Not long after, AirAsia started its Philippine operations. But because they only flew from DMIA in Clark, Pampanga, I wasn't really able to travel in the Philippines or travel in Asia with AirAsia because of proximity issues. But I had always hoped they'd fly from Manila.
Fast-forward to September 2013, my wish was granted.
AirAsia has partnered with Zest Air in a bid to further revolutionize air travel in the Philippines. As such, Zest Air has now been rebranded as AirAisa Zest.
The new AirAsia Zest logo. Visit the site now by clicking on the photo!
With this alliance, AirAsia Zest can now bank on the strength of these two airlines' network of domestic and international routes as well as, of course, unrivalled daily low fares. Best of all, this now means AirAsia Zest flies from Manila!
From NAIA Terminal 4, AirAsia Zest flies to the following domestic destinations: Cebu, Davao, Kalibo (Boracay), Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran, Cagayan de Oro, and the following international destinations: Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Shanghai, Incheon.
This much-welcome news has gotten me into coming up with my AirAsia Zest destination wishlist. Here's my top five:
1. Incheon, South Korea
Is it just me who hasn't been bitten by the Korean bug yet or what? The prevalence of K-Pop, K-Drama or Koreanovelas, Korean groceries, Korean ice cream, Korean salons, and everything Korean in the local Philippine scene is undeniable.
I guess I just wasn't paying attention then but now I'm starting to see why. The Koreans are a fascinating bunch. Theirs is a culture that's full of life, color, and even style. Their dramas are fast-paced, entertaining, and well, wholesome. Their ice cream tastes good. And oh, you have no idea how jealous I am of their edgy hairstyles and uber cool clothes.
Gyeongbok Palace. Photo used with permission from Jasmin Garcia.
Now why not go visit Korea and see the country and its people firsthand! It will be a total cultural immersion--all while visiting its many palaces, taking a leisurely stroll along its spacious parks, getting a taste of its frenetic urban life, and maybe even getting to see an island or two. And Incheon will be my gateway.
2. Tagbilaran, Bohol
While it's heartbreaking how the province was devastated by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake last Oct. 15, it's equally sad to learn that tourists have generally shied away from Bohol since the tragedy. But how can we help them get back on their feet if we don't do our share in keeping their tourism industry alive, if we don't book a flight to Tagbilaran?
The generally unspoiled white beach beauty of Anda, Bohol.
Yes, we've witnessed the damage to its many centuries-old churches but there's more to Bohol than heritage structures. Lest we forget, the province is home to a number of gorgeous white-sand beaches and some, like Anda, have remained largely undeveloped and unspoiled. Bohol has world-class dive spots, lush mangrove forests, some waterfalls even. And while we're there, maybe we can help out in some relief or rehabilitation efforts somehow.
3. Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Puerto Princesa has witnessed a boom in recent times, thanks to the inclusion of the Underground River into the New 7 Wonders of the Natural World. However, I'm more interested in Sabang Beach, ironically the gateway to the famed Underground River but whose sheer beauty is grossly overlooked by many. The sand is not white but it's really fine and foot-friendly. Besides, coupled with the glorious mountain views in the distance, it makes for a perfect place to just sit back and relax.
A section of the beach near the Underground River.
There's also the usually placid Honda Bay for some island-hopping, which I want to revisit. The place also has some great spots for snorkeling. Then I imagine capping my day with a nice dinner at KaLui.
But with all the natural beauty Palawan has to offer, Puerto Princesa can also be a perfect gateway to go see El Nido up north or maybe check out the beaches and islands in Narra down south.
4. Shanghai, China
The city of Shanghai is powerhouse China's own take of glitzy, cosmopolitan chic. I know the capital Beijing is an interesting city but Shanghai is much sexier. And I want to experience sexy. I want to see how China does urban glam and I want to witness how they've fused traditional with modern.
A section of the bustling metropolis that is Shanghai. Photo used with permission from Jasmin Garcia.
5. Kalibo, Aklan
I have a love-hate relationship with Boracay. No matter how much I lament how development on the island has been hugely mismanaged, there's no denying that it's one beautiful island with probably the best white sand in the world. This is why I always go back, enjoy the wonderful feeling of its powdery sand on my feet, sip a drink or two while working up my tan.
Yes, there are parties and food and drinks everywhere but look out into the sea and it's always gorgeous, be it broad daylight or sunset.
Just one of Boracay's many glorious sunsets.
And while visitors mostly just pass through Kalibo going to Boracay, I'd also like to explore Kalibo a bit more, see what else is there, and attend the annual Ati-Atihan Festival perhaps. That would be most awesome.
So there you have it, my top five from among AirAsia Zest's destinations. I sure hope to cross them all out of my list soon.
For flights and more info, go to airasia.com/ph.