Fiji Trip Report Index
Introduction: Belgium to Fiji in 13 flights (26561 miles, 42746km)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Grand Suite at Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
Singapore Airlines First Class: The Private Room @ Changi Airport
Singapore Airlines First Class: SQ211 Singapore to Sydney B777-300A
Opera King room at Park Hyatt Sydney
Beachfront View room at InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa
Singapore Airlines Business Class: SQ232 Sydney to Singapore
Thai Airways First Class: Royal Orchid Spa, TG920 Bangkok to Frankfurt A380
Pic: Thai Airways First Class Royal Orchid Spa – Treatment room (Jan 2013)
On my way back from Fiji to Brussels, I suffered food poisoning from eating a sandwich at Subway in Auckland. Not an ideal situation if you still have 20,000km of flying ahead of you. Fortunately I had an Air New Zealand Business Class ticket from Auckland to Sydney and a Singapore Airlines Business Class A380 ticket from Sydney to Singapore. Not that I could enjoy any of the meals on those flights, but at least I had an opportunity to sleep comfortably. My original plan was to have a one night stopover in Singapore and to continue to Amsterdam in KLM Economy class. I had booked Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre using 25K Priority Club points for my stopover. Arriving at the Holiday Inn, still feeling very weak from the food poisoning, I was informed my room was upgrade to a suite. In a normal situation, I would have been excited about this, but feeling ill, I heard the person checking in next to me being offered a ‘better’ offer…. a 6pm late check-out. I requested if I could exchange my upgrade for a 6pm late check-out which wasn’t a problem. I slept until noon and ordered room service for a late breakfast (the staff were very helpful and caring, they prepared two meals to help me recover from my food poisoning) I still wasn’t feeling very well and not looking forward to my KLM Economy class flight which was scheduled for 1am the next morning. Fortunately, the United MileagePlus program offered me an awesome alternative. Singapore to Bangkok in Thai Airways Business Class, Bangkok to Frankfurt in First Class on the brand new Thai Airways A380 and Frankfurt to Brussels in Business Class on Lufthansa. Of course, this comfortable trip came at a price: 80,000 United miles and $133 in taxes and fees. A paid Thai Airways BKK-FRA A380 First Class ticket would have been around €2750. I bought the 80K United MileagePlus miles for €1086 via 4 transactions:
Add €103 ($133) in taxes and fees and you end up with a grand total of €1189 for my First Class alternative. Not an amazing award ticket, but still 60% cheaper than buying the ticket.
Pic: Thai Airways First Class – Royal Orchid Spa, Bangkok Airport (Jan 2013)
Upon arrival in Bangkok, a ground staff member was holding a sign with my name at the aircraft door. As the plane was not parked at a gate, I got a private car ride to the terminal followed by a golf cart ride to the Thai Royal First Lounge. Once at the lounge I was offered my own private corner and iPad menu to order whatever food I liked. I was also requested which Spa treatment I preferred and what time would suit me. Flying Thai First Class from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport comes with a unique feature: a 60 minute Full Body Massage at the Royal Orchid Spa. I went for the Touch of Silk Massage (Full Body Oil Massage) which was simply amazing! The treatment rooms were stunning (definitely for an airport facility) and the staff were very welcoming and professional.
Pic: Thai Airways First Class A380 Cabin – Seats 1E and 1F (Jan 2013)
After the massage treatment and some light snacks, my Thai lounge host informed me the aircraft was ready for boarding. Fortunately, I wasn’t offered another golf cart ride to the gate. It was at walking distance from the lounge, and I made it before the other 11 passengers joining me in First Class (all 12 seats in were occupied). I only had 2 minutes before the other passengers arrived, so I quickly snapped some pictures of the empty cabin.
Pic: Thai Airways First Class A380 Cabin – Seats 2E and 2F (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class seat on Airbus A380 (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class A380 Seat Controls (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class A380 Dom Perignon Service (Jan 2013)
After stowing my carry-on luggage and jacket, I was offered a glass of Dom Perignon Vintage 2003 Champagne.
