Author Topic: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai  (Read 2459 times)

Offline shauly

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Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« on: October 06, 2016, 12:30:59 PM »
I originally wasn't planning on writing a trip report since we didn't do anything terribly revolutionary,  but as my trip planning was based almost entirely off the reviews of fellow DDFers, I decided to give it a shot in the hopes of helping someone else. In the end I think my trip was slightly different than many of the other reviews, as I was traveling with an expecting wife and as such could not do many of the popular activities. Anyway, without further ado..

I started collecting miles several years ago, but besides for some premium travel between the US and Israel, I never had an opportunity to really take advantage of them. When I first started playing the game, I was fascinated by Singapore Suites class, so in the beginning of the year when I heard about an excess of availability between LAX and NRT on the A380, I quickly transferred miles and booked two seats. I was able to hold two seats on AA First Class from JFK to LAX on the A321-T, but I never ended up confirming the seats. I was still unsure about my dates (I booked the seats in October), and didn't want to lock in something that wasn't as cheap to change as the SQ reservation was. I was determined to go on a trip, but couldn't get my act together and decide where or when. When the AA devaluation was announced, I knew that I had to fly Cathay on this trip as well. After realizing that my Singapore flight was on Simchas Torah (oops!), I started searching for Cathay availability. I discussed my trip with MEIR613, and decided that I wanted to visit Thailand, so I was looking for availability into BKK for the end of August. I managed to find one seat in first class for a date that worked, so I grabbed it. Within a few days, I found another seat on the next day, so I grabbed it for my wife, locking in the pre-devaluation rate. Besides for checking often for another seat to open up, I didn't do much on the trip for a long time.  I was on the 1:30 am Saturday night, and my wife was on the 1:30 am Sunday night. Eventually I was able to switch her to the 10:00am Sunday morning.

Since I was still unsure about my dates, I didn't book my hotel before the LM switched from a category 2 up to a category 3. I was pretty bummed out, but at the end of June I booked 6 nights for $622.68 with my Citi Prestige for a total of ~$520 after the 4th night free credit. This brought the cost down to about $85 a night, which was something I could definitely live with. Just about a week before the trip, I switched myself onto the 10:00am. My flight was F3, and I decided it was better to take the 10:00 am and lose some time in CNX than risk not getting onto the same flight. Once this was confirmed, I booked our flights from BKK-CNX on Thai Smile for ~$65 per person (More on that decision later). It was at this point I realized that even though I had originally been so careful to book our connection from HKG-BKK on a flight with the international business class configuration, in my excitement to finally get us on the same flight, we were now flying on a the regional configuration.

To prepare for the trip, I purchased a portable power bank (which ended up working extremely well, despite feeling cheap), and meals from Pomegranate. The meals turned out to be totally unnecessary, but since my wife is a picky eater I felt it wasn't worth the risk to have her be hungry. I also brought some bagels, peanut butter, cream cheese, crackers, and other snacks. We spent Saturday night packing, getting barely any sleep. Shmueli2007 was kind enough to drive us to JFK in the morning, and our trip was finally beginning!

For some reason there were quite a few people in the first class check in line, so we had to wait a few minutes. I tried to get them to check my bag all the way through to CNX, since they have an interline agreement, but the agent explained that I'd have to claim my bag in BKK anyway. After my wife finished getting a full body pat down, we made our way to the British Airways Galleries Lounge. Although it's definitely not a bad lounge, it's far from impressive. At first I found it very strange that an airline like Cathay would use such a lackluster lounge in one of their major markets, but after completing my trip with them and gaining a better understanding of the airline, it made sense. More on that later as well.



