Author Topic: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)  (Read 7626 times)

Offline bendor

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #30 on: August 26, 2019, 07:47:31 AM »
Amazing TR so far, and I can't wait for the rest of it! Looks like you really enjoyed your trip in Japan. And I'm definitely taking notes on your packing tips.
You're giving me inspiration to go and finish my TR too.. ;D
I took the liberty of adding your TR to the list in the Japan Master Thread

It's been 14 years since I was at Costco in Japan, but I recall them having lots of kosher items like they do in their US stores.
We didn't visit a Costco either, as IINM they are all located in suburbs, and not easily accessible by public transportation - so out of the way for most tourists who aren't renting a car.

Offline iluv2travel

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #31 on: August 26, 2019, 11:39:26 PM »
By far one of the most enjoyable TRs I've read. Looking forward to the next installment!

Offline iluv2travel

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #32 on: August 26, 2019, 11:42:30 PM »
These bags (Large ebags type) are much larger then you expect and can really fit so much. We packed all summer clothing so definitely took less space then winter clothing would. My husband and boys took mostly shorts, t shirts. Younger kids clothing bags definitely had extra space. Also keep in mind we each took sweatshirt, sweatpants, kind of stuff on carry on.

I was going to buy these cubes for my family but never got around to it. I just went away with my family for a couple of days not too far from home, but boy am I regretting that I didn't get these. I keep thinking how much easier and more organized the packing and unpacking would be. As soon as I'm back I am not procrastinating and will make sure to order so they're ready to go the next time we travel.

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #33 on: August 29, 2019, 01:55:10 PM »
Fascinating and mesmerizing!

My one question is how you have enough points to take such extravagant trips yearly? You said you are very stingy with your points since you "work hard to accumulate a large volume of points (without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year)" but still, this trip cost a few hundred thousand points, how do you recoup so much so fast that you can take another trip in just a year?

If you don't MS (which to me is spending thousands a year) what do you do to net such large amounts on a yearly basis?
If it's not free shipping it's not worth it.

Offline iluv2travel

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #34 on: August 30, 2019, 01:33:30 AM »
Fascinating and mesmerizing!

My one question is how you have enough points to take such extravagant trips yearly? You said you are very stingy with your points since you "work hard to accumulate a large volume of points (without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year)" but still, this trip cost a few hundred thousand points, how do you recoup so much so fast that you can take another trip in just a year?

If you don't MS (which to me is spending thousands a year) what do you do to net such large amounts on a yearly basis?

Collecting lots of sign up bonuses between self and spouse can generate lots of miles and points without needing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. This obviously has to be done strategically but someone who is organized like the OP can do it  :).

This is just me speculating, perhaps OP has a completely other strategy and will enlighten us.

Offline CR

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #35 on: August 30, 2019, 10:37:07 AM »
Fascinating and mesmerizing!

My one question is how you have enough points to take such extravagant trips yearly? You said you are very stingy with your points since you "work hard to accumulate a large volume of points (without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year)" but still, this trip cost a few hundred thousand points, how do you recoup so much so fast that you can take another trip in just a year?

