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Honeymooning in Australia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Dubai (UA/EK/BA F, SQ J)

Honeymooning in Australia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Dubai (UA/EK/BA F, SQ J)

Old Dec 16, 13, 4:56 pm
  #16  
 
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Great TR so far. Looking forward to exploring SYD and BNE in September. When exactly did you do this trip? Just curious since I'm going in September, during the "Spring."

Also, loving the Laduree!
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Old Dec 16, 13, 7:17 pm
  #17  
 
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I feel your pain, sfoactuary. My trip to HKG in a couple went from a LH F experience to UA J. Apparently, the impending devaluation wasn't a good enough excuse. An extra day of shopping was a little more enticing than the FCT to the GF lol.

Looking forward to the rest!
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Old Dec 16, 13, 9:35 pm
  #18  
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7. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

With the recent Hilton devaluation, it seems like the Conrad Maldives has been a popular destination to spend down those points balances. That would probably explain the multiple FTers that we ran into while visiting last month

Getting There/Check-In

After what seemed like an eternity, our SIN-MLE flight landed and we were one step closer to paradise. After clearing immigration we headed into the arrivals hall and were greeted by a Conrad representative. He walked us over to the hotel's booth, where we checked-in with another representative who then took us over to TransMaldvian booth to get the boarding passes for our seaplane flight and weigh our luggage. Then another representative took us out to the parking lot where we hopped in one of the Conrad's minivans and drove around the airport to the seaplane terminal just a few minutes away, and were led up the top floor where the Conrad's lounge is located.

We were one of the first to arrive in the lounge and it actually got quite crowded over the next couple hours. We were told that our estimated departure was approximately 2 hours away, but were also told to hang close since the seaplanes just come when they come. Our first example of island time The lounge had a decent spread of food and offered a great view of the seaplane tarmac, which was just a long strip of water. But it was amazing to get the first glimpse of that gorgeous turquoise water that the Maldives is famous for. We also each had a quick 15-minute back massage which was nice after a long day of traveling.

Even though we were coming from Australia, it really did feel like a long journey to get to the resort (approximately 20 hours total), so I can't even imagine how long the journey would be if we had come from straight from the US. When we travel my wife and I generally like to move around to different places after just 1-2 nights and looking back even we felt that 5 nights was barely enough, but personally couldn't have seen ourselves staying too much longer beyond that. When we come back, I think that 5-7 nights will be what we target.

After only an hour, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that our seaplane was ready and we were led out to the dock for boarding. They load both your normal and hand luggage into the back of the plane, so if there is anything that you want on your person (like cameras) make sure to take that out ahead of time. The plane ride was just over half an hour and provided great aerial views of the atolls and other resorts.

Conrad lounge


View of the watermac


Seaplanes waiting to take passengers to paradise


View of other resorts




The time actually passed by quickly, and before we knew it we had touched down at the Conrad! The resort has a seaplane dock located on a platform on the bridge that connects the two islands, and there was a whole gang of staff members waiting to welcome us, including our island host. He greeted us, and took us over the check-in where we were given a welcome drink and an overview of the island.

Finally here!


Welcome drink



Our Villa

Shortly after finishing up our check-in (for the honeymooners, don't forget to bring a copy of your wedding certificate as they take it as part of check-in to validate your honeymoon benefits), we hopped in a buggy and headed over to the room. I had used 200,000 Hilton points (pre-devaluation) to book the standard beach villa, and decided to upgrade to a water villa for 3 nights and superior water villa for 2 nights.

Both the water villa and SWV are located on the same island which can be accessed via a long bridge from the main island. In general, we found that walking from one end of the other island to the main island took around 15 minutes. Alternatively, there is a boat that goes regularly between the islands.

We found both villas to be extremely spacious and comfortable, but the SWV definitely felt a bit more worn than the newly refurbished water villas. The villas are largely comparable otherwise, with the other key differences in the SWV being a hot tub instead of the plunge pool, the sunset view instead of sunrise (although some water villas do have sunset views), and enhanced audio system with surround sound.

It varied by day, but we probably spent just a couple hours on average in our villa relaxing as there is just so much to do around the resort. While we did get to experience both the sunrise and sunset sides of the same island, it wasn't a big enough change to feel like a separate vacation. Next time, if we are going to change rooms I think that I'd look to experience both islands. Also, personally I would not recommend the superior water villa and would either stick with the standard water villa or upgrade beyond the superior villa as we didn't really feel that the marginal benefits were commensurate with the marginal cost over the standard water villa, but of course that just comes down to personal preference.

