Day 1 – Plane to the Hotel
As soon as I got off the plane, I headed to the immigration line. There was a long line for Filipino nationals and the line for visitors was the line just past the nationals. You enter the lines from the left side and they stretch across to the right. As soon as you get there, cut to the right since the lines turn out to be much shorter. I didn’t have any checked-in luggage so I carried my bags to the “Express” baggage checkout (which was if you had 2 items or less) and I was out of the airport from the plane to the taxi stand in 15 minutes. The terminal isn’t that big so I was surprised that I got out so quickly and ended up just jumping into a taxi. As soon as I got into the taxi I realized I had no local currency. The taxi driver took me to a local money changer and I got a pretty good exchange rate. The bank rate was $1 USD to PHP 40.63, my exchange rate was $1 USD to PHP 39.20. The taxi driver wasn’t using the meter which concerned me since that means he could try to charge whatever he wanted. He didn’t talk much until I started asking questions about the Philippines, I also mentioned that I was Filipino and he became more friendly. I normally make friendly small talk to get local tips and in the hopes that I don’t get kidnapped/robbed/ripped off by the taxi driver. From the Airport to the Hotel (with a stop at the money changer) took about 40 minutes. The driver charged me PHP 600 ($15 USD).
It’s about 23:00 local time (the next day for me) when I arrive at the hotel.
Man, I got ripped off. The ride, even with the airport yellow taxi, should have been about PHP 400. The white taxis probably PHP 200. The cost isn’t much, but it always feels bad knowing you got ripped off/not charged the going rate. Even with the money conversion, I saw exchange rates as high as $1 USD to PHP 40.20 (at SM Mall of Asia).
I stayed in Makati for 3 nights, because I heard that’s where you can find the nightlife in Manila. As I don’t like going long distances since I mostly walk, I thought it would be a good idea to get a hotel in Makati. It turns out Makati is really just the red light district. It’s a pretty rough area, but most places around Manila are very similar.
The first two nights I stayed at TUNE HOTEL – Makati, and the next night I stayed at St. Giles.
[See link to hotel review]
After being up for about 30 hours without any real sleep or a shower, I decide to just stay in the hotel the first night. Luckily, the restaurant attached to the hotel was open 24 hours.
Also, after just arriving there, I was a little scared to explore the city at night after riding in a taxi through seeing extreme poverty. I’ve been to many countries, but I haven’t seen poverty like I’ve seen in the Philippines. I get a good night’s sleep and wake up in the morning without any effects of jet lag.
Los Angeles, California – USA
Manila – Philippines
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Arrive at LAX and check-in via self service kiosk with American Eagle (division of American Airlines). It took awhile to check-in since I couldn’t find the passport slot. The kiosk was designed to swipe the passport at the top of the kiosk and it looked very flush with the design so I didn’t notice it. There was a slot that looked like a scanner below the monitor which I thought was the passport scanner. It was not.
Since I still had time before my flight, I’ve been wanting to register for Global Entry. Unfortunately I couldn’t book an appointment for that morning since appointments are booked at least 2 months out…AND they don’t work on weekends. I have been pre-approved online for an appointment and attempt to do a walk in registration to Global Entry. Denied. They said “Appointments Only.” Damn.
I enter ReLAX Lounge at Tom Bradley International Airport. They’re supposed to open at 08:00, but luckily opened early. The lounge is pretty nice. There are snacks, cereal, sandwiches and drinks. Only one free beer per guest though. I passed on the beer and had tea. I took a sandwich to go which I planned on eating later on the flight. Mostly because the meals are normally awful for economy passengers.
Depart the lounge and head towards the gate. There’s a long line at security which I didn’t account for but turns out not be that bad.
Make it through security and get to the gate. The plane isn’t there. Very worried that they left without me, I checked with the staff working there. It turns out it’s a small plane further down the tarmac and an airport shuttle has to bring people to. The bus just left and another one will arrive shortly.
08:55 LAX -> SAN (American Eagle)
I arrive at a satellite terminal, get on a small plane and head to San Diego. As soon as we take off I fall asleep.
