Tokyo Here We Come!!!

Our first clear view of the Japanese countryside from our plane window

Our direct Cebu Pacific (5J-5054) flight to Tokyo left Manila’s NAIA Terminal 3 by 6:15 AM and our flight took us nearly four-and-a-half hours.  We had a pre-ordered breakfast on board our plane.  Our plane landed at Narita International Airport by 11:30 AM (Tokyo time which is one hour ahead of Manila).

Narita International Airport

Grace, Bryan and Cheska exiting the plane

Kyle, Jandy, Cheska and Bryan now inside Narita International Airport

After gathering our luggage and passing through Airport Immigration, Cheska booked all of us on an Airport Limousine Bus that would bring us, from the airport, to Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu which was near the hotel we were to stay in for four nights – Centurion Classic Akasaka.

Check out “Hotel and Inn Review: Centurion Classic Akasaka

Airport Limousine bus

Fare was ¥3,100 per adult (¥15,500 total for me, Grace, Jandy, Cheska and Bryan) and ¥1,550 for my 6 year old grandson Kyle.  We could have taken the Metro and save more than half what we paid, but we decided against it as we were traveling with heavy and bulky luggage. Taking the taxi or Uber would have been more expensive as we would have to board two vehicles.

On board…..

Our airconditioned limousine bus soon arrived and, after our luggage was loaded, we took our seats inside the bus which left promptly at 1:30 PM. Normally, travel time from Narita International Airport to Asakasa (59.7 kms. away) takes just a little over an hour but our bus trip took 30 mins. longer as the bus made a number of stops to drop off passengers at different hotels.  We arrived at the Akasaka Excel Hotel by 3 PM and made the short 5-min. walk to our hotel.

Alighting from the bus at Excel Hotel Akasaka Tokyu

Walking towards our hotel

After checking in at our 5th floor room (Room 509) and freshening up abit, we again went down to the hotel lobby and walked to a nearby 7-11 convenient store where we bought packed lunches, sandwiches and 1-liter bottled water.  That done, we gain walked back to our hotel and had our first meal in Tokyo in the airconditioned comfort of our room.

Centurion Hotel Classic Akasuka

Centurion Classic Asakasa: 107-0052 Tokyo Prefecture, Minato-ku Akasaka 3-11-8, Japan.  Tel: 1-866-599-6674.

Incheon International Airport (South Korea)

Incheon International Airport

Incheon International Airport (IIA) (IATA: ICN, ICAO: RKSI), sometimes referred to as Seoul–Incheon International Airport, is the largest airport in South Korea. Located west of Incheon‘s city center, the airport is located on an artificially created piece of land between Yeongjong and Yongyu Islands.

Originally separated by shallow sea, the area between the two islands was reclaimed for the construction project, effectively connecting the two islands. The reclaimed area. as well as the two islands, are all part of Jung-gu, an administrative district of Incheon.

L-R: Jandy, Grace, Cheska and Kyle

The airport opened for business on March 29, 2001, replacing the older Gimpo International Airport which now serves mostly domestic destinations plus shuttle flights to alternate airports in several East Asian metropolitan areas including Tokyo and Osaka, both in Japan; Beijing and Shanghai, both in China; and Taipei in Taiwan.

A Duty-Free Shop

Incheon International Airport’s terminal has 111 boarding gates altogether, with 44 in Terminal 1, 30 in Concourse A (connected to terminal 1), and 37 in Terminal 2. The airport serves as a hub for international civilian air transportation and cargo traffic in East Asia. Located 48 kms (30 mi.) west of Seoul, the capital and the largest city of South Korea, Incheon International Airport is the primary airport serving the Seoul Capital Area.

The author and son Jandy

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this airport:

  • The airport is the main hub for Korean AirAsiana AirlinesJeju Air, and Polar Air Cargo.
  • In 2016, the Incheon International Airport was the fifth busiest airport in the world and third in Asia by cargo traffic, and 19th in the world and eighth in Asia by passenger traffic. In 2017, the airport improved to being the world’s fourth busiest airport by cargo traffic (and still third in Asia).  It remained the world’s 19th busiest airport by passenger traffic (but dropped to ninth in Asia).
  • In 2016, the airport served a total of 57,849,814 passengers. In 2017, it increased its total to 62,082,032 passengers.
  • It is ranked among the fastest airports in the world for customs processing. It is claimed, by airport authorities, that average departure and arrival takes 19 minutes and 12 minutes, respectively, as compared to worldwide average of 60 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively.
  • It is rated as the world’s cleanest airport
  • It is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world.
  • In 2012, in the World Airport Survey results published by Skytrax, it was ranked as the world’s best international transit airport.
  • Incheon International Airport claims that it has only a 0.0001% baggage mishandling rate.

