Pardon My Absence Over the Holidays

First of all, I want to apologize for not posting the last month.  The last 30 or so days, my life has been completely and utterly swamped with moving, as I moved into Washington, DC from Arlington, VA.  That, combined with the Holidays and work really left no time to blog in my spare time.  Since I moved in last week, we did not have Internet connected until last night, so I really couldn’t have blogged from home even if I wanted to!

Finally, today I have some free time to kill in a couple of airport lounges, so I figured I’d get some material written.  I’m currently in the Boston United Club on my way to Dubai, where I’m spending the weekend with some friends.  Why am I in Boston?  That’s a story for another time — but long-story-short?  It was about half the price to fly BOS-IAD-DXB than it was the simply IAD-DXB round trip, so I naturally booked a cheap flight up to BOS this morning from DCA on US Airways.

I’ll publish a detailed trip report of my travels to Dubai, as I’m headed there tonight in United BusinessFirst on my last itinerary as a United Premier 1K member — so it’s my swan song, so to speak with United.  After that, almost all of my flying for the next year with be with American or its oneworld partner airlines.  Be sure to check out the trip report from my last trip to Dubai in June 2013.

In addition to the upcoming trip report on this little weekend jaunt to Dubai, I’ll be finishing up a report of my failed trip to Iguazu Falls in November, as well as a few posts about the latest goings-ons in the world of travel, points and miles.

Oh, and a belated Happy New Year to everyone!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

 

 

Review: ANA Suite Lounge – Tokyo-Narita

We arrived at Narita Airport after about an hour and 45 minute bus ride from the Hyatt Regency Tokyo.  Since we were on different flights, my buddy and I split up at check-in and planned to meet up again at the lounge.

I proceeded to the ANA Suite Check-In, and WOW, it was nice.

ANA Suite Check-In at Tokyo-Narita

ANA Suite Check-In at Tokyo-Narita

At Narita, there’s a dedicated room where I was able to check-in with a personal check-in agent.  After that, I proceeded through a private security line, and on into immigration.  This entire process from check-in to immigration took less than three minutes… that’s pretty awesome by any standard.

Once immigration was cleared, I chose to head one of the two ANA Suite Lounges closest to my gate, by gate 47.

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A Twenty-Two Hour Layover in Tokyo and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo

For my return flights home to Washington, DC, I intentionally booked a twenty-two hour layover in Tokyo between my inbound flight on Air China from Shanghai and my final leg in ANA First Class to Washington-Dulles.  Why, you ask?

Because I freakin’ love Tokyo.  And my buddy had never been.

That, my friends is an opportunity to maximize my routing on this award.

I’d been to Tokyo before on a previous globetrotting adventure, so I was pretty familiar with certain areas in the city — mainly Shinjuku since I stayed at the Park Hyatt Toyko last time.  Since I knew Shinjuku well, I figured that would be the best place to stay this time around — we could hit some highlights and be done with it.  I was looking for a Hyatt property, and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo fit the bill nicely, as it is a few blocks from the Shinjuku Station and was reasonably priced.

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Review: Air China First Class Lounge – Shanghai Pudong

We arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport after a quick, 35-minute commute from the Grand Hyatt Shanghai on the metro and the maglev.  First Class check-in was painless and uneventful, as was the short trek through immigration and security.  We made our way directly to the new Air China lounges, located near gate 71 in Shanghai-Pudong’s Terminal 2.

There is one large desk with a ton of Air China agents to direct you to either the First Class or Business Class lounges.  Since I was booked in first class for our short flight to Tokyo-Narita, we had access to the First Class Lounge.

I really hadn’t read a whole lot about this lounge, so I was anxious to see what it was all about.  I must say, my expectations were quite low for this lounge, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

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Review: Grand Hyatt Shanghai

Since I was scheduled to pick up my award ticket and start my journey back to Washington, DC via Tokyo on an Air China flight from Shanghai to Tokyo, I arranged to get back to Shanghai the prior day, leaving the two of us with one last afternoon and evening in Shanghai.  Since we were exhausted at this point of the trip, we decided to cancel our pre-existing reservation at the Andaz Shanghai, Xintiandi in favor of the Grand Hyatt, which is located in the Jing Mao Tower — directly across the street from the Park Hyatt, where we had stayed the previous week.

After arriving on a short hop from Hong Kong on China Eastern, we this time opted to take the Maglev to town, avoiding the ripoff that we experienced on our first stint in Shanghai a few days earlier.  The Maglev only cost 80RMB round trip and took only 12 minutes to get from Shanghai-Pudong Airport to the Longyang Road stop on the metro.  A twenty minute metro ride and five stops later had us a couple blocks from the Grand Hyatt.