Arrive at San Diego International Airport – Commuter Terminal. There were no directions saying where to go for connecting passengers. My boarding pass didn’t even include the terminal/gate. It was one of those situations where I had to ask for directions. It turns out I have to switch terminals by getting on another bus that will bring me to Terminal 2.
I had to go through another security line and take off my shoes, belt and other belongings. There are no airport lounges in Terminal 2. At least for Priority Pass members. After security, I had an hour to wait for boarding. I walked around the Terminal and saw several TSA K9 units. Dogs who sniff people for drugs. Unfortunately I caught their attention. Not because I had drugs, I just happened to have delicious beef jerky on me.
11:45 SAN -> NRT (Japan Airlines)
Luckily, this flight wasn’t very full so seating was spacious. I randomly got my seat assigned to a window seat on the left side of the plane, over the wing, with the seat back to the lavatory. FYI, these seats seem to have the least legroom. But since the middle seat was free, I didn’t mind. The aisle seat was taken by a young girl in her mid-teens. Keep that in mind as I explain how my flight progressed. Now that I’m seated, my shoes are off instantly. Pretty much everyone else had their shoes off too since it was mostly Asian people on the plane. FYI, it did not smell.
Air – ETA 11 hrs
They bring out snacks and drinks for the passengers. The flight attendants speak in English to all the passengers around me then speak Japanese to me asking what I would like to drink. I said “Water” and ended up receiving Wine. Maybe the FA had some religious power?
Air – ETA 10 hrs
Food time. They bring out the food and I was excited. I was about to take out my camera. I read online that JAL serves KFC to passengers in transit between Japan and the United States. My options were meat or fish. Neither dish looked too appealing, but I decided to go with the fish and a beer. Beer can make most meals much more bearable. Beer is more of a “everything” enhancer. After the meal they gave us Haagen-Daaz vanilla ice cream. I ate some of it, but the beer did not enhance the ice cream. It actually made it worse. It tasted like the opposite of a Root Beer Float. Just, a Beer Float.
Air – ETA 9 hrs
They turn off the cabin lights to indicate it’s nap time. I decide to watch a movie. The In-Flight Entertainment on JAL is pretty good. Lots of international selections. I chose “Tug of War,” a Japanese film about women and “Tug of War.” My imagination starts running wild with the possibilities that this could be. It could be a comedy, an adult film, a drama, or even an adult film. It was a comedy/drama. It was still a very good film even though my expectations were shattered. I’d definitely recommend watching it. I need to pee. But the girl in the aisle seat fell asleep. I decide just wait for her to wake up before I go to the lavatory and continue watching movies.
Air – ETA 8 hrs
I really really need to pee now. I’ve started coming up with strategies to get around her without waking her up:
1. Jump over her. If Super Mario could do it as an obese plumber, surely I should have no= problem attempting this.
2. Climb to the small area behind the seat like a spider monkey. It’s a very tight fit though.
3. Step over her.
I decided to go with strategy #3. I put my shoes on and get ready. With the little leg room available in these seats as previously mentioned, the girl was sleeping with her legs spread apart (in a non-sexual way since I don’t want to be convicted of a crime…and wearing jeans). So taking one large step over her would be difficult. I’m standing and strategizing the best way to get around her. The guy in the middle row of seats is watching with great anticipation that something ridiculous is about to occur. With the urge to pee growing greater, I just get up and go for it. I try to take one large step over her. Of course as I do, she wakes up and I just freeze there for about three seconds. I was going to start with “I can explain,” but decided to go with a more solid “Excuse me,” and then continued walking over her awkwardly. And then I peed. Man, was that great. It was one of those moments where you can reminisce about how relieved you were.
Air – ETA 3 hrs
It’s time for the last full meal. I am pleasantly surprised to be getting Air Yoshinoya, although the quality of re-heated Yoshinoya on an airplane is to be expected. This only made me want to eat real Yoshinoya more.
16:00 Tokyo – 90 minute layover
The plane is packed. I got a window seat, but it was a bit cramped since I had to sit next to someone this time. The ride is about 5 hours. The in-flight entertainment is the same as my previous flight (since it was still JAL). I try to sleep this entire trip.
See next post.
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