(The rather empty departure terminal at Phnom Penh airport in Cambodia and it is the same case, most airports around the world. Most of the duty-free shops were opened but sadly there were no customers. The lone guy at Starbucks was practically begging passengers to come in to have coffee)
This will be the last part in this Cambodian trip series – we have completed our assignment in Phnom Penh and it was time to make the journey back home and start the next phase of the project.
Read Part 11 here
As much as it was difficult to fly out of Malaysia during the lockdown and even more difficult to enter Cambodia during the pandemic, it was the same case flying out from Cambodia and re-enter Malaysia. Despite the fact that Malaysia is still under lockdown and the COVID19 cases have been well managed compared to other countries, unfortunately, there has been a substantial increase in infections due to Malaysians and foreigners coming to Malaysia.
The rules on the re-entry to Malaysia were further tightened to minimise the number of new infections. In addition to some really stupid Malaysians who cared less on self-isolation, the mandatory 14 days quarantine is now enforced for all who enter the country.
Initially, our return to Malaysia was scheduled in early September 2020 but due to the direct flight from Malaysia ban by the Cambodian Government, the return date was extended until further notice. There was a lot of uncertainty when it comes to travelling from one country to another.
We then had to explore other flights out from Cambodia and the most feasible one was the flight with transit in Singapore. The downside of flying through Singapore is that there will be 11 hours of transit which was longer than the 8 hours I had in Lisbon. But we had to get some things done before we could fly out namely the approval from Malaysian Embassy.
(Pursuant to the quarantine guidelines dated 24th July 2020, we had to fill up an LOU (Letter of Undertaking) and submit to the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh for approval. This would be just the first steps in a series of tasks and requirements for quarantine once back to Malaysia)
We were indeed lucky to have some of the finest, friendliest and very dedicated people working in the Malaysian Embassies around the world. The super-efficient, friendly and down to earth Embassy staffs went all out when it comes to taking care of all the needs of Malaysians overseas.
From the time we submitted out the LOU to the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia and communicated with the Embassy staff via Whatsapp, the approval was all done and reverted within half day. They wished us a safe flight and even jokingly told us to enjoy roti canai once we have reached Malaysia. We had the LOU, air tickets and had downloaded the MySejahtera app as required under the MOH guidelines for returning Malaysians.
Then we had a major problem – it seems that Malaysians who flew out during the MCO will require the approval of the DG of the Immigration Department to return otherwise they will not be allowed to enter the country. Somehow the confirmation of this condition varied from one from another, depending on who you ask including the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia.
This particular condition however was strictly enforced by the airlines flying into Malaysia and we got to know that some Malaysians were stopped from boarding the plane in Cambodia for failing to show the Immigration approval. So we had to get this done as well and because there was an uncertainly when this approval will be given, we were unable to confirm the actual return date.
We were confident that the approval will be given eventually but the question was on when we can get the approval to confirm our return flight as we made to understood that there were thousands of applications for the same reason to the Immigration Department then. So we just had to wait for the approval email to come. The immigration approval eventually came and we could finally go back home.
It was an afternoon flight but considering how much delays we encountered when we first arrived in Cambodia, we decided to be early at the airport just in case and wait for the check-in counter to be opened. It was not the same case when we actually arrived at the airport – other than a thermal scan at the entrance, there were no other formalities to be done.
(The long queue at the check-in counter and each check-in took a bit longer than usual due to checking of documentation based on the immigration & health requirements at their final destinations. Some of the delays were due to overweight luggage who some of the passengers were not willing to pay. Not surprisingly some of the Westerners did not wear the facial mask all the time)
As we were purposely early at the airport, the check-in counter was not opened but we used the time to get the luggage wrapped, double-check our documents and catch a short nap. Soon a long line started to form in front of the airline check-in counters. We were expecting a long delay before we can drop our luggage but then another check-in counter was opened for those who had done web check-in.
It was a good thing that we have done our web check-in and we have our seat numbers – the lady behind the counter was unable to find my name in the system and keep asking me if I had changed my name in the passport. She said the nearest name in the system and the name on the passport did not match. It took some time before she realised that there is another passenger with a similar name and she was looking at the wrong passenger’s name.
It took some time to check-in & drop our luggage but we soon got our boarding passes and the check through the security was a breeze. It was a breeze because there were hardly any passengers at the airport except for the flight that we were on.
Interestingly no one asked for the approval from the Malaysian Embassy or the Immigration Department during the check-in. So we wondered if we had wasted time getting the approvals in the first place or there has been a change of the rules again.
We said goodbye to Cambodia and we were on our way home now!
The end (our next phase of the journey starts here)