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RTW#3: Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

RTW#3: Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

Old May 16, 2015, 10:28 am
  #31  
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Originally Posted by Annalisa12
Yikes. Check out the size of that snake. It's huge.

Great trip report. Thanks.
Originally Posted by flyingeph12
Agreed. I would have been freaking out. *shudder*

Another great installment overall!
Thanks for your continued support Annalisa12 and flyingeph12.

MrsWT73 got no where near the python by the way.
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Old May 16, 2015, 10:34 am
  #32  
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FIN Bar (Ho Chi Minh City Lounge offering)
Tan Son Nhat International Airport,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


For our travel back to the airport, we took an Uber Exec car from the Sheraton Saigon. Our driver Thayn turned up within 10 minutes in a new Mazda CX5.

It was just a typical drive from the Dong Khoi neighbourhood to the airport. When I say that, I mean that it was the one of the most crowded trips that we'd ever taken. The ride was supposed to take 17 minutes, but actually ended up taking 41 minutes. Rush hour was all around us, in addition to the most motor bikes that I’ve ever seen. We were completely surrounded most times. It was a pretty awesome transportation experience I have to say.







A mere $24 USD later we were at Tan Son Nhat Airport.

We checked in at the C counters. There was a short wait at the Singapore Airlines business class counter. This was likely due to the ground agents having to complete lounge vouchers and manually tag and check golf clubs by hand for those that were ahead of us.





Our check in agent offered us an option of the FIN restaurant or the airport contract lounge. There must have been some complaints about the contract lounge as we were politely “encouraged” to use the restaurant. There was also a prominent display on the counter advertising the “strong wifi, good food and proximity to the gate”. We got the not so subtle message and accepted the restaurant option. We were presented with a voucher good for one alcoholic drink, appetizer, food item and dessert.



We proceeded through immigration and fast track security. The waits were minimal. The airport itself was pretty spartan and utilitarian.

We located the FIN restaurant. It was a sleek, contemporary space that was offered in the food court area of the terminal. It appeared to be the only table service restaurant in the food services area.















I had a club house sandwich and MrsWT73 had a pizza. It was an adequate way to pass the time. Initially, I was a little concerned about finding supper thanks to the 7:45 PM flight timing and our drive to the airport but this worked out perfectly. The wifi wasn’t strong, and the FIN restaurant was no where near our gate as advertised, but it was a perfectly nice way to pass the time before the flight.
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Old May 16, 2015, 10:48 am
  #33  
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Singapore Airlines
Business Class
SGN – SIN (Tan Son Nhat International Airport – Singapore Changi Airport)
SQ 185 – Business Class (I)
7:45 PM – 10:40 PM
April 7, 2015
Booked: Airbus 330
Flown: Airbus 330-300

At T-45, we headed down to Gate 20. It was already busy and we opted to line up at the gate. I would have waited off to the side, but I figured there would be the usual crush for the gate and indeed, there wasn’t any way of getting to priority boarding when it was called. Singapore Air announced business class, PPS and Star Gold boarding was announced with “WWF” sign being paraded around the boarding area.





Our flight today featured double bridge jet way boarding with a left turn for business class. On board, we settled in with the somewhat dated, but functional A330 seating. Singapore Airlines kept to it’s promise about keeping the cabin intimate and exclusive with a very light load of 11/30 today.















On the seat for us were a blanket and pillow. As with other Singapore Airlines Business Class flights, no amenity kit is offered. Supplies of toothbrushes and soaps are available in the Business Class washroom.

A pre departure beverage was offered of water, orange juice or Charles Heinseick Champagne. We both opted for the champagne, which was properly chilled. The champagne was topped up with the bottle, at the seat prior to take off. Singapore Airlines, delivering on their high quality standards, called us by surname at each and every contact for the duration of the flight.



There was a Russian transport jet sitting next to us on the apron. The Vietnamese English newspaper reported that the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvidev was in town on SE Asian commerce tour. It seems his logistics team might have brought his supplies or a car?





Menus were distributed. There was an ample selection of food and wine. As a side note, I find the font on the menus on Singapore Airlines to be attractive and appealing.





The wines were of reasonable quality and attractively presented with images of the labels. The images are small touches, but nice for memories’ sake.





I played around with the AVOD system. There was a substantial amount of movies available on offer. Singapore Airlines was among the first to offer Advanced Video on Demand and they have stayed current with a massive inventory of movies and other entertainment.





