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My First Trip Report IAD-LHR-HKG-BKK-HKT-BKK-HKG-SIN-DXB-ZRH-IAD (no pics)

My First Trip Report IAD-LHR-HKG-BKK-HKT-BKK-HKG-SIN-DXB-ZRH-IAD (no pics)

Old Dec 16, 13, 1:48 pm
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My First Trip Report IAD-LHR-HKG-BKK-HKT-BKK-HKG-SIN-DXB-ZRH-IAD (no pics)

Around The WorldReport August 18th-August 28th 2012
P
25,000 miles, 5 countries, 3 regions of the world.
Thursday August 18th, 2012

Took the 5A Bus from Rosslyn Station to the airport. I arrived at the bus stop at approximately 4:55 PM. The buses go about every 30 minutes so I waited for the 5:15 departure. To my surprise, the bus was on time to take me to Dulles. The bus itself was packed with travelers. The route starts at L’Enfant Plaza on D and 7th St SW and then goes to Rosslyn so there were already people on it. I had to stand in the aisle for the whole trip which took around 1 hour as I arrived at 6:15 PM for my 10:01 PM Departure to London Heathrow on United Airlines.

IAD Check In/Lounge Experience
When I got there around 6:15 PM it was pretty empty. There is a dedicated line for Global First and a few other areas for Business First. Now since it was so empty it really didn’t matter what line I physically got in. It looked as though as the staff was in a shift change. A lot of the European flights leave around 5 and 6 pm so the check-in for those flights had been completed. So when I arrived the staff who worked those flights had presumably finished their shift or went home. There are no separate international/domestic check-in queues at IAD. I was the only one in line and the few staff that were there at the time were chit-chatting among themselves. Finally, after noticing me they told me to use the kiosk. Now since I was checking my bags all the way to Hong Kong via London Heathrow. I wanted to confirm with someone that my bags were tagged to the correct destination so the kiosk would not be sufficient due to the complexity of my itinerary. The first person I actually spoke to would not even assist me. She claimed her computer went down and she couldn’t help me after I explained the uniqueness of my itinerary. The next person I spoke with was really nice ironically she was Thai so presumably since she told me she goes home to visit family she understood the nature of my trip and why I needed to physically check in. Maybe I caught the United staff at a bad time but it was not an efficient check-in process from the outset, especially considering I was the only person in line.
My flight was scheduled to depart from gate C3 on the C/D concourse, but because I was so early, I had the opportunity to visit the Lufthansa lounge in the B terminal at B51 right when you get off the IAD monorail.. At that time I was admitted to the Senator First Class Lounge because they only keep 1 of the 2 lounges open at that hour before the last Lufthansa flight departs. What was interesting is Lufthansa staff ran the lounges and it is not a 3rd party catering company. The catering was very German as one would imagine. They had German pretzels, authentic German beer and food. I really liked it as it was very quiet with large windows overlooking the tarmac. There were big leather chairs to sit in and it was very well lit. Closer to departure I took the monorail from B to C to go the United Club nearest gate C3 – at gate C7. Unfortunately, the C/D stop is built where a future terminal will be, not where the current United terminal is, so it takes about 10 minutes to walk to the gates from the C/D stop. Whereas B is a beautiful open terminal with lots of natural light, C is – too put it bluntly – dark and dingy. This concourse was built in the early 1980’s as a “temporary” concourse, and now – at over 30 years old, it’s functionally obsolete, and not a proper terminal, especially as the International Gateway for our nation’s capital.
The Red Carpet Club at C7 is very large but it was very crowded with not much seating available. There were no prepared foods like there were in the Lufthansa lounge. It was all pre-packaged cheese, crackers, and cookies. Also at the bar there I asked for a soda and it was served in a plastic cup vs. when I got a beer at the Lufthansa lounge it was poured from the tap into a tall European style beer glass. The United Club does have departure boards and they do gate announcements. The Lufthansa lounge is your classic sleek European lounge oasis in the middle of IAD. I would only go to the Lufthansa lounge if you have time because of the distance and the fact they don’t do United boarding announcements nor did they have any departure screens. However, it is most definitely worth checking out as its one of the finest lounges I have seen in this country.
Thursday August 16th United Airlines # 924 IAD-LHR – Business Class
We departed on a re-configured 777-200 series aircraft. The seat in United Business has a completely lie-flat bed which makes sleeping very easy to get done even for the lighter sleepers. This flight departed late about 30 minutes because the plane was waiting for connecting passengers from Los Angeles. To me it begs the interesting question, how long do you actually wait for passengers? Now I am sympathetic to connecting passengers domestic to international. However, what is to say that people going to London aren’t connecting themselves? We ended up arriving about 40 minutes after our scheduled arrival which upset some travelers who were on tight schedules. I should add as well planes also typically circle Heathrow waiting for clearance to land as its one of the busiest airports in the world, but has only 2 runways. As is typically the case, we ended up circling for about 15 minutes around metro London. The quick 7 hour flight was smooth, and they kept me well fed. They offer an assortment of breads, salad course, appetizer, main course, cheese course, and sundae station. They also serve another meal prior to arrival. The service is satisfactory as the flight attendants do their service and basically sits down for the rest of the flight. As I was taking photos of the different cabins the flight attendant told me I need to stay in my own cabin and I wasn’t allowed to do that for security purposes. About 10 minutes later she apologized for her raising her voice a bit and insisted that I should understand. Not trying to cause a scene or anything, I said I understood. The food itself was better than expected as I ordered a Yucatan Chicken Breast with a corn sauce. For the sundae station they offer hot fudge, strawberry compote, caramel, cashews, cherries, and whipped cream on a bed of French vanilla ice cream. However, as I had a glass of wine it was served in a plastic chalice. To me that is pretty tacky for a premium cabin.
Friday August 19th
LHR Arrival and Jolly Ole’ London
Immigration in London was pretty easy as they had a fast track queue for business and first class passengers which I was eligible for. The lines at Immigration were fairly busy so this was pretty helpful. I also noticed there were a lot of staff members directing people to the Heathrow Express and marketing it to people as they were arriving at baggage claim. Trains depart every 15 minutes from Heathrow and arrive in about 13 minutes to Paddington Station in Central London. It’s a very smooth and quiet ride. They have wifi access on the train for those who want to get some work done before heading in/out of London and there are TV’s playing BBC news. A train attendant just came around and scanned the bar code on my print out which served as my ticket. Once I got into Paddington Station it was very hectic. There are a lot of other train connections from there going regionally throughought England and it is quite huge so it can be confusing to find your way around to where you need to be. The first thing I did was I bought an off peak day pass which cost about 8 pounds which is about $13 USD. Paddington station is located on the Bakerloo Line of the London Underground, and I took the Underground (the Tube in London parleyance) to Lambeth North station where I visited my favorite museum in the world the Imperial War Museum. It was Friday so it was pretty crowded. A lot of nannies were walking around with children today in the museum. The Imperial War Museum specializes in WW II exhibits and is a must see attraction for any history buff. I then wanted to grab lunch at London’s famed Borough Market. It was about a 2 mile walk from the museum so I walked over. I spoke with some local merchants once I arrived who told me they were very disappointed with the Olympic turnout last week and were expecting to make a lot more money. To eat there I had a delicious Venison Burger from a local English farm and then I had a porchetta sandwich from an Italian Deli store. I also had the chance to sample lots of local cheeses and breads from the English countryside which was a treat as well. Borough Market is also right by Tower Bridge so after that I walked over to check out the bridge which is one of the world’s best landmarks. It was still marked with the Olympic rings so that was really special. It was a beautiful Friday in London at about 75 degrees and it seemed like the entire city was outside enjoying the weather, whether it was sunbathing at the parks, or eating at pubs overlooking the Thames River which runs through London. This was a welcome sight for me because London is so synonymous with poor weather and everyone in jackets. This was definitely a treat to see the city at play enjoying the gorgeous weather. This area is close to a lot of upscale office buildings so with that you have lots of bustling cafes and restaurants so this was a very popular hangout spot adjacent to Tower Bridge. Also, what I enjoyed seeing is all the Olympic signage was still up all over the city because the following week the Paralympic games were taking place. There were also a lot of Olympic volunteers congregated in the tourist areas available to help people get around London with any inquiries pertaining to the city. They mostly comprised of retired Londoners who were born and raised in the London area. On my last stop in London before heading back to Heathrow I took the tube from the nearest stop which was London Bridge on the Northern Line then I had to transfer at Green Park to the Piccadilly Line to get to London’s most famous department store, Harrods which is located at the Knightsbridge stop. I didn’t have a ton of time at Harrods but walking around there is a ton of fun. The storie is a huge labyrinth of anything and everything upscale that you can think of I walked through the fine foods section which is pretty expansive tried some samples of things I couldn’t otherwise afford and then headed back to the Knightsbridge tube stop. After leaving Harrods, I took the tube back to Heathrow and there’s some important information to be aware of. Not all the trains go to every terminal! Since Heathrow is the terminus of the Piccadilly line on the train itself it will say what terminals it goes to. Some Piccadilly trains go to just terminals 1,2,3, and 5. The other Piccadilly trains just go to terminals 1,2,3, and 4. I left around 5:30 PM from Knightsbridge and rush hour on the tube is pretty busy so I did not have a place to sit. The train ride takes about 45 minutes due to the frequent stops it makes before reaching the airport.
Star Alliance Lounge Terminal 3 LHR
This is the only lounge available to Star Alliance flyers in Terminal 3, as they have efficiently created one lounge to serve all Star Alliance airlines. There were a lot of flights leaving in the evening to destinations throughout Europe, and Asia, but most of the Transatlantic flights had already departed. The Lounge has a number of private shower rooms available for guests, so the first thing I did was take a shower because after walking around London all day in the heat, that I felt like a good freshening-up was in order.. The shower was nice and they provide you with a towel all the necessary amenities. The food selection was pretty lackluster it was just bags of chips, tea sandwiches and some cafeteria quality pasta. I am no food snob but I’m pretty sure mass made Italian food in an airport wouldn’t be worth the room in my stomach. If they say looks aren’t everything too they are wrong as it just didn’t look appetizing. Also, I know I would be fed pretty well on my Air New Zealand flight. The lounge itself was a good facility with a well run business center with about 10 stations and outlets where I could power my phone.


