Siem Reap in Cambodia was the primary destination for my trip. Since there are no direct flights to Cambodia from the Philippines, I had to choose another nearby country/city to fly into with direct transportation links to Siem Reap. There are a number of ways to go at it but I ended up buying a plane ticket from Manila to Bangkok, Thailand then traveling overland (by bus) to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Cebu Pacific International Check-in Counters in NAIA Terminal 3
Airlines Servicing the Manila – Bangkok Route
Several Airlines fly the Manila to Bangkok route including Cebu Pacific Air, Philippines Airlines, Thai Airways, and Kuwait Airways (AirAsia also services the Clark-DMIA to Bangkok route). I decided to go with Cebu Pacific since it was the cheapest choice and I’ve not had any bad experiences with them (so far). I bought a one-way Manila to Bangkok plane ticket for P4,334.00, which is expensive considering Cebu Pacific sells fares at much lower rates during seat sale promos but I had no choice since I was already scheduled to visit Siem Reap and with only one month notice.
Cebu Pacific Bangkok Flights
Cebu Pacific only has one daily flight to and from Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi. The timing is horrible, which is to be expected from a budget airline. The time of departure from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is 9:35PM and arrival in Bangkok is 2 hours later at 11:50PM Manila Time (or 12:50MN taking into account the +1 hour time zone difference). The early morning flight is made worse by the fact that airport shuttle (to the city center) service operates only until 12:00MN, and there aren’t much public buses plying the city center during the wee hours of the morning. So you have the choice to take the limited public 24 hours buses, take the taxi, or wait a few more hours until the airport shuttles and all public buses go live again.
2012 update: Cebu Pacific now operated direct flights between Manila and Siem Reap.
My Manila to Bangkok Flight
Usually, I would have taken the Manila International Airport (NAIA) Airport Loop Bus to go to NAIA Terminal 3 from Pasay Rotunda but me and my sister wanted to have dinner together first before my flight out. We went to Mall of Asia so I can make my last minute shopping also. We finished dinner super late, just 2 hours before my flight to Bangkok. I had no choice but to take the taxi from MoA, which was fine since the airport isn’t very far and the fare was only around P150.
After arriving in NAIA Terminal 3, I rushed to the the counter where you’re supposed to pay the P1,620 travel tax (for Philippine residents only) and then to the Cebu Pacific check-in counters. I’m quite glad that Cebu Pacific now charges only P100 (from P200) so passengers can enjoy check-in luggage/baggage. Now I don’t have to hand carry all of my stuff in the plane, worry what or what not to bring, and pay a P400 penalty incase I’m forced to check-in my stuff.
After checking in, I paid the P750 airport terminal fee (for international flights) filled out the immigrations arrival card, and lined-up for the immigration counters. It was already around 45 minutes before my flight and there were long lines along the immigration counters.
When I got to the immigrations officer, she asked me routine questions about the nature of my visit, where I’ll be staying, etc… I told her I was going to Cambodia overland for the holidays and didn’t have hotel reservations since I will be staying with my friend, who lives there. She demanded I give her a written invitation as proof. I told her that I didn’t have one at hand since my conversations and arrangements with my friends was through facebook. She then told me that she won’t allow me to pass and adviced that I line-up again and try with the other immigrations officers if they will let me pass.
I was already nervous at the time and a bit pissed off. Since the lady seemed decided already, I took her advice and took a moment to think about how to approach the next immigrations officer. I filled out a new immigrations card and in the “place of residence” (for Thailand), I put Khao San Road (a famous backpacker’s place in Bangkok filled with cheap guesthouses) and thought about not mentioning that I was going to Cambodia.
It was already 20 minutes before my flight when I got in front of the next immigrations officer. She just looked at my passport, asked how long I was planning on staying in Thailand, requested to see my ticket back to Manila, and sent me on my way to the boarding gate. I felt relieved and very frustrated with the first immigrations officer for being such a bother and forcing me to rush so I can (brisk) walk to the boarding gate and not miss my flight.
The plane arrived on time as scheduled and boarding was a breeze. I slept through the whole 2-hour flight in my crampy couch-class seat.
Bangkok International Airport (BKK)
Bangkok’s main international aviation gateway is the Suvarnabhumi (pronounced as “su-wa-na-poom”) International Airport, located approximately 30 – 60 minutes from Bangkok’s City Center.