Friday, April 27, 2012

Airport Review: Tagbilaran Airport

Tagbilaran Airport (IATA Code: TAG) is the airport gateway to Tagbilaran City and the province of Bohol  in Central Visayas. The airport is classified as a Principal Airport Class 1 by the CAAP, a body of the Department of Transportation and Communications responsible for implementing policies on civil aviation to assure safe, economic and efficient air travel, and the handling of operations on all airports except major international airports. The airport is currently served with daily Manila bound flights of Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific Air, Zest Air and Philippine Airlines and Cebu and Davao bound, Mid-Sea Express. It has one asphalt surface runway with a length of 5,837 feet and 1,779 meters. 

Tagbilaran Airport terminal building.
Our plane from Manila - PR175
I experience to be in the airport when I had my first visit to Tagbilaran, Bohol last Summer 2011 of March.

The Building and Facility
The airport building is two floor small building with no jetways for airplanes to docked with and transfer passengers from the the plane side to airport building side. The 1/4 of the ground floor is dedicated to a small arrival area while the bigger part of the ground floor is dedicated to the departure area. The second floor of the building occupies the management offices and airline ticket offices as well as the annex of departure waiting area for departing passengers before boarding.

The airport can only handle two airplanes on ground at the same time due to limited plane space in the airport. Meaning only two flights, two landings and two departures can only be accommodated on operational time of the airport. This measure of two planes at a time also regulates the flow and influx of passengers to the terminal building due to its limited space as well.

Welcome to the City of Friendship landmark just outside the airport.
Check-in counter of Philippine Airlines at departure area. Credits to Pinoy Photoblogger of
I notice that after deplaning from stairs, a lot of arriving passengers mostly Filipino tourist were starting to take on-ground pictures with the airplanes in the background. Picture taking takes time and on-ground security were instructing the passengers to do it quickly as most aircraft are turnaround flights and boarding is soon for departing passengers that might mix with the arriving passenger and can cause security breaches. I join the photoshoot as this is just an only chance experience to be near an airplane but made one quick shot only as security officers are gesturing the passengers to proceed immediately to the arrival hall.

The arrival area is small. I estimate that it only occupies 1/4 of the ground floor building with one baggage carousel for check-in baggage claim. It is an open area and non air-con facility. The area gets crowded when two arriving flights arrive at consecutive times.

It has one decent and clean restroom and has an easy exit out to the terminal. Upon exit to the terminal premises we were welcome by the city landmark's "The City of Friendship". This is in reference to Datu Sikatuna's Sanduguan or Blood Compact friendship agreement with the Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi during the Spanish rule times.

Check-in counters at departure area. Credits to Pinoy Photoblogger of
Upon arrival at the terminal we were greeted again by the city landmark. Inside the departure area of the terminal is direct access to check-in counters. Though it is well ventilated, the terminal is hot in afternoon atmosphere with non air-conditioned facility and though it occupies most of the ground space of the terminal it still small for a public air terminal with quite number of flights to serve. The airport has a terminal fee for departing passengers of around 30-35 pesos each.

In the gate area, there is so much crowd waiting for the flight. It was 2 pm and our flight back is around 4:30 pm. Along with our flight is Zest Air and Cebu Pacific Air flight too where there are  passengers are also waiting for their departure. The gate area is overcrowded because of this situation and though it has a second floor for waiting passengers, it is still crowded. Even the stairs going up to the second floor is occupied on the sides by the waiting passengers. Me and my travel companions ended up standing while waiting for our flight. 

The ground floor also has the restroom and small kiosk shops for souvenir items. This time the area is air-conditioned equipped.    

Tagbilaran City's welcome landmark.
Second floor of gate area with waiting passengers.
After sometime when Cebu Pacific already start boarding, some of the space and seats in the gate were freed. But it was still crowded with two flights waiting for departure. Luckily we found seats to wait and relax before our departure at the second floor area of the gates.

The second floor of the gate area is fully occupied with seats for departing passengers. What I like in the floor are wide windows to view the incoming and outgoing aircraft movement in Tagbilaran Airport. The place is perfect for planespotting! Planespotting is one of my favorite hobbies so I shoot the best plane shots I can get from the windows as some fellow passengers are doing it as well.

Waiting to go home...
Flight PR 178 to Manila - the last flight of the day in Tagbilaran Airport.
We boarded on-time. As we board and handed our boarding passes to airport ground personnel, we were also serenaded by a band of native and local songs. I think that was a great way to end up my trip in Bohol. And a great way of Boholanos to say "thank you" or "daghang salamat" for visiting their little paradise.