Friday August 17th Air New Zealand #37 LHR-HKG – Business Class
This is technically a direct flight to Auckland, New Zealand and it has a brief refueling stop in Hong Kong. The first thing I noticed is they welcomed me by name as soon as I crossed the threshold of the 777-200ER aircraft. As soon as I sat down a flight attendant came over to me. She asked me if I have flown Air New Zealand before and if I was familiar with the seat controls. She was very charming as she introduced herself and made conversation with me about my travels. She also went over the In-Flight Entertainment and told me what the captains expected flight time was and if I needed any sort of assistance in Hong Kong. I just got this very warm feeling that they established this connection with their customers and made a genuine effort to make you feel comfortable. The flight was scheduled for 12 hours and 5 minutes but due to some winds in our favor the flight went about 11.5 hours. The flight started out with a dinner service where I ordered the New Zealand Lamb Shank. I figured New Zealand is famous for its lamb farms on the North Island so that would make the most sense to get. They also work with local executive New Zealand chefs who put together their food and wine menus. It’s a good marketing opportunity for these chefs to get premium customers to try their food with the hopes of getting them to eat at their establishment. After I had dinner I was pretty tired after being pretty active in London so I got about 5 hours of sleep in the comfortable and spacious Air New Zealand lie-flat bed.. The flight attendants put a really nice duvet top into a bed and gave me a full size pillow to use. Even though it was approaching daybreak local time in Asia, typically these overnight flights will end with a breakfast service despite the actual local time. I woke up to fresh fruit with granola and then they served Belgian waffles with strawberry/raspberry compote topped with vanilla cream. It was a great flight as the crew was active throughout the long haul flight and very personable with warm attitudes and they obliged to any and all requests.


Saturday August 18th Hong Kong Transfer/The Wing Lounge
I had to go through Hong Kong Immigration to pick up my bags and re –check them because my next set of flights was on Hong Kong’s main airline Cathay Pacific and they are not in the Star Alliance network. While United may have been able to check my bags all the way through, I didn’t feel that it was worth the risk as these were booked on separate tickets, and I had left plenty of time between flights. I arrived in Hong Kong at 4:10 PM local time and my Cathay Pacific flight was scheduled to depart at 9:50 PM. The immigration lines to clear customs are generally always long throughout the day/night. Hong Kong calls itself “Asia’s world city” and as one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic, a person should expect to wait at least 30-45 minutes in line at customs. Knowing Hong Kong’s airport is the most efficient in the world, I knew my bags would be out as soon as I arrived at baggage claim and low and behold they were. I then re-checked my bags to Bangkok at the Cathay Pacific check-in area where there was no line. I then proceeded back through security to Cathay Pacific’s renowned lounge “The Wing” about an hour after landing on Air New Zealand.
Why is The Wing in Hong Kong considered one of the best lounges in the world? First of all it’s a huge complex that takes up 2 floors which makes it feel like it’s never too crowded. It houses an array of catering options from a made to order noodle/dumpling bar, full buffet, coffee loft, full service bar, huge business center with lots of work stations, renovated shower suites with premium shower amenities, great tarmac views with mountains, plush seating, dark wood and marble overtones. It is just an absolute oasis in the middle of hectic Hong Kong airport.


Saturday August 18th Cathay Pacific Flight # 709 HKG-BKK – Business Class
This flight was only a little over 2 hours so it was pretty uneventful. This particular flight actually continued onto Mumbai so for a lot of the passengers that was their destination not Bangkok. Due to the fact the flights eventual destination was Mumbai, The menu featured Indian fare to cater to the Indian passengers, in addition to the Chinese Cuisine which Cathay is known for. This flight had the older regional style seats so there was no audio/video on demand programming so the programming ran on a loop, rather then a start/stop system. Cathay Pacific is generally considered one of the world leaders in service and they did not disappoint on this short-haul Asian route. They serve a 3 course meal with choice of breads and handed out chocolates at the end. Arriving in Bangkok about 15 minutes late, the airport around midnight was busy as usual at customs. Thankfully, Cathay Pacific hands out a Fast Track card where premium passengers go to a completely separate area with its own dedicated immigration desks that were much less crowded and only it took about 5 minutes to get through. This was a saving grace for me as I was very tired and just wanted to get out of the airport and go to bed.


Saturday August 18th Novotel Bangkok Airport
Landing in Bangkok airport can be overwhelming for someone who has never arrived in a large Asian airport. There are lots of illuminated signs in different languages, multiple floors to contend with to find the exit and a lot passenger traffic no matter the time of day. I was staying overnight at the Novotel Bangkok airport which is adjacent to the airport. Thankfully, there was an indoor walkway that took a little while to find where it took only about 10 minutes to get to the hotel. Now what is interesting about this property is it has the largest hotel lobby in the world and Skytrax recently rated it the 5th best airport hotel in the world. Now it is a very nice hotel but I definitely wouldn’t consider it grandiose or opulent. I was asking myself why is this airport is rated so critically acclaimed? My only guess could be its advantageous monopoly of being the only reputable Hotel within walking distance of the airport. I got to the room and it was of 4 star quality, and I quickly went to sleep.


