28
Dec
15

West Coast Chronicles: LAX⇢HKG⇢MNL

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.

On our way to LAX

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.

The infamous LA traffic

Travel Tip: Waze does not work well in LA area but Google Maps do and provide practically real-time traffic report along your route.

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.

Inside Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX

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).

Cool!  Digital screens surround the elevators

Some of the many shops inside the terminal

Matched with the very high ceiling

The entrance to the North Concourse is lined with digital screens as well

View from a higher ground

A better view of the interesting ceiling of TBIT

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:

A Halloween-inspired frappucino from Starbucks (which is not available in the Philippines) and a single-dish bowl from Panda Express for my last meal in Los Angeles

And then it was that very long flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, again via Cathay Pacific…

I was too lazy to bring out my camera so this was taken with my phone: my first in-flight meal, Marinated baby shrimp and quinoa salad; Rigatoni, Parmesan cheese and tomato cream sauce; and some bread.  Not shown is a Häagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert.

Our last meal serving as breakfast: Seafood congee; Seasonal fruits; Fruit yoghurt; and Blueberry muffin

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!

Inside HKIA

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.

The food court area of HKIA

My first meal in HK

After a meal that I can hardly call decent, I explored more of HKIA…

I just love huge windows that let you see the world outside

This photo does not show how crowded HKIA really was

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.

Picking what to eat is a bit of a challenge given the number of choices.  Eventually I had to narrow it down to stores that accept credit cards as I don’t have any Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) with me.

This may not be a local delicacy, but I guess it’s close 😀

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.

Some of the airlines here are unfamiliar with me

Finally, it’s time to go home.  Just three more hours.  Or so I thought…

Our in-flight snack: Cajun chicken lattice pastry

It’s actually pretty nice to look at and eat 🙂

Somewhere over the island of Luzon…

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?!

Looks familiar…pretty sure I’ve ran on those lahar flows before…

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.

As much as I love the sceneries here, I’m anything but glad to be in this predicament!

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!

My first meal in the Philippines at NAIA Terminal 3

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!

This was the surge rate when I arrived.  I had to wait for it to go down a bit before booking a trip back home, but then I had to wait quite a while as traffic to the airport was just unbelievably slow!  Still with surge rate, my total fare was still cheaper than that with an airport taxi.

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West Coast Chronicles:


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