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Early High-Level Planning - Asia

Discussion in 'Award Booking Help' started by knick1959, May 11, 2017.

  1. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    Hi folks,

    Consider this the start to my planning of this trip. Well, I've got gobs of notes and some flight searches I did months ago, but I have nothing written in ink. This trip has been on my list for Jan of 2019 for a long time. If things hold as they are, I will have an extra 4 weeks of paid time off in 2019. January primarily because Jan 3 is the lowest average high temperature in Siem Reap - 83 degrees F that day. Trip is for my wife and I. We're there to see ancient sites and ruins and experience the local food and culture. Landscapes/parks and wildlife are also of interest but perhaps secondary on this one.

    I want J award tickets for primary flights both ways and should have enough miles/points w/some flexibility. Since I'm hoping to maximize what we experience, I'm looking to plan this as an open-jaw with plenty of movement in-between. Part of the challenge to me is that the 4 weeks is not guaranteed; my employer has been crazily changing policies since a major C-level event occurred, and my stickability with the company has weakened as a result. Still, with the carrot of 4 paid weeks off in 1.5 years ... well. I want to plan a 4 week trip that could, if needed, be shortened to 2.

    From my notes, here is a working list of places that interest me/us, in decreasing order of importance:

    Siem Reap / Angkor
    Bejing - Great Wall
    Forbidden City
    Xian - Terracotta Army

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    Hong Kong?

    What am I missing that should be considered? Obviously this is too much, well I think so. Truthfully I'd give up the last 2 city destinations fairly easily. Macau - I don't even remember what that is, except it sounded cool when I read about it.

    So. If I tackle the first half for sure then what would be the easiest to tack on from the bottom, realizing that one of these might have to be the entrance or exit city? I am guessing BKK or one of the last 2 cities.

    Even in China and Cambodia there are certainly places I should add to the list. Ideas? Just mention a name and I'll research it. I just saw something on Longyou's Grotto that got me interested.


    I believe I have enough miles to have some options particularly if I treat this as 2 one-ways. And I do have some time to make more if needed - and that's another reason to be asking now. Not including hotel programs we have (me/wife):

    Alaska 171k/164k
    American 583k/45k+
    United: 3k/64k
    BA: 129k/0

    SW and Hawaiian aren't applicable.
    We used all our Aeroplan - Can transfer more MR in.

    UR: 300k/0
    MR: 120k/160k
    SPG: 0/20k

    Short of any general ideas of where I should enter and exit AND the addition of other places to see ... are there any suggestions of who I should look to fly with based on the above? And/or where I need to try to add miles? We have never had a Delta card; I could possibly ramp up something there.

    Searching in Feb, I found flights on UA J to PEK for 80k. Alaska offered AA flights to Shanghai for 55k? These had long layovers, but we can work with that. Aeroplan (via/MR points) wanted 150k RT but I didn't not record the carrier. Ideas?

    Sorry for the length. Hopefully I didn't scare anyone off by babbling too much!

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: May 12, 2017
  2. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    First time in SE Asia and China?

    Keep in mind Jan is peak season in SR. You'll likely be there with a million other tourists wanting to get sunrise pic of Angkor Wat. Just something to keep in mind.

    Northern China is either great or terrible in January depending on how you look at it. It will likely be very cold, but low on tourist crowd. You'll see more real life.

    Shanghai is a working city without much history or attraction IMO. More interesting are nearby Hangzhou and Suzhou, two of the legendary lake cities of jiangnan with rich history and tradition. I can only imagine how atmospheric West Lake is covered in snow and without the summer crowd. There are also some atmospheric water villages in that area, the less overrun being Xitang and Nanxun. I've always wanted to stay overnight in a village inn. I think this is one of the best experiences you can have in China.

    One place I think you'll find highly recommended by travelers here and elsewhere is Luang Prabang, the historic city gaining more attention by the day. The reason to see it now is to see it before it changes for the worse, which seems certain.