Sunday August 19th Air Asia Flight # 3021 BKK-HKT/arrival experience in HKT – Economy Class - LCC
My flight departed at 8:40 in the morning but for a domestic flight, everyone I encountered said I only needed to be at the airport about an hour in advance. The good thing about this flight was that I didn’t have any immigration to deal with. All I did was go to the domestic portion of the airport and dropped my bags off at the web check-in desk for Air Asia and proceeded to my gate (I had checked in at the Wing earlier in the day). As of October 1, 2012 all low-cost carriers, including Air Asia have moved out of Bangkok Suvarnbhumi and are being relocated to Bangkok’s older airport Don Muang and that will serve as Bangkok’s low cost carrier airport from that point forward. The flight itself was only about an hour and what I liked about Air Asia is its casual nature. The flight attendants wear unbuttoned shirts and dark blue jeans which I thought was probably the most casual uniform I have ever seen on a flight but it was certainly a refreshing change to see.


Phuket, Thailand
Arriving in Phuket is very hectic. It is at the heart of tourist activity in S.E. Asia. There are lots of tour/shuttle desks who all have people in front directing to use their services. I ended up taking the least expensive option which was a shared minibus shuttle which makes intermediate stops along the way. I chose this because I wasn’t in any huge rush to get to where I was staying. A private taxi would have cost around $25 but I always try to save money where I can. Now the thing that may frustrate travelers is these shuttles before they drop anyone off will stop on the side of the road at a travel agency where they tell everyone to get out of the car and to go in the store. There are lots of desks where people are sitting and booking tours. Most people don’t realize there’s thousands of these establishments everywhere in Phuket but this particular company has a kickback deal with the shuttle company so that they can try to get the tourists first before they even realize that there’s ample opportunity to book their tours elsewhere. Now you have to wait until every single person is finished with their transaction before finally moving to dropping everyone in the shuttle off at their respective hotel. This took about an hour with about another 30 minutes of driving to go until Phuket. Of course my hotel seemed to be the last drop off point so it took more than 2 hours for me to get to my hotel after landing. But hey I saved $20 bucks!


Centara Hotels & Resorts
First for those of you who have never heard of Centara Resorts here is a quick corporate profile:
Centara Hotels and resorts are a chain of first class hotels throughout Thailand and International. It is a core business unit of the Central Group of Companies, founded by the Chirathivat family - a major owner, developer and operator of mixed commercial malls, retailing businesses, Central Department stores and trading businesses throughout Thailand. Apart from operating a chain of leading city hotels in Bangkok as well as premier resorts properties in key tourist destinations in Thailand, CENTEL also operates 5 major Quick Service Restaurant and Fast Food concepts.
Centara Karon Beach Resort
The expansive property is separated into 4 residential zones where in each zone a different room type lies. At check in I stood and line and when it was my turn they told me to wait in the lounge area which I found a bit odd. I was promptly greeted with a cold towel, and a glass of ginger water. I found the service here to be extremely warm. Then the Resident Manager and Front Office Manager came to greet me. They were very nice and asked how my trip was and they were very excited to have me stay with them. They confirmed my site inspection for tomorrow and then I went upstairs to check in and the room was fairly standard but there was a nice walk in closet which made storing my belongings convenient. Throughought my stay everyone was always very nice and I thought the best attributes about this property were its people prompt service. I was always greeted with a smile and a bow which is a Thai sign of respect. The one request I made was fulfilled instantaneously. My friend stayed in my room the last night since we were travelling together early the next morning so I asked from my room if an extra bed can be sent up. About 10 minutes later an army of 4 housekeepers came with the cot and made the bed very quickly. I was impressed with not only the responsiveness but the efficiency. Now there were some things in my room which certainly were something that I survived but definitely take the facility down a notch. Firstly, I noticed on my last couple days there that the air conditioning vent was dripping water slowly so I had to keep a towel on it. The room did come with complimentary breakfast and there were a lot of options but the quality of the food overall I found mediocre and more of cafeteria quality. Also, I did see little bugs in the room from time to time and then actually encountered a huge cockroach on the last day. I am not one to complain unless it’s egregious. I knew it was a tropical environment and an older building so it wasn’t a big deal to me and I didn’t mention it to the staff. Also, some of the staff had trouble with English, and I found this to be more of a testament overall to the education levels in Thailand but I overheard an Australian man complain about issues he had and had to repeat himself several times to the representative he was speaking to because they didn’t understand him.
My site inspection of the property went well and was very quick but it was apparent to me the facility overall was more of a 3 star quality. Even the manager who took me on the tour admitted their hotel was in a tough position because there are a lot of 5 star hotels in Phuket so it’s tough for them to get group business which they try to focus on with a lot of the Russian travel groups. At the end of the day though the service/people/location is what I loved most about this Hotel and those for me on this trip were the most important things so I definitely checked out satisfied.
Phuket Impressions
Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles” and this tagline I found to be true. Every Thai person I encountered was warm, friendly, and very kind. These are the qualities that brought me back a 2nd time. The respect they have for strangers to me is unmatched anywhere else in the world. Just about everyone bows to you every single time you walk past them. They revere the King and Queen here as they are the oldest absolute monarchs in the world still living. The people of Southern Thailand are also very different than in Bangkok. In Phuket and the surrounding areas you have a much higher population of Thai Muslims. Southern Thailand is in relatively close proximity to Malaysia has a lot to do with why the concentration of Thai Muslims is higher.
There are a few things that can be found on every street in Phuket and Thailand in general. You can find tailor shops, travel desks, go go bars, street food carts, massage parlors, and mom/pop restaurants. In a lot of these establishments they will have someone in front approaching you to use their services. This may be overwhelming for someone who is accustomed to a more traditional vacation experience but this is a way of life here in Phuket. A tourist should know also that Phuket is 2 to 3 times more expensive than its capital of Bangkok. In relation to its northern capital Bangkok obviously has tourism but the outlets in Bangkok also cater to locals who obviously live on a lot less than its visitors generally. The reason is Phuket caters 100% to tourism. The beaches can be very dangerous as the rip current often times drowns tourists who don’t use caution. The waves I saw were anywhere from 3-8 feet high. Also, the waves come at you every few seconds. One moment the water could be at knee level and the next minute it will be neck height. There are flags every 10 feet or so telling people not to go in the water. Especially in rainy season where there are lots of storms brewing regionally and can cause the rough waters. I also witnessed multiple water rescues during the week for people going out too far in the water. Where someone would spend most of their money in Phuket is tuk-tuks or the local taxis. There is no place in Phuket you can get a regulated taxi besides leaving the airport. The reason is that the Thai mafia run the tuk tuk business in Phuket because that is where they find the most money can be made. They realized a long time ago due to Phukets geography that the only way for people to get around the island was via tuk tuk. So they name their own price and rip people off (in Thai Standards) on fares. For example, the same distance in Bangkok may cost you $5 in a taxi but about $15-20 in Phuket. So while Thailand is still not that expensive in general. The costs in Phuket can still definitely add up while your there and become less of a bargain everyday your there. Phuket is a very spread out Island and made up about 12 different districts of which have their own beach. I stayed in Karon which is considered to have one of the nicer and less crowded beaches. By far the most popular beach to stay in for tourists is Patong. Patong geographically is the center of Phuket and this is where you find the infamous nightlife. Tourists need to be very careful in Patong as it is definitely one of the seediest areas of SE Asia. Soi Bangla is the pedestrian street where the dozens of go go bars line the streets that all of an abundance of “working women” at each bar. With this type of lifestyle other crimes aren’t far behind. My advice is just to be aware of your surroundings and don’t do anything you shouldn’t be doing or don’t feel right about. It is an interesting place to check out as it’s the vibrant nightlife center of Phuket but extra precautions should be taken as the vast majority of crime takes place in this area. The crime you hear about is when tourists become out of control and treat the Thai people poorly. This level of disrespect is intolerable there and often times results in injury or death. The bad wrap on Thai people is they want your money and while that is very true it is more so out of necessity. The fact is essentially all the locals here have very low living standards. So they all flock to Phuket where tourists are spending their discretionary income and are trying to somehow make a living to support their families in other regions of Thailand. The main demographic of tourists are people who come from strong economic nations. English, Russians, and Australians make up the vast majority of the tourist market. 90% of the Russians that visit are from the Siberia area of Russian because of the relatively close proximity (5-6 hour flights) and Russian travel agencies have packages with charter flight company/hotels in the area. It is comparable to how Americans flock to the Caribbean on charter flights/all inclusive hotels. Same goes with Australians as its not terribly far for them. All the dangers aside, Phuket has crystal clear blue waters, amazing neighboring islands to snorkel , and hospitable people, amazing food at very low prices and the weather year around is beautiful and never gets too hot. Another interesting note about Thailand is when they address you they always called me “Mr. Daniel”. In Thai culture apparently it is more formal for people to be called their first name not last like here. Those positives alone are alluring enough to attract people to Phuket from various backgrounds from honeymooners, college backpackers, and independent travelers. Whatever it is your looking for in Phuket they pretty much have it. You can stay in little guesthouses for very little a night or stay in ultra deluxe 5 star properties here. I loved my time here and hope to go back in the future.