We were again expose to a close encounter with an airplane because of stair boarding. After 10 minutes, the aircraft taxis the ramp, made a turn at the runway and flew at 4:45 pm. It was a smooth flight out of Tagbilaran City. 

Bohol in the air!
My Conclusion
While the terminal of Tagbilaran is enough for the passenger traffic, demand for air travel in Bohol especially with foreign and local visitors demands for terminal expansion. The terminal is small to accommodate the increasing flow of passengers incoming and outgoing to Bohol province. Most of the facilities from arrival to departure to aircraft space is not enough to accommodate the increasing number of passengers everyday. Four airlines with daily and multiple flights crowds the terminal and demands for its expansion for more space.

I think space is also the reason why only two aircraft movements are allowed in Tagbilaran Airport. Aside from limited terminal space, only two aircrafts can accommodate at the terminal's aircraft park. Space is limited to accommodate additional flight at the same time. That's why they limit aircraft landings and departures at the airport.

The gate area is the most crowded part of the airport. It needs expansion for more space since a lot of tourists are visiting Bohol every year. Its kinda shame to let passengers stand or sit in the stairs waiting for their flight because of limited seats in the terminal. There is no need for a Internet wi-fi facility or grand architectural terminal structure. Enough space and seats for passengers is good already for the airport.

Given the priority and funds for expansion by the airport authorities and government bodies, I think improvement is not far thing to happen with Tagbilaran Airport. Also given situations are the increasing demand of visitors to Bohol and its fame as a prime tourist destination in the country that calls for expansion and improvement. But unfortunately as I saw, it is quite difficult and complicated to expand more spaces to the terminal and facility of the airport as it is located in a residential area that limits it for space expansion. But with right planning or relocation like other major provincial airports, who knows? There also news of constructing an airport in Panglao Island to support its growing tourism industry but as of now, no official update and budget is on-going. But until then, Tagbilaran Airport must be prioritize first for improvement and expansion since it is the main gateway of the Bohol province and serves its capital city. 

Airport Review is the newest section in Going Places where I gave a comprehensive review and insights to the airports that I have been in my travels. Review ranges from the airport's arrival and departure area, functionality, terminal structure, facility, airport location up to the unique amenities that the airport offers. These airport reviews will give travelers a first-hand experience of what it is to expect inside these airport terminals.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Royal Orchids of Thailand

A flower with five pointed petals that resembles Thai chedi colored in deep violet or scarlet that are often seen in bouquet and flower shop has a mystical draw. Its beauty resembles the rich-laden palaces and temples of the Thai kingdom. The flower is the perfect type of a royal Orchid. Orchids have always been associated with Thailand. No wonder orchid is one of the symbols inspired in the logo of the Thailand’s national airline. But my exposure to the enchantment’s of the Thai orchid led me to a discovery of why it is so much adorned.

The perfect specie of a royal Thai orchid.
A red specie of Vanda.
A royal beauty...
Thailand has always been known for its stunning orchids. So I was surprised to learn that the orchids is not its national flower but the Golden Shower Tree flower. Orchids from Thailand are one of the best varieties around for export and garden breeding. This has made Thai orchids as unofficial national flower of Thailand. But it has quite become the symbol of the country for its royal beauty. It is also no wonder why many horticulturists are fascinated with this flower. Their wide variety of colors and types makes them suited for any occasion, event or just garden collection.

Thailand is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems. Presently in Thailand, the orchid’ s natural habitat has been heavily disturbed; forest degradation and over-exploitation for commercial and agricultural practices have had a severe impact on the orchid population, especially the terrestrial species. Orchid populations in conserved areas, which historically have been safe places for orchids, are being harvested at an alarming rate. These beautiful and economically important species are becoming difficult to find in the wild where they used to be abundant. Species of the genera Aerides, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum, Pholidota, Rhynchostylis and Vanda have become increasingly vulnerable. According to data from the Department of Agriculture in 2007, orchids are an important economic product for Thailand. These orchids are exported primarily as cut flowers, but the seedlings grown from tissue cultures are also highly desired on the international market. More than 36,000 tons of cut orchid flowers are exported flowers are exported each year from Thailand.