Dinner service started with a cocktail and some nuts.



I wasn’t too hungry after the meal at FIN, but I took one for the team and had the barramundi. This was paired (by myself and not on a recommendation by any expert celebrity chef) with the Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The first course was a Vietnamese papaya and lotus salad with prawn.





After dinner service, we were almost at our destination of Singapore. We were issued a landing card along with usual in flight announcement about warnings related to drug trafficking.



We promptly landed with the usual Singapore welcome announcement:

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Singapore. And for Singaporeans and residents, welcome home.”

It’s always a nice way to arrive to Singapore. We arrived to Changi Terminal Number 3. There was no line at immigration tonight. As in my past experience at Changi, our bags were on the baggage claim belt before we were able to get to them. This always happens whenever I pass through here and I wish it would happen at more places. I don’t know how they do it.









Singapore Airlines was a great way to get around South East Asia. It’s one of the few carriers where I’ve been called by name at almost each and every single service contact. In addition the personal service, other aspects of the service were professional and attentive. Add to this some great food and beverage and above average catering, a wide body equipment type on every Singapore Airlines route, and you have a winning combination. It was a very positive experience overall.
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Old May 17, 2015, 6:41 am
  #34  
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Thanks again for the next instalment. I love looking at pics of places I have been to.
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Old May 19, 2015, 7:57 pm
  #35  
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Westin Singapore
Sea View Facing King


We had a twenty three hour connection in Singapore, and were arriving and departing at odd times. As a result, we opted for a hotel instead of staying at the family relatives' house.

We booked in at the almost new Westin Singapore at the rate of Cash and Points: 6000 SPG points + $110 USD. It was a no-brainer to use Cash and Points as regular room rates in Singapore were over $360 SGD. Regular room redemptions were 12,000 points.

We took an Uber Black car from Changi Airport to the Westin Singapore. Our driver turned up in a clean black Mercedes E200 and offered us some bottled water for our trip. It was an easy and quick twenty minute drive down the East Coast Parkway to the Westin Singapore and there were no issues locating the property.





The property is in the top part of the Asia Square Tower Two. It features a small welcome lobby on the ground floor. We took the elevator up to the 32nd floor check in. The check in was deserted at 11:30 PM at night. As SPG Golds, we were upgraded to a Sea View facing King, room #4113. The check in desk indicated that they were at fairly low occupancy tonight, which I thought was unusual for a Tuesday evening in the middle of the week.





The room was nicely appointed but was slightly compact for two. Some hotel properties ooze space with rooms that you can run around in. This isn’t one of those properties. The bedding was of very high quality. Much more so than my last few stays at Westin (with less wear and tear). The room was also nicely appointed in a modern, contemporary theme.











The views made up for any shortfalls. Our view was of a large container facility in the Singapore port. Some view photos from the next morning.





One of the best features of this hotel was the outdoor pool. The Westin Singapore featured a beautiful infinity pool. We took a swim in the morning prior to heading out for the day.











MrsWT73 enjoyed a few laps, endorsing the outdoor space. It wasn’t quite the infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands, but it was a pretty decent alternative at about a quarter of the price.



There was also a gym and spa. Although we didn’t make use of either on this visit.





The next morning, we had a better opportunity to take a look at the lobby and lobby lounge bar. It’s a grand space, despite being on the 32nd floor of a sky scraper. Apoligies about the bright lighting in the photographs; we were in a mild rush on our way to a luncheon.







The welcome entranceway at the ground level also featured a café and a small arrival podium.



The Marina Bay Sands (or a view of it anyway) also happened to be almost right outside the front door, near the MRT entrance.



In addtion, the lobby coffee shop styled restaurants of the Asia Square Tower are located on the opposite corner next door to the entrance to the Westin Hotel. This was our convenient stop for a quick breakfast the next morning.



Overall, the hotel was a nice addition to the Singapore hotel scene. Singapore has some older properties that have been reflagged and upgraded a few times. The Westin Singapore is one of the few brand new properties. The main drawback was that the hotel was not conveniently located for shopping (it requires 2-3 changes on the MRT subway to get to MRT Orchard). But, it was really convenient and quick to get to and from the airport since the East Coast Parkway ends almost right outside the hotel door, making access by car extremely easy.
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Old May 19, 2015, 8:10 pm
  #36  
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Orchard Road Shopping District
Singapore


We enjoyed the twenty-three hour stopover in Singapore. It’s limited what you can actually achieve in this short amount of time but we made the most of it. We were picked up at the Hyatt (now flagged as the Grand Hyatt) and we were able to get in a visit with family at a lunch at Tanglin Club. Even after the dip in the pool at the Westin, the Tanglin Club pool was calling me on this hot day but unfortunately it was not to be on this visit.