Transporting to Ritz Carlton Reserve in Krabi
Krabi, Thailand is a much smaller resort area east of Phuket. It is a little over 100 miles in distance to get there. In high season there are speedboats that go through the day to Krabi and this would have been the ideal method to get to Krabi but since I was there in low season the only option was to take either a public bus from Phuket town to Krabi town or a shared mini bus that picks you up from your hotel but then picks other people up before heading to Krabi town. Since Phuket town is 40 minutes away from my Hotel in Karon Beach I opted for the shared mini bus route that I was told should take about 2.5 hours. I was picked up at 7:45 AM on time from the lobby of my hotel. We then proceeded to pick up about 6 other people from other resorts in Karon and in neighboring Kata Beach. After about 1 hour of driving we dropped people off at a gas station who were then connecting to another mini bus which takes people to another popular destination Koh Samui. Another 45 minutes later we stopped off at a small market area where they let people get snacks, use the bathroom, and hang out. I guess it was the Thai version of an interstate rest stop. We were there almost an hour which was pretty surprising to me. Of course I want to get going here but a person needs to realize then when you decide to take these methods of transportation that things are completely out of your control and you have to roll with whatever is happening. Finally after about 4 hours of travelling we arrived in Krabi town, However the hotel was on the complete other side of Krabi town which was about 50 minutes way via tuk tuk.
Ritz Carlton Reserve, Phulay Bay
After a long journey from Phuket, I finally arrived to the property at around 1:30 PM. I was promptly greeted by Ana who is the Portuguese GM of the Hotel and the Director of Rooms Carlos who hails from Spain. There is no front desk at this hotel, you are finding yourself transfixed in a mirage of tranquil luxury under a Thai temple pavilion. To get to the main pavilion you encounter a huge fountain with individual tiled stones that lead into the temple. I was then greeted with a cold towel and lemon grass water. The GM asked about how my trip was coming and asked me some questions which was really nice. I have never seen a GM of a hotel greet its guests and spend time getting to know them as well and this was a wonderful first impression as I was captivated by the stunning Thai architecture with Balinese influences. I was then introduced to J.B. who was our dedicated butler during my stay. The property itself is expansive with about 34 acres of land, so the most efficient way to get around the grounds was via a buggy (golf cart). We got in our buggy where she told us about the property and then told us we were upgraded to the Reserve Villa. There are 5 total room types at this property, the base room type is called the Resort Pavilion then it goes up to Ocean Pavilion then Beach Villa then Reserve Villa than the Royal Villa. So I was surprised I was upgraded 3 total room types and given the 2nd highest category in the entire resort. Now out of the Hotels 54 total rooms they were only about 50% full during my stay. The resort was so large that I rarely saw anyone except at breakfast. However, they didn’t need to upgrade someone that significantly who was staying there for free, so I was pleasantly surprised. The Reserve Villa I stayed in had 1141 Square Feet of indoor space and 2648 Square Feet of total outdoor space for a grand total of 3789 Square feet within the entire villa I stayed in. Being dropped off at my front door, I had to walk through these tall double wooden doors to enter the front garden of my villa. The garden was meticulously well groomed as I walked up the individual stones placed vertically to get to the veranda of my villa. The first thing you notice is that there is a plunge pool on the veranda. There is also a king size mattress day bed on the veranda beside the plunge pool. The plunge pool to me as formed in a moat that encircled the entire front porch of the Villa. Then you enter the villa itself through tall glass sliding doors and then there was an amenity there waiting for me with a bottle of wine and little Thai nuts and fruits as well. Then you walk in the main room of the Villa and you can’t help but notice the 13 foot bed. I did not think such a bed existed. Not only was it huge but it felt like a cloud to sleep on. It was by far the most comfortable thing I have laid on in my life. I couldn’t imagine someone having this bed in their home and then going to work one day. I even asked the GM at a cocktail reception if she had the bed because of how “dangerous” it would be to have. I use the word “dangerous” because it would be very difficult to get up to go to work the bed is so comfortable. Beyond the bed in the middle of the villa you have these huge double doors adorned with images of ancient Thai dynasties. You then enter the bathroom foyer which has a large padded table in the middle where you have the huge walk in closet with his/her side of the closet. The closet had all the things you may need to accompany your wardrobe. What I found interesting is they gave indoor and outdoor robes with matching sandals that were made of different material. The indoor robe was silk maroon and the outdoor robe was soft and white. The ceilings themselves were 20 to 30 feet high which allowed an abundance of natural light to shine through. It reminded me of something you would see in a church or religious structure. There were also two separate indoor/outdoor baths. They were located on the inside that had its own annex of the villa and then one in the backyard behind the villa.
The Hotel offers complimentary speedboat service to nearby Hong Island but since the waters were too rough during my stay they had to cancel it. During the day I would just go to the pool, work out at the gym, kayak, and relaxe in my amazing villa. I just tried to keep things as simple and relaxed during the day as much as possible. One afternoon I was there they had a GM cocktail reception where they had cocktails and different appetizers. The GM Ana and Director of Rooms Carlos came over to each cluster of guests that were there and just making friendly conversation and establishing connections with every person. When the heads of a hotel do that it makes you feel very welcomed and you could tell that they really appreciated people staying with them. In the back of their minds I can’t help but wonder if they knew I was there for free. My guess is yes. However, I received the same treatment as someone paying $1500 USD a night which is what my villa goes for in high season. I had complimentary breakfast each morning and they pretty much had everything under the sun to eat. I definitely made sure to fill up at breakfast so that I didn’t have to eat the expensive lunches on property. The closest tourist center was the Ao Nang beach which is 20 minutes away. This is where I went for dinner and to experience the nightlife in the area. Ao Nang is also where a lot of the shuttles and tours pick up for tours in the area.
The signature butler service is what puts this property over the top and one of the reasons they probably the reason they decided to film “The Hangover 2” at this property. The butler is there for you 24/7 with whatever you need. Now your specific butler isn’t on call 24/7 because they do get to go home but there are other butlers always around. The butler will look after between 4 to 7 villas on any given day. They give you their personal extension to reach them and they will do whatever you need. Every simple request was filled with a smile and something they seemed happy to do them. They basically want to know where you want to go and they pick you up at your villa and take you around the property. You then use a house phone to call their extension and they pick you up at one end of the resort to the other. They are more or less a personal concierge. Each night when I came back to my villa there was different turndown amenities. I had assorted cookies one night and other there was an assortment of fine chocolates.
Staying at this property for two nights was nothing short of utter opulence and luxury all with the scenic Andaman Sea with the limestone cliffs jetting out from the water serving as the backdrop. The service on every level matched the high quality of the facility in every facet. When I was there I was treated as a full paying guest and all the staff members you could tell were rigorously trained and they were a pleasure to converse with. The demographic of the guests that were staying there was primarily Japanese and I am told during the winter months it is more of a European clientele. This isolated property is where the elite of society would come to stay and I understand why it receives such high acclaim. To satisfy guests that are accustomed to this level of service and quality, you really have to be on your game on all facets. The sheer size of the property can make things difficult to get requests done as quickly and efficiently but with the amount of high level staff they have, that they must work miracles to satisfy their guests with sky high expectations on a daily basis.


