Best Bars in Angeles City
Angeles City lies about two hours north of Manila and is home to the Clarke Economic Zone that is being developed on the site of the former U.S. airbase.
In times gone by, Angeles City was one of the most famous - if not infamous - haunts throughout Asia, the departure of the Americans and a rather devastating volcanic eruption have tarnished the image somewhat and while Angeles City is not the place it was, it is making something of a comeback - thanks I part to the Manila bar owners who appear to have been putting prices up to a level that serious imbibers find it cheaper to take the ride to and from Angeles city when a determined drinking session is called for.
How to Get There
If you drive your own car, Angeles City is about a one hour drive on the northern expressway and lies just north of San Fernando City in Pampanga province. Depending on the time of day it will probably take you longer to get across Manila and onto the freeway than the time on the freeway itself.
If you are coming from Manila international airport, any taxi driver will take you there. The fare is negotiable and usually starts around 2,000 pesos but if you haggle hard and business is slow they may come down as low as P1200. At that price though it would be polite to offer to pay the freeway toll.
The alternative is to go by bus. For P350 you can "fly the bus" a service offered by the Swagman hotel. Departure is from outside the Swagman Inn in Ermita. At the Angeles end, the bus will stop at a number of hotels in the area. This service is offered twice a day and for times you should check out the Swagman website.
For around P100 you can take the local air-conditioned bus service offered by Victory Liners. This is a good and comfortable service that will take you to Dau (Da-oo) adjacent to Angeles and from where it is only a P30 trike ride to any reasonable hotel. There are two Victory terminals, both on the EDSA boulevard; the southern terminal is close to Taft Avenue (northern side) while the northern terminal is in Cubao. If you have worked out the MRT system it is probably much quicker to ride the MRT to Cubao and leave from there.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Angeles are not exactly five star - unless of course you opt for the Holiday Inn on Clarke base - but most are clean and comfortable. Prices range from between P500 up to P1500 per night. Woodlands Park Hotel offers relaxed resort style accommodation for P1400 a night but as of October 2002 was in the throes of a major rebuilding program that few people think is for the better. The other option in this category is the Swagman Hotel Narra.
Most of the action centers on Fields Avenue and here the choice is endless. The Orchid Inn is right in the thick of things. Other good alternatives are the Clarkton and the Europhil. You will always get a room somewhere.
For Night Owls Only
Where to start the pub crawl? Well, the brightest and best are the newer bars at the highway end of the avenue. Here the Blue Nile, Nero's Forum and the Cambodian Club are said to pay the best rates to the girls and therefore have the pick of the beauties. These bars are always crowded which in these uncertain times, is perhaps not so much of a good thing, so places less crowded may be the order of the day.
Further up the street, La Bamba and the Voodoo are two bars that are well managed and firmly established favorites Both are well worth stopping by for a visit. Across the street, the Champagne and the newer Angel Bar also appear to be drawing good custom.
Firmly established on the bar scene in Angeles is Gillies Roadhouse - a more conservative but very well run bar but one that packs them in with its great music - and Illusions which is next door.
If you want to venture down the side roads, there are a number of alternative bars on Santos Street that are hostess bars without the dancer element. But check out the companionship carefully as you might get something unexpected on this particular patch.
Back on Fields Avenue and still heading north probably the Byrd Cage and Brown Sugar are worth checking out. There are of course many others but these are the main bars that have proved to be consistent stayers. Many of the other bars in the area seem to change names and management with depressing regularity - that tells you something.
In this area of town, beers are usually around P35 - 40 during happy hours and then go up to the astronomical price of P55 for the night session. Ladies drinks are around P100 each. There is almost no variation in prices at this end of the street and they appear to keep pace at 50% of the Makati rate.
Now if you are feeling a little adventurous and prepared to wander further then the bars stretch for another couple of kilometers and prices start to fall dramatically.
Walking north past the Margarita Station may seem at first like an exercise in futility but perseverance pays off. For something a little different stop off at the Gentleman Club - open from 3pm until midnight. This bar is up a flight of stairs and a warning bell rings from below before any new customer is allowed in. Drinks are only P45 and ladies drinks are P90 in this bar. Drop in for one and you will probably stay for three or four. Introduce yourself to Big Todd the manager and sit back, relax and have fun.
Want to keep going? OK, head past the Europhil Hotel and up to another landmark known mostly to the locals known as Garfields Last Stand. If you just want to relax with a no-hassle beer then this is the place for you - but hey, sometimes it is fun to have a little hassle - right?
Down another side alley and you will come to two more favored spots - Club Rio and Niftys. Now last time we were there, Niftys had changed into a regular pub while Club Rio had gone go-go but the costumes (or lack of them) made the place interesting. By now the price of beer is down to P35.
A little further down Fields Avenue again and there is yet another splat of small seedies that are dimly lit, smell of beer and offer beer for only P25. But by the time you reach here you probably are past caring about the surroundings anyway.
A Word of Warning
Take your personal security seriously - this is common sense advice anywhere but in Angeles and in these uncertain times (this is being updated a week after the Bali bombing) you would be wise to heed and not throw caution to the wind.
- Decide what you are prepared to spend for an evening; put that and a couple of hundred pesos extra in your pocket and leave the rest in your hotel safe;
- Do not take credit cards with you when drinking;
- Leave rings, gold watches and other trappings behind; blend in with the crowd - do not seek to stand out for if you do, you will be a target;
- Do not wave money around or otherwise show what you have in your wallet; it will disappear more quickly than you think;
- Avoid the street touts like the plague - they are not your friends and never will be and if you think otherwise you need serious counseling;
- Do not get into a trike without a numberplate and do not get into a trike alone;
- The danger to your security is small but finite. However remember that this is the new age of international terrorism and that terrorists can strike anywhere at any time and appear to be targeting foreigners - and especially foreigners who in their eyes are exploiting the local population - to them it is largely a case of the "haves" vs the "have nots." Muslim extremists have been known to hide out in Angeles though fortunately so far there have been no major incidents in that city. Were there to be one however it would likely be targeted at the most popular and crowded bars - so take care and wherever you imbibe, make sure you have all exits covered in case of an emergency.
We wish you a safe and pleasant experience in this last vestige of the "wild west."