After lunch, we got dropped off at Orchard and Scotts Road and headed to the Orchard Road shopping district. We started at the bizarrely laid out Ion Orchard where MrsWT73 did some damage at Uniqlo. To pass the time after the initial shops had been visited, I ended up going outside and taking some photos of the “Rodeo Drive” of Singapore.



















Sadly, the Borders Bookstore at Wheelock place I used to love and frequent here, is no more.



After a flurry of shopping, we ended up taking the MRT back to the Westin Singapore well in advance of rush hour. Singapore has suffered a decline of tourist visits compared to years past. I still find it worthy of a visit, despite the man made attractions. Shopping remains a great past time here and I certainly found it fun to spend a few hours between flights.
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Old May 19, 2015, 8:53 pm
  #37  
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SilverKris Business Lounge
Terminal 2
Singapore Changi International Airport


When it came time to leave Singapore, we took another Uber Exec from the Westin Singapore. There were some interesting options available in the Super Cars category. Unfortunately, we had too much luggage for the Lamborghini option.



Despite rush hour timings, there were lots of Uber Black cars available. We were picked up in a nice new black Mercedes S Class. A quick twenty minutes up the road under the beautiful rain trees and we arrived to Changi International Airport.







We checked in at the dedicated Singapore Airlines Business Class Counters. Our flight today was leaving from Changi Terminal 2. Although it’s quite dated, is still in reasonable and functional condition given the years.







In my humble opinion, one of the best features of Singapore’s Changi Airport isn’t the butterfly garden, the koi ponds or the movie theatre. It’s this relec analog flight display board. I spent many minutes as a child and youth looking at boards like this traveling to SE Asia from Canada. There aren’t many left in the world with Frankfurt and Changi being the ones that most come to mind. I could still spend hours looking at the flight status display boards float around with each rotation.





We stopped for cosmetic duty free for MrsWT73 (who found the Asian high street prices too exorbitant) and headed for the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Terminal 2 Lounge. The lounges are located up one level immediately after the Singapore exit immigration.









The Silver Kris Lounge in Changi Terminal 3 gets all the press and photos around here. It has a beautiful terrace and natural light. It also contains the Singapore Airlines Private Room. This lounge, unfortunately, is a windowless space is several steps below it's Terminal 3 brother in terms of ambience. The Terminal 2 lounge has the usual dark Singapore Airlines lounge look. The first impression reminded me of the old Seattle United Club that was in the dark basement of the N Satellite building. At least I find the cosmetic look of the Singapore lounges to be quite welcoming, if not a little dark.











Fortunately, Singapore Airllines offers much more food and beverage than was ever on offer at that old United Club under the N Gates in Seattle. There was also a full buffet on offer featuring SE Asian food, a Japanese Station, cello wrapped sandwiches, and a small soup station. Although many things were on offer, the food didn't seem all to appealing or meal worthy. MrsWT73 called the offerings average and that she had expected much more. She opted to pass on the food, which is saying something.











We relaxed and had a few glasses of Charles Heidseick champagne, which was on offer at a small, and somewhat messy, drink station. In an era when over the top illuminated bar displays reign through restaurants, it took me a little bit to actually locate this sad looking corner which reminded me of that spare counter at home that keeps all your liquor bottles.





As Singapore is still a newspaper nation, ample magazines were available, in addition to several international newspapers. I was able to get a fresh copy of the terrific Straits Times.





Flight information display in the lounge, featuring the best of "what's left" in Terminal 2.



As the food wasn't all too interesting, we settled in with some champagne and some nibbles to help pass the time.





In summary, the Singapore Airlines Terminal 2 lounge is a perfectly functional and well appointed place. It's main disadvantage is that it's a dark dungeon that commands no natural light. This makes it a less inviting place to lounge around while you wait for your flight. It offered some snacks for food, although I'd visit the terminal if you were expecting a proper meal. If time permits, the Terminal 3 lounge is a much nicer place to spend time. All in, it's still leagues ahead of most North American lounges spaces.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; May 28, 2015 at 7:46 pm
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Old May 20, 2015, 12:42 pm
  #38  
 
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What was the price difference between the different types of uber? Just curious...
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Old May 23, 2015, 3:57 pm
  #39  
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Originally Posted by Annalisa12
Thanks again for the next instalment. I love looking at pics of places I have been to.
Thanks Annalisa12 - hopefully we will get to some more common places soon.