Saturday August 25th Air Asia Flight # 3166 KBV-BKK – Economy - LCC
Originally I was going to fly back to Bangkok from Phuket. However Phuket International Airport is over 3 hours away while Krabi International Airport is about 45 minutes from the resort. Air Asia is based out of Kuala Lumpur, Asia but there are regional Air Asia carriers such as Thai Air Asia. Air Asia is growing in SE Asia and Australia at an amazing rate right now. When I attempted to call Air Asia to change my flight to leave from Krabi instead of Phuket, I was immediately told I would have to buy a whole new ticket. The only changes they do is changing the time of the flight. They don’t do any exchanges or refunds. So when people book Air Asia their plans need to be solid or be forced to buy a whole new ticket. Air Asia is similar to our equivalent to Southwest airlines but in many ways is very different. Air Asia has the high accolades of winning the world’s best low cost carrier for the past several years. The boarding process initially looks chaotic as people just board all at once but one glaring difference I noticed is they have 4 people taking tickets so it was actually pretty quick. Also, everything is extra on Air Asia unlike Southwest where bags are free. You have to pay for the exact weight of your luggage if you wish to check it in. As mentioned previously though I really liked Air Asia’s casual approach to regional flying and that is symbolic with the crew wearing untucked shirts and jeans as their uniform and lots of bright colors in the interior of the cabin. The flight itself was uneventful and took about 1 hour 20 minutes.
BKK Arrival/Overnight
I arrived in Bangkok on time and decided to take the airport train to my hotel. Bangkok has one of the cleanest and most efficient airport to downtown transportation systems in the world. It is very new - only about 5 years old. The train costs about $1 and after 40 minutes takes you into central Bangkok through about 6 intermediary stops. There is an also an express train for a few more dollars that takes around 20 minutes and goes non-stop into the city. I vie for the cheaper option and arrive at the Park Plaza Sukhumvit Soi 18 hotel around 7 PM. Park Plaza’s are part of the Radisson/Carlson family and I got a very inexpensive rate of $34 per night. One of the best things about Bangkok is there is a massive abundance of 4 and 5 star hotels. In low season it is pretty common to get a 4 star hotel for under the $50 mark. I chose this hotel mainly due to its location close to the train station and from where it is positioned in Bangkok itself. Having visited Bangkok about 15 months prior it gave me an idea of where I preferred to be. The main thoroughfare of Bangkok is the Suhkumvit so I would suggest someone staying in Bangkok staying along this main drag is this is where all the activity of Bangkok lies. Then on the side of the Sukhumvit you have the “Soi”s or streets and they are all numbered so it is pretty easy to get around based on finding Soi numbers. I didn’t stay out too late and walked around and found some a good local spot for dinner as I knew my long journey home was about to begin tomorrow so I figured it would be best to keep it an early night as I begin my long journey the following morning back home.


Sunday August 26th Cathay Pacific Flight # 754 BKK-HKG – Business Class
I took the airport train back to the airport on Sunday morning. Sunday mornings are pretty busy at the airport and this was evident by how full the airport train was today. I checked in for my flight as there wasn’t much of a line at the Cathay Pacific check- in desk. I needed to check my bags to Singapore though as that was where my next set of flights were originating from on Singapore Airlines. Even though Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines aren’t in the same alliance, the reason I am doing this is I had 2 separate award tickets with Cathay Pacific using my BA Avios points and my Star Alliance ticket through my US Airways miles. So I had to backtrack geographically and go back to Hong Kong. A lot of the Asian carriers are very cooperative with interlining luggage on other neighboring carriers. Not only does Bangkok Airport have that arrival fast track where you bypass the queues but they have it as well for security screening. There’s a whole separate annex for premium passengers which made it feel like it I was totally in a separate airport facility which was a really nice relaxed feeling. Flying with Cathay Pacific, I also had the option to use the Qantas/British Airways lounge as well which was right next to the Cathay Pacific Lounge. However, the Qantas/BA lounge didn’t actually open up until 3:30 PM because the flights to Australia/UK don’t depart until the evening time. I went into the Cathay Pacific lounge and it was a pretty small facility. It had a bank of a few computers and seating space. It was pretty crowded but not too chaotic. The food/snack selection was small but I thought the food was very good. Strangely, they had Singapore’s famous dish of Singapore Chicken Rice. Then they also had a good variety of dim sum in addition to other snacks and cookies. After hanging out there for a bout 90 minutes I went over to my gate which was a good 15 minutes walking away. This time the Cathay Pacific flight had the herringbone Airbus A330 configuration with lie-flat seats, and Audio/Video on demand instead of the old style recliner seats. The flight time today was about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I really wanted to watch a particular movie that I never got a chance to see in theaters and so after we took off I raced with my remote to click it on because it was such a short flight that I wanted to try to get the whole movie it before we landed. There was TV, documentaries, games, and music but no movie section. I couldn’t locate the menu anywhere on the “Studio CX” system. I asked the flight attendant and she said they don’t have movies in the system for this short length of a flight. Not only was the flight time well over 2 hours which is ample enough time to get a movie in. Why don’t they give the customer at least the option to watch one? I wasn’t upset or anything but definitely surprised. All in all it was a good flight though and we arrived to Hong Kong on schedule.


