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Filipino American Expat in Singapore

Writer’s Note: I’m about to kick-off my Dublin-London blog series. I’m doing this because I miss documenting my life the way I used to back in the early 2000s. It’s also mainly because I want to get back into writing. Writing is a central part of my current role for a tech company I work for. I’m hoping that somehow I’ll improve my writing by practicing it here on my good ol’ blog.

Story highlights (or learnings, if you prefer)

  • For ANY international flight with connections, get to the airport 3 hours before. Do NOT underestimate this. Plus, Changi Airport is reason enough to check-in EARLY.
  • British Airways economy is fine.
  • Plan for longer transits at airports like Heathrow which have longer security and immigration checks.

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Dublin.

Not exactly at the top of my dream destinations. (Later on, I’ll tell you how much I love it.) I’ve always thought that seeing the rest of Asia (whether it’s the cherry blossoms in Japan, the snow as it falls on the great wall of China, or cafe hopping in India) was a priority.

A few weeks ago I was informed that I’ll be joining a marketing offsite in the Irish capital. Our company’s EMEA headquarters is in Dublin (and not London which I’d assume previously). Wow. Dublin. IRELAND. ❤ ❤ ❤

Heading to Dublin

I’m in a Grab taxi rushing to Changi Airport. The Grab taxi was the third attempt I got while waiting ferociously at my block’s void deck for 20 minutes. Damn it. I am going to be late for my flight. I have never missed a flight, EVER. But as I was looking at my clock, it was becoming almost inevitable. I was going to arrive at Changi Airport about 40 minutes BEFORE take-off. How could have this have happened?

10 days worth of clothes in this luggage

I get a call from the check-in counter and it’s someone from Etihad. They confirm with me that I’ll be reaching the terminal on-the-dot and they can let me drop my bags if I reach at 5:40 PM. I reach the terminal at 5:37 PM and make a mad dash for the assigned row. Only to find the TV monitors switched off a group of ladies (yes, all were ladies) behind the counter talking to each other like they were getting manicures. I AM NOT KIDDING. They were just looking at me. I could swear that confirmation call came from one of them.

Resigned to my fate… I am pointed to go to the end of the row where a counter staff was happy to accommodate me. She was a fellow Filipino and with it comes a certain level of warmth. “Miss, paano ‘to, na-miss ko na ba yung flight ko? Pasensiya na, ngayon lang nangyari ‘to… ano po pwede gawin ko?” (Miss, what can I do? Did I miss my flight? Sorry, this is the first time it’s happened to me. What can I do?)

She re-assured that I could still fly off this evening. It suddenly occurred to me that I was also going to miss my connecting in Abu Dhabi. And the possibility of not flying into Dublin for check-in at my pricey guesthouse also made my tummy churn. Damn it, George.

A few minutes later she shows me a handwritten note asking if I’m fine flying on a British Airways flight later that evening. I’d be flying direct to London from Singapore (omg, a 14-hour flight… woohoo I haven’t had one like that since I was a kid). Then connecting onto another BA flight to get me to Dublin. All in all, I’d be reaching Dublin only two hours late from my original Etihad via Abu Dhabi.

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LOL

That’s good news because that means I’ll be able to have dinner with PJ at Changi. And I’ll also be flying with my colleague who is on the same BA flight.

Dinner with PJ

After dinner with PJ, we head to Terminal 1 where he’ll drop me off. I’m reading WhatsApp messages that my colleague encountered problems at check-in and that she will not be able to board the BA flight. Oh man. She’ll have to rebook and fly to Dublin on another flight the next day.

Won’t be seeing him for almost two weeks.

I get a little cheesy with PJ. This is my first business trip with the company and my first time leaving PJ for about 10 days. Well, almost the same amount as back in September when I was in Manila for a while. We hug and we kiss by the departure door.

Making it to the transit

I’m in the transit area and I’m heading to the gate where my British Airways flight is assigned. It’s at Terminal 3 apparently (though the entrance was through Terminal 1). I hadn’t realized that T3 and T1 were actually connected by regular walkway.

Oh, it says go to Terminal 3.

Only as I approached the assigned gate was I getting the feeling that this was real. I’m flying to Europe for the first time. Yes, I’ll put that out there. A few checks to my passport and boarding pass and I’m in the boarding gate lounge. It’s already boarding. The flight is an Airbus A380 to London.

British Airways Flight BA12 (Singapore to London)

This flight would be the longest I’ve taken since I was pretty young. Most of my travels in the past twenty years have been within Southeast Asia or Guam. The longest flight would be the latter which would be a 4 or 5 hour flight to Hagåtña from Manila back in 2010.