Originally Posted by farbster
What was the price difference between the different types of uber? Just curious...
Farbster, it's a bit of a tough question. I'm not an Uber expert, but it seems prices are different dependent on the local economy and whatever Uber negotiates for the region.

Our Uber Exec (usually a black luxury car) from Sheraton Saigon hotel to airport was $24 USD including auto gratuity in a Mazda CX9. The hotel car, including an airport meet and greet staffer, and a driver contracted to Bali Limosines was $45 USD for a Mercedes.

In Singapore, our Uber Exec's were $50 and $55 SGD for a Mercedes E class and a Mercedes S Class. The Westin Singapore website advertises a public taxi fare at $35 SGD and a hotel car with "price on application".

The Uber X (low cost cars) seem to be cheaper than a taxi in the cities that I have used them. These have ranged from a Nissan Versa to a Chevrolet Impala.

I've been using Uber since they've added the SPG earning option. It's worked like a charm across 4 countries now (including Jaipur, India) and so far I'd throughly endorse them. There is a useful fare estimator on their website if you're curious about actual routes.
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Old May 23, 2015, 4:30 pm
  #40  
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Singapore Airlines
Business Class
SIN – MLE (Singapore Changi Airport - Ibrahim Nasir International Airport )
SQ 452 – Business Class (I)
8:45 PM – 10:10 PM
April 8, 2015
Booked: Airbus 330
Flown: Airbus 330-300


After years of traveling to Singapore, I had always looked on the flight information display screens after landing at Changi and had always noticed the departure listing of the Singapore Airlines SQ452 flight from Singapore to Male popping out at me from the middle of the screen. In the nineties, I had no idea of where Male was but it sure sounded exotic. Sometime in early 2000, when I later learned it was the Maldives, it made the destination seem even more appealing and before I knew it, I was yearning to visit. That dream was to become a reality today with the opportunity to fly SQ452 from Singapore to the Maldives. The flight never used to be available on Star Alliance miles. Now, thanks to a proliferation of carriers flying there from both the Middle East, Asia and others, Singapore Airlines no longer has a strong hold on capacity to and from the island that they may have had in times past.



Leaving the enclave of the Singapore Airlines Changi Terminal 2 lounge, at about T-45, we headed to Gate F54. As most are probably aware, Singapore Changi Airport completes security immediately prior to the entering the holding lounge. On arrival, they were already boarding the aircraft in another example of Singaporean efficiency. As we were in line at the security screening check point, we were cut off by some excited Chinese mothers rushing to catch up with members of their party, shrieking Cantonese or some other similar language across the reception as they cut in front of us without a thought and wiggled their way in front of us into the security screening line. Travelling in Asia, is at the very least entertaining.



We boarded the aircraft using double door jet bridge. Again, we were identified by name on arrival to the aircraft and personally escorted to our seats.







We were offered another pre departure beverage of champagne, iced tea, water or orange juice. We opted for the champagne once again. We were again thirsty and received a refill while still on the ground.



sq ground operations at changi



Instead of amenity kits, we were offered slippers in an unusually shaped bag.





We were underway quickly with a take off on runway 02. It wasn’t long before the cocktail offering came around. I broke with tradition and went with the gin martini on offer on the cocktail menu.



We both used the Singapore Airlines “Book the Cook” feature. Instead of over the top Lobster Thermador, I went with a seared nut crushed veal fillet, designed by Singapore Airlines International Culinary Panel Chef Carlo Cracco. Wow – that’s a long title! I have personally found that Lobster doesn’t really travel well into an aircraft so I went with the western choice. I enjoyed this with the Sauvingon Blanc.

Regular menus were out on the magazine rack of the suite.





The supper service started with the traditional lovely satay



A prawn salad





The veal entree designed by the celebrity chef.



MrsWT73 gave a high endorsement for her oven roasted chicken.



After dinner, I switched to red wine for dessert (not an actual pairing). I wasn’t able to resist the strawberry ice cream.



I watched Liam Neeson rocking it out in Taken 3. Meanwhile, MrsWT73 entertained me with images of a delicatessen in India ("Next Destination")



I napped for a little bit after a long day. I had an onboard cappuccino but it was no match for my fatigue by this point.



