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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 Jul 6, 2015, 10:59 pm
  #106  
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Originally Posted by diningdecadence
i recall the ITC did the nightly drinks also in the golf bar on the lobby floor which was far preferable to the club lounge as you've indicated.
You could possibly be right diningdecadence. We walked by the golf bar after our dinner at Bukhara which was completely deserted at the time. A private event being held at the hotel was going on in the lobby when we arrived which was taking up a lot of the attention of those around - we may have missed that option.
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Old Jul 6, 2015, 11:07 pm
  #107  
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Plaza Premium Lounge
Indira Gandhi International Airport, Terminal 3
New Delhi, India

Our stay at the ITC Maurya was very short, and we were up at the awful hour of 2:30 AM for our 3:30 AM transfer to Indira Gandhi International Airport. A quick twenty minute traffic free drive in a hotel contracted Toyota Camry Hybrid and we arrived to an airport that was just getting going for the day.

A quick check in at Turkish Airlines in aisle L with our bags tagged all the way to Vancouver (3 flights worth). The check in process at the Turkish Airlines outstations always appears to be a bit of a line with few check in agents working. We passed through the last segregated security screening checkpoints and through another London-esque duty free.





We avoided the currency exchange “commissions” that were being charged to change Rupees to any other currency, and we used up our last cash Indian Rupees on Tea, Rice and a spice set.

Turkish Airlines has contracted with the Plaza Premium Lounge at Indira Gandhi International Airport. We were given a lounge invitation at check in. We headed upstairs above the retail mayhem and entered into the open air lounge.







The Plaza Premium Lounge was similar to almost all the other versions that I’ve been to. It had the same comfortable chairs with clean surroundings. All furnishings and fixtures were in good condition and clean. The lounge itself was actually pretty souless and without personality. This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you happen to be looking for.







This version of Plaza Premium had a nice open air concept that was exposed to the natural light of the terminal. This meant that there were also pigeons floating around in the lounge.





As in past experiences, the Plaza Premium Lounges never seem to have great catering or alcohol selection. Today’s service had a small mini pancakes and paneer bread for breakfast. I opted for a machine ground cafe latte instead.



We didn’t stay here to long. It had the basic necessities; food, drink and wifi, but other than a quick snack or stock up. It wasn’t worth leaving home early for. Our stay was limited to about 30 minutes. Probably the biggest surprises overall were that New Delhi had reasonable lounges that were comparable to any lounge at any international airport in the Western world.

Overall, an adequate place for a visit. It was really no different from the Air India Domestic Lounge New Delhi that we had experienced earlier in the trip. It certainly wouldn't be the most memorable lounge visit of our travelling career.
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Old Jul 6, 2015, 11:24 pm
  #108  
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Turkish Airlines
Business Class
DEL – IST (Indira Gandhi International Airport – Istanbul Atatürk Airport)
TK717 – Business Class (I)
6:05 AM – 10:25 AM
April 21, 2015
Booked: Airbus 330
Flown: Airbus 330-300


At about T-50, we headed down to Gate 15, which was situated immediately across from the shopping concourse. A well organized boarding process was underway, with a completely separate but unmarked area for priority boarding for business class passengers.

After an airline employee check, a military hand luggage security screening check, and a military boarding pass identity check, (all done by three separate people) we were underway down a segregated business class jet bridge. I have to appluaud the New Delhi Airport Authority for this set up as a plexi glass wall separated us from all the other economy passengers for double door jetway boarding.





On board, we settled into Turkish Airlines comfortable and spacious Airbus 330 business class configuration. We had previously flown this equipment type on a medium haul leg like this one from Dubai - Istanbul in 2014.









The cabin is showing a little bit of wear, but it is still a very comfortable experience. A pre-departure beverage was offered of assorted drinks. Today it was lemon and mint. MrsWT73 pronounced it as “tasty and delicious”.



Our departure was on time, and down a runway that was so hazy at 6:20 AM, you couldn’t see the end of it.