    I highly recommend adding Bali to your list. It's one of the most unique and unforgettable places I've ever been to with incredible culture and history. The Balinese-Hindu temples are unique and ubiquitous throughout the island.
    Last edited: May 12, 2017
  3. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    To refresh your memory, Macau is a former Portuguese colony in China. I went there recently and enjoyed it very much. Unlike its neighbor HK, which demolished most of their colonial-era buildings in favor of modern skyscrapers, there are parts of Macau that still make you think you're in Europe. They were especially beautiful at night (I think most historic places are). But despite Portuguese being ceremoniously used as one of the 4 languages in public announcements (alongside Cantonese, Mandarin, English), pretty much the entire populace is Cantonese and no one speaks any Portuguese.

    In China, it has a reputation of being a gambling town (which is part of its identity), but I loved the ample history and the delicious food (some consider it to have more authentic Cantonese food than HK).
  4. Maverick17

    Maverick17 Level 2 Member

    Let me start with flights.

    Since you're looking at multiple stops, I'd consider using Alaska miles and take advantage of their stopover on one ways. For example, CX to HKG (and Macau, take the ferry over). Then continue to any of the other cities on your secondary list as the second part of that Alaska ticket.

    Other options for using the stopover are Hainan via Beijing, or JL via Tokyo. Hainan has the disadvantage of not being an aspirational flying product and fuel charges. JL is a stopover not where you prefer, and CX stops in places kind of the bottom of your list. But since you have 4 weeks and will be in several places, and AS has great redemption rates, I'd at least consider these options. You could hit 4 places using 2 one-ways with stopovers on each.

    If the stopovers are not important, you have enough points and time to really take your pick, and my top 5 for traveling to Asia is as follows:

    Use avios or low cost carriers around SE Asia.

    Two things to look out for. One, REP has limited flights, so options in general and getting seats at prime tourism time will have to be considered. Some flights are on subsidiary carriers, so check that your miles can be used. Two, some carriers have regional configurations in J that are not fully lie flat seats, so after your TPAC be aware of that on the second leg.

    I'd do something like this for the first half of the trip, or if you shorten it:
    US-HKG - stopover - REP
    REP- Bangkok

    You get a few days in Hong Kong and Macau for the sights and food and culture. Followed by about a week in REP, depending on what you decide to do there. Then you take the easy flight over to Bankok. BKK has tons of flights around, so you can spend as little or as much time as you want in the region. Top places are Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang for nature/culture. Food in Penang Malaysia and Bangkok itself. Many beach and island locales as well.

    At that point you could head home, head north to the cold, or stay in warm weather locations. And I'd choose based partly on what italdesign says about the weather in Beijing. I lived there in the winter, and it can be bitter cold, although not much snow. You will have to pack coats and warmer clothes if you go there. But it is definitely an awesome place to visit. If you haven't been to Asia, it would be near the top of my list. But frankly if I knew I might make it another time, I'd save it for a non-winter visit.

    So if you want to do the cold weather, I'd go to PEK and Xian. Xian only needs a day or two, Beijing could take up the rest. Then I'd fly home from there.

    If you want to stick to warm weather, you have many nearby choices. If you like those earlier places, just extend in the general Thailand area. If you want more, I've heard Myanmar is fabulous especially Bagan. I live in Vietnam so I think it's great, lots of food and culture. Also there are some off the beaten path places like Palawan and Kota Kinabalu that I really like.
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  5. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    Yes, first time. I didn't even think of the crowds that might be there at what I consider to be the best weather options. Something to consider! And, how different the weather might be further north. I will look into that. Thanks for the reality check!

    And I will research all of your suggestions! Just what I was looking for. Thanks again.
  6. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    So. The previous posts tell me I may be due for a quick re-think. Explaining the weather differences between north and south to my wife she commented "sounds like 2 different trips". I amended with how long the flights are to get there. "Sounds like 2 long-flight trips". That's a possibility, but I'm not giving up yet!

    I am used to cold and snow - I live in Cleveland. But I travel to get away from it when I can! We just came back from Utah where one of the towns had morning temps in the 30's and biting wind (but it wasn't that bad later). We've been to Death Valley in the late spring and survived the heat, no real problems.

    Revisiting the temperature graph for Siem Reap I see that 1/1 averages 86F, April peaks at 95F and ~July on it ranges in the high 80's. Jan is ideal, but any other month would be doable, trying perhaps staying away from Mar to May/June. Rain peaks middle of the year.

