Hubby and I went for a short trip (2 nights/ 2 1/2 days to be exact) to Kota Kinabalu (formerly known as Borneo) in Malaysia last May 10-12, 2012. It was quite a different experience if I may say so myself. Different because it felt odd being in a country very similar to my own plus most people look like my fellow countrymen except they don't speak my language. I will elaborate further but for now let me give my fellow Pinoys an insight on our travel itinerary in detail.
We booked a flight departing from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (website here) which is in Clark, Pampanga. It was a very cheap flight which costs more or less 5,000php and that's a return flight for two people. We searched on the internet for buses from Manila going straight to DMIA. We found one that goes directly inside the airport and those buses are operated by Philtranco. Since we are from Rizal, it was more convenient for us to catch the bus from SM Megamall than go to their terminal in Pasay. They actually pick up passengers from there and then head straight to DMIA with no stop overs which is good. Our flight is 3:05 pm and it took us less than 2 hours to get to the airport. We arrived at SM Megamall around 8 am Thursday morning (05/10/12). The schedule of the bus that picks up passengers in Megamall is supposedly 8:30 am as what their website says. We bumped into a fixer looking for a victim by the passenger's waiting area at the back of the mall who was desperately trying to persuade my husband to pay him to take us by car to DMIA. Unfortunately for the fixer, my husband has been here long enough to know that he is trying to make money from us and his scheme didn't work. We never asked how much the fixer would charge but we knew it would be a lot. The guy told us that the bus usually arrives around 9 to 9:30 and it depends what time it actually left Bicol. Not sure why the buses going to Clark are coming from Bicol but we just held on to the fact that we are an hour early and luckily we don't need to be at the airport until 1:30 to check-in. I am not sure if there is an earlier bus than 9 am so if your flight is around 12 or 1pm I think it's best that you try another bus company that goes to Pampanga. I've read in a blog that there are buses going to Dau and then you can make your way to Clark from there. But if your flight is in the afternoon (like ours) it is very convenient especially if you're coming from Pasig or Rizal area. The Philtranco bus waiting area is located behind SM Megamall Bldg A not exactly in front of St. Francis Square but a little bit to the right. There is a sign board that says "Philtranco waiting area". My apologies as I forgot to take a picture of the exact location. For other bus times and schedules please do refer to their website.
The bus was on the dot at 9am and there were no passengers from where it came from. There were only 5 of us who got on the bus going to the airport. After everyone got on, the driver made his way to EDSA. I guess they don't really hang about. One way fare is 400 php (as of the date of posting this blog entry which is 05/14/12) and that's per person. Good thing about this is you get to be dropped off exactly in front of the departure area. Cool ain't it? I guess it is a good deal considering the fact that most of us would be traveling with heavy luggage and all our bags and stuff.
We arrived at DMIA around 10:30-ish. The driver dropped us off exactly in front of the departure area. We were about to go inside but we were advised by the security personnel that there are very limited seats and as we didn't need to go and check-in anytime soon, we opted to stay and looked for somewhere to have our early lunch. Sadly this airport doesn't have a lot of choices when it comes to food shops and stalls. There is a Mini-Stop convenience store outside the Arrival area and 3 or 4 other food stalls that sell hotdog sandwiches, soft drinks, juices and cigarettes and that's about it. It is a very small airport and it doesn't really look like an international airport at all. After we had a rice meal from Mini-Stop we decided to go inside the Departure area as it was very hot outside. We sat down the seats next to a self check-in counter of Cebu Pacific. I think, if I am not mistaken, there are only three airlines that land and fly from the said airport - Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and Tiger Airways/SEAir. And also for those of you who (like us) have chosen Tiger Airways, the check-in counter to look out for is SEAir not Tiger as they have tied up together with their flights from Clark.
After a few hours of boredom anticipating for the check-in counters to open, we finally got checked-in. The counters opened around 1:30 and there were no lines at the international travel tax payment area which is 1,620 php for Filipino citizens, registered aliens and those that fall in that category needing to pay the said amount. Luckily, hubby didn't need to pay as he is classified as a non-citizen holding a foreign passport and he has stayed in the country for less than 1 year upon the time of departure. We both payed the terminal fee which is 600 per person for international flights (again as of the date of posting of this blog entry). I think this used to be 750 before and now they have lowered down the price. It went real smooth even up to the immigration area. I have been so scared of what other people have been posting on blogs and news blogs etc about the notorious immigration officers from Clark. People were posting really bad remarks and feedback everywhere. I just prayed so hard that there would be no hassles. Thankfully there were no questions, no nothing although hubby tried his best to have a chit-chat with the immigration officer who was just all smiles at him. After another scan of our baggage (we only have hand carry bags with us) and their standard procedure of inspecting you, we made our way to the pre-departure lounge. There were still food shops/stalls but they were a bit pricey than the ones outside. I think it's best to take some food with you before going to the airport or at least have a really heavy meal. That way you're sure you don't have to spend a lot while waiting to fly off to your holiday destination.
Our flight was a little bit delayed, we were supposed to leave at 3:05 but we boarded around 3:30. To top it off, my husband was shocked to see that we were actually going to walk on the runway/tarmac to get to the plane! I knew that from the start when I researched about this airport. Vic thought it was a bit of a "Jurassic era" kind of thing. And to think that it is supposed to be an international airport. I don't know what to say really, I'm just thankful that we got there safe with no hold ups and no problems at all. Thank God for that.
As for the rest of the trip, it will be on my next post. :)