If you don't MS (which to me is spending thousands a year) what do you do to net such large amounts on a yearly basis?
Thank you! First of all not all of our trips are that extravagant. This was by far the most exotic and most costly with points. For example; last summer we went to Israel for 3 weeks and we all flew coach ( since this is an area we frequent I didn't want to create high standards for my kids by flying business every time). We did 5 nights at the WAJ / 2 rooms, opened a couple of Hilton cards for my husband and I, combined the points and took advantage of the points sale they had last year at WAJ + 5th night free of course. Although it took lots of planning and strategy, my kids say it was their favorite part of the trip. We also stayed in apartment through airbnb in Jerusalem (purchased with gift cards at 5x points with ink cc), spent a week in an apartment in Safed (our base for trips in the north) booked via Orbitz (took advantage of Daily Getaways deal $1000 voucher for $650) and couple of nights at points hotels in Tel Aviv and Dead Sea area.
I usually plan trips way in advance so it gives me time to focus on earning a lot of points in a particular area. My best advice I can give is to accumulate lots of points in different points /miles currencies so you can take advantage of flying the best way to a particular area cost effectively with points. Of course I focus on Chase/ Amex, but I love to have Jetblue, Delta, AA, Marriott as well. Of course things are constantly changing in the miles and points world so I constantly reevaluate. Personally my husband does own a business so definitely extra spending there but its not the kind that spends thousands a month. We spread our spending across many credit cards each month in order to maximize the ability to earn more points. I don't mind getting lots of bills each month ( they are mostly paid off before the statement closes- for credit score purposes) and I stay organized by tracking things online. I take advantage of fee free gift cards at Staples purchased with 5x points, as well as other store gift cards from there as well. I don't overdo any of this for obvious reasons. I also keep myself in the loop for many other ways to earn more points throughout the year. I guess in a nutshell I would say its many strategies combined as when to open a particular card, where to spend, take advantage of many offers, bonuses and every possible way that exists to earn additional miles and points as well as maximizing miles redemptions when booking tickets.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2019, 10:43:18 AM by CR »

Offline iluv2travel

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #36 on: August 30, 2019, 12:09:30 PM »
Cool  8).

So I wasn't that off target :). Good for you that you have the organizational ability to do this.

Offline TripsPls

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #37 on: September 05, 2019, 06:07:04 PM »
I was going to buy these cubes for my family but never got around to it. I just went away with my family for a couple of days not too far from home, but boy am I regretting that I didn't get these. I keep thinking how much easier and more organized the packing and unpacking would be. As soon as I'm back I am not procrastinating and will make sure to order so they're ready to go the next time we travel.

These are amazing! Each of my kids myself my husband get their own color.  When we go on a road trip and I donít want to bring out an entire suitcase I pack one set of clothes per person into each bag.  Then just have to grab a bag and usually keep an extra for pajamas and such.

Offline TripsPls

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #38 on: September 05, 2019, 06:08:20 PM »
Do you think itís possible to go on a trip similar to this and bring zero food? 

Offline iluv2travel

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #39 on: September 05, 2019, 11:00:03 PM »
These are amazing! Each of my kids myself my husband get their own color.  When we go on a road trip and I donít want to bring out an entire suitcase I pack one set of clothes per person into each bag.  Then just have to grab a bag and usually keep an extra for pajamas and such.

Just got my cubes from ebags today :). Each family member is assigned one color. Ordered them right after our last trip, no more procrastinating! Can't wait to get to use them.

Online tavster

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #40 on: September 10, 2019, 03:16:02 AM »
Amazing TR. Thanks for all the details

Offline solls108

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #41 on: September 10, 2019, 10:21:03 AM »
Amazing!!! Great TR so far! Cant wait to read the rest!

Offline theyankel

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #42 on: October 18, 2019, 09:41:45 AM »
Amazing!!! Great TR so far! Cant wait to read the rest!
bump

