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Everything was set by 10 am and we called taxi to go to the airport. Noe was really excited about going and he kept saying "wee wee wee", which means, airplane (and cars, and boats).
The check in lady in the Phillipines Airlines counter was very slow. It took us half an hour for the check in process. She cannot even read the year that I was born, she thought that I was born in 1958! Gosh, do I look like almost fifty year old?
So, to keep Noe amused, I played football with Noe while the boys do the check in. After that, I went for last minute haircut at EC Terminal Two, and Indi took Noe to the SkyTrain for a ride.
Then we entered the terminal. We look for a place for Noe to play. But then I started to have a headache because I didn't have my morning coffee. So I went to Spinelli for a cup of iced coffee, and continued to the pharmacy to buy Aleve (which is stronger than Tylenol).
Then we boarded the plane. The security check was not very tight, perhaps because we were heading to Manila rather then directly to LA.
On board to Manila
The Philippines Airlines Airbus 320 economy class is unbelievably crammed. Usually, I could walk from window seat to the aisle without troubling the guys sitting at the aisle to step out of their seat. But this time, this is impossible. And also, I could not cross my legs even though I am considered petite.
The lunch in the SG-MN flights is fish with rice. I think PL flight food is just too bland to my liking, but luckily, they are still quite edible. Then I took Aleve and the headache was fast gone.
The overall flight to manila took us three and a half hour, and we kept Noe amused by looking out of the window and read books.
In Manila Airport
We landed in Manila close to dusk, and we think that the airport design is quite weird. First, there is no dedicated path for international transfer passengers. So, transfer passengers could not go directly to the gate, but rather, they have to report to transfer counter and be escorted by to go out of secured area in order to re-enter at the departure area on the second floor. The transfer process is also quite funny. We had to hand out our boarding passes and passport to the immigration officer at the desk, who then hand them over to the officer who took us to the elevator area (right after immigration), and then hand them over to the officer who is riding the elevator with us, and lastly, to the officer to do the final check at the entrance of departure terminal. We didnâ€™t really understand why it can't be done with only one officer who is assigned to be mobile to accompany transfer passengers, but nevermind.
Secondly, there is no dedicated boarding area. The departure terminal itself is quite small, perhaps only 100 meter long with about four gates to the aircraft with a common waiting room. We were amused and thought that there wouldn't be any further security check, because, we didn't see the area to do this.
How we were so wrong! Just two hours before departure, the security officers rearrange the metal benches to form barricades and hence creating an impromptu secure boarding area. The borders of the area were just: the metal benches and ribbon fences, we donâ€™t see how that can be very secureâ€¦
Then the passengers were asked to line up along the ribbon fences and are not told to have physical contact with the people inside the fence.
The security check was really outrageously tight and too damn crowded. We had to take off our shoes. Even Noe had to do this. Since I was carrying Noe, I had to hand Noe to the officer while being searched. Then, all the liquids in our toiletries bags, without exception, were confiscated. Partly this is our fault, not checking the policies to fly into USA. But also, the security was unreasonably tight, even my tiny bottle of perfume were confiscated where the US policy did not require such. Perhaps the officer just wants that Calvin Klein perfume of mine.
Actually I canâ€™t think how this anti liquid policy would be effective. It's a lose-lose situation for everybody. Why don't somebody invent a test paper to indicate whether a liquid is volatile or not?
After the hustle and bustle, and stressed out security check situation, we did the final documentation check. The PH airlines officer gave us a small present to pay for the tight security stress that we had: a PH airlines desk calendar! Gosh! Just when we had to travel light they forced us to bring calendar. We just had to refuse this.
I was pretty disappointed that I could not find balut in the airport terminal. All that are available in the departure area were just cakes, breads, and deliverance. There is no way we could be adventurous enough to try Filipino food such as balut. There is even no money changer, so we had to exchange 10 US dollar with a Filipino man in order to buy Noe's dinner.
On board to Los Angeles
Then we took off with our LA bound flight. Right after take off is a fierce competition for the empty seats in the airplanes. That competition is just too harsh for us toddlers with parents.
Noe spent most of the time on the LA flight sleeping. I tried to sleep too, but cannot, because I had to always adjust my position to Noe's liking.
The movie was Scoop by Woody Allen, continued with Everybody Loves Raymond, and Just for Laughs. We were lucky to have a seat right below the TV screen (there is no individual TV channel in the flight, definitely not like Singapore Airlines' on-demand entertainment system with 80 movies to choose from!). Then the food was again, bland. Throughout the night, the crew did not walk around to offer water but rather we had to call them and it took us perhaps 15 minutes before they arrive, just to ask for water. But then again, we were not expecting much from a low fare of a third world country carrier. Perhaps even PH is better than Garuda.
We sat next to Noelle, a nursing student who is going to visit her mom in LA.
Then we got our last breakfast which is warm and nice, just before landing. We landed at 5pm in LA, and it's a long walk from the arrival gate to the immigration area. The immigration part was quite OK, there is no hassle. We just had to have our fingerprints and photo taken, linked to a central database. Apparently they have the photo of each visit to the USA.
Welcome to America! Our first impression of USA is that there is a lot of obese people and obese cars too. Little kids, old ladies, all are overweight. We then waited in the International Lounge area. Noe really liked a sculpture that looks like a machine with balls running from top to bottom. We then bought spaghetti with meatballs and caesar salad. We also got really delicious sourdough bread! Both are the Amercan size, that explained why they are so fat. Those two meals can feed the four of us comfortably.
Then I took a nap at one corner while waiting for the check in time to our flight in Mexico. Internet in the Airport is outrageously expensive, 1 USD for four minutes. I'd rather not be connected than paying that much. I also ended up buying some stuff that were confiscated earlier, but now, we were more well informed, and had everything ready in order.
Then we proceed to check into Alaskan airlines. Just when we exit international lounge we saw a Korean man fighting with security officer.
The check in officer in Alaskan airlines is very friendly and communicative, which has always been the case with American officer. Then when we did the security check for our luggage we saw a sign that really undermines the airport security of Indonesian airports.
Then we had to proceed with security check into the boarding area. The officers were quite helpful and they are not excessively strict.
US Transportation Security Administration made it very clear to us on what sort of liquid we could bring on board. Unlike the Filipino officers who were too dumb to give reasonable allowance, the Americans told us the concept of 3-1-1. It means we are allowed to bring small bottles/containers no larger than 3 ounces, packed into 1 zip-top plastic bag. The combined volume of the liquid could not exceed 1quart (almost 1 liter in metric). Drinking water is definitely not allowed although there were vending machines available near the departure gates.
Then Noe played with other toddler in the waiting room area. We were really hungry, and the cafe were all closed. We hope to have warm food in the plane.
On Board the Plane to Mexico City
Then we board the plane. One hour later, after taking off, we found out that there is no food at all on board because this was a red eye flight (departing 15 minutes after midnight). We ended up eating complimentary gingerbread cookies over and over again (chewy and yummy!). Also we drank lots of juice. Noe slept all the way.
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