Amenity kits and newspapers were dropped off. The amenity kit continued to feature Bogner products. The kit, for the medium haul flight, has shrunk from the larger kits. The usual small paper menus were also dropped off.







The breakfast service started right away. The usual Turkish DO & CO catering was, as always, outstanding. The products appeared to have been double catered as most of the items had Turkish language on them.

Fresh Fruits, Yoghurt with Honey, Assorted Cheese, and Jalebi.



I opted for the main of Gratinated Crepe with Scambled Eggs, Tomatoes and Peppers, Sauteed Mushrooms and Grilled Red Pepper, paired with Heidsieck Co Monopole champagne.



After breakfast, I crashed out for some sleeps. The seat goes completely flat and I sacked out somewhere over Pakistan.

I woke up with a small crink in the neck as the pillow provided wasn’t too substantial. It was more of a back lumbar pillow that I was improvising to use as a side sleeper.

Around Baku, Azerbajain, I woke up. At about 1 hr prior to landing, the flying chef stopped by to take a snack and drink order. I had a Gin and Tonic.

A small samosa plate was dropped off for the second snack service. Catering must not approve of the Indian ice as they seem to have run out of it. Similar to Turkish Raki that I'd previously experienced in Turkey, the Gin and Tonic was served straight up.



We had an easy approach into Istanbul Ataruk where there were the usual interesting planes lined up on the apron. Okay, Aegean isn’t that interesting, but I’m fascinated by them since I don’t think they are going to be around much longer.



Overall, it was a slight relief to have some different food other than Indian food after our 7 days in India. Turkish remains a comfortable way to get around. For the most part, the food is reasonable, and the execution is almost there. It isn’t the level of some of the European or Asian carriers, but it’s surely trying to gain ground against these carrriers and the Middle East three. If only the connection experience in Istanbul wasn’t a bit easier. The wonderful Turkish Airlines Business Lounge makes up a little bit for that!

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Old Jul 7, 2015, 12:08 am
  #109  
 
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Thanks for this last installment. I was looking forward to this DEL-IST leg on TK J for quite sometime. Not many reports of this particular flight on the internet and I was curious what meals they'd serve at timings like this.
Would you say a 6am flight was inconvenient?
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Old Jul 7, 2015, 8:21 pm
  #110  
 
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This is one of my favourite reports of all time! Thank you so much for spending the time sharing your trip with us!
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Old Jul 10, 2015, 12:12 am
  #111  
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Originally Posted by deovrat
Thanks for this last installment. I was looking forward to this DEL-IST leg on TK J for quite sometime. Not many reports of this particular flight on the internet and I was curious what meals they'd serve at timings like this.
Would you say a 6am flight was inconvenient?
Is any 6 AM flight timing ever convenient deovrat? (laughing)

Unfortunately, I think the early 6 AM timing is a necessity for flights that are headed westbound, in order to make any type of overseas connection in IST or at another point in Europe. At least you get the opportunity to have a quick hotel room shower and freshen up prior to your day.

Our other Star Alliance option would have been Swiss DEL-ZRH. It had great business class reward availability showing at the time of our booking. However, the departure time was scheduled at 1:15 AM, which wasn't too appealing considering we had an earlier flight from Jaipur on the day of arrival. There was no business availability on the Lufthansa flight departing at 2:30 AM (at the time of our initial booking). Thankfully, we were able to connect right home to the Americas without much fuss thanks to better Turkish Airlines business availability across the Atlantic than Lufthansa or Swiss had on offer.

Originally Posted by blueline7
This is one of my favourite reports of all time! Thank you so much for spending the time sharing your trip with us!
Why thank you blueline7! Very complimentary. More coming up.
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Old Jul 10, 2015, 12:16 am
  #112  
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Istanbul Airlines Business Class Lounge
Atatürk International Airport, Istanbul.


We disembarked and found the Fast Track Security Screening line for Business Class passengers. We passed through screening and headed upstairs to the departure concourse for Atatürk.