Since its opening, Incheon International Airport has been the recipient of a number of awards including:

  • For 11 consecutive years, from 2005 to 2016, the airport held the record of being ranked the Best Airport Worldwide by the Airports Council International(ACI)’s Airport Service Quality Award.
  • Since 2012, due to the Airports Council International(ACI)’s decision to discontinue the Best Airport Worldwide category, it has also been rated the world’s best among airports of its size (25–40 million passengers) and region (Asia-Pacific).
  • In January 2007, it won the GT Tested Award for Best Airport in the World.
  • In January 2008, it was named by Global Traveler (GT) as the Best Airport in the World for the second straight year.
  • In 2013, Business Traveller rated its duty-free shopping mall as the world’s best for three years in a row.

Kyle watching planes landing and taking off

The airport has a golf coursespa, private sleeping rooms, an ice skating rink, a casinoindoor gardens, and a Museum of Korean Culture.

Hamad International Airport (Doha, Qatar)

Hamad International Airport

After a long, 9-hour flight from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, our Qatar Airways plane made its first stopover at Hamad International Airport (HIA) in the Arabian Gulf city of Doha, Qatar, the airline’s home, arriving there at 3 PM (Doha time).

The undulating roof of the passenger terminal

Here, we were to have an over 16-hour layover prior to continuing on our journey to Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Opened just last April, 30 2014 with the ambition of turning Doha into a global aviation hub serviced by Qatar Airways, this barely 5-month old international airport, designed by global design studio HOK, is one of the most advanced airports in the world. About 65% of the construction workers who built this airport are Filipinos.

Qatar Airways aircraft parked at the airport’s apron

Built over 22 sq. kms. (8.5 sq. mi.), half of which is on reclaimed land, this majestic structure’s expressive architecture reflects its coastal location.  The undulating rooftop silhouette of this dramatic, curving building ripples away from the concourse in swooping peaks and troughs that recalls the ocean waves of the Arabian Gulf and sand dunes.This undulating super roof can be experienced by departing passengers in the light-filled departure hall while the undulating roof line is mimicked by vaulted metal ceilings in other concourses.

We probably arrived outside of its peak period as we walked through its beautiful hallways and lounges. As it was completely quiet, we were thinking we were the first to ever set foot in the place. There were no jarring announcements to disturb the calm.  Being new, every gleaming surface of this hyper-clean airport’s lavish departure and arrival areas was spotless and its high ceilings and expansive concourses gave it a sense of grandeur.

The steel-framed glass wall, from the curbside arrival area through the ticketing hall, provided us with unobstructed views enabling us to easily find our destinations. The east and west facades have high-performance glass that controls solar heat gain and glare.

The sleek metal and glass surfaces contrast with a vast wood ceiling that provides visual warmth in the longest concourse. One thing I noticed was the deliberate lack of ornamentation, with graceful structural arches left unadorned.  Terrazzo was used in high-circulation areas while carpet covered ancillary spaces.

Grand foyer of Duty-Free shopping hall

On the first floor, under a vast central skylight that provides visual access to one of five concourses, transfer passengers such as us, joined originating passengers, as we moved through an open immigration area. The two large transfer hubs were linked by an automatic people mover.

The arriving passengers then progress to the ground-floor baggage hall and exit to a triple-volume meeters and greeters hall which has direct access to taxi pavilions and an intermodal transportation hub. As we had hours to kill, we spent time exploring the airport. One thing that make HIA so unexpectedly cool is their groundbreaking pieces of modern art that, oftentimes, stop passengers in their tracks.

Lamp Bear (Urs Fischer)

The “Lamp Bear,” at the grand foyer of the airport’s duty-free shopping hall, is a giant, bronze, surreal, yellow teddy bear sitting under a black lamp, one of three creations by subversive Swiss artist Urs Fischer. This arresting sight, standing 7 m. tall and weighing approximately 18-20 tons, was previously displayed at the Seagram Building‘s plaza in New York City before it was purchased at a Christie’s auction for US$6.8 million by a member of the Qatari royal family.  It at has a near-constant knot of people in front of it, grabbing selfie shots.