    Any ideas as to what would be a good time of year to do both mid to northern China AND Cambodia/Thailand, etc.? "Good" meaning tolerable temperatures and non-peak tourism. One upside to doing this is Jan is that I am eligible for this 4 week sabbatical on 1/1/2019. The longer I wait to collect, the higher the chances are that they remove it from the benefits or that other things change enough to make me leave. OTOH, I can do multiple 2 week trips (perhaps during multiple years) employed anywhere.

    For the record, I am eligible every 5 years. I collected my 2014 sabbatical in 2015 seeing Machu Picchu, Cusco, Galapagos Islands and some great cities along the way.

    I'll do some research on peak vs off seasons and see if I find some off-season overlaps between the 2 regions where the temps and rain are reasonable.

    Thanks for the comments to-date!
  7. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    I would think Oct-Nov. Just avoid being in China during the week of National Day (1st week of Oct) - biggest travel week of the year for the country of 1.3 billion ppl.
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  8. Suzie

    Suzie Level 2 Member

    We were in REP mid November a couple years ago. It was fairly hot, but not unbearable, no rain. Buy the multi day pass at the visitor center, which is a bit out of the way. We flew CX from JFK-YVR-HKG (just a stop in YVR-we didn't get off the plane) and HKG-REP on Dragonair on one AA award. Agree that flights to REP are minimal - we lucked out with only a 1 hour 20 minute layover in KKG and arrived in REP at 10:00 am and basically had most of the day. For the internal flights we booked Bangkok Air using Etihad miles (and I don't remember specifically what we used to transfer into Etihad).

    We spent a couple of days in HKG on our return from Nepal/India trip. We did Macau for a day by taking the ferry from HKG. To add to @italdesign comments about Macau - it was given back to the Chinese in 1999 but does not fully become part of China until 2049. They still have their own monetary and legal systems. So you could add another country to your list!

    And you already know my thoughts on BKK. I have not been to the other places on your list, but wish we had had time to go to Bhutan and Myanmar on one of these trips.
  9. currid7

    currid7 Level 2 Member

    If you're still trying to figure out flights, I'll second Maverick17's advice on stopover with AS. We just did Cathay ORD-HKG-NRT with a 4 day stopover in HKG. We also did a day trip to Macau. Other than bungy jumping off the Macau Tower, it was just meh (mainly because we had a bad experience trying to get cash and a bus from the ferry port). Cathy stopovers with AS are just so difficult to beat. I started researching a BKK / SR trip but we don't get that much time off and it seemed too much flying for just a 2 week trip (we "settled" for Patagonia muahaha).

    I also saw some Hainan availability to Shanghai which would allow a stopover there if you decide to go the China route. Never flown their product though. I'd think that AS miles to get over there and have a stopover, regional flights to bump around, then maybe Singapore back?

    Edit: One thing to keep in mind is the difference between Dragonair and Cathay and how it applies to awards. I think with AS you can't do Dragonair, which is what flies HKG to BKK so just remember to keep a close eye on that. Cathay's route map allows you to specify between Dragonair and Cathay, so it's pretty handy.
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  10. smittytabb

    smittytabb Moderator Staff Member

    With the exception of Kuala Lumpur, I have been to all of the places you mention @knick1959 over the course of multiple trips. I love that part of the world, which is why I have gone back over and over again. Although a month seems like a long time, the region is vast and there is just a whole lot worth seeing, so I would drill down and try to focus even for that long a trip. I agree with everything @italdesign has mentioned pertaining to weather and holidays. And I would echo sentiments about Luang Prabang (my favorite Asian destination) and day trips from Shanghai to Hangzhou and Suzhou. I would also recommend Macau. I spent several days there, but I love anything Portuguese and have an affinity for destinations with several cultural layers. I also agree with @Maverick17 that Myanmar is worth a trip. When I flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi when I was there in March, Vietnam Airlines was advertising extremely cheap flights to Yangon. So I would like to also point out that flight networks in the region are extremely well developed and that flights are often extremely inexpensive between cities in the same country but also internationally. You could easily use cover the smaller flights with different cards that pay you back for that kind of thing. For my recent trip to SE Asia, I used my $250 flight credit on Citi Prestige to cover all of my smaller flights. I did separate one ways in business, one on Eva Air with Aeroplan to Ho Chi Minh City and home from Bangkok in business on Japan Airlines with Alaska miles. Another trip I used AA miles in business on Cathay and Dragonair. A lot could change between now and the year you are planning this in terms of flights and FF programs, so I would focus more on making a decision about where you want to focus your travels at this point. It cannot be done in one trip. It should be more an attempt to begin explorations in Asia with an eye to priorities or regional ease.
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  11. HariOm

