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Our First Photo Trip Report: ORD-CDG-FRA-ZRH-DUS-IST-MLE-SIN-HKG

Our First Photo Trip Report: ORD-CDG-FRA-ZRH-DUS-IST-MLE-SIN-HKG

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Old Apr 23, 13, 10:50 am
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Our First Photo Trip Report: ORD-CDG-FRA-ZRH-DUS-IST-MLE-SIN-HKG

0. Preface:

We have been saving up miles for quite some time, and with the credit card sign-up bonuses, we finally decided to put it to good use. The UA's Sep 15, 2012 deadline to redeem for QR flights was the final push to get the ball rolling. Luckily, we were able to get the QR inaugural flight out of ORD-DOH this April in business class, and onward to Male, Maldives. However, something happened, and we had to change our flight dates. And since it happened way after Sep 15, 2012, to retain those QR business seats was not an option. Doh! (pun-intended), I decided to REALLY put those miles to work.

As so it happened, things turned out A LOT better then we originally planned, albeit a few snafus. So, without further procrastination, here is our first ever photo trip report. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

p.s. Now that I finally started to post, it will be a constant boot in the back to keep this going with no more delays.

1. Introduction:
After the untimely change, with QR inaugural flight out of the question, we started to look at different stop overs and played with the UA 115% allowed miles. Finally, sparing you all the painful details, and a total of 200 minutes and countless phone calls later (I was later told by Mrs. that I should document all the dates, flight/route changes, and calls made, since it was a unique experience, which I did!) we came up with the following schedule. And it was our first taste of what miles can do for us, and certainly not the last time. 200,000 UA miles to be exact!

Our itinerary:
a. Feb 1: UA 942 ORD - CDG (C)
b. Feb 3: LH 1027 CDG - FRA (C)
c. Feb 4: LH 1186 FRA - ZRH (C)
d. Feb 5: LH 3135 ZRH - DUS (C)
e. Feb 5: TK 1528 DUS - IST (C)
f. Feb 6: TK 730 IST - MLE (C)*
g. Feb 7 - 10 Park Hyatt Maldives
h. Feb 10: SQ 451 MLE - SIN (Y)
i. Feb 11: SQ 870 SIN - HKG (C)

Trip report break down:
00. Preface
01. Introduction
02. Flight UA 942 Review
03. Paris in 24 hours
04. Driving In Between Frankfurt & Rothenburg
05. Snowy Zurich
06. Top of the world from Köln
07. Istanbul Part I
08. Istanbul Part II, with a twist!
09. Island Hopping from Malé
10. Park Hyatt Maldives (I): Entering Paradise
11. Park Hyatt Maldives (II): Savoring Paradise to the MAX
12. Park Hyatt Maldives (III): Leaving Paradise, Malé
13. Singapore
14. Hong Kong, Conclusion

The most direct route would be ORD - IST - MLE for 9242 miles. But our route came out to be 10671 miles, 115.4% of the maximum permitted miles. Thanks UA!


Park Hyatt Maldives

Last edited by flyhen; Jun 9, 13 at 2:19 am
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Old Apr 23, 13, 10:51 am
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2. UA 942

After the luggage check, we were appalled to find out how long the "priority security" check line was at ORD. Apparently, TSA has been letting everyone in. And unfortunately, the whole process took an hour to get over with. By the time we were at the United Club in Concourse C, it was barely enough time to use the restroom before our boarding time, 5:20pm. And for some other reason, by 5:50pm, we were still standing at the gate waiting to be boarded. If they would of made any announcements, we would of tried to new shower facility in the lounge.


A view from seat 6A, facing back. The after dinner sundae cart.

Luckily, things turned around when we were on board. Contrary to our previous UA Business experience, which was so-so, the crew was fantastic! We ordered the Cod and Steak dinner. But half way through the dinner, Mrs. Flyhen was ready to go to bed, leaving me enjoying the rest of the food alone...


