We head off past the typhoon to Kota Kinabalu, then onwards to wonderful Mulu National Park on the north of the island of Borneo.
Well, sadly, the concierge did not have our luggage. It needed to be retrieved from customs, which they would do "in the morning". We're gone tonight--can they call back Cathay Pacific to hold it at the airport? Sure.
This was the last of the tedium--we went to the airport, checked in for our Zest Air by AirAsia Philippines (what a convoluted naming), got our cabin luggage tags... then we went to the Cathay office, who instructed us to go to the airport police to get a Visitor Pass to go into the customs clearance area, we dropped off our drivers licenses for collateral, got a big "VISITOR" sticky for our shirts, walked upstream into Customsland, back to some chain linked utility room with two bored attendants and long racks labeled "SIA" and "PIA" and such, baggage all arranged carefully like produce in the supermarket, no need to find it though--mine was in a row of bags on the floor under the "CX" sign, Chris's was already racked. I was curious about the tagging--yep, luggage still had the original AA label on it, with a handwritten note attached. Pretty, if unautomated and not really machine readable. Hauled the luggage back upstairs and did check in #2 at AirAsia--both bags together were 14kg exactly, whew, such a relief to know we're not paying the $6 fee for excess carry-on baggage weight.
And now it was time for some rest. Originally our flight out wasn't at 5pm, it was at 9am--giving us a 9 hour layover in Manila. Given Manila's reputation for horrible traffic, and perhaps customs/immigration experience we had prepaid for a cheap capsule room. Why not use it? We found it up behind the food court, a little bunkbedded room with the top bunk a good two meters in the air (I took the top bunk), and dozed a couple of hours before heading to the gate, wondering if the flight would take off at all. Super Typhoon Nock-ten was somewhere just south of Manila, maybe west? Let's wait some more to find out.
Our ticket said "Gate 101", display said "Gate 114". OK, sigh, we walked down the stark concrete terminal, to the gate, and hunkered down under the intense 5000K fluorescent bulbs, cringing at the FAR TOO LOUD GATE ANNOUNCEMENTS that made both of us reach for the earplugs. Frankly, it was better than the LOUD CHRISTMAS MUSIC drowning the rest of the airport.
We had a couple of hours at the gate, watching FlightTrack Pro update the departure time on our phones. Now 8:20pm, only 3 hours 20min late! Now 8:55pm! Now 8:30pm! Now 9pm! where it stayed. But 8:30 came, and 8:45pm. Where's the rest of the passengers? There's maybe 25 people at the gate waiting. Where's the gate staff. Chris wandered off to lazily look, and came back: THE GATE HAS CHANGED TO GATE 104. WE HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO BOARD.
A electric scooter-bench came and grabbed whoever couldn't run the 500 meters to the other end of the terminal, senior citizens elbowing each other to desperately get onto this airport jeepney; we grabbed our stuff and ran, past the display still said "Gate 114", down those moving people-belts, some working, some not, cursing other passengers for bringing on far too many carry-ons, ( fortunately this isn't LAX so there aren't any fucking emotional support animal leashes to leap over).
Yeah, it's the 'gate change at boarding' trick, and we fell for it, amateurs we are.
We made it, found our seats in the exit row, and I was a good Boy Scout and told the FAs that there were a good two dozen pax still arriving. They went 'really?'. But we had our bags, and were on the final-ish approach. They waited until 9:15, and closed the doors with six passengers left behind.
The flight to Kota Kinabalu was uneventful; some slight bumps as we took off then smooth and we landed at what I expected to be a smallish airport, after all, who's heard of KK? Uh no--this airport was large and newish and clean and more modern than most US airports (which doesn't say much) maybe 25 gates, three levels, glass and space frame construction. It looked like the International departure gates at SFO. And it made me think after some 48+ hours wandering around airports I didn't want to see another for awhile.
But that's not the case. We grabbed a cab into town, checked into our very nice room at the Mandarin Hotel next to the Chinatown gates, and slept. Ahhhhh.