BA12 to London – an Airbus A380

BA12 Economy. I flew economy for this whole business trip. This is to make up for this mess with BCD Travel (I shall name thee). I’m no expert with reviewing seats as I don’t travel often. But the economy seats were fine. Comes with your blanket, headset, and a pillow.

Flying economy on BA12

BA12 inflight entertainment. The screens were of standard size. I flew economy on Emirates to Sri Lanka in 2015 and I remember the screen size was the entire length of the back of the seats. I managed to watch two movies: “Green Book” and “A Private War”. Both are tear-jerkers!

BA12 economy meals. We had snacks served first. When I asked for white wine (to help with my anxiety and to help me sleep), they gave two bottles. One sauvignon blanc and one chardonnay.

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White wine and pretzels at the start of the flight

Supper/Dinner on BA12 Singapore to London – Beef

For the meal, I picked out the beef as the supper option. With it are sliced potatoes and veggies. There’s a potato salad as well and an apple crumble pie. It was sufficient.

Towards the end of the 14-hour flight we were served one more meal as a breakfast option. I picked out “English breakfast” which means a serving of scrambled egg, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, and potatoes. They also had fruit.

Breakfast on BA12 Singapore to London – English Breakfast

BA12 flight path. I understand that the flight path had to be adjusted to avoid Pakistan. We flew over India and then towards southern Afghanistan and Iran. Over Iraq. I was trying to sleep by this point.

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In Heathrow

Ah, Heathrow! One of the world’s busiest airports. A delight to see!

A delight to also miss the connecting flight to Dublin. After going through layers of immigration and security, our flight from Singapore had arrived a few minutes too late to ensure I can get connected onto the Dublin-bound flight.

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The home of British Airways

Like clockwork I was pushed to another BA flight later in the morning. This gave me a five-hour layover at Heathrow. I took this time to stop and absorb the world-famous airport. I bought a snack at Pret-a-Manger and read my China Rich Girlfriend book by one of the emptier gates. I noticed how fast these gates were used. At Heathrow, apparently, gate assignments aren’t final until the minutes before a flight. “Gate announced at 9:37AM” would be a regular thing on a flight display. You have to be attentive.

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Look at that. 🙂

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You have to pay close attention to the boarding gate announcements. They change.

I took a stroll around Heathrow terminal 5. I visited a Harry Potter store and then I walked to the farthest end of the terminal area to buy a Monocle magazine from one of the stores. The airport was buzzing. Much more buzz than Changi Airport. I know it’s spring, but from someone coming from the tropics it looked like everyone was walking around off the set of Home Alone.

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One more flight to go.

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Spotted this at Heathrow.

My gate announcement was made and I trooped over to the other end of the terminal. At the gate I couldn’t help myself observe the crowd. Of course I was flying to Ireland so I was expecting more Irish accents (please forgive me for these trivial observations, I’m in fantasy land here). I dunno, I guess I’m just too excited.

British Airways BA 834 (London to Dublin)

We board the aircraft and it’s an A320 if I’m not mistaken. It’s a quick hop across the Irish Sea. I’m thinking it’s like Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, basically. That short.

The sun is rising at this point and the sky looks glorious outside. We land in Ireland and I’m all smiles. Wow. My eye-bags are making themselves PRESENT. FELT. But who cares. I’m landing in Ireland just days before St. Patrick’s Day. It’s going to be damn festive.

Entering Ireland

As a US passport holder, I encountered no problem at Heathrow and at the airport in Dublin. It was simply answering questions “why are you here?” (business) and “how long are you here for?” (until thursday, roughly 6 days).

Dublin Airport is tiny, almost provincial. But very functional. It’s chilly. Very chilly. I put on my 2nd jacket (the one from Uniqlo) and try to figure out the myTaxi app which was recommended to me since there’s no Grab coverage in Ireland.

Leaving the airport

Eventually, Uber is the functioning taxi-share app. I had the option of taking the Airport express buses into town but after a very long flight from Singapore via London, I wanted the comfort of a taxi to get me to my guesthouse downtown. After missing my Etihad flight and missing my connecting BA flight, the overall time it took me to get from Bukit Merah to Dublin Airport was short of 22 hours.

It’s very COLD. I walk over to the assigned pick-up area for Uber cars and it’s at the carpark about 200 meters away from the main airport terminals. The wind is blowing and it’s… basta, yun lang… COLD. I think it was 8-10 degrees C. But that doesn’t explain how cold it gets when the wind blows.

The Uber taxi is warm. And I take my first few Instagram stories of this beautiful route into the city. The sun is setting and I’m looking out the window at bushes, buildings, trees, pavements that look different from the ones back home.

Next up… Grafton Guesthouse in Dublin.