Once they announced boarding, we made our way to the gate. I was a little bit disappointed that they when they tore our tickets they only left us with the tiny stub. Nevertheless, when we got to the end of the jet-bridge and showed our stubs, the magic started. The flight attendant's face lit up as she saw we were first class, and she showed us to our seats. I had made sure to select 1A and 2A, as they have the left aisle all to themselves, but it quickly became very clear that there were no bad seats in this cabin. Although they are not fully enclosed, when you are seated it feels like you are completely alone. There was only one other first class passenger anyway, and we did not see or hear him the entire trip. The flight attendants introduced themselves, and offered to take pictures of us when they saw us snapping selfies. After bringing us our drinks, they brought the amenity kits and pajamas. The Cathay pajamas are very comfortable, but I do wish that the pants had pockets.

The flight was uneventful, but very enjoyable. The food was edible but nothing to write home about. Shortly after takeoff, the inflight service manager came over to chat with me. She explained how she had worked for Cathay for more than 30 years, but would soon be retiring. She gave recommendations of things to see in Chiang Mai, and even wrote down a list of fruit to try. We had two flight attendants, a man from Hong Kong named Ansen, and a woman from Seoul named Michelle. They had both been with Cathay for 20+ years, and it was clear that they loved their work and took a lot of pride in doing it well. I loved how they even tucked me in! I pushed the call button twice, and the first time Michelle was there before I even had my finger off the button. The second time I pushed it, I think they must have been sleeping or something as it took a while for someone to come. I had an interesting conversation with Ansen, where he explained that some other airlines have suites and bars and showers, but they still had the old 777s with an old first class product. He said they were still a small Hong Kong local airline, and with that attitude it made a little more sense to me that their away-from-home lounges would be the way they were. He also mentioned that eventually their A350s would be getting a new first class product, but I don't know how reliable that information is.



 At the end of the day, Cathay Pacific lived up to expectations in a major way, and my expectations were very high. The seat comfort that everyone always lauds is not exaggerated. The service was attentive, but not over-bearing. They definitely take a much more hands-off approach, as most people who have flown them will tell you. Before this flight I had only flown Lufthansa in first class, and compared to them Cathay was definitely less personal, but not necessarily in a bad way. I felt very well taken care of, but I was still able to enjoy the first real alone time I'd had with my wife in a very long time. To that end, I feel like not having wifi on the plane was a definite plus, as there was really not much else to do but spend time with each other. I was not so impressed with the entertainment selection, besides for The Martian which I thought was a great movie.

After landing in Hong Kong, we made our way to The Pier. It was a far walk, and we had some trouble finding it once we got to the gate it was next to. There's a little elevator that takes you down stairs. The lounge was impressive. The spa wasn't available, but the showers were great, and the views of the tarmac were excellent as well.











After my shower we just relaxed in the comfortable chairs and had a few drinks. I didn't know that you could order Kosher meals for the lounge, but we weren't really hungry anyway. After a little while, I had another walk around the lounge and noticed on one of the monitors that the A350 flight to BKK was still there, and it was scheduled to take off at the same time as our A330 flight! It must have been delayed, as it was originally scheduled to take off before we landed in HKG. I went to the desk and tried to have them switch me, but was told it was way too late as they had already started boarding. That's when I realized that I was also dangerously late for the flight we were booked on. I got our things together, and made my poor wife run with me to the gate. On the way I stopped at the A350 gate and tried to get them to switch me, but it was way too late.



When we finally arrived at our gate, we saw that all the passengers were already boarded. The gate agents were waving at us and telling us to hurry. We finally made it to the plane, and saw that everyone was already seated. The flight attendant said "Ah, there you are!" and showed us to the last two empty seats in the cabin. I didn't manage to get a picture before we sat down, so I snapped a few before we deplaned at the end.



Once I sat down, my disappointment at missing the A350 lessened as I realized that this was a solid product. Obviously there's no substitute for a lie-flat seat, but if you aren't flying flat Cathay's new regional domestic product is an excellent option. The seats felt brand new and were very comfortable. The recline was great and I actually managed to get some decent sleep on the relatively short flight to BKK. The food was Hermolis and was easily the best airplane meal I ever had.

