3. Departure (current post)
4. Day 1
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I booked our tickets back in July. Initially, I was looking at Cebu Pacific's fares, which amounted to a little over 4,000PHP roundtrip. (Don't even mention Philippine Airlines; the way they price their flights, it's as if they are such a prestigious force to be reckoned with.)
Then I came upon EVA Air's midyear sale of sorts in their website, which sold Manila-Taipei-Manila tickets for 112USD per person (which, back then, converted to around 5,000PHP). For a full-service, Skytrax-certified 5-star airline, that was quite an irresistible deal. Plus, EVA Air's pre-dawn departure from Manila and evening departure from Taipei were ideal for us who wanted to really maximize our time in Taipei.
For our accommodations, I wanted to try AirBnB and had come up with a list of potential places as early as end of July. (T and I had gone hostel hopping for our trip to Shanghai using hostelworld.com, and that had turned out quite well.) I finally decided on this place--a loft in Ximending, the "place-to-be" these days, that's two minutes' walk to the nearest train station.
Finally, I worked on our visas with only a month to go before the trip, as the application form strictly requires a place of residence at the intended destination.
Processing time was a brief three days at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office at the 41st floor of RCBC Plaza, Makati City. As of September 2016, they charged 2,400PHP per person. (Compare that to 4,000PHP per person and eight working days for processing at one of our local travel agencies.)
The main papers themselves should be accomplished online and printed beforehand here. Note that the application is only in the morning, while pick-up is in the afternoon.
On the day of departure, we arrived at the airport a little before 2AM, with a good one-and-a-half hours to spare before boarding. You must admit: The makeover of Ninoy Aquino International Airport's (NAIA) Terminal 1 is gorgeous. The check-in hall is now roomier and brighter (though that could also be attributed to the transfer of four of its biggest users--Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Delta Airlines--to Terminal 3). Also, these photos were taken in the dead of night.
We paid the 1,620PHP travel tax, as EVA Air still hadn't included this in its system. Check-in was a breeze: 3 counters for economy class, 2 for business class and 1 for baggage drop, though in the end, they were already accommodating economy class passengers in all counters. Immigration was also a breeze, and by 2:30AM, we were already in the pre-departures area.
NAIA Terminal 1 check-in hall.
EVA Air check-in counters.
Terminal 1 departures board.
We were flying an A321, and boarding commenced promptly at 3:30AM. This is an area where EVA Air could certainly improve in. Apparently, they don't board by rows, but by "seating zones" in the pre-departure area. Those "seating zones" don't even mean anything; they're just rows of chairs bunched together by proximity, and anyone can sit in any of them. The whole procedure is absolute nonsense; it's basically boarding at random.
Air China B737-800 to Beijing; Asiana Airlines A321-200 to Busan.
Hallway to our pre-departure area.
Air China B737-800 at Gate 2.
Our plane: A321. (Photo taken upon arrival in Manila.)
We left the gate promptly at 4AM, though it was a 10-minute taxi to the other end of Runway 6/24. We had been assigned exit row seats, which meant great leg room! Onboard, the flight attendants were attentive and approachable, without being too familiar.
Legroom at Seat 26K!
For the early breakfast, the choices were "fish rice" and "omelette." The meals went with a side of cold chicken salad (bland) and fruit (fresh and sweet), as well as apple juice and the tea/coffee service after. My sister got the fish rice, which she found too salty. I got the omelette, which was okay; it went with soggy roasted potatoes, a slab of ham and vegetables. Overall, the food was nothing stellar. We slept the rest of the way, and our flight arrived in Taipei-Taoyuan International Airport at 5:59AM.
EVA Air B777-300ER greeting us upon arrival.