Pic: Thai Airways First Class A380 Dom Perignon (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class A380 Cabin – Seat 2A (Jan 2013)
Beige is the dominant color in the Thai A380 First Class interior which makes me wonder how the cabin will look like in a year from now. The A380 I was flying on was only a few months in service and already I spotted some stains and scratches on the delicate leather surfaces. This is going to be quite a challenge for the cleaning and maintenance crews!
Pic: Thai Airways A380 First Class – Staircase to Business Class (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways A380 First Class – Sky Lounge Seating Area (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways A380 First Class – Sky Lounge Seating Area (Jan 2013)
I didn’t find the Sky Lounge very appealing. I guess nothing beats the Emirates A380 Business Class Bar.
Pic: Thai Airways A380 First Class – Restroom with BVLGARI Toiletries
Pic: Thai Airways A380 First Class – Restroom Seating Area (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways A380 First Class – Restroom Make-Up-Mirror (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class Airbus A380 – Meal Service (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class Airbus A380 – Stolichnaya Vodka (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class Airbus A380 – Calvisius Caviar (Jan 2013)
After we reached our cruising altitude, dinner service started. As my stomach wasn’t recovered yet from the food poisoning, I only had the caviar (nothing will make me skip that!) and dessert. Pictures of the drinks & wine menu (1,2,3) and dinner & breakfast menu (1,2)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class Airbus A380 – Calvisius Caviar (Jan 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways First Class Airbus A380 – Icecream (Jan 2013)
After dinner, it was time to convert my seat in an excellent fully flat bed. The additional mattress combined with my Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones ensured a Smooth As Silk night of sleep…
Pic: Thai Airways First Class Airbus A380 – Fully Flat Bed (Jan 2013)
Posted in airlines, lounges, trip reports
Tagged A380, Airbus, bangkok, cabin, caviar, champagne, dinner, dom perignon, First Class, frankfurt, fully flat bed, massage, pictures, Royal Orchid Spa, seat, TG, thai airways
Pic: Deluxe room at Park Plaza Soi 18 Sukhumvit Bangkok (July 2012)
Pic: Rooftop Pool Sunset at Park Plaza Soi 18 Sukhumvit Bangkok (July 2012)
Back in March 2011, the Carlson Hotel Group (Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Inn, Park Plaza and Country Inn & Suites) rebranded it’s loyalty program GoldPoints Plus to Club Carlson. In the past year, John Kennedy (Club Carlson Vice President) and his team did a tremendous job attracting new customers. First of all, there was the Club Carlson status match opportunity (still valid), then back in November they launched the Radisson Big Night Giveaway promo, which was unfortunately only valid for properties in the US, Canada and Caribbean. You basically had to stay one night at a Radisson or Radisson Blu hotel to receive a bonus of 50,000 Gold Points. Enough for a free night at the most expensive Carlson hotels (Category 6) or multiple free nights at cheaper Carlson properties. (free nights start at 9000 points, Category 1) The Radisson Big Night Giveaway promotion results must have been positive as the management of the Brussels based Rezidor Hotel Group Headquaters decided to launch a Worldwide campaign for their Radisson, Park Inn and Country Inn & Suites brands in May 2012. The Park Plaza brand was added to the campaign in June. If you didn’t sign-up for these promo’s, I need to disappoint you, as all of them have now expired. (Except the Park Plaza promo, but bonus is now limited to 15K instead of 50K points) If you don’t want to miss future promo’s like this, I recommend to keep an eye on my twitter feed.
Pic: Radisson Suites Bangkok Sukhumvit Rooftop Pool (June 2012)
I didn’t participate in the Nov 2011 Big Night Giveaway promo, as I had no travel to the US, Canadian or the Caribbean during the promotion period. For my first batch of 50,000 Club Carlson bonus points, I stayed at Radisson Suites Bangkok Sukhumvit on May 26. Room rate THB2329 (€60), upgraded to One Bedroom Suite as Club Carlson Silver member. On June 30, I stayed at Park Plaza Soi 18 Bangkok earning me another 50,000 Club Carlson Bonus points. Room rate THB2165 (€56), upgraded to Deluxe room. For my last set of 44,000 bonus points, I stayed at Park Inn Leuven (Belgium) on July 21. Room rate €75, upgraded to Business Friendly room (including complimentary wifi and breakfast). That makes €191 earning 144,000 bonus points. That total doesn’t even include all the other ‘regular’ bonuses like 2000 bonus points for booking via ClubCarlson.com websites, 25% silver status bonus points, 20 points per USD spent, etc…!