Upon arrival in BKK, we had to clear immigration, collect our bags, recheck in to Thai Smile, and clear security. I found it very interesting that on a $60 ticket, they had no problem checking two bags for free, never mind that one was overweight for an economy ticket. They also managed to provide drinks and snacks. We were exhausted during this layover, and it was then that I realized that it wasn't so worth it to take an extra stop in order to get a better business class product on the second leg (especially since we didn't even end up on the one I wanted!). Even in premium cabins, traveling for so long is extremely draining. The flight from BKK to CNX was very shaky but otherwise very pleasant. When we boarded, the flight attendants bowed to us with their palms together. This was my first experience with what would come to be one of my favorite parts of Thailand.

Although I knew that transportation in CNX was extremely cheap, I was so exhausted that I just emailed the hotel and asked them to provide a car to pick us up. It was 550 Baht (~$15) for a Camry, and 950 (~$27) for a Mercedes E Class. Coming off of Cathay First I was still feeling very fancy, so I booked the Mercedes. When we arrived in CNX, there was a woman waiting with a Le Meridian sign. She escorted us outside to where our car was waiting.



It was a nice car but it was totally unnecessary.   The thing that surprised me was that they drive on the other side in Thailand. It was my first time being in a country where they did this, so it definitely took some getting used to.



I felt very bad when I realized that the lowest bill I had on me for a tip was a $20, and I was going to ask the front desk to change it over so I could give something smaller, but the driver drove off as soon as he took out our bags, before I had a chance to do anything. Problem solved.

The hotel lobby was very impressive and I knew we were going to enjoy ourselves.



I asked about the possibility of upgrading, but they weren't willing to do anything complimentary and I was so tired so I just dropped it. We were in a standard room which was very decent, and they even had a nice welcome amenity as it was our anniversary. I felt bad wasting it, but what can you do.





If you made it this far, thank you very much for reading the first installment of my first trip report! I apologize for the low quality pictures. I hope to finish the report in two more posts, one to cover our time in CNX, and the last to cover our trip home.

A big thank you to MEIR613 for his constant advice, Shmueli2007 for being a major part of the planning, and of course to my wife for agreeing to leave our daughter, and go across the world to a foreign country.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2016, 02:06:36 PM by jj1000 »

Offline Luvtotravel

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Re: Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2016, 12:38:49 PM »
quick, down to earth, pertinent information, loving it!
Don't wait for the perfect moment; take the moment and make it perfect.

Offline shmueli2007

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Re: Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2016, 12:46:38 PM »
Great review, many should learn from you, love the details. ;)
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Online mochjas

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Re: Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2016, 01:06:09 PM »
Its pretty sad when your airplane seat is bigger than your hotel room  ;)

Offline shauly

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Re: Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2016, 01:18:54 PM »
Great review, many should learn from you, love the details. ;)

quick, down to earth, pertinent information, loving it!

Thanks guys!

Its pretty sad when your airplane seat is bigger than your hotel room  ;)

Haha, don't worry, we got the suite in the end, stay tuned!  ;) Although the regular room was perfectly fine as well.

Offline shauly

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2016, 02:31:40 PM »
Fixed the links in the first post, all images should be working now.  :)

Offline ual902

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2016, 04:20:20 PM »
wow very nice

Online tzifanya54

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2016, 12:04:33 AM »
Great start. My Cathay pajamas have pockets. I guess they changed them.

Offline shauly

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2017, 11:55:27 AM »
After a long delay, I present part two. It's been a while, so I'm going to do my best to remember as many details as possible.

We had arrived to the hotel exhausted, so we didn't have any plans to wake up early. We were spending a relatively long time in Chiang Mai based on what other people have done, so we weren't in a rush. When we woke up, we decided to check out the Chabad for lunch. We chose to walk the ~12 minutes or so, since we didn't have any Baht yet, and we wanted to get a bit of a feel for the city. Our first impressions were that it was hot and humid, and the traffic flow is insane. This was our first time in South-East Asia, so we hadn't experienced anything like it before. The walk was fine, but all the other trips we took a tuktuk for 50-100 Baht ($1.50 - $3).