Playground (Tom Otterness, 2014)

Throughout the activity nodes in Concourse C, near gates C2, C3 and C8, are a series of eight large-scale interactive bronze sculptures done, by Tom Otterness, with slides and seats for limbs and play-pen-like chambers for torsos. Children and adults engage, interact and find recreational enjoyment with these bronze figures that appear to be in play with one another.

Author posing beside a McLaren MP4-12C Coupe on display at the world’s largest TAG Heuer airport boutique

The communal area seating, with all Italian-style chrome and leather, was fancy.  Come evening, we got some shut eye on comfortable recliners within the peaceful surroundings of the quiet lounge. There are also family lounges for those travelling with kids. These quiet rooms, as well as the spacious hold rooms, passenger activity nodes and 17 airline lounges, are all enveloped by glass.   Natural light and dramatic evening desert views are provided by skylights and interconnecting glass ceiling “zippers.”

Duty-free shops

The free Wi-Fi at Hamad International Airport was fast and unlimited (simply connect to “HIAQatar Complimentary WiFi”). For standard passengers like us just passing through, there were plenty of the usual airport restaurant and retail options plus numerous upscale boutiques including Gucci, Burberry, Coach, Rolex, Swarovski and others.  A lot of Filipinos also work in these shops.  On another stopover here on my return to Manila, one of them assisted me when I bought a Sony A-3000 digital SLR camera in one of these shops

Hamad International Airport: Doha, State of Qatar. Tel: +974 465 66 66 (office) and +974 462 29 99 (flight information).  Fax: +974 462 20 44.  IATA Code: DOH.  ICAO Code: OTHH. E-mail: diainfo@qatarairways.com.  Website:  www.dohahamadairport.com.

Georgia on My Mind (Republic of Georgia That Is)

The Philippine delegation at Gudauri, Republic of Georgia. L-R: Pancho Piano, Riva Galveztan, the author, Mel Dizon-Dulalia and Buddy Cunanan

Upon the invitation of Mr. Thelmo “Buddy” O. Cunanan Jr., honorary consul of Georgia in the Philippines, I joined a group that would cover the Colors of Hope exhibit of Mr. Pancho Piano, the first Filipino artist to officially present his work in Georgia and the entire Caucasus region. Aside from Buddy, Pancho and I, also joining the group were Ms. Riva M. Galveztan (health food advocate) and Prof. Melissa “Mel” Dizon-Dulalia. Our Republic of Georgia odyssey was to last 11 days (November 24 – December 4, 2014).

Check out “The Colors of Hope Exhibit

Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga

On the first day of our trip, I met up with Buddy at Resorts World where a bus was to take us Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga.  Along the way, we picked up Pancho Piano at Centris Mall in Quezon City.

The author at the check-in counter of the airport

Upon arrival at Clark, we met up with Mel at the airport.  Riva was to meet us in Tbilisi on another flight the day after our arrival in Tbilisi. While waiting for our flight, all four of us had a late breakfast at the VIP 1 Lounge of the airport.

On board our Qatar Airways plane

We all left the airport on the 10:50 AM Qatar Airways (QR 931) flight on board a Boeing 787-8 aircraft. A rather long 9-hour flight brought us to Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, our first stopover, arriving there at 2:50 PM (Doha time). Here, Pancho, Mel and I were in for a long 17-hour layover.   Buddy opted to leave the airport and check in at a hotel in Doha.

Check out “Hamad International Airport

View of Doha from our plane

Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar

We whiled the time away admiring the artwork, taking turns sleeping on airport lounge chairs and, come morning, having breakfast at a Burger King outlet.

The author, Pancho Piano and Mel Dizon-Dulalia at Hamad International Airport

Buddy joined us the next morning in time for our 7:45 AM (QR 251) connecting flight to Tbilisi, this time on board an Airbus A320 aircraft. Normal flight time is 3 hours and 15 minutes but we made a 1-hour stopover in Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku (Republic of Azerbaijan) to offload as well as load some new passengers.

