asked, as there was a goodlooking guy seated in that table.

"My dad," she smiled, and we all looked at her in disbelief. "I know, I know," she said, "I get it all the time. The cute guy's my dad and the beautiful girl's my mom. And, yes, I love partying with my parents. They're so cool."

We finally headed home at around 430 pm, which was still early! Most of our New Year's Eve companions were still partying at Salon de Ning and showed no signs of leaving. All in all, a wonderful way to start what we hope will be a most amazing year for everyone.


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