    HariOm Transcendent Level

    The generous sharing in this thread is a beautiful example of the spirit of this community.
  12. Hanoi IG

    Hanoi IG Level 2 Member

    First list is great. Keep all. Add Phnom Penh just a day or two for Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields. Hà Nội instead ò Sài Gòn. Vịnh Hạ Long if you have the time. Hong Kong and Singapore are both great and so easy to navigate with subways and rampant English. Others are far more savvy than I on where to get and use points/miles. We lived in Hà Nội for 2 years and have visited so many times that our passports are stuffed w/VN visas. Yes, Siem Reap is way more crowded than it was when we first visited 20 years ago but it won't get less so.
  13. El Ingeniero

    El Ingeniero Level 2 Member

    Alaska is partners with Hainan Airlines, there is a ton of availability for Hainan J to SEA-PEK. 50K points each way from pretty much anywhere in the US, with the domestic flight in coach.
  14. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    Thanks for the feedback! When I listed Saigon my head had in it a visit to both it and Hanoi and where ever else in Vietnam I found of interest. Of course, that was on my secondary list. I now know who to ask when I need more details! I did order some older Frommers book (I have a collection and I ordered a couple over the weekend ... I don't depend solely on these, but they provide a good basic foundation IMO): Thailand, Vietnam and SE Asia. There was a Cambodia/Laos book but I didn't get it ... I believe the reviews weren't that great but I will revisit.

    I've been mulling all of this over in one of my mind's background threads. It did manage to make it to the front burner over the weekend, too. I've been trying to weigh my personal priorities and bypass the existing plan's impression that has existed for quite some time. Basically, I believe it is in my best interest to schedule my 4 weeks off in January 2019. This leaves north/most of China out of this trip. Of all places on my list, Ankgor temples are at the top for a reason. So ... I COULD spend 4 weeks (or so) in SE Asia saving China for a 2 week trip later. This 4 week sabbatical is IN ADDITION to the 5 weeks normal PTO I have mustered up here, as long as I'm still here. My wife's schedule is currently very flexible but that may change too. Anyway ...

    I'm starting to wonder if I don't switch gears a little and plan on a 2 week trip to N China, another 2 week trip to SE Asia and perhaps overlapping with anything in S China ... 2 weeks probably not enough (2 weeks = 17 days ... could be stretched a few days). And go elsewhere on my 4 week trip, perhaps NZ, Australia and/or the island countries around there. Somewhere that's warm-ish in January. Or a SE Asia / NZ mix? Too many options. I need to focus.

    It's all up in the air right now. I have a discussion scheduled with my wife this evening to see what she thinks.

    Thanks again.
  15. currid7

    currid7 Level 2 Member

    Great point, AS allows you to use them to get to your gateway city, then partner from there. Especially useful for a flight out of SEA.
  16. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Here's a pic of historic Macau (auto-enhanced by Google Photo) in case I never get around to my trip report. It's quite atmospheric at night.

    It was my first exposure to anything Portuguese, and like Smitty, I'm now in love with the Portuguese world.

  17. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Here are some pictures of my beloved Bali to pique your interest.

    taman ayun 3.jpg

    ulun danu entrance.jpg
  18. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    Me again. I've reworked this in my mind (and on digital paper) to better fit the region(s) involved and associated weather. The lists of potential places to see in each region is still a work in progress, but the lists are already "big enough" that I will have to prioritize and shorten.

    I'll leave out my current detail-level thinking and only show my outline. There are 3 distinct parts here, each meant to be "around" 2 weeks (17 days each).