As in the past, we arrived promptly and straight into Male, Maldives without any holding pattern.



We arrived to non gate position. We were among the very first off seated in 12A and 12C by the front door. It was always cool to see aircraft scattered around the apron on ground here.





We entered the arrival's hall, which is now looking a bit dated. We were among the last planes to arrive tonight.





The dream of flying Singapore Airlines to the Maldives was made a reality today. It was a super comfortable way to get to the Maldives. As always, Singapore offered terrific service and a professional attitude. It was a very comfortable way to get here.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; May 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm
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Old May 24, 2015, 12:40 pm
  #41  
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Hotel Jen,
Traders Hotel Male
Sea View Room
April 8, 2015

Since our flight arrived late night around 11 PM, although possible, I opted not to attempt to transfer to the Park Hyatt that same evening. With limited choices on Huluhule or Male, and having previously visited the Traders Bar at the Huluhule Airport hotel, (where many air crews stay - the hotel, not the bar ) on our way back from the Park Hyatt Maldives the last time, we opted for the Hotel Jen (previously branded as Traders Hotel), of the Shangri La chain.

After Maldivian immigration, we were met by a local representative on the public arrival side of the terminal. Five other travelers (3 groups of us) from the Singapore Airlines flight were spending the night at the Hotel Jen. The meet and greet service and transfer to and from Male from the separate airport island is included in the room rate.

The Hotel Jen is on the main island capital city of Male, which is not connected to the airport island. We headed to the launch, situated adjacent to the Sheraton Full Moon Maldives boat launch. The Hotel uses a dedicated private boat for transfers, instead of the public boat, which ferries everyone else from staff to locals to day trippers across to and from the airport for around $1USD. The Hotel Jen staff loaded our bags and we didn’t have anything to worry about.

It was a quick five minute boat ride over from the airport. I happened to notice that the sea here is so clear, that even at 11 PM, you can see right to the bottom of the water from the artificial lights of the airport.

When we arrived at the boat launch in Male, the hotel was a 2 minute walk from the launch. It was just one block back from waterfront street in the same block as the boat launch. Again, the staff completely took care of our bags. The road wasn’t suitable for my rollie thanks to uneven surfaces, so I left it care of the willing Hotel Jen crew. The staff eventually brought up our six bags (several carry ons) Given the airport to shore to hotel to room transfer, I gave a $5 USD tip and they were genuinely happy. They must be used to non tipping guests.





On check in, we received a complimentary upgrade to a sea view room. I attribute this to our Shangri-La Golden Circle Loyalty Program membership (base level). Our room was on the 12th floor, with a view facing north toward airport and the northern atolls. It was a pretty good view. It’s worthwhile to note that the lower floor rooms have obstructed views into other buildings in the area. The hotel didn’t appear to have high levels of occupancy.

The room itself is Hong Kong styled, like many of the other buildings in the Maldives. This means that real estate was at a premium, the rates were expensive, and the room was not very spacious. The hotel room furnishings were upgraded and were in excellent condition. The room was decorated in modern traditional fixtures. The shower featured a rain shower. As far as comfort and noise, the room itself was very quiet, thanks in part to an absence of an abundance of cars on the island. A Golden Circle welcome amenity was offered in the form of fruit in the in room fridge.













As seasons Maldivian travelers will know, the entire city of Male is a "dry" city. There isn’t a drop of alcohol publicly available, aside from the few resident expatriates that are allowed to purchase some with their permit. Everyone else seeking a beer, wine or cocktail needs to visit the Traders Bar on the airport island at the Huluhule Airport hotel. The Hotel Jen was also a dry zone, as reminded by the signs in the room.



There was also a roof top pool. It had a nice atmosphere, along with a juice bar next to the pool.





We had some nice morning views on sunrise the next morning. I found in neat to see the atolls from far away from our hotel room that is so typical of beach views within the Maldives.





We were up sold to the breakfast buffet on check in at the front desk. It was offered at $21 USD if purchased in advance, and $27 USD on day of based on a walk in. This turned out to be quite a bargain considering the food costs at hotel properties in the Maldives.

The breakfast room turned out to be a beautiful breakfast room than expected. With a charming view of the quaint quiet street below, the breakfast setting featured the usual favorites: buffet, asian, omlette station and the Maldivian Tuna Manushi that I had missed for two years since my last visit.









