Far, Far Away, by Rich Paschall
The most important point, to begin with, is that I never had any desire to cross the Pacific. I have made the trip across the Atlantic to Europe a number of times. The flight time from Chicago O’Hare to a western European city, such as London, Frankfurt, or Paris, would range from 8 to over 9 hours. That would be if you are going direct. Add in a layover somewhere and you could be in for a very long day. Sometimes I could get a direct flight in one direction but had to include a stop in the other. On my last European trip in 2021, I went to Frankfurt by way of Montreal and came back via Toronto. Long trips get harder as you get older. You know the old proverb, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Consider that crossing the Pacific from the middle of the country would be at least 50 percent longer. Chicago to Tokyo would be over 13 hours if flying direct. Because of wind patterns around the globe, a flight of that distance can actually take longer due to headwinds. You may get a boost on the way back due to tailwinds, but that is no comfort on the first trip.
Not only are many Asian destinations unavailable direct from Chicago, but some also have no direct flights from anywhere in the United States. Bangkok, Thailand, for example, has no direct flight from the United States. In fact, there was no direct flight from North America until Air Canada scheduled one from Vancouver starting this past December. (Yes, shameless plug for my part-time employer). For all but a few of the largest cities, you will have to have a layover somewhere, maybe two.
The Philippines is a tough location to get to from middle America. You might think a city like Manila would be much easier to reach than it is. Many years ago, Philippine Airlines actually flew to Chicago. That service, along with some other US cities, has been terminated. No matter how you schedule it from the Midwest, you are connecting somewhere. With a layover or two, you must consider at least 22 hours of travel time from ORD.
If you visited here last year, you might have noticed my mention of Thai celebrities Ohm Pawat and Nanon Korapat. Their TV mini-series Bad Buddy was a huge success. That led to constant guest appearances on TV shows and personal appearances at promotional events. Finally, GMM TV mounted a massive musical production called “1st Fan Meeting in Thailand” held at the convention center and streamed live around the world. We discussed that in “Giving It Your All.” After 2 stadium shows in Japan with other GMM TV stars, there was the “Fan Meeting” show in Seoul, Korea. Fans bought that up. In December, on Nanon’s 22nd birthday, there was a “Fan Meeting” in Taipei that sold out in seconds. A second show was added and quickly sold.
Then came the announcement of a show in Manilla. Soon after I was chatting with someone who I know in the Philippines who likes Ohm and Nanon music videos. I told him about Bad Buddy being available there and he has been watching that. When we talked about the guys playing the new 1000-seat Samsung Hall in Manilla, of course, I said I would go if we had the tickets. I was thinking there was little if any chance we would get tickets. The other shows sold so quickly.
During the week before the tickets were to go on sale, I tried to get on SM Tickets, the official ticket seller for the event and one of the large ticket sellers in the region. I could not even get through. The ticket sales started on a Saturday morning, Friday evening here, and I got a screen that said the space was busy and not to refresh, I would be next in order when space was available. After an hour I gave up, secure in the conviction that we would never get a ticket. As much as I think I would enjoy their live show, I thought that I would never be going there.
It turns out we got two tickets and I had already opened my mouth. “Of course, I will go. I will be there!” I envision a long and possibly arduous trip, but I said I would do it. I knew it might be possible but thought it highly improbable. There are still some tickets available. A show in Singapore has been announced since with a second added because it sold out so fast. Three more Asian cities have been announced.
Why did Manila fail to sell out? Tickets went on sale in mid-December prior to Christmas. Crowds in previous cities were supplemented by fans from Thailand. The Manila tickets were much more expensive than the others. I know the artists cannot control that. With more regional cities added (Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh, and Kanagawa) the Manila show will not now sell out.
After my last long trip, I thought another one by myself would not happen. Now I will embrace this one as the last great adventure on my own. It will be my only trip across the Pacific and then I will finally stay home and relax.
Of course, the Colombian American formerly known as John is talking about Boston. He knows someone in the area and as it turns out, so do I. He would also like to go to Bogota to visit family. My long-time travel companion from Texas has not weighed in on a possible visit. Last year we went to Toronto. We have gone on several European vacations, and he returns here every year.
Well. you know what Rick Steves of PBS travel shows would say, “Keep on traveling.”
See also: “The Bad Buddy Phenomenon,” SERENDIPITY, September 2, 2022.
“Giving It Your All,” Ohm Nanon Friend City review, SERENDIPITY, August 22, 2022.
“The Character of Bad Buddy, Part 2,” The Main Characters, SERENDIPITY, November 20, 2022.