As was in my last visit, the place is a zoo. With hundreds of people wandering about the place looking for gates, getting from A to B, or stopping in the middle of the concourse. It always seems to be like this and it makes me yearn for a different transfer experience everytime I pass through here. Transferring here means between groups of people walking aimlessly all about the concourse in a non straight manner near the main access point (by design). I was wishing for Swiss efficiencies and the clean lines of Zurich airport by this point but it was not to be.



We found our way to the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge and settled in. We were last here in April 2014. Since I’d written about this lounge before, I took a few new photos to celebrate the experience instead of relying on the old ones. A more comprehensive review from my last trip report visit is here

Since our last visit, the lounge has matured a little. The place is looking a little more settled in, with a bit of wear and tear. It still an awesome place and somewhere that’s easy to spend hours and hours in sacked out trying all the different foods. For those that don’t know, it’s a massive two level space with almost equal seating upstairs and downstairs. As indicated, all new pictures follow:























The food is still outstanding, with a choice of freshly baked flatbreads, a fresh tortellini station, fresh grilled meats, a popcorn machine, fresh cheese and Turkish Mezze. The only irratance is that this food is spread all over the lounge, so you have to do a bit of hunting to see what stations are producing food at this very moment, then queue for collection. It also seems that most of the food is delivered in a phased manner; flat breads are served for an hour, then kebabs, then whatever is next in the rotation. It makes a long layover worthwhile as you can spend it sampling food.











There were also ample wines and fine spirit selection. It was a bit of a hunt to find ice, since it was usually offered in a small ice bucket the size of your usual hotel room container, and refilled on a regular basis.



The bottom line: The Istanbul Airlines Business Lounge was a very comfortable place for a layover. We burned up a 4 hour layover here really quickly. It’s still a favorite of MrsWT73, calling it her favorite business lounge ever.
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Old Jul 11, 2015, 1:38 am
  #113  
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Turkish Airlines
Business Class
IST – YUL (Istanbul Atatürk Airport – Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport)
TK35 – Business Class (I)
2:10 PM – 5:30 PM
April 21, 2015
Booked: Airbus 330
Flown: Airbus 330-300


We left the lounge and headed for Gate 216. Walking through Ataurk airport was similar to walking through the Istanbul Grand Bazaar; a mess of groups of people headed all directions. . .

We arrived to gate 216. The gate was totally full of people to the point that people weren’t being allowed to enter the holding lounge. This is where the Turkish Experience falls well behind it’s competitors. I recognize that this is probably an airport authority problem, but when you can’t even get into the gate to get on the plane, the priority handling experience is significantly lessened. I don't know who thought this was a great design for a wide body jet?







There was a priority boarding announcement, but again, there was no real ability to get to the front since there wasn’t enough room for people to get out of the way. Likely a fire hazard in many countries but not here. MrsWT73 had it with the line up and made a whole hearted attempt to navigate to the front with her rollie case like the parting of the seas whereas I took a more distinctly Canadian approach of not worrying about it.

It was single jet bridge boarding today with a massive queue. On board, a left turn and we headed up to seats 2A and 2B. The Airbus 330 was a newer version than our last ride with upgraded AVOD on demand. The configuation was 2-2-2 configuraton with 8 empty seats today.













Overall, the Turkish Airlines long haul on board experience was vastly better than it’s short and medium haul experience and the Istanbul Atatürk transfer experience. We had an excellent flight that surpassed all expectations.

We were offered a Pre departure beverage of mint and lemon juice, along with a towel service.



I did some plane spotting while we were waiting to depart. There happened to be a Royal Jordianian Jet next to us. We eventually taxied out toward a departure on runway 35 L. There were some great Istanbul views on departure and climb to altitude.









As with our last flights, service on Turkish appears to start on the left aisle and move down to the right aisle. Since we were seated in 2 A/B, we had the opportunity to be served first. This started with a newspaper offering from the trolley.

Amenity kits dropped off. The long haul amenity kit has been upgraded to a Porsche Design kit similar to the purple Thai Airways one. Except that this one is stylish traditional Porsche black and features Acca Kappa products.





Menus dropped off, along with Godiva chocoloates. It was a bit strange getting chocolates before eating, but hey, who’s complaining?

















Service of the meals was from the trolley. I’d flown Turkish Airlines many times but this was my first long haul (over 5 hours) with them in Business Class. I have to say that Turkish has upped their game compared to their short and medium haul flights. The meal was absolutely massive and of a quantity that you’d expect in a genuine first class offering. They even offered LED tealights. It was a bit of a gimmick, but a nice touch that I haven’t seen anywhere else.









Service started with an Amuse bouche, described as Assorted Canapes.



The starters on offer were on request from the cart. This meant that you could select one or all six of the starters. Wild salmon tartare, seafood salad, chicken ceasar, stuffed vine leaf in olive oil, herbed yoghourt, herbed white cheese and black olives, shepards salad with white cheese and Turkish style cheese with spring rolls. It was reminiscent of the excess of the days when Lufthansa used to serve an etagiere in First Class, except that here you could have “even more” than just three appetizers.







Surprisingly, Turkish Airlines was also offering a soup course. Today it was Turkish Lentil soup with an olive tapenade brushetta.



Main course: I went with the grilled Sea Bream today. It was pretty good and something different than what you’d usually be served at 35,000 + feet.



Dessert. Vanilla Ice Cream of course with strawberry topping.



After dinner, we were around the mountains of Austria. It was neat to see mountains for the first time in a while.



Turkish Airlines is now offering free wifi internet for all business class passengers. Regular rates were 9.99 USD for 1 hr or 14.99 USD for 2 hours. I was able to sign in using my complex last name and seat number assignment and connected to the internet without any issue. The speed was a little slow, but it was fast enough to upload some Instagram or Facebook media postings.





I turned in for some sleep after the meal service. A light mattress pad was available, in addition to a heavier quality pillow. Lights went off for 70% of the flight. I was able to sleep for about 6 hours. MrsWT73 had a lighter sleep, being disturbed by the light from the galley. I slept through the snack offering, so no photographs here sadly.

A second meal offering was given about 2 hours prior to landing. First up was mozzeralla and tomatoes, paired with orange juice and Turkish coffee.



It was followed by some straightforward rigatoni that was looking slightly microwave nuked but still tasted great.



We had a circuitous landing approach in to Pierre Elliot Tredeau. It ws complete with a view of the Olympic Stadium that took 30 years to complete. For those that are unaware, per wikipedia, the total expenditure (including repairs, renovations, construction, interest, and inflation) amounted to C$1.61 billion, making it—at the time all costs were paid off—the second most expensive stadium ever built (after Wembley Stadium in London).









We were off relevatingly quickly with Canada Border Services Agency checking passports for ISIS supporters at the top of the ramp. We made it through Nexus quickly and down to get our bags (which took a long twenty minutes).





Turkish Airlines long haul was much more impressive than the medium and short hauls services that we had flown in the past. It is clear that they are attempting to go after Emirates’ business as their catering on board is nearing, if not surpassing the quantity of Lufthansa. If only the transfer connection was a little better and less congested as it seems they are quickly out growing their facilities at Ataruk Airport in Istanbul. The service experience also needs a slight increase as sometimes they are a little rough around the edges.
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Old Jul 11, 2015, 8:28 am
  #114  
 
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Amazing TR. Thank you for posting this.
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Old Jul 11, 2015, 8:56 am
  #115  
 
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Turkish Airlines look fantastic as always. Nice that you got the refreshed Business Class product, how was the seat compared to the "old" version from 2009?
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Old Jul 11, 2015, 7:34 pm
  #116  
 
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WT73 Greta TR. Again..

please go and touch the two bricks I pad for to build the Olympic stadium !

I live there for many years and paid a lot of taxes . Do you remember Mayor Drapeau saying " Olympics will have no costoverruns, a man will be pregnant before then " True story.
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Old Jul 13, 2015, 11:40 pm
  #117  
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Originally Posted by injian
Amazing TR. Thank you for posting this.
Thanks injian! I appreciate your support.

Originally Posted by LH4116
Turkish Airlines look fantastic as always. Nice that you got the refreshed Business Class product, how was the seat compared to the "old" version from 2009?
Turkish Airlines was fantastic - much better than we anticipated LH4116. I didn't have the mis fortune of experiencing the angled seats (if I recall correctly). These flat versions were much better AND comfortable. As long as you are travelling with a companion next to you and not a total stranger, it's a pretty nice set up.

Originally Posted by HMPS
WT73 Greta TR. Again..

please go and touch the two bricks I pad for to build the Olympic stadium !

I live there for many years and paid a lot of taxes . Do you remember Mayor Drapeau saying " Olympics will have no costoverruns, a man will be pregnant before then " True story.
A Canadian legacy HMPS - the Olympic Stadium is surely the example of Olympic projects gone "pear shaped" (horribly wrong).
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Old Jul 13, 2015, 11:47 pm
  #118  
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Maple Leaf Lounge Domestic
Montreal Trudeau International Airport


We collected our bags and cleared customs. We hit up the Air Canada Connections desk with our luggage in tow. Despite our bags being tagged through to Vancouver (from New Delhi), the agent mentioned that we had not officially been checked in. Thankfully, we still had about fifteen minutes prior to the flight closing at about T-75.

We headed upstairs via the public side of the arrivals hall and went straight to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, or the Salon de Feuille D’Erable as it’s known in French here. The lounge has expanded and relocated upstairs since my last visit in 2007. It now offers a slightly larger space. Unfortunately, it was packed with the weekday commuter crowd and there weren’t many places to sit. Looking back at these pictures, you can tell North America is on the fast pace of business. Compared to our experiences in India, everyone is on the phone or working on whatever leftovers they didn’t get to during the day. It was a pretty busy place today, with not a lot of places to sit. We settled for a coffee table pair of seats which is usually our last choice since there wasn't a lot of spare room.









A somewhat odd ball skinny lounge chair seat in a high density layout. Nothing like sitting in your neighbours lap. As a result, we ended up chatting with a contractor that was returning from Iraq on our Turkish flight in business class.







The Montreal Maple Leaf Lounge offered the usual salads, cut vegetables and other typical Air Canada offerings. We settled into the usual drink dispenser drinks.



I went out to find a shower and unfortunately, there weren’t any in the domestic lounge… only the international one. A bit of a minus here as it seems that they are needed the most after arriving off of two international flights.

As we left, I was a little underwhelmed by the Montreal experience. Montreal Pierre Elliott Tredeau really wants to expand to compete with the other eastern airports by having these international flights pass through. It's often been a favourite of mine to connect through for increased international upgrade opportunities in years past. Unfortunately, their amenities and facilities are really on the small scale in comparison to the larger connection hubs like Toronto Pearson and Chicago O’Hare. Fortunately, it was only one more trans-continental flight until home and the end of another amazing trip!
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Old Jul 18, 2015, 12:59 am
  #119  
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Air Canada
Business Class
YUL – YVR (Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport – Vancouver International Airport)
AC129 – Business Class (I)
7:40 PM – 10:14 PM
April 21, 2015
Booked: Airbus 320
Flown: Airbus 320-200

We headed down to the aircraft after about 30 minutes in the lounge. Boarding was already underway about T-35 minutes. It was pretty amazing that this was the last flight out of 3 totalling about 20 hours of continous travel.

We settled in on board in the familiar barca lounger commuter aircraft seats. I personally don’t like the fact that a 5 hour flight in North America is on recliner seats. When you compare that a similar 5 hour flight in Asia is usually on wide body aircraft, the lazy boy recliners don’t have as much appeal. Having said that, a large recliner seats is much better than the reality of some of the medium haul flights around Europe on the blocked middle seat business class with actual economy seating.

We had a pre – departure beverage of water today. I was feeling a bit dry after all that travel and my tummy was still ill from the Delhi Belly.





A printed dinner menu was handed out which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, the menu hasn’t changed in about 10 years. No celebrity chefs, themed dining months, or typically Canadiana dishes served here. This can be considered a plus or a minus. In this case, it was a plus since we’d been eating curry for the past week and a half and it was nice to have a slight change of pace.





It was a full cabin tonight. Echoing the atmosphere in the lounge, it consisted of mostly business traffic and people working their tails off on computers and cellular phones right up until being told to turn them off.

Nice sunset views over the apron in Montreal before we left.



There wasn’t much bin space left as many items were off loaded and placed in the hold. There was an actual appetite by staff to get out on time, which was interesting compared and contrasted to the laxicsdcial Air India mentality.

After having no beef for most of the trip (none in India and I went local with fresh reef fish in the Maldives), I ended up ordering Beef Tenderloin for dinner. Unfortunately, that sense of urgency and drive that the cabin crew had to get out on time didn’t carry over to the execution of the dinner service. Dinner was a leisurly (read glacial) affair as main courses didn’t come out until T + 120 minutes after departure time (9:30 PM). It was a bit surprising for a 7:30 PM departure time considering many had to have been at the airport at least 45 minutes before at 6:45 PM. I was starving at that point. Service started with a pre – drink service with nuts.



The dinner salad was served first.



The beef tenderloin was pretty straightforward and typical Air Canada fare. Well presented, reasonably cooked and just the basics.



I went with the usual ice cream for dessert and a cookie that has been a feature on Air Canada for years.



After nine time zones changed, and some 19 hours traveled, I conked out again on the so so comfortable barca lounger seaters. The concerns about the chair not being comfortable to sleep on slept away as we arrived back to Vancouver – too tired to notice the crinked neck.

On arrival at YVR, it was another twenty minutes for the bags to come out. We took an Aerocar back home. Thankfully the cat was still in one piece, although he’d moved some of the furniture around to suit his liking.
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Old Jul 21, 2015, 8:34 am
  #120  
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Conclusion:

We were able to take advantage of one of the last “built your own” Aeroplan Mini RTW’s where there were manually calculated MPM restrictions that were easy to figure out. At the time, it was just find reward availability, pick your city, and make sure that it was under the published 5% MPM. Now, the routings are much more restrictive and difficult to figure out with an arbitrary MPM number that doesn’t seem to make much sense. Sadly, no more West Coast North America – Europe – Singapore routings anymore.

In that process, we were able to try some terrific products. Air Canada’s Boeing 787 is a great aircraft and ups the game for overseas travel. Singapore Airlines Business Class was pleasant with a nice quiet cabin and terrific service. Air India was an entertaining proposition – it was as expected in someways and surprising in others.

Despite being one of the most written about places on Flyer Talk, the Park Hyatt Maldvies is still an awesome place to visit. The house reef is absolutely spectacular. I’d go back every single year if I had the means, time, and the ability to redeem points to get the long long distances to get there. Exploring around the capital city of Male, Maldives was also a fascinating look into Indian Ocean life. It was among one of the pleasant surprises of the trip.

Ultimately, the highlight of the trip was India. Many many people down at the local organic grocery store go on and on about how travel to India changed their life. Everyone seems to know one of these people. . . I didn’t have the same core life changing experience, finding time in the country to be a bit artificial thanks to the way we structured the trip (with handlers and fine hotels). I also didn’t yearn to get the opportuntity to wander around independently, traveling on trains or by coach. Ultimately, it was fascinating to see a country that has a 1.25 billion person population. India represents a fascinating and deep culture similar to the depth that you get when you dig into Japan. Complimenting the experience are the over the top hotels within India. If you can get it right, it’s a stellar service experience. It was also one of the countries that I find myself thinking about on a regular basis now that I’m back home. I’d highly recommend a visit for all you seasoned travelers. And for those that have reluctant wives, maybe you can show them a few photos from this report to convince them.

Thanks for following along and until the next time, Happy Contrails.


Coming up:


Dodging Volcanic Ash: Returning to Bali and Singapore via Asiana’s A380, Delta, KLM and Japan Airlines.

The next trip is an overseas trip with my 11 year old as we search out slightly tamer environments looking for beaches, culture and world experiences.

The next Trip Report starts in Sept 2015! I hope you'll follow us then too...

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