Offline CR

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #43 on: February 10, 2020, 09:51:55 PM »
Thailand
Here is some of the research and thought process that I went through for our Thailand segment of the trip. I needed to take into consideration flight options, schedules, hotel options with points, availability of Kosher food, activities our family would enjoy and weather predictions. Thailand is a very large country with lots pf popular tourist destinations. Phuket seemed risky since it is the monsoon season in the summer months and I figured we can have some of that experience in Koh Samui & Chiang Mai. So, I dropped the idea. That left us with Chiang Mai for its popular activities and Koh Samui for the beach, snorkeling and relaxation. I also researched best hotels with points in each area combined with amenities that are important for our familyís needs. Since the points I would use in Chiang Mai and Koh Samui would be with Marriott and Hilton which gives you the 5th night free when redeeming points, I decided to stay 5 nights in each of those cities. Next came the daunting task of playing with all the dates and finding availability in each of those hotels for 5 consecutive nights. Since I was flexible with what area to visit first there were lots of options on the table. I had to coordinate this with all the flight possibilities as well (my goal was to use the least amount of points or least amount of money). Cheapest way was to fly from Haneda airport in Japan to Bangkok and from there we had better flight options with points/cash and eventually the dates ended up working out.
We flew from HND to BKK on Thai Airways. We used 20K United miles per person (20K x 6 = 120K United miles). Thai is part of Star Alliance. Flight was on a 747 and was approx. 5.5 hours long. We were each allowed 1 free check in luggage. Very impressed with the service of Thai Airways. Kosher meal was served from Stogel caterers Ė was inedible. Customs in Bangkok went smoothly. We exchanged some money in the airport since I knew I would need them for the taxi and then we ventured outside to find a taxi to the hotel. The taxi service is managed by airport or government employees. One needs to wait in a specific line depending on what type of taxi size you need and then you are given a ticket number and you find the cab in the lane with that number. The largest taxi size that was available was a mid-size SUV which would not fit all of us and our luggage. She told us to split up, so my husband went in one with some kids and I went in another one with the rest. Taxi service in Bangkok is either set by the driver or by meter, always ask for the meter b/c they will overprice the trip. At the start of the trip my husband noticed his driver started the meter at a higher number than my meter started, we were communicating via WhatsApp throughout the trip and although he was right behind our cab, his numbers were climbing way faster than mine. He started asking the driver questions but he wouldnít understand English. So, I was trying to explain to my nice female driver what was going on in my husbandsí taxi, eventually she understood and said she would talk to him at the hotel when we arrived. We arrived at the hotel and sure enough my husbandís fare was 200 Baht more than mine (it was same size car and took same amount of time). My driver got into a heated conversation with the other driver (had no idea what was said) but at the end he agreed to charge the fare that was on my car meter. Wow! This came as such a shock especially coming from Japan where things are run perfectly. We saw how people in Thailand can be dishonest and will do anything to take advantage of tourists.

20190710_155923 by cr**, on Flickr
Taxi Service at Bangkok Airport
 
Bangkok
We stayed in the Intercontinental Bangkok for 1 night. I booked 2 rooms (1 king + 2 Double beds) paid for them with one Chase IHG anniversary night and second room with 40K IHG points. I made 2 separate reservations and weeks before the trip I emailed them to combine both reservations and to have the rooms be connecting. The usual hotel response is ok, they will try but no guarantee. Luckily, I have older kids so itís not the biggest issue for 1 night, however it is way more convenient. We lucked out and were able to get adjoining rooms with a great view of the city and skyline. Rooms and bathrooms were beautiful and very luxurious. At check in I asked if they have a folding bed for the King size room and sure enough, they brought us one for my daughter to sleep on (they did not charge us for it). Important to note both rooms had a smaller size couch that a small child can sleep on. My 7-year-old son slept on it in the other room. Plus, you can always ask for as many pillows & blankets as you want to make them comfortable. Hotel even had a pillow menu for us which was definitely nice after the long flight. Staff was friendly throughout this short stay and they all kind of give you a bow in traditional Thai gesture and offer to do anything for you. Throughout our entire stay in Thailand they all do this to you and it makes you feel very welcome and is appreciated. We checked out the lovely pool on the rooftop of the Intercontinental but unfortunately didnít have much time to swim since we were tired from the trip and very hungry.
We took a taxi from the hotel to Chabad Bangkok Meat Restaurant. In Bangkok you need to ask for the meter (make sure it starts at 0). Many will offer you a fixed price but it is cheaper with the meter there. I donít remember the actual cost of the taxi but itís very cheap. Food was delicious and priced very cheap when paying with USD. The menu at the different Chabad restaurants we went to in Thailand is similar and similar in pricing as well. We pretty much tasted most of the foods throughout out Thailand trip and took some pictures to show you all. There is a dairy pizza restaurant next door which is run by Chabad as well. Chabad had ongoing minyanim for mincha/ maariv while we were eating which was really nice. They have a bakery as well so I bought fresh pitas, baguettes, rugalach and other pastries for the next day. We walked around the area near Chabad and got a taste of the Thai culture and lifestyle. There are many people making very little money, living conditions are really low and people are very hard working. You can find massage places literally every few feet and prices are so cheap. Some places are definitely nicer than others for a little more money which is totally worth it. They are even doing back massages outside in front of the store. Lots of open market areas and people are selling anything and everything and beg you to buy. Lots of scooters and larger type tuk tuk scooters for taxi service (see pictures) and they are always bargaining with you to get you to use them. Tourists really stand out in Thailand and we were always approached by someone to buy something or for a ride. Also, wherever you go in Thailand it is all about the king of Thailand, his picture is everywhere and the words ďLong live the KingĒ is practically any place it can be. They literally worship him in every way possible.
When we returned to the hotel, we made arrangements and scheduled 2 taxis (we wouldnít fit in 1 with all our luggage) to take us to the airport the next morning for our flight to Koh Samui. Scheduling a taxi to the airport through the hotel is a set amount of money is more costly but for this circumstance we needed to do it so we can be on time for our flight.

