DECEMBER 24, 2014 (MANILA, PHILIPPINES)
9:20 PM - Fifteen minutes after we requested a car through Uber, the drivers were already texting us that they were already near our place. We went down the elevator and wheeled our big luggages out of the cold, December evening excited for the next days to come. It was our first trip ever as a family outside of Asia and we could not be more excited about it!
9:50 PM - One of the good things about spending your Christmas Eve in Manila is that the traffic is negligible. We arrived at NAIA Terminal 1 exactly 30 minutes after we were picked up by our Uber drivers from our place along Taft Avenue. We already web-checked in so the process of checking in our baggages and going through immigration had been fairly fast. Add to this the fact that there were only a few people inside the airport that moment. If you want to travel outside the country and want to skip the long lines and chaotic airport, I suggest you fly out during Christmas Eve!
11:50 PM - The Etihad Airways plane arrived on time. We boarded the flight with a couple hundred more people. Boarding had been fast and easy as the plane was not full. There were a lot of empty seats that the flight stewards told us that we are very much welcome to occupy a full row to lay down on.
DECEMBER 25, 2014 (MANILA, PHILIPPINES / ABU DHABI, UAE / MUNICH, GERMANY)
12:50 AM - Our plane took off! This is it! I spent my Christmas Eve up in the air.
It was a 9.5 hour flight from Manila to Abu Dhabi which was our point of stopover. I spent the whole flight basically just watching movies, eating, sleeping and playing Sudoku. And yes, we did survive it! Thanks to Etihad Airways' amazing seats, food and movie/tv show selections our flight had been an amazing one. I think I watched an episode or two of Friends, Maze Runner and Traitors which is a Moroccan movie about Malika, the leader of an all-female punk rock band called Traitors who agreed to a fast cash proposition to realize immediately her dreams for her band and to help her family raise some cash to prevent them from being evicted out of their home. A gripping movie between doing what is right and what is necessary.
6:15 AM - Being 4 hours behind Manila's time, we arrived in Abu Dhabi's Terminal 1 at around 6 o' clock in the morning. Coming out from the gate, we saw immediately this amazing centerpiece in violet and green running from the 1st level of the airport, where the duty-free shops are, up to the second level ceiling. It was majestic.
Since we still had time to spare, we went down a level and roamed around the duty-free shops. A lot of their shops were offering discounts as low as 50% to 70% off!
7:30 AM - We walked out of the branded shops and walked towards the bridge from T1 going to T3 to go to our boarding gate. Our gate was just a 5-minute walk from the shops and we were already there in no time. The boarding gate was packed with travellers. We had a hard time looking for seats that could accommodate the five of us but find an empty row near the occupied round sofa that already has people sleeping on it.
8:15 AM - After the airport officials checked our documents and asked us about our travel intentions, we were again good to go. We finally boarded the plane and settled ourselves for the take-off of the flight that would take us to Munich!
8:55 AM - The plane finally took-off!
The views during the 7-hour flight were nothing short of amazing! There were endless mountain ranges capped off by snow. There was even this view where it was white all over! It had been an unbelievable sight that even my eyes made the decision not to sleep through the whole flight just so it can enjoy the magnificence of God's creation. I felt like flying through a big, moving, 3D painting. It felt like a dream but I knew well that it was not a dream, it was my reality during those moments.
After the plane descended a few thousand feet below the clouds, the view from my window changed. Instead of seeing white, clouds or snow, I then saw fields of green and brown, perfectly formed and adorned with those beautiful houses, churches and equally perfect clumps of trees. Seeing the perfections even from above was then that I knew I was already in Europe.
12:40 PM - We landed earlier than expected. Even from the outside and from seeing the facade of the Munich Airport (Flughafen München) I already deduced how organized and quiet it was. I am not sure if it was really like that or if it was because it was Christmas Day when we arrived there which I have read is something to be expected but yes, it was so organized and perfect. Europeans usually celebrate Christmas for two days (Dec 25 and Dec 26) and they just stay in their houses with their families. Even most of the shops/restaurants are usually closed during these days so it is a normal sight actually to see only a few people out on the streets.
1:10 PM - We already had all our luggages and we were already good to go!
We can already feel how cold it was even from the inside. I think the temperature outside was at 8°C when we arrived in Munich so we prepared first our things before going out. Bags? We just got them! Coats? Check! Warmers just in case we could not stand the cold? Check! Gloves? Check! Scarf? Check! Head gears? Check, check! We were already so ready for the cold! So what now? All we have to do then was find a mode of transportation that would take us to the city center! So, what did we opt for?