Pic: Complimentary Tuk Tuk Service at Radisson Suites Bangkok Sukhumvit
So how am I going to maximize the value of my 144K bonus points? Here’s a first example: I burned 50K points for a free night at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel (ranked #48 out of 1,080 hotels in London) for July 29, 2012. Yes, that’s the Opening Weekend of the London 2012 Olympic Games! The cheapest rate for a standard room was £425 excl. tax (£510 incl. tax, €655) To makes things even better, Club Carlson now launched a number of new promotions, including one allowing you to redeem points at 50% the regular rate at selected hotels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. And there’s more: Stay two nights or more at Club Carlson properties in Asia and get 10,000 bonus points, pay with American Express at EAME Radisson and Radisson Blu properties and get 3 nights for the price of 2 + 2000 bonus points. And as always, a complete overview of all promotions can be found at frequentflyerbonuses.com
Pic: Business Friendly Room at Park Inn Leuven, Belgium (July 2012)
Conclusion: The majority of frequent traveler bloggers have highlighted the Club Carlson promotions as the best hotel offers we’ve seen in the past year. My personal experiences at Club Carlson properties in the past 3 months have been very positive (both hard and soft product) and I hope the Rezidor Hotel Group will continue their efforts and investments to become leaders in the hospitality industry. I was flattered to learn more than 10 readers of my blog have been staying at Park Inn Leuven to score their 44K bonus points. Always a pleasure to assist others to travel in luxury on a budget! Thank you.
Posted in Hotels
Tagged bangkok, belgium, big night giveaway, bonus, club carlson, free nights, gold points, group, hotel, leuven, park inn, park plaza, pictures, points, radisson, radisson blu, razidor, review, soi 18, sukhumvit, thailand
Pic: The Pool at AMARI Emerald Cove, Koh Chang, Thailand (May 2012)
Pic: Palm Tree Swing at Lagoona Beach Resort, Koh Chang (May 2012)
On previous trips to Thailand I visited Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai (Songkran), Koh Tao, Hua Hin and Pattaya. My latest trip to Thailand (May 2012) had Koh Chang (Elephant island) as main destination. Getting to the island is convenient and cheap. The Lonely Beach Express minibus service runs three times per day between Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Koh Chang. The journey takes between 5 and 6 hours and includes a ferry ride from Laem Ngop pier to Ko Chang. A return ticket for the minibus only cost THB800 (€20) and includes the fee for the ferry. No reservations are required for the Bangkok -> Ko Chang journey, just show up at door 8 Ground Floor (G) of the Suvarnabhumi Airport terminal. Contrary to what the minibus service website states, you do get dropped of at the entrance of your hotel on the island. For the trip back to Bangkok, you’ll need to call the phone number on your ticket to confirm the shuttle pick-up time.
Pic: Jacuzzi at Mercure Koh Chang Hideaway (May 2012)
Pic: Narak at The Spa Koh Chang Resort (May 2012)
When I visited Koh Chang in May, it was very quiet on the island. I learned low season runs from May till early October as it rains a lot during those months. If you don’t mind cloudy skies and like a deserted island, this is the time to visit, otherwise stick to the dry months! As the island only has one international chain hotel (Mercure Koh Chang Hideaway) which doesn’t have a particular good loyalty program (Le Club Accorhotels) I went for an independent hotel. I didn’t have much time to research on hotels and made my choice based on Tripadvisor reviews and room rate. I chose Garden Resort near Kai Bea beach rated number 4 out of 68 hotels at Ko Chang. The bungalows were quite spacious and clean, breakfast was inclusive and the owner Mause, a friendly (but quite frank) Dutchmen, was always willing to provide local advice. At €38 per night it wasn’t expensive, but while exploring the island I learned I could have gotten better value at other places. For budget travelers (with less than €20 to spend per night) there are many options available, including TK208, a small bed and breakfast at Kai Bae with rooms from THB700 (€17). For cheap (less than €5/day) and reliable motorbike rentals near Kai Bae, check with Bobby Food Shop.