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Review: Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui

When planning where we would stay for our weekend in Hong Kong, I narrowed it down between the two main Hyatt properties in Hong Kong:  the Grand Hyatt and the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui.  I wrote off the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin due to its location relatively far from Central and Kowloon.  I booked a room at each property and attempted to use on of my Diamond Suite Upgrades at each property.  I was immediately able to confirm a Regency Suite at the Hyatt Regency, but was unable to confirm any sort of suite upgrade at the Grand Hyatt.

I was torn between the two properties — the Grand Hyatt is well-known for being the superior of the two properties, and one of the best Hyatt properties in Asia.  The Hyatt Regency, Tsim Sha Tsui, on the other hand, has a very nice location in Kowloon, right above the entrance to the Hong Kong MTR.

We wanted the space of a suite since three of us would be sharing the room, and ultimately that was the deciding factor — since my suite upgrade never cleared at the Grand Hyatt, we chose the Hyatt Regency for our stay.

After arriving on a short hop from Shanghai on China Eastern, we hopped the Airport Express to Kowloon MTR station.  Here, we took a cab to the Hyatt Regency (HKD $32).

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A Weekend in Hong Kong – Ten Highlights

Since my first time to Hong Kong during grad school back in 2009, I’ve referred to Hong Kong as my favorite city in the World.  After a third trip back, I still think it’s my favorite city anywhere.  There’s just so much that this metropolis has to offer.   From the markets to the vistas to the beaches to the food to the architecture, Hong Kong really has it all, and is a true urban metropolis.
Every time I go back to Hong Kong, I continue to be mesmerized by its iconic skyline that towers over Victoria Harbor.  I’m still  enthralled with the absurd variety and quality of foods.  Hong Kong is basically Manhattan — with a better skyline.  But on a beautiful harbor.  With mountainous terrain.  And great beaches on the other side of the mountains… basically, I think this city has it all.

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Review: China Eastern Economy Class Shanghai to Hong Kong to Shanghai

After our time in Shanghai, I wanted to get down to my favorite city in the World — Hong Kong!  This little jaunt south was not part of my award ticket, so I had to hop on the Interwebs to find a decent deal for a round trip from Shanghai to Hong Kong.  I heavily preferred flying Cathay Pacific, but they were pretty prohibitively priced.  The best deal with the best times for a weekend round trip to Hong Kong was with China Eastern.  I knew that China Eastern was certainly considered a major airline in China with a varied fleet.  At the end of the day, the price was right, so China Eastern would be our ticket down to the Kong!

Since these were simply economy flights, I won’t get into as much detail as I normally do with my flight reviews, but I do want to highlight the flights, since it was a new experience for me.  I’m also combining both of these flights since they don’t warrant separate posts, in my opinion.

We made our way from the Park Hyatt Shanghai to Pudong International Airport via cab, which cost about RMB 160.  After a brief check-in process, we filed through security and immigration before setting up shop in one of the business class lounges that we accessed with my buddy’s AMEX Platinum Card.  It was pretty bare bones, and I didn’t even bother taking a picture.  After about 45 minutes, we went to our downstairs gate and hopped a bus that took us to our A321, parked at a remote stand. Continue Reading →

Two Days in Shanghai

Things didn’t start well at the airport.  Immigration and customs were both fine, but then it went downhill.

Yes, we were exhausted after over 30 hours of travel from Munich at that point, but we fell into a trap at the airport – a trap that I should know better not to fall for:  we listened to an “airport guide” and got ripped off on our taxi ride to our hotel in Pudong.

Instead of waiting 30 minutes for the Maglev, and instead of braving the taxi queue on our own, we let ourselves get convinced by this official-looking “airport guide” dude that 600RMB was a fair price for a private driver (i.e. cab) from the airport to Pudong.

Yeah, we got ripped off.

As we found out later in the trip, a cab for this trip should cost no more than 160RMB, and the Maglev could be had for even less.  Oh, well.  You live and you learn, I guess.

We really did enjoy our two days in Shanghai, though we screwed up along the way and got ripped off a time or two.  Rather than dwell on that, I’ll hit some highlights of the two and a half days we spent in Shanghai.  To be honest, the absolute star of the show during our stay was our hotel – the Park Hyatt Shanghai. Continue Reading →

Review: ANA First Class Square Tokyo to Washington

After an extremely early morning bus ride from the Hyatt Regency Tokyo out to Narita, I proceeded to the very exclusive feeling ANA Suite Check-in facility.  Here, I was quickly checked in and whisked away to a private security line before I went on to clear immigration.  I relaxed for about an hour in the ANA Suite Lounge (review forthcoming) before making the short trip over to gate 42 to board my flight back home to Washington.  After about five minutes, a slew of gate agents finished swarming about and welcomed aboard First Class passengers.
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