    Part 1: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (temples/ruins, cities and parks).
    Part 2: S. China, Hong Kong and Macau
    Part 3: Northern/Central China

    (update: Also considering parks/wildlife areas in the above)

    Now. Parts 1 and 2 are things that are both possible in January. So, if all things are still holding true for Jan 2019, I will combine the first 2 parts into a 4 week trip, saving the rest of China for a subsequent trip that will be planned with better weather in mind. And while I did make note of @italdesign suggestion of Bali, that needs to go in a subsequent trip to Indonesia and/or Australia.

    I might move items from Part 1 into Part 2 if needed. This is all loose planning. I've been using web searches and the UNESCO site to find specific places to consider.

    Any comments on all that are certainly welcome, but I wanted to specifically ask about flying on AS miles and angles I'm not seeing trying to leverage their stop-over policy. This is one area (strategic stop-overs) that I have not yet tried but want to explore.

    If I search CLE to anywhere significant, Alaska tells me it can't be done ... they just don't route to/from CLE. So I typically have to position somewhere like ORD or an east/west coast hub. I chose ORD for this research, since it's easy to get to from CLE. I'm open to any scheme.

    It seems the most common overseas connections to where ever I want to fly are Seoul and Tokyo. Sure, I can connect in BKK for some secondary places (like REP), and maybe that gets me a peek an BKK, but there are other places to see in Thailand. Maybe I'm answering part of my own question here now, thinking that I could treat BKK as a stop-over ending somewhere else in the region that is also on my list. Fine.

    But that's only useful one way, if that can be made to work. Seoul is interesting except for the fact that they are also frigid in Jan. Tokyo might work, too, but how many days would I really need, and those would be at 40 degress F - not ideal.

    Anyone have a suggestion to get my creative juices flowing? Am I on the right track thinking BKK is a potential stop-over as HKG might also be? Is that how folks leverage these??

    Playing around with AS searches, I almost fell for their silly mixed-cabin displays, again (I think I DID see these when reporting AS awards for 55k in my OP). Eliminating those, there are still partner flights I can find that run 75k and 105k in J. Those will be my targets, and I plan on beefing up my AS mile collection starting now to make sure I have options. I can always fly using a different program either way or both, but looking to see what stop overs can do for me.

    Thanks again in advance.
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  19. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Good to see it moving forward.

    You can have a stopover each way, I believe. You might need to book it as 2 one ways (not 100% sure).

    You might have trouble getting BKK as a stopover, since AS usually restricts stopovers to hubs only. So HKG would work, but not non-hub airports. However I hear some persistence can make it happen. That said, both are interesting cities and worth a stopover.

    The major disadvantage to HK in Jan is the cloudiness and pollution. I was there in Dec and visibility was significantly lower than the previous visits in July and Oct. Taxi driver cited smog being blown over from China due to winter wind direction. It was like that every day of the 5-6 days I was there and really dampened the experience. HK is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and needs to be seen on a clear day. After seeing it in both conditions, the difference is worlds apart.
  20. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    For example, my pictures of Dragon's Back from Dec look like this:


    Here's what it looks like on a good day (pic from internet):

  21. currid7

    currid7 Level 2 Member

    AS is great for stopovers with Cathay in HKG. You can do Macau in one day: ferry in AM, back in PM. Definitely check out the Cathay route map to see where they can go. You can do AS miles for Cathay over with a stop in HKG, the awards are dirt cheap and the product is great. Then maybe Hainan back? But yea, I would plan on doing 2 OWs, makes it easier and provides more flexibility anyways.

    You may also want to book the flight over, then use regional airlines to figure out where you'll hop over, then figure out the OW back (and stopover) based on where you end up. We did cherry blossoms in Tokyo this year and the first thing I did was book SQ12 NRT-LAX, then figured out the flight over, since I was booking exactly 330 days out. I ended up doing Cathay ORD-HKG-NRT.
  22. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    I saw this nifty looking island (that's what you are talking about, right?), and while it seems to be tourist-popular, I didn't recognize exactly why. I'll research more, but I had it on my possible list then removed it. It can always be put back on!