The food was exceptionally spicy. It was not toned down for international clientele. I throughly enjoyed it once I put the fire out in my mouth. Our experience here was very genuine and there were many Maldivian diners in the restaurant, in addition to some Indian staff.

Before we headed out for the day, we checked out the rest of the hotel. The pool on the roof top looked ever more inviting today in the sunlight. There was also a small gym available for those needing a quick workout.







The bottom line was that we were well taken care of at the Hotel Jen. The rooms are New York sized, with room rates to match. However, the convenience of being met on arrival and taken into Male for a comfortable stay in a unique property made for a great stay experience. The added benefit of being able to sightsee around Male in conjunction with your stay before transferring to your resort turned a good stay experience into a great one.
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Old May 24, 2015, 12:42 pm
  #42  
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Male,
Maldives

We had a bit of a hiccup with Air India canceling our outbound flights from the Maldives a mere 14 days before we were scheduled to fly on them. I’ll have more on this mild fiasco in a bit. This meant a little arranging and re-scheduling with our hotel transfers having to be re-booked and re-timed. Thankfully we were able to keep the same travel dates intact. Faiz at the Park Hyatt Maldives reservations desk was fabulous to deal with by email and took excellent care of us. As a result of re-jigging flights, we were able to schedule ourselves into a self guided morning tour around Male.

Male is the capital of the Maldives and is the largest island city on the atolls. The city is only 2 square kilometers wide. We took in the morning to walk around Male prior to our trip down to the Park Hyatt Maldives. I can’t endorse how nice and pleasant our morning visit to Male was. I’d describe it as the perfect visit for adventurous independent traveler. We were able to get around, on our own, for an ethnic experience without getting hassled by the usual touts. What’s even more unusual was that I’ve found this to be particularly unlike typical travels throughout the Middle East, India and Africa that as tourists, you were pretty much left alone to your own devices- sharing space with the locals without much of a second thought.

There was an unusual combination of new and old office buildings, and squares on cool tree lined streets. The streets are really quiet, as there are only a few cars on Male. Those that have their own vehicles are usually motorbike riders. We wandered around the Northern part of the island checking things out as we went…



















We made our way over to the produce market and were able to get a little “window shopping” done. Again, we had unfettered access to the area and felt safe and secure as we went through on our visit. It was pretty unique to see a market selling bananas, peppers and other specialties. I recognized swiss chard in there, among other things. It was even more unique when you consider the fact that the Maldives have little surface land mass to grow these produce on. The market was a place where most locals came to shop.





















Immediately next to the produce market is the fishing harbor and the daily fish market. If you come in the morning like we did, you’ll get to see the fish market in action. I wandered around the fish market, looking at the yellow fin tuna for sale. I had a nice chat with one of the fishmongers. The ability to interact directly with the locals in a situation like this, is one of the view opportunities a Maldivian traveler can get to be on the same level as the locals. Most tourists to the Maldives are whisked away to super luxury resorts where there is a massive imbalance between luxury and residents that often work at these mega resorts. In fact, the Maldivan government has taken steps to keep Maldivians and tourists apart and segregated. Luxury resorts usually take over an entire smaller atoll, where as local residents occupy larger atolls. With few exceptions like the ex-British military base Gan to the south, permission is usually needed to get to an inhabited island atoll and you’re always on a guided tour arranged by your hotel or resort that is hosted by a local family. Male is probably the only place where, on your own, you can chat to anyone about anything. It’s also a place where there isn’t the unusual power imbalance between yourself and Maldivians, which happens as a result of visiting a seven star resort.









Just past the fish market is the harbor where all the fishing boats come in from various corners of the Maldives. It is among one of the most colorful harbors I’ve had the opportunity to visit. The beautifully colored sea certainly helps with this. We had an opportunity to see the fishermen cleaning off their boats after bringing in their day’s “catch”.

















The harbor was so clear, there were powder blue sturgeon fish lurking around in the harbour.



All in all, our morning visit to Male was a totally fantastic stopover experience. Our tour around was no longer than 2 hours, but we were able to take in some sights and see how life is in the capital city. Realistically, it’s sometimes a challenge to get the most out of a stopover. Nowhere I have been has offered the amount of proximity and contact with the locals where, unlike other areas of the Maldives, you’re on an even ground with them. Instead of seeing many landmarks and sights, the tour of Male is more experiential- it is more about the experience of city life in the Maldives and seeing how the local’s life in the capital. It’s highly recommended if your flight arrives in Male late at night, and you need a place to stay.
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Old May 27, 2015, 12:14 am
  #43  
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Maldivian Moonimaa Domestic Lounge
Nasir Ibrahim Domestic Airport,
Male, Maldives.


