13.01.2009 - 18.01.2009
My plan to walk to the bus station to catch the cheap bus to the airport was foiled by the commencement of a steady downpour overnight. I found out that taxi fares to the airport were much cheaper than the other direction so this wasn’t too bad a compromise. I arrived at the airport, checked in promptly and headed for some breakfast at the foodcourt. Soon I was on the half full 757 in an exit row seat, which had unexpectedly poor views. The 2.5 hour flight touched down in the amazing DFW sprawling airport with a long taxi ensuing. Unlike my previous arrival experience here, immigration and baggage claim was super quick and I was in my room overlooking half the airport in no time. This place was pretty plush and featured some interesting facilities such as a kitchen that was used for TV shows and cooking lessons.
I rose and went down the escalator and checked my bag through to manila. I then got a McSkillet burrito for breakfast and headed for the admirals club. Terminal D is a great terminal boasting impressive and generous amounts of art throughout as well as a wide assortment of shops and eateries. It is probably the best terminal building in the US and is well linked to the other terminals with the skylink people mover that gives fantastic views over the whole airfield. The AA lounge was nice and much better than previous examples, providing panoramic views. After awhile it was boarding time and we left on time at about 80% loading. Take off was great as it was done parallel to a landing md80. This was the longest flight on my itinerary but passed quickly. I watched many films on the frustrating semi AVOD system including a Japanese one. The 777 reached the pacific near Vancouver and went by anchorage before heading down again to the islands of Japan. The service was a definite improvement from domestic AA and it was nice to finally receive some free food from AA, however alcohol was still not complimentary, which is disgraceful on a long haul flight. It was also a shame having to close my window shade, particularly over the Arctic Circle on a daylight flight. We landed a bit early in the peak hour for US arrivals with many other AA 777’s at the terminal. We parked at the main terminal where I re-cleared security before heading on the train to the satellite terminal where my next flight was departing from. I was pleased to be back in a place where departure boards are ordered by time not destination. I hit up the JAL sakura lounge which was very nice and featured great sushi, a beer pouring machine and other cool gadgets. They also kindly reprinted me an executive class boarding pass. I waited for the Qantas club to open and headed across to find it similarly styled to local versions and of a good size with great apron views. I appreciated free wireless in both lounges after the extortionate AA offering. I also utilised the free fax facility (AA wanted US$10), which I think worked as the whole machine was in Japanese. Boarding time came around and I boarded the 747 through the magical business class only airbridge and settled in and waited for the plane to fill to capacity. We were delayed departing due to the peak take off period having to wait for many planes ahead though the nose cam was a nice distraction. The executive class product was quite basic being a low yield route but the service was great. The food was disappointing for the cabin of service but nice. I struggled to stay awake by this point and managed one movie, an interesting Japanese one dealing with similar issues as Battle Royale but less violent and more melodramatic. I was glad to have a nice comfy chair and three windows as I fell asleep to wake on the ground in manila after a very smooth landing. We arrived one hour late in an airport that is competing with Perth airport for most over capacity airport terminal operating. Immigration was inconsequential whilst baggage claim was crazy. I thought I had gone to the cargo terminal as crates and boxes poured onto the tiny carousel that clearly was not designed for the arrival of a full 747-400. I now see why airlines have specific baggage policies for flights to the Philippines. There were many special customs lines for overseas Pilipino workers arriving home, who made up the majority of passengers. I eventually made it to the curb and caught a cab, arriving at my hotel about half past midnight and collapsed into bed.
A buffet breakfast was good to have after not having it for a week or so and I loaded up. I hit the streets and instantly found all signs to be in English but everyone speaking Tagalog. Also everything was incredibly cheap. I lunched at the local maccas clone, Jollibee, which was poor and included cockroaches in the dining area. I ended up at a cinema and saw the curious case of Benjamin button, which was pretty average, with a poor start and finish but entertaining middle section. The skeletal elevated light rail system was tempting however it was impossibly overcrowded, as were the roads, so I continued walking a distance the hotel people said was ‘far’ but took only 15 minutes. I think this is because these are the shortest people I have ever come across, which makes me stand out a lot here. I also considered taking a taxi as they were very cheap and did not charge on time, only distance, which was amazing considering the traffic congestion. The streets here reminded me of somewhere in between Malaysia and Vietnam but cheaper than both. I was still a bit tired after having to get up in time for free breakfast so I went to bed early after dining at the maccas underneath the hotel.
I walked down to the waterfront (think Cambodia) and did a little tour taking in the various colonial sights. The history of the country is intriguing, as so many foreign forces have occupied it in the past hundred years from the Spanish, Japanese and to most recently the Americans. This has resulted in a unique cultural mixture that is manifested in various ways including architecture and language. I lunched at KFC that was packed and didn’t really sell much apart from chicken and rice. Ordering a burger was like twisting their arm, however they did have wedges and mountain dew, which made it worth the wait. Even maccas here is big on chicken pieces and both sell spaghetti. Unfortunately the country is very catholic and conservative thanks to the missionaries so I am unable to wear shorts around the hotel, though it is not too hot or humid, which is similar to in the real parts of Mexico. The hotel is also ultra stingy with a no outside food/drink policy despite the absence of a minibar, however the place is so cheap I let it slide, along with the lack of hot water. My strange accommodation pattern of moving from lame to luxury is continuing with my next stop, though I only stay one night in the nice places.
I woke and headed down for brekkie before heading for the airport. I bid farewell to the lift attendants and caught a cheap taxi. The airport was full of people queuing up to get their luggage screened before being allowed to enter the terminal building. This took some time but soon I was at the business counter checked in with a welcome upgrade due to a full flight I assumed. The seat number did not seem quite right on the business class boarding pass stock, row 82 did not exist on anything but a 747. It occurred to me that I was victim to one of cx’s legendary last minute aircraft changes, as this was scheduled as an a330. The laborious process to leave the country continued with queuing for the departure tax, which was more than I spent in my entire time in manila. Then there were arduous immigration lines and security lines. Luckily I left enough time and happily proceeded to the refuge of the cathay first class lounge, I still don’t know why I got an invite for this one as a sapphire I qualify for the business one only, which was nice, considering where I was. Boarding was swift through the segregated boarding lane from the stark holding pen in this rough airport. I went upstairs to find my luck continuing with the new longhaul product installed. My first herringbone experience was fantastic and this is now my new favourite business class seat (sorry skybed). I also was one of a few passengers to get the personal welcome treatment. The only gripe I have with the seat is that it is difficult to look out the window during takeoff and landing, but apart from that it was heaven. To my dismay I only had less than 2 hours to bask in the glory during which I was fed some nice pork belly, had a signature cx cocktail and enjoyed studio cx on a massive screen. I tried out the bed mode and was very impressed, particularly on length; you can be lost in your own little world due to the great privacy and headphones looking out into the sunny sky. Landing came too soon and I was one of the first at immigration and thankfully my priority bag was waiting for me when I made it through, a great reversal from my lat hong kong arrival. I then went to the hotel transport counter in the arrival hall where I got a 5 min mini bus ride to tung chung. My room had great views of the cable car and airport and a strange lighting system. I spent some time before dinner checking out the interesting shopping mall and then hit the hay.