Row of water villas


Our water villa


Water villa bedroom


Water villa living room


Water villa bathroom


Water villa wardrobe


Water villa outdoor deck and plunge pool


Superior water villa bedroom


SWV view


SWV hot tub
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Old Dec 16, 13, 9:57 pm
  #19  
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7. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (cont'd)

Activities

As I had been researching the various resorts in the Maldives, one of the biggest draws of the Conrad was the abundance of activities and things to do. I spent quite bit time prior to arrival planning out a rough itinerary for our 5-night stay which I would highly recommend doing. I had been concerned that we were locking ourselves down into a specific plan but it was really easy to move things around after arriving.

When I looked at our itinerary on paper it felt like we would have a lot of down time and therefore I brought several books and movies in anticipation of that. Looking back, I can't even tell you where all our time went because the days went by so quickly and I didn't even have the need to fill any idle time with books/movies.

After arrival since it was already early afternoon, we mostly just walked around and did some light swimming to relax before heading to dinner. The next day, we snorkeled around the house reef near the #200's Beach Villas which was very enjoyable. We had our own snorkel gear since we were planning to dive but the dive shop offers a free rental for those that aren't planning to bring any. We also checked in with the dive shop and we're glad we did since they require that everyone takes an orientation dive in the lagoon prior to going on any dive trips. We were able to squeeze ours in that afternoon prior to going on the all-day dive trip the next day.

The all-day dive trip was amazing - it covers three dive sites and all were a hit, easily the best diving we have ever done in our lives. In addition, during the downtime between dives we effectively did the whale shark snorkeling trip and were lucky enough to find 4 of them. 1 even stuck around the surface to hang out with us for 10-15 minutes!

Video from diving trip

After the all-day dive trip, the last couple days were focused on relaxation. We did a couples treatment at the Overwater Spa, and as some others have mentioned, my wife and I both thought that the massages we got were the best we've ever had.

As part of the honeymoon package, along with a complimentary dinner at Mandhoo, a $100 credit is offered toward an excursion and we decided on the sunset fishing trip which was pretty enjoyable, even though we were among the unlucky few that struck out with the fish. The others got to enjoy the fruits of their labor either at the restaurant or served back in their room.

And lastly, we decided that we wanted to see the underwater restaurant, Ithaa, and went for cocktails. We're glad we did since it was a great experience and interesting to see without having to pay several hundred dollars for lunch or dinner.

Best activity was just walking around and enjoying the views


Illuminated bridge at night


Main pool


Sunset along the beach


Overwater Spa


Treatment room


View from the massage table


Post-massage relaxation area


Night fishing, I caught a baby shark


Someone else caught this


Ithaa underwater restaurant




Eating with the fish


Cocktail appetizer

Last edited by sfoactuary; Dec 16, 13 at 10:26 pm
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Old Dec 16, 13, 10:24 pm
  #20  
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7. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (cont'd)

Food & Beverage

The food and beverage on the resort are truly outstanding and were a big highlight for us. This started each morning with the breakfasts which are complimentary for Hilton Gold/Diamond members, and can be had either at Atoll Market (buffet) or Vilu Restaurant which they describe as semi-a la carte. Basically there is a small buffet, and you can order as many hot entrees as you like off the menu. Each day we tended to eat huge breakfasts which held us over to dinner for the most part. We would cobble together lunch/snack each day with some of the complimentary fruit that was provided each day in the room along with my precious pork jerky that had been smuggled into the country

Samplings from Atoll market breakfast buffet





Maldivian omelet at Vilu


Eggs Florentine at Vilu


One of the most enjoyable experiences was getting to meet quite a few fellow FTers and catching up on all the latest points/miles news with them. The 4-5pm afternoon tea at Mandhoo and 5-6pm happy hours at Vilu were especially great for meeting up. So definitely keep an eye out and don't be afraid to ask "hey, are you on flyertalk?" as I rarely received no as an answer.

There are really a lot of options for dinner and can range from a la carte dining either in-room or at the bar, to full on degustation meals with wine parings. We ate at Rangali bar for 2 of the nights, and found the food to be really good. The pizza, burger, and Maldivian lobster were some of the things we particularly liked. We also benefited by not being big drinkers which can easily add up as wine/cocktails average $15-20. For those that are interested, the Rangali bar also has hookahs/shishas which were great for kicking back while listening to the live music.

For the other three nights we ate at a few different restaurants. We had our complimentary 3-course honeymoon dinner at Mandhoo which was amazing, both the food and the setting. Our first night we ate at Sunset grill which ironically didn't have as nice of a sunset as Mandhoo, but was still quite enjoyable. And lastly, we had the cheese fondue dinner in the Wine cellar which was really fun and interactive.