When it came time to leave Male, we were transferred by the Hotel Jen staff back to the Nasir Ibrahim International Airport. It was a gorgeous zip across the harbour in the speedboat and we finally got the opportunity to appreciate the Male skyline. Add the occasional Aeroflot widebody jet landing at the airport and you’ve got a terrific view all around.









Getting off the Hotel Jen boat, we were met by our Male based Park Hyatt Representative, who happened to remember us from our last visit. With our handler taking the bags, we walked the short distance to the Maldivies Domestic Terminal. It’s a short 2 minute walk from the arrivals hall of the international terminal.

Once we were at the spartan domestic terminal, we were checked in on Maldivian Q2 Flight 142, which was the non stop service to Koodohoo. The current schedule also stops on the other side of the Gaaf Alifu atolls at Kaadedhdhoo. Chances are you might get a one stop trip down, but it wasn’t in the cards for us today, meaning a non stop flight direct to our airport. Our host happened to arrange for seats 10A & 10B, which were emergency exit rows on the plane, giving us a little extra leg room.







We were led up to the lounge. There has been a slight upgrade in the lounge offering since the last time that we were here. The lounge is now upstairs from where the old lounge was and occupies most of the whole top floor of the domestic terminal. The old lounge space has been walled off and is inaccessible.

The lounge operators have upgraded and improved the décor of the lounge but, in doing so, it’s lost a little bit of it’s charm. It’s now a large space with ample seating. Most of the guests in the lounge are wide awake catching up on wifi, or completely saked out after coming off their international flights.













There was also a small buffet on offer, which was similar to the last visit. The buffet was pretty average, limp cold cuts and tired vegetables – probably the worst snack meal of our entire stay in the Maldives. The lounge, like most other places in the Maldives off resort, was “dry”. Fruit juices, soda and water were available. I am guessing with the cost of items being transported to the Maldives, there isn’t much incentive to spend a great deal on food and beverage.







While we were here, our Park Hyatt host stopped by to advise us that there would be a ten minute delay. Maldivian was waiting for two passengers arriving off an Emirates flight for this particular connection. As a result, our domestic flights was slightly held up – not that anyone was complaining.

When it came time to go, our Park Hyatt host came to retrieve us. He led us down and we had a quick security screening before heading into the domestic departures holding area. We boarded again from the apron, into an older non cosmetically marked Maldvian Dash 8-200 series.







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Old May 27, 2015, 12:20 am
  #44  
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Maldivian Airlines
Economy Class (single class of service)
MLE-GKK (Ibrahim Nasir International Airport - Koodhoo)
Q2 142 – Economy Class (Y)
10:45 AM – 11:45 AM
April 8, 2015
Booked: Unassigned
Flown: Dash 8 - 200


It was a quick ride down non stop to Koodohoo. Since we sat in 10A/10B, we didn’t have much of a view since the flight path has most of the atolls on the west side of the flight route down. As a result, I have only a small amount of “flying over the atolls” photographs to share. They are mostly from take off and landing. If you're looking for the experience of sightseeing over the atolls with great photographs, I have to conclude that you really need to take a sea plane.









A view vibrations later, and we were on the ground at Koodhoo. It’s pretty isolated here, to say the least. Surprisingly, it’s little more built up compared to the last time we were through. There are fences around the airport and walkways and there seem to be more people around. The deserted arrivals hall hasn’t lost its hospital charm.







After our flight, we hopped in the boat for the water transfer over to the Park Hyatt. It’s usually about 30 minutes. However, we had 11 people on the transfer with us. This meant that the process was much slower than in the past when it was just the two of us. Logistically, it meant transferring two sets of guests on the golf cart between the airport and the harbour, then going back for all the luggage, then getting all the people onto the boat, then loading up 15+ suitcases on the boat. Then, the boat was unable to go as fast as it usually does because it was so heavy. It probably had over 500 lbs of luggage (about 10 cases loaded at an estimated 50lbs each). All in all, the transfer process took us about 90 minutes from Koodhoo airport to hotel. When you experience things a second time, usually its quicker than before. That certainly wasn’t the case today! This isn't the transfer boat. Instead, this fishing company was here the last time around.



