For the flight back, we needed a mid-morning morning departure, however since I had logged the turbo-prop with the Xian MA60 adventure, all options were open. Barring Cambodia Angkor of course, they were 3 times (or more) the price. The options were down to Basska, JC Intl & Lanmei. Unfortunately none of them had A321s :( Oh well. Bassaka Air it was, with their $27 per person ticket, and the timings worked well. Rotation of the airplane was simple: 5B901 0945 1025 A320 5B902 1055 1135 A320
I certainly had more confidence in Bassaka’s operations, seeing as they flew internationally on a more consistent basis, and had 2 dailies between PNH & REP. This was indirectly reflected in the booking process as well - a ticket was sent without much ado, and no need to confirm it with the airliner anything. No seat selection in the manage my booking, neither was there online check in. That's okay, I was fairly confident of a window seat anyway.
SIEM REAP - ANGKOR WAT!
Before it all, the main reason we were over at Siem Reap: Angkor Wat! We only had about half a day to get through most of it, but rain tried to throw a wrench in our plans - if anything it helped cool things down. I tried to be a little artistic, so here goes…
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Bayon Temple: this is what I usually pictured when some one told me Angkor Wat:
Ta Phrom: The TombRaider movie was filmed here:
A delicious Pork + vegetable soup!
We went to the military museum afterwards, seeing as not a whole lot of people were there. If anything, it isn't the most well known compared to the other attractions in Siem Reap. A contrast to the magnificent Siem Reap, this reminded us of a cruel world filled with war today. There were 2 aircraft there: a MiG 19 and Mil-Mi-8 Helicopter.
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That night we hit up pub street for a meat sample barbecue - kangaroo and crocodile were new meats that I tried! As always, Angkor Beer to go along with it :) Moving Up and Down, side to side like a roller coaster :)
Fish massage - not sure if I'd ever be able to sit through one..
Pub Street wasn't overly busy, and we were well sheltered from the rain. Loved it!
Interior of the hotel:
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS TOO SOON?
Before getting up from bed I decided to check the flight status on the Phnom Penh airport website: a 3hr delay. Oh for God’s sake no! Just to be sure & to seal our fate - I checked the Siem Reap airport’s website to see how delayed we’d be. On time. On time for sure, and check in to open soon. Wait - what was going on?! Turns out - the plane came in at 12am in the morning from Hangzhou (China) - a charter. This plane would head back to Phnom Penh and fly back to Siem Reap, before flying another charter to Hangzhou overnight. Brilliant, another non-delay…or so I thought.
We checked out of the hotel at 0900 hours, 1hr55min before the departure time of 1055 hours. We hailed our trustee Tuk Tuk driver as we gave us a ride to the airport - a quick 15 minutes.
Flight info at the hotel itself: convenient!
Officially marking the return trip back from Siem Reap to Fargo via PNH BKK CCU BOM IST ATL MIA ORD, here we go!
Entering the airport area
Domestic terminal - quaint!
CHECK IN, SECURITY
We were dropped off at the domestic terminal for 0925 hours, 1hr30min before departure. This one is significantly smaller than the one for international operations. Check in lines were practically empty for all airlines operating - not only did I get a window seat BUT they checked in our tiny baggage anyway, for free! Nice nice. Turns out, the $25 ticket came with a 20kg baggage allowance too, how about that.
In addition, Basska did have their own stock boarding pass & a frequent flyer program. We were assigned seats 18A & 18B.
Security was pretty quick - but we had to drink a massive bottle of water so as to it did not get wasted. This meant several visits to the restroom, but that’s alright.
Siem Reap domestic has just the two boarding gates - no jet bridges. It was pretty full though - with 2 flights departing. A fully loaded ATR 72 to Sihanoukville was before us. There was a small cafe and 2 gift shops, but that was about it. It was a bit tricky to find some seats. Had to kill about 20 minutes before boarding started. I was much confident about this flight, so less anxiety, I guess :)
The crew came in - 2 pilots and 4 cabin crew. I guess they overnighted after another Hangzhou charter! Unfortunate that these charters meant 5B901 PNH-REP would get significantly delayed, oh well. Also weird because Bassaka did have 2 planes in their fleet…
As passengers to Sihanoukville on Angkor Air boarded - I caught a glimpse of the A320 taking us to Phnom Penh. It was XU-113, a 21.7 years old A320, that earlier operated across the border with Vietnam Airlines.