Sunday August 26th Singapore Airlines Flight # 871 HKG-SIN/HKG Transit - Business
After arriving in Hong Kong, I had to go to the Singapore Airlines transfer desk to pick up my boarding passes. They were able to give me my tickets for my flight to Singapore and then my next flight to Dubai as well since that was also operated by Singapore Airlines. There are 3 different lounge options for people at Hong Kong flying on Star Alliance carriers. There is the United Club, Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge, and the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge. Now I know the Singapore Airlines lounge would be the lounge closest to my gate so I figure it would be the most logical to go their last. I first went to the United Club which is on a terrace overlooking the main hall. United operates a decent amount of flights out of Hong Kong and I know they have a big warehouse facility at the airport there as well so they do have a strong presence there for an American carrier. The United Lounge was on the 2nd floor of the airport and the first thing you notice is the absolutely incredible views of the tarmac. It is a large facility and was sparsely busy. This is by far the best views I have ever seen from inside an airport. They also had a shower facility, an area of sushi, and a pasta area. The food itself didn’t intrigue me too much so I didn’t eat there but I was really enjoying looking out at the airport seeing all the jumbo jets from around the globe come in. A short walk from the United Club lounge was the Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge. This was a much smaller facility and had 1 smaller buffet. One difference I noticed was all the chairs were different bright colors which livened up the lounge a little bit. They also had a video game area with XBOX and Wii. You just give the lounge attendant your boarding pass for them as a deposit and they set up the game for you. This would probably be the best lounge to take kids in since they have these types of amenities at the Thai lounge. As my flight was nearing the 2 hour mark before departure I had to take the train to get from terminal 2 to terminal 1 which is where Singapore Airlines flights depart from at Hong Kong Airport. The Silver Kris lounge was a very nice lounge. However, the knock on it is that it is windowless and you have to leave the lounge to go to the bathroom. I will say though it had the most computer terminals of all the lounges and probably the best quality of food and they do Singapore Airlines boarding announcements. Hong Kong to Singapore is a very busy route as they are 2 of the traditional economy engines of Asia. The lounge was pretty busy as you can imagine on a Sunday as you have a mix of both business and leisure travelers. As I boarded the flight I was very much looking forward to my first Singapore Airlines flight. Generally speaking Singapore Airlines by many connoisseurs is considered the best airline in the world. The flight from Hong Kong to Singapore was a little over 3 hours tonight but Singapore Airlines served a 4 course dinner for this short flight. The food was on the same level as the other airlines I flew so that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I flew in their 777-200 which is the plane that Singapore has the most amount of in their fleet. I lucked out though and this particular flight had the new regional seat which was a really nice tan leather seat. All the Singapore Airlines flight attendants, affectionately known as the “Singapore Girls” wear this one piece long traditional dress and all have their hair up in the same exact way. Singapore Airlines “Kris World” is a great entertainment system but what I noticed that Singapore set itself apart was that they have this constant attention to the customer. They were always roaming up and down the aisles. They made themselves always available to the customer. There were always smiles on their faces during the whole time as well. Now it is a bit on the robotic side as they weren’t going to strike up conversation with you. However, it is all about satisfying the customer and tending to their needs. I can only imagine how good the service is for an ultra long haul flight. A lot of airlines the crew will have its service and then they will plop down on their seat for the rest of the flight. It was a great flight and I felt really well taken care of and just the positive aura and energy that the crew possessed was really remarkable and made me look forward to my next flight to Dubai the following afternoon.
Singapore Layover
The first thing I had to do was pick up the bags that I originally checked in Bangkok on Cathay Pacific. We landed in Singapore’s airport ultra modern Terminal 3 where I proceeded to re-check my bags all the way to IAD via Dubai and Zurich. Even though my next flight was on Singapore Airlines a lot of their Asian/Middle Eastern routes are in Terminal 2. I found interesting they were unable to check my bags from the Terminal 3 check in area and I had to do at Terminal 2. Even though it was now well past midnight, the airport was still busy as there were a decent bank of flights with departure times of 3 and 4 in the morning showing on the departure boards. I took the train over to the older terminal 2 and when I checked my bags and told her my final destination was Washington. She initially started laughing and thought it was a joke. I then proceded to give her my passport where she then looked at her computer and she then verified my allegation of Washington being my final destination. She was then able to give my boarding pass for my flight to Zurich but since it was about 3 days before my flight to Washington she was unable to give me my boarding pass from Zurich to Washington on United. However, the most important thing was they were able to check my bags all the way to IAD. As it was approaching 12:30 in the morning I had over 12.5 hours until my next flight to Dubai. I wanted to go experience some of the city for a few hours before coming back to the Airport Transit Hotel I had booked from 4-10 AM. I found before I left that typically a taxi to the city center was around $25 SGD. However, I took a shared airport hotel shuttle for $9 SGD with a few other people. Now, I wasn’t staying at a hotel in the city but I just found the closest hotel to the area I wanted to be in and told him to drop me off there which in this case was The Fullerton Hotel. The ride was about 25 minutes and dropped people off at the other Hotels. I noticed that all the 5 star hotels were pretty much within a few blocks of one another near the Raffles Quay. The Raffles Quay is the hub of life in Singapore so I figured that would be the best area to explore during my limited time. Now obviously a lot of things were closed when I got into downtown a little after 1 AM. The first thing I looked for and the international symbol of Singapore is the Merlion. The Merlion is the cultural icon of this small nation and can be typically seen having a stream of water coming out of his month into the harbor. Unfortunately, it was under construction so while the structure was still there, there was no water streaming out. It’s a beautiful view through from the dock where you can see the Singapore Flyer which is a huge ferris wheel and the rather new crown jewel of the harbor which is the recently built Marina Bay Sands Hotel. This hotel is famously billed as the most expensive hotel in the world costing $8 billion dollars to construct including the cost of the land. It was built in February 2011 and houses the world’s largest atrium casino. Now, there was a lot of controversy when the casino hotel was built because Singapore is statistically one of the safest nations in the world. Locals were afraid having a casino may increase the crime rate in the area. However, since its inception that has not been a sharp increase of criminal activity. I was able to go inside this magnificent property and walked into this ultra upscale mall wear every designer brand imaginable had a store here. It had a gondola akin to what you have seen at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas and also in the promenade of the shopping area was one of the metro stations linked to the Mall. This Hotel is certainly the new hub for not only Singapore high society but you can just get a sense people from other emerging Asian nations would bring their new found wealth to splurge at this shopping and entertainment mecca. Architecturally, what you notice is the 3 large towers with a huge boat on top of that. The boat is where the SkyPark is and a huge infinity pool overlooking the central business district. In my opinion, this structure ranks right up there architecturally with the Burj Al Arab in Dubai and in a short time will become the most synonymous image people have of Singapore much like the Burj Al Arab is for Dubai right now. Ironically, walking around Singapore reminded me a lot of Dubai with how clean it is and the amazing contemporary architecture. Time passed by very quickly as I had to check in at the airport into the Transit Hotel at 4 AM. I got into a cab and headed to the airport.
I went to the Airport Transit Hotel at Terminal 2 and checked into my room. I had a budget single room which cost about $35 for 6 hours which is a very reasonable price. I saw a lot of people sleeping on the chairs in the airport presumably taking an early flight like me but not having anywhere to stay. When I checked in they would tell me they would call me 15 minutes before my check out time and if I didn’t come out then the next round of charges would start incurring after the 6 hour period which I paid for. I went into my room and for that price it was very basic but it had a small coffee table, small flat screen TV, and a single bed. The bed itself was clean and comfortable but probably wouldn’t suffice for a tall person or someone of larger size. The room was probably not even 100 square feet but all I needed was a bed. There were shared bathrooms down the hall so it definitely had a freshman college dorm aura to it. It’s a great place for someone who just needs a quiet place to get some sleep in a private room. It did the trick for me as I awoke to a phone call from the front desk telling me my time was up. I still had about 3.5 hours until my flight to Dubai and I headed over to the Silver Kris lounge. First thing I did was I went to take a shower and it was a great facility as they had a huge rain shower and the size of the bathroom was pretty large as well. This lounge was beautiful as there is tan marble everywhere and about 3 different buffet stations, so I didn’t go hungry. I noticed a lot of Singapore cuisine is mainly Indian and Chinese based. This is due to the fact of the current demographic of Singapore and this is what people eat here. Time passed quickly at the lounge as I ate great food, checked e-mail and read magazines before heading over to the gate.
Monday August 28th Singapore Airlines Flight # 494 SIN-DXB - business
It was a about a 7 hour flight to Dubai and the plane was almost completely full. We flew on the 777-300 today which is one of Singapore airlines newer 3 cabin aircraft. Even though it was a different aircraft the seats were the same as on the 777-200 I took from HKG-SIN. During this flight it gave me the opportunity to observe a more full service flight than the short jaunt previously taken from Hong Kong. The meals were a little heartier on the longer flights and an amenity kit was passed out. Another thing I observed was great communication within their team. If a crew member was busy with a request, and another cusimer made a new request, the crew member would efficiently, but discreetly reroute the request to ensure that it was fulfilled quickly. There were a few wealthy Middle Easteners on my flight and they had a lot of requests that would make any normal airline employee flustered. In every request, when either I made a request or another passenger that this would always get done by somebody and not necessarily the person who received the request. This is a testament to Singapore Airlines internal communication they have with one another and how customer focused they are. Something that I found comical on this flight was I was playing the old Nintendo Super Mario Brothers at my seat and I was getting really into the game. You have to understand this video game was the first game I played as a child and to have the opportunity to play it 20 years later was incredible. I can only imagine what the important businessman sitting next to me was thinking when he saw how intent I was on winning this video game.. After being stuffed silly by the food once again on the flight, we arrived in Dubai on time at 4:30 PM local time.
Le Meridien Dubai
As many of you know, MacNair Travel books more room nights at this hotel than any other hotel in the world, so I figured it would be a good idea to do a site inspection. After I finished going through customs, and getting my visa on arrival (free), I found the Le Meridien Hotel Desk in the foyer right before leaving the airport. I told the representative my name and then we walked outside and to my utter surprise there was someone waiting there for me in a flashy BMW 7 Series car. It made me feel really important with this grand chariot they had waiting for me. The drive was not even 5 minutes to the hotel. As I pulled up Peter Henry and Tiffany Zhang who were the Sales Managers were waiting to greet me. The first thing I noticed about the lobby is that it was very nice and not overly pretentious luxury with its wooden pillars and marble flooring. They were kind enough to store my bags prior to the site inspection and we went over to the Pearl Lobby Bar to go over expectations for the Site Inspection and the needs of MacNair’s clientele in the area. The first stop on the site inspection was the staffed business center. It had separate working areas complete with scanner and fax capabilities at each station. I have attached the full price list of the business center charges. Wifi access in the room is 99 AED or $27 USD per day. You can also get wifi access for smaller amounts of time. After the business center we walked through the lobby and to “Gourmandises” where is like their delicatessen where you can get your quick coffee fix they also have very nice assorted baked goods and cakes if someone is in a rush for a quick breakfast. Also found in the lobby is “L’atelier des Chefs” which is a cookery class with a full kitchen. What’s remarkable about these particular cooking classes in the hotel is high level of the chefs teaching the different classes offered. “L’atelier des Chefs” is a famous cooking class company located within 10 major cities in France and in London - all in state of the art kitchen facilities. Then we walked over to the Hotel’s own Cigar Bar. It even has its own fumigation room for the cigars and they do have authentic Cuban cigars available. We then ventured to look at the 2 separate lounge pools as well which had a swim up bar at each of them. The next portion of the site inspection took us to the rooms. This 5 star property has 383 rooms with about 200 more currently being added on which will all be the Royal Club room type. There are 4 different room types at this hotel. There are classic, Superior Deluxe, Royal Club and Art & Deco. All the classic rooms are being converted right now into Superior Deluxe rooms. The rooms themselves were a really good size and one thing I noticed as I actually got to stay in a Superior Deluxe room to use to shower and get changed was that the bathroom has 2 separate showers. One shower in the bathtub and one stand up shower. The stand up shower may have been one of the best showers I have ever used. It was a special power shower so the pressure itself was phenomenal. Also there is a lot of desk space in the room to get work done and the work area has its own specific area of the room so there is a lot of room to get work done. There were also DVD players in the rooms which I think is good to know because sometimes people don’t like the TV programming that’s offered so they can put their own material on if they so choose. After looking at the Classic and Superior Deluxe we then preceded to go over to the Royal Club wing of the Hotel. This is an extremely popular option for guests as the Royal Club has its own separate check in facility. The rooms themselves are similar to the Superior Deluxe room but I did notice that the shower head was a little larger in the power shower and the bathrooms were larger with high tech shades in the bathroom. Also in the Royal Club room there is a large remote control console that controls every single amenity in the room and also gives the world time as well. I found this to be a very cool high-tech touch. The Royal Club also has its own concierge area as well for its guests. It really felt like a hotel within a hotel. They also had their own complimentary staffed business center, and a huge lounge area. In the lounge there is a large living room with a big screen TV, full bar, breakfast restaurant, with the veranda of the lounge overlooking the pool. I can see why the Royal Club upgrade is so popular because so many things come with this benefit. I feel like this would be worth it for a client who has the day in Dubai and wants to really take advantage of everything that this property has to offer.
After looking at all the rooms we toured the remainder of the 18 restaurants & bars at this 38 acre property. Having that many dining outlets, definitely threw me for a loop. I can safely say that any type of cuisine you crave can be found at this hotel. From the hotels own German biergarten to Italian, Thai, Indian, Lebanese, French, Australian, Japanese, Asian Fusion, Chinese, Mediterranean, Steakhouse, Seafood, and even an Irish Pub wich has satellite television system to watch all the world football matches. A few interesting notes a bout some of these very nice establishments is that Yalumba which is the name of the Australian Restaurant is buffet style which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Japanese restaurant Kiku has a section of the restaurant dedicated to the art of hibachi/teppenyaki. Also the Meridien Village Terrace is open seasonally and each night has a different all you can eat theme night. One night may be an all German menu or BBQ or even Surf & Turf. The most acclaimed restaurant has to be the Seafood Market. This innovative concept where you take your own shopping cart and go through an actual market of all different kinds of fish from all over the world, then you choose your vegetables then it is weighed before the chefs cook it with at your exact specifications. This unique concept is something I found very innovative. They also have a Karaoke bar called Jules where you can let loose and get ready for the next season of Emirati Idol! The Asian Fusion restaurant is called Warehouse and when the sun goes down turns into one of Dubai’s hottest night spots as into turns into a full fledged nightclub which is extremely popular for airline employees most of which live in the close vicinity due to the close proximity of the airport. I have never seen a conglomeration of more various upscale restaurants in a hotel - not even in Las Vegas in all my life. It is truly remarkable how Le Meridien has captured its guests and all the locals who consistently frequent all the spots. I was there on a Monday night of all nights which is generally considered not a busy day of the week but things were pretty busy considered I was there from 5-10 PM. I can only imagine with this gastronomic/entertainment labyrinth is like later on a weekend night.
The next portion of the site inspection was the fitness center of the hotel. Not only did they have a full lap pool for people who prefer to get their cardio done in the water but they have one of Dubai’s largest gym facilities. There is also a full spa boutique as well with over a dozen treatment rooms. This facility is particularly frequented by Emirates airline flight crews who have special access into the facility. The Sheikh of Emirates Airlines actually owns the property itself so that is why there is a strong partnership between Emirates Airlines the Le Meridien Dubai. They have their own free weight, cardio, and personal training studio. There is also an area to take classes as well.
Peter and Tiffany were kind enough to let me freshen up in a room that had set aside for me and offered me the choice to choose any restaurant in the Hotel I wanted for dinner. It was a tough decision but I ended up going for the Steakhouse restaurant called “M’s Beef Bistro”. We ordered some really nice escargot to start along with tomato and buffalo mozzarella appetizer. We all had the New Zealand strip tenderloin which was absolutely delicious. Even though I was more than stuffed they still insisted I try dessert. I had a ice cream meringue dish that was really tasty. As expected all the food I had was absolutely delicious.
I was absolutely blown away by the enormity of this hotel. I definitely forgot how this was considered an airport hotel. I truly felt like I was in a resort and I was absolutely floored with the facilities and amenities this property had to offer. I would compare it to something that would be offered on a 5 star cruise ship. The fact a guest could be taken into an oasis like this with everything someone may need at their fingertips without even having the need to go into downtown Dubai is a major plus. Even if you did want to venture off the hotel the metro is within walking distance as well to get to all major points of Dubai. I honestly can’t think of a better place to spend a day or two transiting. Having all these dining options, great rooms, wonderful facilities and amazing nightlife is truly something unique that I have never seen in this type of property before. When I departed the hotel the airport was only about a ½ mile walk to terminal 1 departing flights so that is how I got back to the hotel. If you are departing on an Emirates Airline flight than Terminal 3 is a little farther down from the hotel.
Tuesday August 29th Swiss Airlines # 243 ZRH-DXB – Business Class
I arrived at the airport at around 11 PM and this is probably busiest time of the day at Dubai Airport for check in. I still did not have my boarding pass for my last flight from Zurich to Washington so I wanted to get that. The reason it is so busy is because this is when a lot of the long haul flights out of Dubai depart to Europe and North America. Leaving at this hour of the night allows the flights to arrive first thing in the morning to their destination. Swiss doesn’t have its own dedicated lounge at Dubai Airport but they had a shared lounge facility with about 10 other airlines. The lounge itself was very narrow but had a lot of food offerings. At this hour and with all the food I had at the hotel, I wasn’t hungry at all. My flight was probably 70% full as Tuesday is one of the less popular days to travel.. The flight time was about 7 hours to Zurich. There was no dinner service but the flight attendants came around with breakfast menus and you just checked off what you wanted when you awoke prior to landing in Zurich. I was actually looking forward to flying Swiss and knowing that their business class is one of the better products in Europe. Due to my time of departure the cabin lights were dimmed and people went to sleep. I will say the new Swiss Business class seat on the Airbus A330 was a very nice hard product. Unfortunately, I really didn’t get to experience Swiss Airlines soft product too much as the majority of the flight was spent sleeping. It was a non-eventful flight and breakfast was pretty good before I landed into Zurich at around 6:30 AM. My last flight home wasn’t until 11:55 AM so believe it or not I had enough time to venture into downtown Zurich.
Zurich Layover
I wanted to check out Swiss’s new arrival lounge which is located right after immigration. It is a gorgeous facility with amazing furniture and architecture. A hearty Swiss breakfast was served buffet style and they had a tub of Movenpick Ice Cream which is Switzerland’s Ultra Premium ice cream. I figured some Ice Cream would be the sugar rush I needed to power through my day in Zurich. I had a plate of food and then headed to the train station which is on the lower level of the airport to purchase my tickets into Zurich. There was a long line of people to buy tickets from the window but if you’re savvy enough to buy them for the kiosk then this is definitely the quickest way to do it. Now the train will say Zurich HB. The HB stands for for Hauptnbanhhof which is the main train station located in the heart of Zurich. Don’t worry if you just miss a train though because the trains are very frequent into downtown Zurich and come about every 10-15 minutes. The ride itself is among the smoothest in Europe and takes only 12 minutes to get to the main train station. Having been very fortunate and having just been in Zurich 10 months ago, I had a very strong visual picture of the city and its layout. Zurich has to easily be the most walkable city in Europe and one of the most compact to walk around. You can literally walk around the perimeter in about 3 hours if you know where you are going. First thing I do when I arrive is walk through the Banhofstrasse. This street is one of Europe’s most regal boulevards as the street is lined with upscale watch makers and private banking facilities. During the walk I observe what a typical rush hour in downtown Zurich looked like. I pretty much noticed lots of people in very fancy work attire presumably going to their power jobs. While those suckers were going to work that day, I was on the search for is Switzerland’s oldest and best chocolatier which is Sprungli. Sprungli in my opinion is the finest chocolate in the world and it is not commercially sold in the United States like its Lindt counterpart. There is Sprungli shops all over Zurich but the location on the Banhofstrasse is the flagship store with a café attached in the back. I sat down at a table with other people in the café who were having their pre-work croissants and cappuccinos, while I sat down to have a nice cup of hot chocolate. If the hot chocolate isn’t rich enough they give you a little square of dark chocolate on the side to put in your hot chocolate. As one would imagine it is very rich and decadent but absolutely delicious! I thought to myself it better be delicious for $7 USD for about 8 ounces of cocoa. Zurich is one of the worlds most expensive cities so while the quality of things is extremely high so are the prices to go with it. I finished up my hot chocolate and then I went into the store itself and bought some chocolate souvenirs to take back with me for family and friends. Leaving Sprungli the sun was now beaming and it was a pleasant 70 degree day. I then proceeded to the Burkliplatz which is one of the main roads by Lake Zurich to encounter a local market where they were selling flowers, fine cheeses, meats, and different vegetables. This was a great opportunity for me to sample from some of the fine foods from the Swiss farms in the area without having to pay for it as my finances by the end of this trip were starting to wear thin. After sampling some different foods, I went over to the Lake and sat on a bench for a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine and behind the lake you can see the beautiful Swiss Alps as a gorgeous backdrop. As I left the Lake area I headed into the home stretch of the final mile or so before I needed to head back to the main train station to catch the train back to the airport. People all over Zurich advised me to leave Zurich about 2 hours prior to your scheduled flight time as it is so close by and Zurich Airport is so efficient. The Limmat River runs through Zurich and I walked along the bank as I slowly made my way back to the train station. I arrived back at Zurich airport about an hour and 45 minutes prior to my departure. Zurich is one of Europe’s finest cities but spending 2 days in the Swiss capital is more than plenty as Switzerland’s true treasures are found well outside its capital. Zurich is definitely a good base for someone arriving to rest and get their bearings before heading to the more majestic and idyllic parts of Switzerland.