Sunset grill view


Sunset grill shrimp/scallops


Sunset grill seafood platter


Mandhoo restaurant


Dinner with a view


Mandhoo complimentary honeymoon dinner


Mandhoo amuse bouche


Mandhoo calamari/salmon appetizer


Mandhoo chicken with pumpkin risotto


Wine Cellar for fondue night


Bleu cheese soup


Marscapone cheese dessert


Rangali Bar pizza


Rangali Bar Maldivian lobster


Final Thoughts

So, what's the verdict on the self-proclaimed 6-star resort? It's pretty darn amazing, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and I can't wait to go back. While we were there the resort was at 90% occupancy and at most times still felt like we were the only ones there. And from the FTer perspective, even with the devaluation it's still a good value at 95,000 points per night when compared to retail prices.

BUT, don't go in thinking that everything will be perfect, because you will be setting yourself up for disappointment. We did run into a few issues (primarily on our last night) which put a damper on things, but overall we found that the staff/management response was very prompt and met our expectations. As a tip on one of the issues, I would make sure to be proactive about the seaplane departure schedule as we were shocked to find out the night before that we were booked on a 7am seaplane despite having a 3pm departure out of MLE. We never got a clear answer on why that happened since departure information is provided at check-in time so we suspect there was some sort of mix-up. So make sure to check-in with our host earlier in the day to confirm that your details are correct.

Until next time!
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Old Dec 17, 13, 12:58 am
  #21  
 
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Did they sort out the 7 am departure or they made you get on the 7 am departure?
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Old Dec 17, 13, 1:35 am
  #22  
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Originally Posted by calvinoeh View Post
Lol on the Bee Chiang Hiang!

We make sure to always get some in transit in Singapore and have smuggled it in to Male numerous times to enjoy at the Conrad :P
Great minds think alike!

Originally Posted by calvinoeh View Post
Did they sort out the 7 am departure or they made you get on the 7 am departure?
We had to push hard, and the best they could do was a 9am scheduled departure which ended up being slightly delayed. With the time difference, that put us at MLE airport around 9:30am for our 3pm international flight. But I was able to negotiate free access to the lounge which at least made the 4+ hours tolerable.

If I recall from the hotel-specific thread, you had similar issues?

Originally Posted by bhamsan01 View Post
Great TR so far. Looking forward to exploring SYD and BNE in September. When exactly did you do this trip? Just curious since I'm going in September, during the "Spring."

Also, loving the Laduree!
Thanks, bhamsan01! We were there from November 10th-21st, so the summer weather was just starting, although we did catch a few days of rain in Sydney.

Originally Posted by dat4life View Post
I feel your pain, sfoactuary. My trip to HKG in a couple went from a LH F experience to UA J. Apparently, the impending devaluation wasn't a good enough excuse. An extra day of shopping was a little more enticing than the FCT to the GF lol.

Looking forward to the rest!
Lol! I guess we both learned the hard way to just keep our mouths shut
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Old Dec 17, 13, 1:42 am
  #23  
 
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Great report! Loved all the photos of CM
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Old Dec 17, 13, 2:34 am
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Originally Posted by bhamsan01 View Post
Great TR so far. Looking forward to exploring SYD and BNE in September. When exactly did you do this trip? Just curious since I'm going in September, during the "Spring."

Also, loving the Laduree!
Perfect time to visit, my favorite time of year
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Old Dec 17, 13, 2:51 am
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Originally Posted by sfoactuary View Post
We also went over to Darling Harbor and ventured over to the Sydney fish market for some amazingly fresh oysters and sashimi. It's definitely worth it, but make sure you go early as we snuck in right before closing around 3pm. We also made our way over to Chinatown where we ate at one our favorites (Din Tai Fung), tried one of Harry's meat pies (Tiger style of course!) and also stopped by Mamak for some roti.
Being a local, you've impressed me with your culinary efforts in SYD with the Fish Markets, Chinatown (multiple venue's) and Mamak being some of my regulars!

Well done!
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Old Dec 17, 13, 11:34 am
  #26  
 
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That Sunset grill seafood platter!!!!!! Can you bring that back to California!!
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Old Dec 17, 13, 8:37 pm
  #27  
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8. Extended Layover in Sri Lanka before ex-CMBing + Amangalla

Around 1:30pm we began packing up our belongings and headed back to the main terminal at MLE. We're glad that we had lounge access as there really isn't much to do in the MLE airport - aside from a couple shops and restaurants upstairs, the entire downstairs waiting area is just seating. We hopped on our Sri Lankan Airline flight which was actually quite nice, and after just an hour we touched down at CMB.