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Long live the King signs all over the place in Thailand

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Entrance to the Intercontinental Bangkok

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Lobby at Intercontinental Bangkok

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King Size room at Intercontinental Bangkok

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2 Double beds in Intercontinental Bangkok

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Bathroom in Intercontinental Bangkok

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View from our room at Intercontinental Bangkok

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Another view from our room

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Rooftop pool at Intercontinental Bangkok

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Massage parlors near Chabad Bangkok and everywhere else you turn

IMG_20190710_191422 by cr**, on Flickr
Dinner at Chabad Bangkok

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Dinner at Chabad Bangkok

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Dinner at Chabad Bangkok

IMG_20190710_181333 by cr**, on Flickr
Taxi Service in Thailand

DSC03257 by cr**, on Flickr
The streets of Bangkok

DSC03253 by cr**, on Flickr
Bangkok Streets

Offline CR

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #44 on: February 10, 2020, 11:46:03 PM »
Koh Samui

We booked 6 tickets in economy with Bangkok Airways from BKK to USM (Koh Samui). Bangkok Airways is the local airline that I believe dominates the local flights in Thailand. They have flights almost every hour to different parts of the county from BKK. Although you can use miles (JAL, Flying Blue etc.)  to book these flights I wasnít finding availability for 6 at the times we wanted to fly. I ended up booking direct on Bangkok Airways website for approximate cost of $100 per ticket. I paid for it with my Barclay Arrival card which ended up being free with redemption of my Arrival points.
Check in was really easy and quick. One important thing to note is that every person has a 20 kg allowance for baggage, which is approximately 44 pounds. The amazing thing with Bangkok airways is that they add up the weight allowance for all passengers on the same itinerary and will allow that total weight for all bags combined. In our case all our bags could have a total weight of 120 kg. Each bag is weighed and then added to make a total weight. (For example, one bag can be 30 kg and one can be 10 kg, all that matters are the total combined weight for all passengers.) This is really nice and alleviated a lot of stress.
We visited the Blue-Ribbon Club Lounge which is the only domestic lounge with Priority Pass. The lounge was relaxing and had these very expensive high-quality massage chairs which we all took turns using throughout the 1 hour we spent there. They do have showers in that lounge too, but we didnít end up using them. They had lots of fruit that was cut up and we asked for whole fruit and they brought us a bunch. We ate breakfast in the lounge too.
Flight on Bangkok Airways was pretty cool. Reminds me of the interisland flights in Hawaii. Although the flight is scheduled on paper for 1.5 hours, the actual flying time is less than 1 hour. We had seats in the front of the plane. They served a snack and a sandwich to all the passengers, we obviously declined because we keep Kosher and then was notified by the flight attendants that you can order kosher food online when making a reservation. Since I never expected more than a drink on these short flights, I never bothered to enter our special diet when booking the flight. I guess thatís what happens when you donít get a meal on flights from the east coast to the west coastÖ you donít even think about being offered any food on a 1-hour flight. (The same thing happened on our next flight from USM - CNX, we declined the food and the flight attendants said the same thing). I have no idea where the kosher food would be from, would love to hear from other people if they have ever gotten kosher food on these flights. We had window seats in the front of the plane and since there were plenty of empty seats, we kept on switching seats between the right and left side of the plane to be able to take in the most gorgeous view that we experienced the entire flight especially towards the end. We werenít sure which side would have the best view, it turned out the left side of the plane had a better view. As you are nearing Koh Samui there are tons of islands of all different sizes surrounded by blue/ green turquoise water, itís just gorgeous!
Arrival in USM airport is similar to many small islands around the world. Open airport type. You walk down the steps of the plane and are taken by tram to the airport. Luggage arrived quickly. I had made arrangements with Mr. Samui (mrsamui.com) through WhatsApp (+66 89 0606440) for transportation from the airport to our hotel. He charged us 2200 Baht to the Conrad for 6 people and 9 pieces of luggage (we had 4 carry-on luggage plus 5 suitcases). Communication was easy and he sent us map of airport and where he will wait for us, picture of his large air-conditioned van etc. He had our flight times and it all worked out smoothly. He does many island trips as well, but I didnít schedule anything in advance since I knew I can do it at the travel agency near Chabad. I wasnít sure what to compare his prices to so I figured I would wait and can book at a later time if he would be cheaper. Since we were staying from a Thursday morning to Tuesday, I figured we would schedule it when we went to Chabad for dinner. I am usually the type to schedule things in advance but I knew we wouldnít be taking so many day trips since we were staying at a nice resort, plus we were here for 5 nights so we can schedule things ourselves once we got there and explore the options in length. It turns out it worked out great for our situation and there are so many trip options all over, so you wonít miss out.