Pic: Nature Rocks at Lonely Beach Koh Chang (May 2012)
During my three day stay at the island, I visited a number of hotels and resorts. The most spectacular ones were Amari Emerald Cove and The Dewa. Together with a German guy which I met at Bangkok airport, we drove our scooters around the island from one beach to another. Siam Bay Resort’s great view on uninhabited island, tasty banana shakes and chill atmosphere at Nature Rocks Lonely Beach, Palm Tree Swing at Lagoona Beach Bar, funky looking huts at Independent Bo White Sands Beach, Rotee Pancakes at Bobby Food Shop. Just to name a few of the highlights on the island.
Pic: Sunset at Lonely Beach Koh Chang (May 2012)
Pic: Filou Cocktail Bar at Kai Bae Koh Chang (May 2012)
Posted in destinations
Tagged hotels, beach, bangkok, thailand, review, Airport, island, pictures, ko chang, koh chang, resorts, amari, emerald cove, lagoona beach, lonely beach, mercure, natrure rocks, ferry, bus, how to get there
Posted in Hotels
Tagged access, bangkok, breakfast, executive, free, gold, hhonors, hilton, king, lounge, millennium, pictures, review, room, thailand, upgrade
Pic: Bedroom Caroline Astor Suite 1924 at St. Regis Bangkok (May 2012)
For most of my trips, I book hotels in advance. This has a number of advantages: better rates, better point strategies, no stress to find suitable accommodation, etc… My latest trip to Thailand (May 17-27) was an exception, with only the first three nights booked in advance at Hilton Millennium Bangkok and Sofitel So Bangkok. On my third day in the Thai capital, I decided to add an extra night and pulled-up Hotelscombined.com on my mobile. To my surprise, ebookers.com was selling St. Regis Bangkok Caroline Astor Suites at a cheaper rate than regular Deluxe rooms. As the cheapest rate for this suite is normally at least €200 more, I didn’t hesitate and booked it for £137.56 (€176,50 on Amex) including breakfast.
Upon arrival at St. Regis Bangkok, assistant manager Ms. Papatsorn performed our check-in. “Mr. Lapers, we can’t seem to locate your reservation in our systems…” Here comes trouble, I thought to myself. I pulled out my laptop and showed the ebookers.com confirmation email to Ms. Papatsorn. “Mr Lapers, THB6500 for a Caroline Astor Suite? We normally charge THB25000 for that suite! Would you mind we verify your reservation with ebookers.com? We can offer you a drink at the Drawing Room. Is that alright?” At that point, I started to doubt whether they were going to honor my rate. But after 20 minutes or so, the comforting words “Your Suite is ready Sir” were spoken.
Pic: View on pool from Caroline Astor Suite 2025 bedroom (May 2012)
Caroline Astor Suite 2025 was impressive, with a spacious living room and bathroom facing the Royal Bangkok Sports Club and the bedroom facing the St. Regis swimming pool. Being so pleased with the suite, I immediately checked if the same rate was still available for the weekend after. It was, and so I booked the Caroline Astor Suite again via ebookers.com for a second stay on May 25-26. Not realizing yet, Lady Gaga would also be a guest at St. Regis Bangkok that night! Two days before my second stay, I emailed the hotel to assign me a Caroline Astor suite with bedroom facing the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. A request which was honored (my second stay was at suite 1924) and which I can highly recommend as those suites have an even more spectacular layout and view from the bedroom.
Pic: Welcome Amenity – St. Regis Bangkok (May 2012)
Pic: Breakfast at St. Regis Bangkok (May 2012) Pic: Wagyu Beef Burger at St. Regis Bangkok (May 2012) Video: Caroline Astor Suite 1924 – St. Regis Bangkok (May 2012) Video: Caroline Astor Suite 2025 – St. Regis Bangkok (May 2012)