31 Jan2009

siem1

The day after Christmas we left Manila for a short trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia and a one day stop in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) on the way home. Armed with a tiny “Luxe” Guide to Cambodia that was left by Santa in Mrs. MM’s stocking, we boarded a small Philippine Airlines A320 (code share with Vietnam Air) and promptly fell asleep over the South China Sea. On landing in Saigon for a change of planes, our PAL plane parked beside a yellow green plane with an S7 on its tail wing…

siem2

I used to be a huge airline trivia buff and knew the logos of over 120 airlines from around the world before deregulation of the industry resulted in all kinds of new carriers and unknown abbreviations like 5JXXX, so I was intrigued that I had never seen an S7 plane before. Then I remembered we were in Vietnam, which is still communist/socialist? and S7 was actually a discount airline from Russia, kind of like People’s Express from the 1980’s…

siem5

Famished and still in adrenaline crash mode from the Christmas craziness, we decided to search for a bowl of pho or beef noodle soup at the Saigon airport. Despite the antiseptic airport location, we enjoyed several fantastic bowls of pho, complete with all the requisite herbs and limes and sprouts to add to the soup which had paper thin slices of beef added at the last minute. Pricey at USD8, but we were, after all, at an airport highway robbery restaurant. Gassed up with pho, we were now super excited about our brief adventure to Cambodia…

siem3

Until we were taken by bus (an hour late) to this tiny prop plane, which gave us the slight hibbie-jibbies and let’s just say it did not inspire confidence. A brief flight to Siem Reap with an occasional silent prayer to help avoid being splayed out over the mekong delta (this becomes a significant quip in a later post about our flight back to Saigon) and we touched down safely and taxied to a wonderful new small but stylish little airport terminal.

siem4

In an airport more chic than anything we have in Manila or the Philippines, we quickly made our way through immigration and customs (the one place where pinoys DON’T need a visa and all those citizens of Western nations have to LINE UP for ages to buy a visa on site). This is a shot of the immigration area that was, dare I say, almost beautiful. The immigration officials were still supercilious gatekeepers, but we managed to get through in less than 15 minutes total, including baggage. And later I would learn that this tiny airport processed over 3 million visitors a year, more than ALL of the tourists visiting the entire Philippines in one year! And this is a town in the middle of nowhere, better known for its killing fields and incredibly sad war just decades ago! Good grief, are we falling behind our neighbors or WHAT??? Waiting outside, just a few steps from the airport exit, a Lexus SUV complete with cold towels and chilled spring water to whisk us to our hotel… :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Ging says:

    bitin!!!

    Jan 31, 2009 | 2:10 pm

     
  2. bluegirl says:

    I was lucky enough to visit Siam Reap / Angkor Wat back in 2002. At that time, their airport was old and small with no air-conditioning. I think it was just about double the size of the current Bohol domestic airport. Even the road outside of the airport was unpaved. Very rustic.

    But they already had their plans and were giving out flyers announcing the plans for their new airport. If I remember correctly, their projection was to handle up to 5-7M visitors a year.

    Looking at your airport photo, I can’t help but be impressed by it. They really fulfilled their plans.

    I’m looking forward to your posts (and photos!!!!!) on Siam Reap and its wonderful sights.

    Jan 31, 2009 | 2:37 pm

     
  3. isagarch says:

    hay naku MM, I live in a small town in British Columbia and our little airport can only handle planes like that! It’s like riding a lawn mower! And you feel every bump and pothole in the sky…

    Jan 31, 2009 | 3:52 pm

     
  4. Tricia says:

    Arghh!!!!!! So bitin!

    Now I wonder which hotel you are heading….?

    dela Paix?

    Jan 31, 2009 | 4:36 pm

     
  5. belekoy says:

    Did you make the bookings on your own? Which websites did you do your bookings if ever?Can you provide us info for the hotels, airline and travel agent if any. Have been wanting to go there with my friends.