Steak dinner, a bit over cooked, but wasn't bad.


Cod dinner, Mrs. didn't like it, but I loved it.

The whole flight was uneventful. And that's a good thing. No screaming child, just excellent service, as I finished the dinner with a cheese plate and port and sundae while catching up on some reading on the iPad mini. I even managed to get a few hours of solid sleep before we were over Dublin and was treated with a sunrise.


And before you know, 8 hours went by fast, we were at CDG.
The airline that eluded me.

The rest of the above set photos can be seen here.

Last edited by flyhen; Jun 9, 13 at 2:18 am
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Old Apr 24, 13, 4:52 am
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3. Paris
Off to Paris we go! My uncle picked us up, and to save time, he kindly took our luggages back while dropping us off in the city center by Esplanade du Trocadéro. It was Mrs'. first time in Paris. Weather was a bit gloomy, but boy, seeing her face lit up in front of the tower, was she excited!


Being there for the first time, it is customary to go to the top, and so we waited. Luckily, the wait wasn't that long. Probably because of the low season and crappy weather. And 20 minutes later, we were at the base elevator, and another 20 minutes, we were at the top of the tower. Last being there 13 years ago, it was a nostalgic feeling. I love Paris, with family there and visited numerous times, it is practically my home away from home.


I can almost see where I will be staying for the evening.

Afterwards, we met up with my cousin, and seeing how we only have 24 hours in the city, Mrs. wasn't all that interested in seeing other major attractions, especially in this crappy weather.

Yes, it was blue sky, but only for a brief moment until the overcast returned.

So we headed to the Champs-Élysées where the two ladies can do what they do best: shopping.


As for me, my consolation prize was to stop at the Ladurée Cafe for some macaroon since we didn't have lunch. And honestly, the whole point of being in Paris, for me, is to see my family, and for her, well...


After about 5 hours of walking down the avenue, where at multiple points, I dozed off in the store, while Mrs. was busy running up the credit card, we headed for dinner. I've been to this establishment before. 13 years ago, to be exact, where my other cousin's ex-bf took me here. The Provencal cooking eluded me ever since, and it was a fateful re-encounter last summer when I was going over some old stuff, where I found a piece of paper from that very 13 years ago, where I had written down the info/time/address to meet up. Yes, it's like to find a long lost friend. And they did not disappoint!

Set menu


Desert!

The rest of the evening consisted of me introducing Mrs. to my family, as we chatted away into the wee hours. Another reason why I love Paris. Wonderful family, food, and memories! The next day we were off to an early start.


Edible breakfast at the LH CDG Lounge.

Time for our next stop: Frankfurt, and Rothenburg.

You can check out the rest of the Paris photos here.

Last edited by flyhen; Apr 26, 13 at 4:29 am
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Old Apr 24, 13, 7:42 pm
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very nice pictures, where did you stay in paris?
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Old Apr 24, 13, 8:23 pm
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Great photos! Can't wait to see more!
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Old Apr 25, 13, 5:39 am
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Originally Posted by hakzai View Post
very nice pictures, where did you stay in paris?
We stayed in Noisy Le Grand, with my aunt and uncle.

Originally Posted by Gamecock View Post
Great photos! Can't wait to see more!
Thanks, I guess those lens I invested really are worth it.
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Old Apr 25, 13, 6:27 am
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4. Frankfurt, Rothenburg

It's been years since I was in an LH intra-Europe flight, and I was glad I did. The flight, albeit only 1 hour, was a pleasant one. Service was great, food (my 2nd breakfast) was decent. Even the flight attendant was "hot"(that's what she said), according to Mrs., whom I found ogling at both of them from time to time.


Muesli breakfast in business class, which I found to be a delight.


For some odd reason, we made our approach (coming from CDG) from the east.