Tuesday August 28th United Airlines # 937 ZRH-IAD- United Business
Its time now to get on a plane where my boarding pass physically notes where I actually live! I was definitely looking forward to heading home as I have spent a lot of time in the air and in various airports. This United fight was flown by a reconfigured 767-300. All the international 767’s in Uniteds’s fleet have now been retrofitted with the new Business and First Class product. United also operates a flight from Zurich to Newark as well which leaves about 30 minutes prior to the Washington flight. There is no United Clubin Dock E which is where the United flights depart from. The only lounge in Dock E is the Panorama Lounge which is a shared lounge but not affiliated with United. If you are flying United you must use a Swiss or Lufthansa Lounge in the main terminal and then head on the train to Dock E. This is definitely an inconvenience for premium United passengers as there is no convenient lounge close to their departure gate. I ended up using the Panorama Lounge prior to my flight though as I asked the guy if I could go in and he said they actually will allow some United passengers enter the large lounge because of the inconvenience they hear from passengers. It is a very nice lounge with amazing tarmac views. There isn’t a large food selection but it s a very busy lounge as it’s the only lounge in Dock E and it has partnerships with about 10 other airlines. As I went to board my flight to IAD, I learned that the flight was not very full at all. Once again being Tuesday and with ZRH not being one of IAD’s high volume routes, I figured this would be the case. I had the entire row to myself. The flight time was about 9 hours flights back from Europe to North America take longer Due to headwinds.. As I mentioned in my report earlier, United serves a lot of food to people and the ice cream sundaes are the signature item on United’s International Premium service. I was actually pretty tired from walking around Zurich so I was able to get a few hours of sleep on the flight. At this point I was pretty uninterested in watching any of the entertainment because one thing I noticed was crossover of all the same movies from the different airlines. As I began reflecting on the past week of travel, as if almost on queue the comforting words of “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are beginning our initial descent into the Washington, DC area resonated through my headphones and my first reaction was to smile as I have arrived home.