    Jan 31, 2009 | 5:18 pm

     
  6. Sandy says:

    I too remember the old Siam Reap airport back in 2004. Very impressed with the progress they made in just a few years time! I also recall the only ‘grand’ hotel back then…hope you’d tell us about where you stayed too :) I read there are a number of luxury accommodations that have sprouted in the same period of time–amazing!

    Jan 31, 2009 | 5:51 pm

     
  7. Epi says:

    I was just in Siem Reap last sept. and found the arrival area beautiful. Departure area was also impressive, wood flooring and my favorite souvenir shop artisans de angkor. Got some silk cellphone bags for 8 dollars(steep) but regret not getting more. Private tour is the way to go, they make all the arrangements for you with the essential chilled bottles of water, cold towels and umbrellas. On departure when staff found out we were filipinos, they mentioned their manager is a filipina. The only place in the wold where people seem to hold us in high esteem. We have been left behind for sure.
    They have beautiful hotels, Sofitel for us, all wood flooring and lavazza coffee maker. Did you go to Hotel de la Paix? Its so beautiful.

    Jan 31, 2009 | 6:44 pm

     
  8. lyna says:

    Bitin naman!

    Jan 31, 2009 | 7:41 pm

     
  9. edel says:

    mm, post more pics and stories please.. we’re sked to go there sometime soon. thanks =)

    Jan 31, 2009 | 7:56 pm

     
  10. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Ha ha ha bitin nga!! Cambodia is beautiful. Yes in tourism we are so left behind. In the early seventies when you travel,you feel we were ahead of the other Asian countries. Now…
    Cambodia is bound by Vietnam and Laos and on its other side Thailand…Must visit place. Bitin MM…we’re waiting.

    Jan 31, 2009 | 8:59 pm

     
  11. titashi says:

    More pa MM, bitin talaga kame, your next post should include many pics ha? sige na please :)

    Jan 31, 2009 | 10:13 pm

     
  12. betty q. says:

    Now I know what my hubby’s co-workers and barber is ttalking about and why they are both encouraging us to go there…

    Epi: silk cellophane bags?!?

    Feb 1, 2009 | 12:51 am

     
  13. macpower says:

    I was in Phonm Penh and Siem Reap just about two weeks ago for a good 4 days for a business trip. I must say that their airports are far far better than ours. What a shame. Was also able to do one-day guided tour of selected Angkor temples only. They said that it takes about 3 days to see all the sites.

    Im looking forward to your food blogs. In my short stay, I was able to taste their fried black spider, cow’s penis cooked ala chiniese adobo style, spicy papaya salad with goat’s tongue and their version of balut ala pobre. I was also able to taste also fish amok and their version of bbq beef dip in lemon pepper sauce. Sarap!

    I was wondering if there is a good Khmer resto, here in Manila?

    Feb 1, 2009 | 8:48 am

     
  14. toping says:

    “Airport highway robbery restaurant”–this is sooo spot-on!

    Feb 1, 2009 | 3:48 pm

     
  15. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Macpower,quite a “unique” fare that you’ve tried ha? Extreme cuisine. I’ve tried binagoong-like worms and crispy locusts!! Yours are really…outa this world ha?

    Feb 1, 2009 | 8:50 pm

     
  16. Katrina says:

    “the one place where pinoys DON’T need a visa and all those citizens of Western nations have to LINE UP for ages to buy a visa on site”

    — Actually, there are several countries we don’t need visas for. The ASEAN countries, of course, plus parts of South America (Venezuela? I can’t remember right now), and last I checked, Germany — Filipinos are given this privilege because Rizal studied in Heidelberg. :-)

    Feb 4, 2009 | 1:02 am

     
  17. Isa Garchitorena says:

    A rather late comment but for anyone trolling the archives like me, Germany is now part of the Schengen group/ alliance ?of countries and we do need a visa to get into either the first Schengen country you land in or the one you will be in the longest. Nice thing is one visa is good for all of the dozen or so countries… And fares within Europe can be cheap if you buy them from there.

    Jan 27, 2010 | 10:34 pm

     
 

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