All in all a pretty straightforward transfer. It was a bit slower than usual, but I guess this resort has finally hit the big leagues. I was very glad we took the extra time in the capital city of Male in order to get to the Park Hyatt at a reasonable hour. Unfortunately, many others had this same idea and on today's transfer, it took a little longer than normal.
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Old May 30, 2015, 12:30 pm
  #45  
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Park Hyatt Maldives
North Huvadhoo, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Republic of Maldives
Pool Villa




The Park Hyatt Maldives has been written about and reviewed so many times by many frequent travelers. We visited in 2012 for our honeymoon, staying in both a Park Villa and an Over Water villa. We enjoyed it so much, we decided to return for a 5 night visit. It was a pretty easy decision. This place was, and still is, one of my favorite destinations on the globe and easily one of the few that I’d return to in a heartbeat – even if it means traveling twelve time zones across the world to enjoy it. One of the things that’s so unique about it is that it’s on its own pristine private island. It’s so unusual, that it’s fitting to start with the rare photo (courtesy of the Hyatt website) that no traveler ever gets to take unless they’ve chartered their own private helicopter.

Instead of writing about every last detail of the Park Hyatt Maldives experience, I’ll just try to cover off the highlights of what has changed and what is new in the last two and a half years. I’m going to break up this report into several parts:

Pool Villa
Back of House Tour
House Reef
Sunsets

Pool Villa


On arrival we were welcomed and provided a welcome drink in the Dhoni. It’s still an immaculate and interesting building. Truthfully, despite its chic factor, the only time we’ve ever been in here is to check in and check out of the resort. Each of the groups of guests had their own Park Hyatt Representative to deal with them individually, so there was no waiting to be checked in.

We were informed that, as return guests, we had been upgraded with compliments, to a Pool Villa for the duration of our stay. This was the start of royalty treatment on the part of the Park Hyatt Maldives for their “returning guests”.







We were escorted to Pool Villa #36 by golf cart. Villa #36 is close to the restaurants and two villas away from the over water villas access jetty. Access around the island is through roads covered by a canopy of trees. I had requested a west facing view and the reservations team was happy to accommodate.







The villas are spacious. This is one of the draws of the property. You get complete seclusion and don’t have to see another person unless you step out. The villas offer plenty of space, room to run around in, and a comtemporary style











An advantage to the park and pool villas are that they feature among the largest outdoor bathrooms out there. There is nothing like having an outdoor shower underneath the stars in the middle of the moon light. I certainly miss the outdoor showers when we stayed in the Water villa – it’s such a terrific feature. The indoor bathroom is couple friendly, with his and her sinks, closet areas and storage cupboards.







On arrival to our villa, we were also provided a welcome bottle of Kramer French Sparkling Wine on ice in the villa with the resorts’ compliments. Our host explained that Park Hyatt Maldives wants to reward their return guests. This is likely a wise strategy considering the level of competition in the Maldives with the sheer amount of hotels and the long distances involved in getting there.



Park Hyatt now offers a personalized representative that handles all of your guest service needs. This was offered in the past. However, the resort has taken a more active approach in monitoring this with signage placement in the room and more frequent and regular contact with the representative than in the past. We had 2X daily contact with our representative, whereas days would pass previously without seeing our representative on our past visit. There was also a 10% discount for Hyatt Gold Passport Members for all wine after sunset. This was automatically deducted from the bill whenever we signed for it.



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It was nice to have the pool to plunge in. Having said that, the pool is not heated / cooled and it naturally got quite warm due to the strong heat of the sun.









We didn’t lie on the beach that much, having a nice deck and private area all to ourselves. We also moved our beach chairs down the beach at times. Having said that, the main public pool deck area is awesome. Frankly, it looks straight out of a luxury magazine. We didn’t spend much time at the pool on this visit. There were also less deck chairs on the beach for this particular visit than on our last one.













Compared with our last visit, the dedicated host for a single point of contact is a much improved level of service. Natalia from Russia, made herself available to us “up until midnight” through cell phone.

The villas, despite being super comfortable, are showing a bit of wear. It seems like they need a coat of stain, in addition to some UV damage and some general warping of the wood likely due to the heat. Perhaps it’s a matter of commercial grade products not being used? Either that or the insane temperatures and climate of the Maldives isn’t kind to structures that are now 7 years old. Overall, it was still an excellent stay. Those looking for peace and quiet may be out of luck. It was very busy by private island standards in the first half of our stay, with staff running around trying to keep up.
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