The menu at the Chabad house was cheap and not fancy, but everything we tried was great. I recommend the burger.



After we ate, we withdrew some Baht, and got sim cards right across the street. I don't remember the exact amounts, but it was pretty cheap. We then went to Yisrael at 669 Tours, right next to the Chabad to plan the rest of our day. My wife was expecting at the time, so we weren't able to do many of the main attractions. Yisrael made recommendations of activities that she could safely do. For the first day, he recommended the "Grand Canyon" and "The Factories". I say it that way because neither of those names really explained what the so called attractions were. Before we could finalize, he had me go back to the hotel to get our passports which we had left in the safe. He got me a ride with a kid who looked like he was 11. On the way to the hotel, I didn't realize that there were handles on the bike, and I instead held on to his sides for dear life. I'm pretty sure he was making fun of me in Thai when we got back..



 We also arranged to do an Elephant program the next morning. Unfortunately there were no whole day programs available for the whole week, so we had to settle for a half day. I think it was around 1800 Baht per person, including the driver. We paid around 800 Baht for the tour for that afternoon, and after a short wait a driver was ready to take us.



He drove us for a while until we got out of the city, and eventually we got to our first stop, the Grand Canyon.







The Grand Canyon was a pretty big let down as it wasn't terribly impressive, and the main activities all involved jumping off the cliffs and swimming, which we weren't prepared for or interested in doing.

Unfortunately the factory tours weren't much better, as they were simply a bunch of different very hard sell tourist shops with extremely aggressive salespeople who followed you around and harassed you. After a few stops, we asked our driver to take us back to the hotel. I think he was disappointed as he probably got a commission for bringing tourists to the shops. I definitely recommend skipping the factories and the Grand Canyon.

Most of the stops didn't allow photography, but I managed to sneak a picture of one of the jewelry show rooms.



After getting back to the hotel, I went to the front desk to ask if they were able to upgrade us. They weren't able/willing to do anything complimentary, so I ended up paying $288 to upgrade to a suite for the remaining 5 nights. I was even able to call Citi on my return and get them to issue the 4th night free credit including the upgrade cost. They gave us our new keys, and offered to transfer our luggage, but we did it ourselves as we hadn't unpacked anything the night before. When we got to our corner suite, I thought it was odd that it wasn't in the corner. When I opened the door, I realized that someone else was staying in the room.  :o Luckily they weren't there at the time. The front desk staff was extremely apologetic, and they gave us some vouchers for free drinks, and then escorted us to the new room. The suite is great, and considering it's typically not that much more expensive than a regular room, I would definitely recommend upgrading.









For dinner we went to Chabad again, and then walked back to the hotel through the night market. The market was a lot of fun and was great to just walk around and window shop. Many of the stall keepers even spoke enough Hebrew to use it to grab our attention.



A lot of the merchandise looks very convincing, but it's pretty low quality and will likely fall apart shortly after you get home.  ;D Still, the fake RayBans were good enough to use during the trip, and you can get them for ~$3 if you bargain.



Next up, elephants, massages, Night Safari, tigers, monkeys, and crocodiles!

Offline shmueli2007

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2017, 03:02:36 PM »
WOW, So interesting thanks!
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Offline Z56

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2017, 03:14:15 PM »
great report...
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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2017, 03:21:37 PM »
Beautiful! Thanks!

Offline sam28

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2017, 04:54:18 PM »
keep it coming .

Offline Denverite

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2017, 07:31:25 PM »
Great TR! Looking forward to the next installment.

Offline Proisrael

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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2017, 09:42:19 AM »
Oy the memories....Yisrael is usually good not sure why he sent you to those random places...