Some pictures from the plane as we are flying into Koh Samui

20190711_103009 by cr**, on Flickr

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Bangkok Airways Plane in Koh Samui Airport

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Samui Airport


Conrad Koh Samui

The biggest draw for me coming to this island was for this luxury all villa hotel with private pools. Most of the hotel is made up of 1-bedroom villas with only a handful of 2-bedroom villas and maybe like one 3-bedroom villa. (We had spoken to one of the managers during our stay and apparently there are plenty more 2- and 3-bedroom villas that have yet to be completed, something about the Chinese investor/owner not being able to import the necessary materials to finish those villas ??) Anyways, since we are a family of 6, we needed more than 1 bedroom. I had 2 options here, I can reserve 2 separate one bedroom villas with points or reserve a 2 bedroom villa with points or cash (Cash rate for a 2 bedroom villa was astronomical and the points rate was very high too and not worthwhile). Thankfully I read the trip report written by Denverite about her trip to Koh Samui and that she upgraded with cash a one-bedroom villa reserved for with points to a 2-bedroom villa. We messaged back and forth and she was very helpful with this and other things- Thank you Denverite. I decided to book the 1-bedroom villa with points and wait for an email from the manager to upgrade. I used 95K HH points x 4= 380K points for 5 nights (5th night was free). Sure enough I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to a 2 bedroom villa at a cost of 10,000 baht per night (approximately $330 per night) which I did. By the way we are Hilton Diamond members. I upgraded my regular Amex Hilton to the Aspire card a few months earlier. The reason I upgraded it was with this particular trip/hotel in mind. I charged the upgrade to me aspire card earning 14x points per dollar charged on that card. I also got a $250 credit back from the card which is one of its perks. I got the credit for the upgrade I paid when I arrived at the hotel. Upgrading to the 2 bedrooms was the smartest thing I did for my family. First of all, since each room is its own villa, having 2 one bedroom would be needing us to walk 50 ft to the next-door villa since they are spaced out. That would really hamper the family relaxation time we hoped to spend at this resort. The size of a 1-bedroom villa is 130 meters and the size of a 2 bedroom is 297 meters. The 2-bedroom pool villa is not just an extra room but literally an entire 2 story house. By the way all villas come with a private infinity pool in this resort. When you enter the villa, you walk into a private garden area with 2 chairs overlooking the private pool downstairs and views of the ocean and 5 islands, which we can see from all over the villa. Since all villas are built on different levels on a mountain, all villas have ocean view, however some will have views of the 5 small islands in the nearby distance which is absolutely stunning especially during sunset. From the garden area you have a door to the villa. Villa is 2 stories. The first floor that you walk into has large living room with sectional sofa, apple tv, glass doors that open to the grassed in patio I described earlier, and glass doors that give you direct view of ocean at all times.  Dining room table is large can easily fit 8 people (comes with 4 chairs but we used desk chairs for additional seating), Full size kitchen with full size fridge/ freezer, stovetop, sink, microwave, Nespresso, pots pans, small appliances etc. There is also a half bath on main floor. There are stairs to walk down to the bedrooms and pool level. Lower level has Master Suite with King size round shaped bed, office area in master bedroom, massive walk in closet, bathroom is huge and spa like with round soaking tub, rain showers and double sinks. Shanghai Tang amenities throughout. 