My trip to Manila was quite brief, being constrained by my need to be in Tokyo a little longer to handle my personal matters of moving out and whatnot. I landed on Sunday evening from Hong Kong and was in the hotel around 10PM.
Leaving Hong Kong airport was a pretty smooth process. I was able to check my bags at the train terminal in town then took the express train to the airport. Once there, I headed through security and got some lunch. (A pastrami sandwich which was decent, but nothing special). I hung around the gate area for a while and finished up the book I was reading. Boarding the plane was interesting – it was just a general boarding call, right from the beginning. They didn’t even do children / people needing more time… just pile in! I chose to let the line shrink before I stood up.
Arriving in Manila… that was a bit more interesting. The immigration desks were a bit understaffed and / or the people coming in required an awful lot of screening. I spent 20-25 minutes in a line of 5 people. I grabbed my luggage and headed for the hotel car. My driver, Mario, was a chatty guy and we had a reasonable time over to the hotel. Once checked in, I didn’t really do much but head to bed.
The two days in the office were good – full of meetings to discuss their concerns, provide feedback and talk about initiatives we could work on together to improve the environment. Everyone is always very friendly and engaging, at least once I initiate – something I’ve learned quickly.
Dinner the first night started with some drinks on the hotel patio with a fellow ex-pat. We talked ex-pat things, work stuff, etc. before heading across the street to a pizza / sandwich shop. We got the steak sandwiches and some onion rings – both of which were delicious.
The second night was with a member of the support team and we had Vietnamese which was nothing to write home about. The conversation, though, was excellent, helping to get a better understanding of the Filipino culture / behaviors. It will be something that will be an on-going process so I can make sure I’m interacting with the team in a way to get the best results.
Wednesday morning I got up and left around 9 to make it to the airport. I skipped breakfast with the intent of getting something at the airport… only to be reminded that the Manila airport is not necessarily an amenity rich location. Further compounding the issue was that I had no cash due to the short stay. I was left with an empty belly until I could get on the plane.
But getting on the plane was a challenge, too. I had gone straight to my designated gate once I’d gotten through security and was waiting there when the time to board came up. When I looked over at the plane, wondering why we hadn’t started boarding, the jet bridge was disconnected from the aircraft. I quickly realized that this was no longer my gate. Unfortunately the airport doesn’t have any television monitors to direct passengers to their gates… so I was left to wander around. When I finally found an employee, he tried to direct me to my old gate and then, seemingly randomly, redirected me to a new one… which was accurate. But it doesn’t end there – that would be too easy.
While sitting there, I realized why I’d never noticed the gate change – all of their announcements sound like the adults from Peanuts. I found that out when they (apparently) announced a delay to my flight – I just looked at my fellow passengers to figure it out, as the overhead was mostly noise. Eventually they made another announcement to change our gate, yet again. For that one I just asked the desk directly. We all migrated to the new gate where there were no free seats and waited for another 15 minutes.
However, in the end, I was slightly rewarded for the trouble by getting a seat assignment with no one in the two seats next to me. I took full advantage of that after the meal by lifting the arm rests, stretching my legs out and falling asleep.
But all good things come to an end and, despite the stunningly beautiful view of Mount Fuji at sunset on the final approach, our plane came to a stop in a ‘remote gate area.’ That’s a fancy way of telling us that we have to ride a bus to the terminal. Luckily, this is Japan and it was a very efficient and effective process that eventually delivered us immediately outside of the immigrations area. From there, things were smooth.