Our luggages came out in no time, and soon after, we were on the long trod towards the rental car stations. Since it was early in the morning, the O2 store wasn't open, so we got a prepaid OrtelMobile SIM from the vending machine, which turned out to be a complete waste of money, and a pain to activate. To our surprise, instead of the 2012 MB C-Klass 200 automatic, we were told we got a brand spanking new 2013 BMW 335i automatic instead, and crazy enough, the price went from €63 to €52. Can't complain!


My new friend for this portion of the trip. Still got that new (toxic) car smell. LOL.

Speeding down the Autobahn was pure joy, and we got to Würzburg in no time and picked up my friend from grade school, as she would be our guide for the next 24 hours. 2 hours later, we got to the picturesque city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The weather was still cloudy, but my friend told me this is probably a better time to visit, since it would be crawling with tourists in the summer, and the following picture I am about to post, will be almost impossible because of the crowd.


Like millions before me, I finally got the opportunity to photo this scene.

Rothenburg, did not disappoint! It was scenic, beautiful, and very laid back. The town was small enough and it took us only a few hours to walked thru everything. It was just the right balance as we could take our time, relax a bit in a cafe while taking in all the sights.


Looking into the walled city from outside.


Mrs. took this photo, and boy was she proud!


We came across these "snowballs" in Füssen 3.5 years ago, and finally got to try it out. Yumm!


Our dinner consisted of Wien schnitzel (my favorite), pork knuckles, boiled steak at a local B&B joint. The service was sub-par, the food was decent. The only problem we had, was the huge portions. Should of just ordered 2 main dishes instead.

It began to snow a bit after dinner, and got bone-chilling cold, so we decided to go back to our hotel and hung out in the warmth instead. That, and we didn't really sleep much the night before and all the driving had begun to take a toll. Maybe next time, when it is warmer and none of us was shaking, we will take some more night photos and enjoyed a bit more. Who knows, we might be sitting at a street side bar/cafe enjoying the summer evening some time in the future. But for now, we were satisfied. And here is one of our final shots of the beautiful city.


Beautiful city! We stayed in the "Golden Hirsch" hotel. Great location, and friendly service!

Early next morning, right around 6am as we were about to leave, we found ourselves in a magnificent winter wonderland! 5 inches of fresh snow, untainted, without any foot steps, or any hint of interference! But somehow I made the decision not to linger around and we took off right away...

It turned out to be the right decision at the end. After we dropped off our friend in Würzburg, it started to snow heavily on our way back to the airport, as if driving at 200kph wasn't stressful enough already. On top of that, the silly GPS somehow got us ended up in "Cargo City Süd", on the other side of the airport. Panicked! We slowly made our way back to the right place and returned the car w/o trouble. But boy, we were close, had we lingered around for 10 more minutes to take the photos before we depart, we probably would of missed the flight.

In hindsight, we all knew it was the right decision, but it also hit us, when will be the next time we get a pristine shot of Rothenburg in fresh new snow like that? Oh well~


And here is the parting shot of Frankfurt. LH A380

As was before you can check out the rest of the photos here from Frankfurt and Rothenburg.


On to Zurich we go!

Last edited by flyhen; Apr 25, 13 at 6:54 am
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Old Apr 25, 13, 9:03 am
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This is a great TR, I am looking forward to the rest of it.
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Old Apr 25, 13, 10:44 am
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Great photos, hope you'll continue soon, thanks for sharing.
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Old Apr 26, 13, 2:50 am
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Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
This is a great TR, I am looking forward to the rest of it.
Originally Posted by AhogZ View Post
Great photos, hope you'll continue soon, thanks for sharing.
Thanks! It's very encouraging, especially this being my first ever FT Trip Report.
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Old Apr 26, 13, 4:02 am
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5. Zurich

After being hurried to the bus waiting for us at the bottom of the steps, we waited for another 5 minutes for some other "latter" passengers to arrive. But was soon whisked to our plane. And on our way to the tarmac, we passed by A380s after A380s and the one and only LH 747-8, and plenty others. It was like a kid in a candy shop for me. The flight towards Zurich was again a delight, just about the right amount of time to have a breakfast before we arrive.