Stopover in Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Azerbaijan

Touchdown at Tblisi International Airport

We arrived in Tbilisi International Airport by lunchtime where we were met by Ms. Ruby Bebita, a Filipina working in Tbilisi, who assisted us in getting a place to stay in the city. After buying and installing local SIM cards at the airport, we boarded a taxi to bring Pancho, Mel and Buddy to a hostel, near Meidan Square, while I stayed at the nearby Envoy Tours Hostel.

Check out “Hotel and Inn Review: Envoy Tours Hostel

Arrival at the hostel.  Ruby is the lady at left

Envoy Tours Hostel: 45 Betlemi Street (on Junction to Orbiri St. leading up to the Narikala Fortress), 0105 Tbilisi City, Georgia. Tel: +995-322-920-111.  Website: www.envoyhostel.com.

New Bacolod-Silay International Airport (Negros Occidental)

Grace, Jandy, Cheska and  I decided to attend the 2010 Locsin Reunion in Silay City, the first for all of us.  Jandy, Cheska and I took the morning Cebu Pacific Air flight while Grace would follow in the afternoon.  Before 2007, flights to Bacolod City arrived at the old Domestic Airport.  Not anymore as we arrived via the new Bacolod-Silay International Airport, now the primary gateway to Negros Island.

New Bacolod-Silay International Airport


The airport, built by Japanese firm Takenaka-Itochu Joint Venture at a cost of PhP4.3 billion, was started on August 2004 and completed on July 16, 2007.  On September 26, 2007,  a small, 14-seater Reims-Cessna F406, piloted by Steve Gray of New Zealand,  landed at the airport, the first aircraft to do so.

Interior of airport terminal

On January 18, 2008, the airport officially opened and started operations and, that same day, a Cebu Pacific Air Airbus A319-100 (Flight 5j-473), piloted by Silaynon native Capt. Allan Garces, landed at the airport, the first commercial flight to arrive.  The first international flight to arrive was a chartered plane from Kazahkstan which landed on January 2 the following year.  


Bacolod-Silay International Airport: Brgy.   Bagtic, Silay City 6116, Negros Occidental.

Hong Kong: Chep Lap Kok International Airport to Kimberley Hotel

Summer was nearing its end and classes about to begin and we didn’t want to end it without a family vacation.  We decided on Hong Kong, a first for my children Jandy and Cheska. My in-laws, who just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last May 25, was also joining us. So too with my brother-in-law Mark, his wife Nenette and their children Miguel and Matthew, 10 in all.

Arrival at Chek Lap KoK International Airport

We all departed Manila’s old NAIA I Terminal on the 6:30 AM (CX-905) Cathay Pacific flight, arriving at Chek Lap Kok International Airport by 8:30 AM.  After transferring to the Terminal 2 Building via MTR Airport Express, we were met by our guide Anthony from Ann Travel Agency. The 37-km. shuttle trip from the airport to the city took all of 45 mins..

Transfer via MTR Airport Express

Singapore to Bangkok

It was now our last day in Singapore and the start of the second and final leg of 8-day tour – our first visit to Bangkok in Thailand. After breakfast, I still had some time on my hand, so I visited the iconic Raffles Hotel and the nearby Singapore War Memorial.

Check out “Raffles Hotel

 

The iconic Raffles Hotel

The grand hotel lobby

Then I visited my UP College of Architecture friends Oliver “Papot” Venegas and Philip Carrillo at their DP Architects PTE office at the Golden Mile Complex along Beach Road before returning to the hotel.

Check out “Hotel and Inn Review: Cockpit Hotel

Singapore War Memorial

We all checked out of Cockpit Hotel before noon and were shuttled by van to Changi International Airport were we to take a Singapore Airlines (SQ-0066) flight to Bangkok.  By 12:30 PM, we all on board our plane.  The flight took one and a half hours.

Mommy, Tellie and Salve awaiting our flight at Changi International Airport

Don Muang International Airport

Upon arrival at Bangkok’s Don Muang International Airport (one of the world’s oldest international airports and Asia’s oldest operating airport), we were picked up by our Goodwind Tours representative and were brought to 13-storey Rajah Hotel, arriving there by 3:30 PM.  Come evening, we had supper at the Ambassador Hotel.

Check out “Hotel and Inn Review: Rajah Hotel

Rajah Hotel: 18 Soi Sukhumvit 2 and Sukhumvit Soi 4 (Soi Nana), Sukhumvit Rd., Khwaeng Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: 02-2550040 to 55. Fax: 02-2557160.