    How does one find award space on Cathay? First, it didn't list for me on Alaska, but then I didn't search via Seattle. Is there a specific city to check? I thought to sign up for a Marco Polo FF account with them but saw some hint of a $100 fee and bailed.

    I figured I'd have to hop-skip around once there. My only concern at this time is getting there and back, but if I can remove one or 2 hop-skips via stop overs, so much the better.

    Does Cathay award space typically show up on Alaska searches? I didn't see any ... just Emirates which was always a mixed-cabin award.
  23. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    AS.com doesn't show CX, so you have to search BA/JL/QF.com or call AS. My friend has interesting recent data points where, by calling AS, he was able to: 1) find CX space not shown on BA.com, and 2) get higher level AS agent to force a CX space that wasn't shown on BA.com and wasn't available to normal AS agent. I don't like to hear this, but it does show the power of calling and not assuming systems work as supposed.

    Hainan is both a popular Chinese island and an airline which partners with AS. You can redeem AS miles for it, and the same AS rules re: stopover etc apply. I don't think they have F, and J is pretty subpar, but it's another option. Personally, Hainan the island doesn't appeal to me. It doesn't look great compared to other options, and I can't imagine it not being overrun by Chinese tourists, even more so than other places (since Hainan is in China).
  24. Maverick17

    Maverick17 Level 2 Member

    Cathay, CX, does not show up on Alaska's site. British Airways is the one I use to search, but that is typically the One World allotment of seats - matching AA's inventory pretty closely - but Alaska does not always have those seats available. Basically you have to call in to find out if Alaska has CX availability. But British Airways can give you an idea. Japan Airlines website and Qantas website have also been mentioned as places to look for CX availability.

    I believe the point above would likely be referring to Hainan Airlines, rather than HaiNan, the Chinese tourist island off the southern coast. Hainan Airlines is another partner of Alaska, and has a few SE Asia destinations, notably BKK, with good availability to/from to the US via their BKK-PEK flights.

    For Alaska, you are allowed one partner airline, plus Alaska. Thus flying out of CLE is a little harder since Alaska doesn't fly there. I didn't realize in the first post I made you are in a non-Alaska city, and that certainly dampens the value if you have to position to start your trip.

    So for Alaska stopovers, the general rule mentioned above by italdesign and a few more is that you have to stop in a Hub city. For most foreign airlines that's one or two cities only. So for Cathay, your only allowed stopover would be Hong Kong. Japan Airlines, Tokyo and maybe Osaka, Korean would be Seoul. So you're right about all those. The additional ones would be Dubai with Emirates, out of the way but many like it. And then there is Hainan, which has HaiKou, on the island of HaiNan, and Beijing. (Seattle of course is also an option, and other Alaska cities.) You might get a stopover somewhere else, but it would be less likely.

    So for one way, say the outbound, you could do the stopover in Hong Kong with Cathay. On the return, your options are less ideal. You sounded out Tokyo and Seoul already. Hainan could get you some time in the Chinese south maybe, as they have flights from many SE Asian cities via HaiKou, but then you'd have to have a second stop in PEK on the way back to the US. But given that you'd have to position to Chicago, and the stopovers aren't ideal for your trip both ways, and Hainan Airlines has high fuel surcharges, you might want to just use Alaska and the stopover one way, and then use another miles source for the return.
  25. currid7

    currid7 Level 2 Member

    I was in fact referring to Hainan Airlines, not the island. A small positioning flight to ORD would kinda suck, but ORD has better space than LAX anyways. Plus, you'll be flying for like 15 ours, so what's another 1 hr flight added on? Book a separate positioning flight with Arrival+ or Venture and you're good.

    But like Maverick said, you may just want to find another plan to get back, especially if you're doing a bunch of hops while you're over there.
  26. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    Ok, I get the airline vs island now, thanks everybody!

    Searching on Cathay Pacific's web site for PAY flights I was able to include CLE->ORD in my flight to BKK. Not sure if that would work for an award, but I'm perfectly fine with positioning separately. I'm doing more of this and although I'd prefer not to, often there isn't a choice.