Some pre-boarding announcements were made 35 minutes to departure, with on time boarding 4 minutes later. A quick walk over to the airplane, a Cambodia Angkor A320 was parked on the ramp as well.
On the ramp: 3 Airbus operators of Cambodia -
Almost there - I LOVE boarding from the ramp itself
I was onboard at 1028 hours to a largely welcoming crew, but I was taken aback by the seats - not your usual slimline seats as you’d find on most carriers, rather plush & cushioned seats in Business & Economy: 12 in the former, 138 in the latter totaling 150 seats.
Plenty of legroom back in economy too - I felt the difference right away! Pity this flight would barely last half an hour. Took our seats 18A & 18B - while the front half of the plane was full, the same couldn’t be said about the rear. Just admiring the seats (and their apparent age) I was reminded of the Indian Airlines A320 seats.
The usual announcements happened, securing cabin, welcoming us onboard, etc. In addition to the two flight attendants doing the announcements, there was also a quick note from the Captain that I appreciated. All very well put together, I felt. I was very surprised to hear the announcement regarding the exploding Samsungs still made an appearance. Interesting. I did however, towards the end of the short flight, find that there were WAY too many announcements.
Cones were removed 16 minutes before departure, doors closed, and we were away at 1043 hours, 12 minutes before departure time A manual safety demonstration was done. The 2 CFM56-5B4 engines were fired up without an issue, however we did take up a taxiway (Taxiway Alpha) for an ATR72 to taxi out - one prop’s feathered the other isn’t: This was K6 105 from Phnom Penh.
What worried me a little bit was the length of time between starting up the #1 and #2: maybe an issue popped up or maybe just SOPs at Bassaka? Either way, we started taxiing at 1048 hours, 7 minutes before time.
Lined up & departed for Phnom Penh at 1053 hours off of Runway 23, still 2 minutes ahead of time.
Take off roll:
Made a pretty steep bank south bound as course was set for Phnom Penh. It was a bit bumpy up to our low cruise altitude of 17000 feet - we remained here for not more than 8 minutes!
Barely 5 minutes in to the flight the cabin crew rolled up with a cart: there was water and several types of juices on offer! I went for an apple juice.
Cruise - LOL!
I spent the rest of the time going through the seat back pocket contents - once again there was a lot of information in Traditional Chinese pertaining to rules & regulations, immigration & customs, etc. Cute dog!
Passenger Service Unit - this vs A350….
DESCENT & ARRIVAL
The captain came over the PA system for an arrival brief: we would be there shortly before 1130 hours, to a warm Phnom Penh at 29 degrees celsius. Cabin crew did a round to collect trash & prepared the cabin for arrival, barely 15 minutes in to the flight. Crazy to think that most of this flight was spent either climbing or descending!
We were put in to a bit of a holding pattern but nothing too hair-raising, slowly but surely came down on towards Runway 23 for a fairly firm landing and almost minimal flaring at 1128 hours, 34 minutes in flight.
Taxied out where I saw the other Bassaka plane laying around, but to my surprise we were assigned a jet bridge gate in the domestic terminal! Gate 3 it would be. Did have to wait for other traffic to get started up and depart, so we were delayed a bit.
The 737 at the very right is the ONLY 737 that I saw of Cambodia…
The other Bassaka Air plane :)
Docked at the gate for 1136 hours, just 1 minute late. Back in Phnom Penh! Disembarked & got our checked luggage which was brought out fairly efficiently.
Disembarking: pity the flight did not last long, these were great seats!
Thank you XU-113! She'll head back to REP as 5B 901, 3 2.5 hours late.
Corporate jets, and XU-001, the other Xian MA60 of Bayon Airlines
My favorite fruit, so I guess my favorite parking lot, too!
Siem Reap - REP
Phnom Penh - PNH
All in all, Bassaka proved to be a much smoother ride than the Bayon Airlines Xian MA60. Given that it was a $26 ticket I was skeptical at first: starting off with the delay initially at PNH - but the plane was already there at REP. There were also way too many announcements for the same things. However, the flight was on time, the seats were unbelievably comfortable, and they managed to do a full beverage service in between - nice! Add to that, free baggage allowance. Good stuff indeed.
Unfortunately however, looks like the cheap fares did have a toll on the airline, as they have also suspended operations as of October 2018 which is heartbreaking - seeing as they had a fairly decent product onboard. With the myriad of airlines in Cambodia in addition to such cut throat fairs, sustainability is brought in to question here.
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