Breakfast with bunt cake.


Approaching. Snowy.


The first thing that greeted us, an A330 (or is it B777?) landing. Wonder where these folks come from.

Soon after, the friendly clerk in the SBB terminal in ZRH welcomed us to their city, and was very helpful in telling us how to get to our hotel - Park Hyatt Zurich. This being my first ever visit to Swiss or Zurich, and I could already tell I am in love with the city. Clean streets, organized, and well-mannered people. What else can I ask for? Oh yeah, Mrs. was here in late September of 2012 for business trip, and turned out she knows the city pretty well, that saved me the time to do the homework. Sweet!


Our room in Park Hyatt. Mrs. stayed here last time as well, she felt she was home again.

It was a pity we didn't get to enjoy the hotel that much, checking in at 11am, and out at 7am the next day. But it was a lovely place to stay, and I know where I will be staying next time around.

Without wasting any time, we took Tram 13 back to the central station and headed to Uetliberg, the top of Zurich.


Walking towards the top. It was snowing mixed with some rain, and Mrs. left the Hyatt umbrella in the train!! Luckily, after my 300-yard mad dash/slide down the path, the train was still 4 minutes from departing. I wonder how much the hotel would charge us for that... hmmmm?

Seeing how the weather was still somewhat crappy (notice the theme here? crappy weather...) We managed to get some snapshots of the whole city. I can only imagine how beautiful it was when she was here last time, and the foliage turning... These photos don't do the justice. But I tried.




View from the top.

Afterwards, we decided we were cold enough, and lingering around braving the elements was no longer enticing, and headed down to the city. We walked around the old city, waited for the boat at Bürkliplatz for 30 minutes, only to realize they don't run it as often in the winter hours. So, instead of a boat trip in the freezing rain on Zurichsee, which would of been lovely, we set out to tick off the next place we want to visit on our list.

...Yeah, every one should come to Zurich, get soaked, freeze to death, and might as well catch a flu...

Within minutes, I finally get to experience what all the hype was all about, The famous Sternen Grill bratwurst. Although it took us a bit longer to find the temporary location due to the constructions around. It was so good, we each had second and was instantly satisfied. People of Zurich, you don't know how lucky you are.


Wish I can have one right now! How many of you are thinking the same?

As the weather deteriorated, the rest of the evening consisted only with small walk-around to the plaza where Winston Churchill made his famous "Europe Arise" speech and limited sightseeing. After struggling to get the right shots for the cathedral, we ended up in a lovely cafe in a back alley with a waitress looked like Katie Holmes. I could of swear she was smirking the rest of the night after we told her that.


Zurich Cathedral


The back alley where we met Katie.

After the warm tea and food, and seeing how the weather did not light up, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed. And pretty soon after, our brief stint in Zurich had to come to an end. It was a lovely, elegant city with class. And to say that I will visit again soon is only an understatement.


The next morning, after a breakfast in the world's longest bar, we were ready to leave.


Next time, I will stay for at least 1 week as I told myself while we slowly zoomed pass these tails. My parting shot, for now. Zurich, Swiss, I will be back!

Next stop, Dusseldorf and Köln.

Additional photos of Zurich.
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Old Apr 26, 13, 9:50 am
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I'm loving this report and the pics - keep them coming!
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Old Apr 26, 13, 10:22 am
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Originally Posted by flyhen View Post
5. Zurich


The first thing that greeted us, an A330 (or is it B777?) landing. Wonder where these folks come from.
Would be an A330. You can tell by the slanted winglets, the gray-plastic molding on the real horizontal stabilizers, and the main landing gear carriage (A330 has 2X2, B777 has a 2X3). Fun fact though, A330 is more or less the equivalent of a B767, just in a fancy European plastic wrapper

Great TR by the way! Enjoying the photos.
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Old Apr 26, 13, 10:45 am
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Originally Posted by jtav559 View Post
Would be an A330....Great TR by the way! Enjoying the photos.
Thanks for the tip, now I am one step closer to be a true aviation nerd.