    Lots to chew on. One thing I do need to read up on is Hainan Air's J seats, as if we're doing a long haul using them and they don't have lay-flat (or angle flat) then it isn't realistic for us. That's one of our reasons for insisting on J.

    Thanks all for the new research paths!
  27. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    It won't work on a AS-issued award ticket, since AS only allows one partner per itin and CLE-ORD would be on AA and thus make it 2 partners (CX and AA).

    It's fully flat but 2-2-2. Actually, I don't mind it if traveling with someone. I just prefer the "all seats have aisle access" configs when solo traveling.
  28. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    I see. This works for me/us but I could see where a solo traveler might think differently. Thanks for the clarification. That leaves this airline as a possible.
  29. Hanoi IG

    Hanoi IG Level 2 Member

    Singapore is the best airport in the world, a destination in and of itself. It's also a major hub for any Asian destinations.
  30. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Yes but not a stopover option for redeeming AS miles.
  31. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    You're right. But I will keep it in mind if I use a different program for "the other" one way. Singapore was on the bottom of my secondary list, only because cities aren't my priority ... but if I can work it in without expending much, will consider it.

    But @Hanoi IG reminds me that I have another question ...
    Last edited: May 23, 2017
  32. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    Is there a specific reason you suggested skipping Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City? I get you are partial to Hanoi ... but would you see any value in visiting both for contrast?

    I've downloaded the UNESCO site list in XSL format and plucked out lines from the countries I want to visit, including Vietnam. This may limit or even preclude too much city visiting, but I always want to know what's special about potential cities. As someone said to me before, big cities are often just like all the other big cities. I'm spending 4+ days in Cape Town in Sept and mostly using Johannesburg as a pass-through w/only a partial day at the very end of the trip to "visit". I know there are things to see and do, but there are things elsewhere that had higher priorities to me.
  33. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Singapore isn't for everyone but I'm a huge fan. The cultural diversity and cohesion that emerged from the colonial era still shape the country today and are fascinating to say the least, as is the strictly controlled yet worry-free society - a very different model than Western democracy. Everything is so convenient and accessible. The food brilliance is well known. Great place to see colonial history.

    I also prefer Hanoi to Saigon. Actually, I only spent a day at each, so my opinion is based on limited exposure. Hanoi seemed to have more old history and culture and generally more chill (in attitude and temperature), while Saigon is a big city with big energy, as well as more recent history. Think of Hanoi as a New Orleans or Boston; Saigon more like NYC/London. Actually, Saigon reminds me of Bangkok in terms of the vibrancy and grit (I would pick just one). Neither makes my top 3 in Vietnam, though I'm more of a quaint village / nature person.
  34. Hanoi IG

    Hanoi IG Level 2 Member

    I know that my opinion is skewed by having lived in Hanoi and maintaining so many close friendships with Hanoians. I think that Saigon is very modern and hip and more attractive to younger people. There aren't many sights to see in Saigon and it is not as attractive a city as Hanoi. Hanoi has a center around Hoan Kiem Lake where locals and tourists gather. It is pedestrians only Friday-Sunday. Saigon doesn't have such an area. Also the weather in Saigon is always hot and humid, while Hanoi has seasons.
  35. knick1959

    knick1959 Level 2 Member

    Sold. Thanks to both @Hanoi IG and @italdesign for their balanced opinions. Saigon will move to the very bottom of the list and we'll see it only if there is something nearby that requires a stay (or flight) based out of there.

    On a different note, we just got serious about getting Yellow Fever vaccines. This, with S Africa coming up in Sept and this trip to SE Asia in sight. However, there is a warning about folks over 60 getting it for the first time. I'm not there yet, but darn close. You would not be able to tell from looking at her (looks way younger than me), but my wife is 61. While she will check with her personal physician about this (she is in excellent health) ... and not to expand the topic too much ... where might I have troubles if we opt NOT to get Yellow Fever vaccinations? If you know ...

    Africa: Cape Town, Kruger NP, Victoria Falls (Zambia for sure, Zimbabwe is a want and an overnight trip to Chobe NP in Botswana.

    Asia - all the countries previously mentioned: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. This trip will target places away from major cities! Then there is Southern China.

    Crap. I want the vaccine. But we'll have to see what my wife says.

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