So why the mini-trip to Sri Lanka? To be perfectly honest, initially it wasn't very high on my bucket list of places to go. But given that we were going to the Maldives, I couldn't resist the temptation to book one of the amazing ex-CMB trips back home (may she forever RIP). I certainly didn't maximize my ticket to the fullest extent possible since we didn't really have much time for any additional stopovers, but I was more than happy with the routing as I'd get two F legs on Emirates including the A380, a long layover in DXB to experience the Emirates F Terminal, and a TATL leg in British Airways F all for a pretty reasonable price.

Keeping with the theme of learning to keep my mouth shut, I mentioned to my wife that we'd need to stop in CMB on the way home since we would be traveling on another ticket. Her philosophy was that if we were going to divert to Sri Lanka just to go home, then we should spend at least a couple days there. I reluctantly agreed, but as I spent more time researching it my mindset completely changed as there appeared to be a lot of interesting things to do and see in Sri Lanka. [She later admitted to me that she only demanded a long layover since she thought that going home from CMB was a major detour from going home from MLE, sort of like flying to SFO-JFK-NRT]

In the end, with only 3 days/2 nights to work with, I decided to spend them in Galle and to stay at the Amangalla. If we had more time, I would have really like to head East and combine a few days at Amanwella, or to visit the Tea Trails in the central region.

There's a saying that you always remember your first - and for the rest of our lives we will both always remember our first Aman experience at Amangalla. I had been reading about the so-called Aman experience, but the glowing descriptions that people wrote just didn't do it justice. Even fresh off our stays at the Conrad Maldives and Wolgan Valley where the service was great, the Amangalla just put them both to shame. Every single detail and every single interaction we had with the staff was perfect, to the point that it felt like they were reading our minds.

We were greeted by the hotel representative at CMB and jumped in a car for the 3 hour drive to Galle. By the time we arrived it was fairly late in the evening, and after spending just a few minutes with our butler we ordered some food and retired for the night. The room definitely had a lot of charm with the 'Colonial' feel and actually very much resembled our room at the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi. As a special surprise, the bed had been decked out with coconut tree decor to celebrate our honeymoon.

Amangalla exterior


Lobby


Lighting a candle together as part of the welcome


Front entrance to the room


Bedroom


Bathtub


Shower


Desk




Outdoor patio


The next day we got a full tour of the rest of the property, which was much bigger than we anticipated from what we saw from the outside. There is a nice pool area, yoga pavilion with complimentary classes each morning, as well as a very nice spa which has two hot tub/sauna/steam/plunge pool areas that can be booked for private use.

Library


Outdoor pool


The baths
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Old Dec 17, 13, 8:58 pm
  #28  
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8. Extended Layover in Sri Lanka before ex-CMBing + Amangalla (cont'd)

Because we had arrived so late on the 1st day, we really only had 1.5 days left to explore the area. We started each day with a full breakfast which was served in the dining room and featured both Western and traditional Sri Lankan options. We were told that we could order as many things off of the menu as we liked, and that we did!

No shortage of tea in Sri Lanka


Breakfast bread basket


Western breakfast


Traditional Sri Lankan hoppers


Similar to what we had done in the Maldives, we ate really big breakfasts which held us over until dinner time. On the 2nd day, we did have a complimentary lunch offered as part of the booking so of course we didn't turn it down. Additionally, all non-alcoholic drinks and snacks were complimentary from the mini-bar, and each day there was a complimentary afternoon tea and scones.

Zucchini fritters for lunch


Salad


Sea bass


Garlic prawns


Sunset view during afternoon tea


Afternoon tea with scones
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Old Dec 17, 13, 9:01 pm
  #29  
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8. Extended Layover in Sri Lanka before ex-CMBing + Amangalla (cont'd)

There are a lot of activities organized through the hotel and in addition to taking a tour around the fort we also visited a nearby tea plantation, and also as a final honeymoon celebration participated in the private roti dinner at a nearby rice paddy owned by a friend of the GM. The dinner included a brief cooking lesson on how to make roti, which was much harder than it looked.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Galle, and are already thinking about another trip to Sri Lanka to see more of the country.

UNESCO plaque


Fort lighthouse


Great views walking along the fort wall






Clocktower


Dutch coat of arms on one side of the entrance, British coat of arms on the other




Private rice paddy dinner setup




Learning how to make roti


Roti overdose


One last surprise waiting for us back in the room


Visiting a turtle hatchery on the way to the tea plantation




Visiting nearby tea plantation famous for virgin white tea


Learning how the tea is made


Scorpion orchid on the tea plantation


Tea tasting


Virgin white tea
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Old Dec 17, 13, 9:02 pm
  #30  
 
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This is an amazing report! Looks like a wonderful trip. Jealous of your dive with the turtle...
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