Taiwan and then Manila, here I come…

Was I anxious about going to the Philippines amidst the ruckus and violence being portrayed in the media. At first yes, but then after a short email from my wise friend Harrison Owen who reminded me it wasn’t so peaceful in the US either, I made the decision to go and never looked back.

After all, in all my interactions with people from the Philippines, they were always warm, considerate, kind, low key and stimulating in the friendliest and most engaging way. I remember feeling the same about my trip to Serbia in 2013 with everyone cautioning me to be safe.  That trip was over the top wonderful and I expect no less from this one.

What a gift to experience a new culture and to see everyday life in another country, to observe and marvel with no judgment or expectation and then as most often happens, to be in awe of all that they are which they can teach us and which we often seem to have forgotten in our media filled, fast-paced life.

Blown away by EVA – a Taiwanese Airline

Service, attention to detail, ambiance, value – have we forgotten this in America when it comes to the airlines. What a contrast in the little things that matter on this first trip with EVA.  My connecting flight prior to was with Jet Blue.  They’re my favorite US airline.

As I approached the EVA ticket counter at JFK (New York) to reconfirm my boarding pass, the service agent, or should I say agents were all over me. Yes, it’s true I didn’t have to beat the crowds as I’d arrived early. That said, the efficiency, teamwork and genuine friendliness of putting the client first was a bit shocking. Equally astonishing which I’d discovered when I checked my bags for the first leg of the flight, NO CHARGE for checked bags with EVA and I’m allowed TWO.  The first thing they did was scan my luggage tag to assure my Florida suitcase had made the transfer.  Wow! Then they weighed my carry–on. It was a tad overweight (books, computer and stuff) but no problem, no big scene, no frowns and no forced redistribution of to reduce the weight. They just let me go by with a smile. Common sense flexibility. Love it.

A Disney-like Boarding Process

Cordoned-off areas in front of the desk and gangplank with a few attendants holding large numerical placards. They organized us into waves, first section 3 as section 4 lined while still being roped off. Then they let the next wave go. I was group 4 (yes Louysa and family you can smile, silly me with my luck fours).

As soon as I stepped on the plane, I felt this sedate elegance. Yes, first class on one side and business class on the other, but there was the same feel in economy. They had multiple language newspapers available for us too – I picked 3.

As I approached my seat, I’m surprised at this same quiet efficiency, no pushing and shoving, lots of room in the overhead bins, spacious seating, each bearing a monogramed pillow and freshly wrapped blanket. Two things I could have left home.

Eva Seat.jpg

EVA = Top Notch Service not just
for First Class

Many flight attendants, all smartly dressed, smiling, calm and ever so welcoming.  In the seat behind me I notice a gentleman with his elderly mother. His mom seems to be slumped on him, appearing ill.  The attendants shower him with attention. “It’s ok he responds, she just tired.”  The window seat passenger arrives. She is a bit taken aback by the seemingly ill lady. The attendants notice her distress and ferry her to another seat. Another genuine act of kindness, oft repeated in the 8 hours I’ve been aboard.

Remembering the trials and tribulations of traveling with my mom who had limited mobility and mild dementia, I offer the gentleman the opportunity to sit in the aisle row of my three seats. Seems I’ve been lucky again, one of only a few on the plane to have three seats all to myself. The son thanks me kindly and as soon as we’ve taken off, he installs his mom to sleep and takes up my offer. I see him glancing every few minutes to see if his mom is ok. Many memories for me.  (Update: unfortunately 2 hours from destination, the elderly woman died. Not possible to resuscitate her. A tragic event, happens quickly, a son lost his mom. She had wanted to come home after she became ill visiting in America.  Makes us pause about how precious life is).

Next surprise is when we are all presented with beautifully designed menus.  Unbelievable, we have a plethora of choices. Real utensils too.  I opt for the smoked salmon appetizer and shrimp scallop stir fry with fresh fruit and apple raisin cake for desert. Again I can’t help but think of our American airlines with very few freebies. Small bags of pretzels seem to be the norm, even for international flights in some cases.

Silly as it seems, I’d even rave about the “economy” bathrooms, more spacious than what I’m used to, sparkling clean with a full length mirror on one size and a touch of class on the other wall.

Suffice to say that I knew instantly that my 16-hour trip would not be grueling. It would be sheer delight. And indeed, after sleeping for about 4 hours, I settled in to do some work. It was just as productive as if I had been in the comfort of my home office. And best of all, I was able to create this blog thanks to reasonably priced WiFI access. Unbelievable that I got this much on a trip that cost me just a few hundred bucks more than traveling from Tampa to Moncton, New Brunswick.

Thank you EVA for this appetizer taste of more good times to come!

Can’t wait to see Manila tonight after stopping first at the Taiwan airport.