Originally Posted by ironmanjt View Post
I'm loving this report and the pics - keep them coming!
Thanks Jason, we always enjoyed your blog as well, especially Mrs. She is getting all kinds of ideas on where we should go next time.

Like I said, I couldn't be happier with those lens I invested.
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Old Apr 27, 13, 6:31 am
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6. Düsseldorf, Köln

3 LH flights in C in 3 days. 3 happy flights. We enjoyed the service, the food and the crew's friendliness all the way. Big kudos for LH. At the time of this writing, they are probably on strike now. I hope things get settled soon and they walk away with a fair deal.

We touched down in DUS around half past 10 in the morning, and immediately I noticed something… CRAPPY weather!


This LH A346 from Chicago probably brought with them the weather I tried to escape days earlier. Doh!

After running around w/o a clue, we finally located the correct route to the DB Flughafen DUS terminal after going in and out of the main building and parking garage. Who would of thought we were to take the elevator UP, then to the sky tram first? Within 40 minutes, we were in Köln Hbf.


Passing by Düsseldorf Hbf on our way.

And with only a few hours in between flights, we thought visiting the Köln Dom and the surrounding is just the right amount of adventure. After a quick stop for some more schnitzel in the train station, we were fueled up and ready to go!


Inside the cathedral with the afternoon sun shining thru. Pictures can't tell how beautiful it is.

Being there for the first time ever, Mrs. was dumbfounded: How come the Eiffel Tower which is equally beautiful and magnificent is the only one getting all the hype, while the Köln Cathedral in itself seemed significantly under hyped? And rightfully so, she had a really good point.

Soon after, we set out to conquer the spire where I failed 3 years ago. On that faithful day, I arrived only minutes too late after the closing, and ever since, I've been itching to go up. 500+ steps later, we finally made it!


The rotundum with the bell halfway up.


A view from the top. You had no idea how satisfied I was being there finally after 3 years.

The weather was "friendly" in comparison to the Eiffel Tower, where we were greeted with Gail-force wind and ice cubes raining down on us. We lingered around for about half an hour and taking in some more sights and photos and noticed the stone walls were heavily graffitied with white paints and whiteouts. Having none of that, we wrote ours with a ball pen over some whiteout. Which, I doubt it will ever last long after our departure.

We soon made our descent and walked towards the Hohenzollern Bridge. And right there, we decide to leave our mark. Maybe in a few years we will come back and check.


All these lockets made up a beautiful sight in their own way. I read somewhere that these lockets started to appear only as recent as in 2009, but I remember seeing one from 1958 (or 1985). Could it be real?


Per Mrs.' request, will a fellow FTer who lives in Köln or happens to be there check whether ours is still there?

With only minutes to spare, we decided to head back to the airport.

And that's when things took a heavy turn! Seconds after we were on board the train, I noticed my iPad mini was gone! GONE! Realizing I left it in the restaurant earlier, and without surprise, after 10 minutes of frantic searching and asking, we came up empty. Resigned, I sent a remote kill signal hoping it will come online soon and moved on. It was one heck of an expensive schnitzel. Free iPad mini anyone?

When it rains, it usually pours. Back in DUS, aside from running late from the train, we had to scramble to get our tax refund. We were only allowed to do so within 2 hours of the departure. Thankfully, some nice Chinese airlines flight attendants let us cut the line, and the people at the security and gate were understanding. We managed to slide sideways into the closing aircraft door with only seconds to spare. Whew~

As we sat quietly during the push back, and started to mourn for my loss, exhausted, we slowly realized what all just happened. Wow! With all that adrenaline rush now behind us, we sure were hoping for a smooth sailing from now on as we headed into Istanbul for the evening….

Or is it?

Remnants of Köln

Last edited by flyhen; Apr 27, 13 at 9:09 am
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