The orchid garden in Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo.
A "Lady of the Night" orchid (Brassavola nodosa) at the orchid garden.
Varuthglade - a Cattleya in full bloom. 
“Ueang” and “Kluai Mai” are the vernacular names for orchids in Thailand; however, the origin of these names remains a mystery. The name “Ueang” seems to be the original name as it is the older of the two and first recorded in the Sukhothai Era 800 years ago. It is the term used by the Thai people who live in southern China and Thaiyai people of northern Burma. The name “Kluai Mai” is now commonly used throughout Thailand, particularly in the central part of the country. Prince Kromphra Nakornsawan Worapinit pointed out in his “Manual of Orchid Growing” in 1917 that this name dated back to the Ratnakosin Era of 200 years ago. The Thai people appreciate native orchids for their aesthetic value and they are commonly used for ornamental purposes.

In Thailand, native orchids grow in all types of vegetation. They have been found abundantly in Doi Inthanon National Park and Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary in the north; Phu Luang and Phu Rue Wildlife Sanctuary and Phu Kradueng National Park in the northeast; Khao Luang National Park in the south; Khao Soidao Wildlife Sanctuary in the east; Huay Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in the southwest; and Khao Yai National Park in the center of the country. The number of orchids in Thailand as compared to neighboring countries reveals there are 176 genera with 1,157 species with many more yet to discovered. The new genus, Sirindhornia, named in honor of HRHP Princess Sirindhorn, was recently discovered in Thailand. Exploration into untouched areas of the country will undoubtedly yield new orchid species for Thailand. (Source: 

Orchids at Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo.
Cattleya Queen Sirikit also known as "Diamind Crown"
Brassolaeliocattleya Greenwich.
Cattleya Love Passion.
 My first exposure to royal orchids of Thailand was when I visited Samphran in Nakhon Pathom province to watch an elephant show. While wondering the grounds of the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo, I visited their orchid garden where hundreds of orchid breeds and flowers are on display. Various cattleya flowers are also breed in the garden. The colorful flowers of these plants fascinates every visitor in the orchid garden that everyone start to shoot a photo while roaming around the garden. Their sizes and shapes were feast to the eyes. I even find a unique breed of a green cattleya, Brassolaeliocattleya Greenwich and large white cattleya in bloom named Diamond Crown.

White butterfly orchids or Doritaenopsis Ox Honey caught my attention!
The multi-tiered Bushakapa Throne at the center of the garden.
When we are at Suvarnabhumi Airport for our flight back to Manila, I saw again an orchid garden that displays various Thai orchids which was one of the central attraction in the airport. This time, bundles of white butterfly orchids or Doritaenopsis Ox Honey caught my attention. Dotted with deep violet tinge at the center of the flower, their bloom is eye-catching! Another unique variety of orchid that I saw is the Dendrobium Burana Jade (yellow-green orchids) that displayed in a manner like a drapes of curtain hanging down by the spot of the garden. Other unique orchid breed on display are the tiny yellow orchid or The Veined Oncidium (Oncidium varicosum), deep violet butterfly-like orchid called Phalaenopsis Tai-Lin Redangel, violet colored Dendrobium Genting Blue and Dendrobium Charming White. At the center of the garden is a multi-tiered roof Bushakapa Throne enshrining and reliquary urn of lord Budhha. Other flowers adorning the garden that also equally exquisite are anthoriums and red and orange bromeliads.

Dendrobium Burana Jade at the orchid garden of Suvarnabhumi Airport
Various orchids and ornamental plants on display at Suvarnabhumi Airport
In the Philippines, Thai orchids are popular during All Saint’s Day where the tradition of giving orchid bouquets or with other flowers on the tombs of departed loved ones’ are practiced. The normal white and violet flower variety of orchid are the most common orchid being sold in the market during this holiday. But depending on which variety, some breed and color are being sold quite expensive during this period. But other than the All Saint’s Day tradition, Thai orchids are also popularly used in pageant bouquets, gifts, and graduation corsages. Thai Airways’ flight attendants uses the violet colored orchid as corsage to promote it. It is also very popular in Filipino home garden where some are collecting different species of the orchid. I remember my mom used to grow them in our backyard and fascinates at their different blooms.

Though, the orchid is not the official flower of Thailand, it is quite the most symbolic flower of the country. Its beauty is comparable to the golden riches of its temples and palaces. Its enigmatic beauty just fascinates every horticulturists and hobbyists alike. I am not surprise since Thai orchids is one of the most beautiful flowers around. Having these flowers in your own garden is like having gems when they bloom. But whether the Thai orchids blooms in white, red or violet, its beauty is definitely royal.

The Royal Orchids of Thailand is part of my Thailand's Amazing Smiles series where I share my wonderful trip to the land of amazing smiles last October 25-28, 2011. For a helpful trip to Bangkok visit Bangkok for Visitors website for more information. You might also like the other parts of the series:  
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