Final Conclusion
Reflecting upon this whirlwind journey only one world can really describe a trip like this. That word is “lucky”. For me to have gotten to see and experience some of the greatest cities and sights the world has on offer is truly something that people do not have the opportunity to do. To me travel is all about discovery and while most of the places I have visited I have been to already didn’t mean I didn’t discover new things. The best part of travel to me is the people. Meeting people from all corners of the world and interacting and living in their environment for a temporary period is a truly special thing and really this is what fuels my desire to see the world a continual basis. Looking these places up on the internet and researching really do not do it justice. You really need to get out there to truly understand the life of a destination. I encourage anyone and everyone if you are on the fence about a place you have wanted to see to go for it! I have a confession to make I was reading prior to my trip about all this rash of crime that was taking place to tourists before my trip to Phuket and I must admit that I had a bit of anxiety. However, one cannot be scared of by these isolated incidents. We all need to remember that these things can happen anywhere to anybody at anytime. The world is a wonderful and special place and I hope from reading what I had to say in my FAM report that you could picture yourself on my trip and that you could be the next to experience all this great planet has to offer.
ASUDan130 is offline  
Old Jul 2, 14, 1:52 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: DCA IAD BWI
Programs: AS MVP, Hyatt Diamond, IHG Spire Ambassador, Global Entry, Hertz 5*
Posts: 175
Lucky, indeed!

Glad you enjoyed your trip - my home airport is DCA, and I'm headed to BKK/SIN next week as well... thanks for the early reminder to enjoy the journey as much as the destination!

-AD
airbornedaddy is offline  

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