All good things must come to an end, and that dreaded day had come. It’s time to pack my bags and end the longest vacation of my life so far. It was a bittersweet moment as I got to return home but then leave a love one behind. I can’t imagine how OFWs do it.
Interestingly, there’s one last Los Angeles “feature” I’d be experiencing for the first and last time during this trip: LA Traffic! With California’s wide and vast network of roads, traffic would probably be the last thing on your mind, but it does exist and I experienced it first hand on my way to Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It’s not on the scale of EDSA during rush hour though, but it’s quite unexpected.
We had arrived very early in LAX thinking that we could have our early dinner there. Being a big international airport, you’d expect a wide selection of restaurants in and around the airport but we were gravely mistaken. All the stores are inside the restricted (passengers) area and what’s left on the outside is a coffee shop and a convenience store. And you wouldn’t want to leave the airport if you plan to return soon as traffic is bad, the roads are very complicated, and parking is just unbelievably expensive! And so we just opted for some light snacks from the convenience store and just found some place to settle for a while.
Finally, it was time for me to say my goodbye and go in. It’s one of the most difficult feelings I’ve ever had, but I had to brace myself as I have to go through a lot of things (check-in my things, immigration, etc.) and have more than an entire day of travel ahead. But after all that, I now had enough time to look around and appreciate TBIT more (to keep my mind distracted).
After exploring practically all areas of interest in the terminal, it was time for one last meal on the ground. I was already tired, feeling drained, and emotional that I wasn’t in the mood for anything fancy. Besides, I had already burned through my budget! Anyway, eventually I picked something familiar and good:
And then it was that very long flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, again via Cathay Pacific…
I arrived in Hong Kong around 6AM (local time). I’m only around three hours away from Manila (by plane) but it was unfortunate that days before my trip started, my original connecting flight was cancelled so I was bumped to the next flight making my layover in Hong Kong a staggering eight hours! I didn’t mind back then the long layover time as HKIA is a very nice airport (and I can actually get out to explore HK without needing any other visa) but now that I’m here, I’m lamenting that decision!
Whereas the interesting parts of the airport in LAX are mostly inside the restricted area, in HKIA it’s totally the opposite! And while I can get back out to that section of the airport, just thinking about walking all the way back to immigration and going through all the security screening while lugging along a heavy carry-on backpack after a very long trip makes me cringe! And so I just opted to explore what HKIA had to offer.
After a meal that I can hardly call decent, I explored more of HKIA…
As nice as HKIA is, eight hours is just an insane amount of time to spend inside an airport! I had been basically everywhere allowed! Thankfully HKIA has free speedy Wi-Fi everywhere so I wasn’t that bored. And after all that walking, it’s time for lunch.
Eventually, I settled near my gate and spent my waiting time surfing the net and just enjoying the sights. It was a cloudy day then, but you can see the outline of the mountains.
Finally, it’s time to go home. Just three more hours. Or so I thought…
As we approached Manila, I got curious as to why our flight path was “strange.” Later on, the captain announced that due to extreme air traffic congestion and the very bad weather in Manila, and our plane running out of fuel (from circling above Manila airspace waiting for clearance to land) we’d be diverted to Clark. What?!
As if my long flight from LAX to HKG and the eight-hour layover wasn’t long enough, now the airport congestion in Manila is forcing me to wait some more! And it’s not like we just land in Clark to refuel and then fly back, our plane had to wait out turn to be refueled as there were already a number of planes diverted then, and we had to wait for the weather in Manila to improve! Tough luck indeed. It was fortunate that I’m flying with a major airline so there were still snacks available while we waited.
And after about two hours, we had clearance to fly back to Manila. On the bright side, how many people do you know that were able to fly from Clark to Manila? So yes, this is my shortest flight ever! But I’m not glad that I had to.
As our plane approached Manila (it was already dark at the time) I feared that the airport congestion might affect us again as our plane once again circled around waiting for clearance to land. Interestingly, I can also see a few more planes in the sky following us, circling as well waiting to land. I was just entertaining myself and thinking of the bright side but deep inside I was really, really angry at the Philippine government for allowing such dire incidents to happen every day at our international airport! This happening on a few occasions is reasonable, but for this to happen daily affecting scores of flights is unacceptable! I also felt a bit of shame as we also have foreign tourists and business persons with us in the plane. How poorly do they think of the Philippines after experiencing such time-wasting third world problem, first hand? Even our captain and many of the crew is not Filipino. What do they think of the Philippines if they had to experience this on a regular basis? Anyhow, we were fortunate that we were able to land this time. Imagine saying fortunate for something that should be a given. Just about everyone was clapping (including myself) when we touched down! And so from the expected 4PM arrival time in Manila, we actually arrived around 9PM. Waste of time. Waste of fuel. More fun in the Philippines!
And since it a Friday night, you can just imagine how terrible the traffic was. And how difficult it was to get a taxi. And how much the surge rate of Uber was. Welcome back to reality!
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West Coast Chronicles: