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Regular readers know that I had a quick trip to Singapore – returning home last Monday. This was indeed a whirlwind trip. My better half was in Singapore for work and since I had never been and always wanted to go, I found a way to make it work. I’ll have much more details notes coming soon, but here are the high level numbers and stats.
- Airlines Flown: 3
- Flights Taken: 5
- United Miles Redeemed: 180,000
- Miles Flown: 20,288
- Hours in the Air: 44
- Time in Singapore: 68 hours
- Time in Vienna: 15 hours
- Airport Lounges: 6
- Hotels Nights: 4
- Hotels Stayed: 3
- Cities Explored: 2
- Meals Eaten: 6
- Restaurants Dined: 1 (everything else was Street Food / Hawker Stalls)
- Cocktails / Wine / Champagne Consumed: Countless
It was a quick trip, but with more hours on the ground than in the air, which is always a key metric for a trip like this. That being said, spending 44 hours flying (excluding layovers) in some great business class products isn’t too bad of a way to spend a the dog days of summer.
Give me your honest opinion – would you go to Singapore for just 68 hours? Does the fact that it cost nothing (other than points and time) change your opinion? What’s the longest you’ve traveled for the shortest stay?
Our last shorthaul flight on our trip to Myanmar had us leaving Yangon on Air Asia to Bangkok. I had never flown Air Asia before but I usually try to stear clear of low cost carriers because you can often get stuck paying a lot more in fees (carryon, checked bags, seat assignments, etc), than you initially plan. We really didn’t have an option for this trip as the flights to Bangkok on Thai (our preference) or Myanmar National Airlines all left dramatically later than we wanted. We wanted to spend the afternoon in Bangkok and a 15h30 departure from Yangon would help us out in that regard.
We decided on Air Asia because the flight times were the best we could find, plus the air fare was very reasonable. Air Asia wasn’t flying into BKK, but DMK (Don Mueang International Airport) instead. It looked to be a bit closer to the St. Regis anyway and our goal was to enjoy Bangkok, so we booked it.
Our driver from Yangon, earlier in the trip, picked us up at the domestic terminal and drove us to the international terminal. It was very generous and included in the price we paid for the tour, but it really wasn’t necessary the distance between the terminals wasn’t long nor was it convoluted.
We had about two hours between the time our flight from Heho landed until we left for Bangkok. Yangon has a contract lounge and with your Priority Pass you can gain access. That is of course, unless you run into the people we did at the airport. The women working the lounge wouldn’t accept our Priority Pass. She said that we weren’t welcome (that’s a quote). I figured I could just pay for access then bring it up with Citi or Chase once we get back home. No deal. We saw another passenger enter by showing some sort of pass (not a printed lounge access card, but a credit card sized pass). He was a young man of European descent. No clue what the issue was, but she kept the lounge locked up like Fort Knox.
There was a lot of empty space and not a lot of seats in Yangon, and almost no power outlets. We found seats near the gate and sat for about 90 minutes. Interestingly enough, while we waited, we met an American couple from my home state…and the woman actually went to the same college as me (20 years prior, but I went to a small school and the only other Americans we ran into having this connection with us was quite exciting).
We boarded the plane and quickly found our seats near the last row. The retired Oregonian travelers were seated in the row behind me. The man in the middle seat next to me was a very tall African man. He had two large Fosters Beers, one of which was half consumed and the other was chugged between the time we were on our take off roll but before we hit cruising altitude. As we boarded we saw a tall European (could be North American) board with a rainbow clown wig, a big red nose and a big horn that he’d honk from time to time.
Before we reached 3,000 meters the flight attendants began service. The flight to Bangkok was less than 50 minutes, but a small snack box was served to all 180 people on board their Airbus A320. The pitch was quite tight and the African dude chugging his Fosters (and silent burping and blowing his beer stink on me) was manspreading like a motherfucker. The seat width is tight on this plane, so it really felt like he was trying to play footsie. It was a rough 50 minutes.
We landed and the Oregonians were asking where we were staying and they lost their minds when we said the St. Regis. They were staying at an Ibis because they got a rate of 70USD per night. The St. Regis was 140USD. Big percentage difference, but an even bigger quality difference. I love the cheap luxury hotels in Bangkok. They wanted to split a cab with us, which was probably the last thing in our list at that point. Luckily their phones weren’t working, so we told them that our hotels were in opposite directions, then once off the plane, we ran like Olympic Sprinters to ensure we didn’t have to discuss cab sharing again.
We had forgotten how tight the cabs are in Bangkok too. There would have been no way our suitcases, their backpacks and ourselves would have fit into one of those cabs. Whew.
If I had a choice between Thai and Air Asia, I’d choose Thai. For such a short flight with reasonable airfare and departure time, Air Asia was perfectly acceptable. I would definitely fly them again, if the need arose.
What do you think of Air Asia? Is it worth the hassle to save a few bucks or a few hours of vacation?
We usually take one big trip a year, and by big I don’t mean expensive, I mean our longer trip. Historically our big trips have been to places like Southern Africa, Vietnam/Cambodia and Peru. This year, we decided to return to southeast Asia and visit Myanmar. We chose Myanmar because it wasn’t that long ago that Americans couldn’t tour the area an many Americans aren’t visiting now. We wanted to visit before the country was overrun with western chain restaurants and before the photos of the beautiful temples would be spoiled by a Gap or a Starbucks.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing about our trip, including the following:
- O’Hare International Terminal 5
- EVA Air Royal Laurel Class (ORD-TPE)
- Thai Airways Royal Silk Class (TPE-BKK-RGN)
- Sule Shangri-La Hotel
- Sights and Sites of Yangon
- Air KBZ Economy (RGN-NYU-HEH)
- Bagan Lodge
- Sights and Sites of Bagan
- Balloons Over Bagan
- Prestine Lotus Hotel
- Sights and Sites of Inle Lake
- Food of Myanmar
- Myanmar National Airlines Economy (HEH-RGN)
- Air Asia Economy (RGN-DMK)
- St. Regis Bangkok
- Gaggan – Fine Dining Bangkok
- Nahm – Fine Dining Bangkok
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid CLASS- Ground Services BKK
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Class (BKK-MUC)
- United Airlines Polaris First (MUC-ORD)
- Myanmar Natural Wonders Tours
- Wrap Up
If you see that I missed something, or want a little more detail on an aspect of the trip, just let me know.
Our trip to Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand took a long time to come to fruition — we were delayed a year because of my broken arm. Thanks to this delay we were able to try out a brand new plane and experience really top notch service. I really enjoy our now habit of taking 1-2 week vacations in March – it helps me survive the long Chicago winters and this trip fit that bill perfectly.
This trip allowed me to fly in premium cabins on airlines I had never flown before, put me way outside of my comfort zone with language and food and afforded me the ability to see a part of the world (with good friends) that only one other member of my family had seen before – and he (my dad) wasn’t in the area for pleasure (he served in the US Army from 1970-1971 in Vietnam). That being said, my 5 favorite parts of this trip would have to be:
- Flying Thai’s A380 in First Class
- Enjoying copious amounts of Mango Juice, Sugar Cane Juice and Foot Massages
- Exploring the amazing temples of Angkor Wat and the surrounding area
- Riding on the back of a motor bike in Saigon for hours as we hit various restaurants
- Morning Tai Chi as we cruise Halong Bay
I had a great time. It was sad to see this trip come to an end. Was it perfect? No. We were hot, we were sweaty, we got a bit on each others nerves from time to time. We each had stomach issues briefly. While I can’t speak for the rest of the small group, I can tell you’d I’d get back on a plane tomorrow and revisit this area – I would definitely make some changes to the itinerary, but Vietnam, Cambodia nor Thailand have moved to my “Been-There-Done-That” list of travel locations.
What was your favorite part as you read about my trip? Anything you’d like to know more about? If you’ve been to this area of the world, what was your favorite / least favorite thing you did?