2 long sofas in master bedroom as well. From the bedroom you have glass doors that open up to the pool area/ seating etc. with stunning views of the ocean. Second bedroom has large walk in closet too, 2 twin size beds, large sofa that allowed for additional kid to sleep on, big bathroom with soaking tub, shower etc. Desk area in room as well and also had glass door access to the pool area. From the hallway downstairs you have a doorway leading to the outdoors as well. Outdoor area has a 12-meter-long infinity pool with wide steps going down. Part of the pool was 3 ft and part of it was 4 ft deep. There were a couple of lounge chairs and table with couch and more chairs with umbrella. You can hang out there for hours. Pool was completely private and no one can see us and we didnít hear anyone else throughout our stay. By the way the resort was pretty empty when we were there. Villa is stocked with glass water bottles in every possible place that are replenished daily and at turn down service. Since the resort is on a mountain and goes around part of the mountain, they take you around in golf carts. You will need to reserve pickup about 5 10 minutes before you need to go somewhere. Since we are more people, we needed 2 golf carts to get around. Also, the 2 bedroom and 3-bedroom villas are located on a higher part of the mountain, which obviously has better views. The resort has many amenities which we tried to take advantage of, large pools, canoeing, snorkel equipment, beach chairs, spa, exercise, activity room for younger children, many yoga, boxing, Pilates type classes throughout the day, restaurants, bars etc. This resort is literally amazing, check it out online. My kids donít stop talking about it and was the best part of the vacation. This is luxury at its best for families and a phenomenal cost compared to US hotels. When we arrived, we were treated with welcome drinks and cool washcloths until our villa was ready. My kids really enjoyed what luxury had to offer. The Conrad offers free transportation to the Chabad area of town which is like a 30 min ride twice a day. 10 and 5 I believe. You need to make reservations in advance. They also have transportation back at 12 and 6 I believe.

DSC03703 by cr**, on Flickr
Being driven around in golf carts all around the resort

Living & Dining areas in our 2 bedroom villa

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View from living room sliding doors

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Private terrace once you walk through the outer door entrance to the villa

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The inside of the second door leading to our villa ( from the terrace)

DSC03660 by cr**, on Flickr
This is the inside of the outermost door leading into the villa- private terrace area with views of our pool down below and the ocean

DSC03534 by cr**, on Flickr
Full size kitchen ( not seen a small full size refrigerator)

IMG_20190712_073728 by cr**, on Flickr
Stairs from the main living areas to the bedrooms and pool level

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View when you get down the stairs- exit to the pool area is straight (Master bedroom is to the left and 2nd bedroom is to the right)

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Master Bedroom

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View from master bed towards the pool/ocean

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Another view from master bedroom ( notice 2 small sofas we moved together to make an additional bed)

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Office/ Workspace area in master bedroom (behind the bed area)

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Master Bathroom

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Shanghai Tang amenities

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2nd bedroom

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Another view from second bedroom towards the pool area

Private endless Pool
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View of pool from top floor

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View from pool area towards the upper level

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Views from the villa

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Being a Diamond member in this hotel gets you free kosher breakfast for your entire family. I communicated with the manager by email regarding our need for kosher food and also reminded them not to open the food packages (Another piece of advice from Denverite) which worked out perfectly thank god. Breakfast comes from Chabad fresh daily each morning, you can tell them what time you want the food to be delivered and they take care of it. (Friday afternoon you get another breakfast delivery in lieu of a Shabbos morning delivery). We didnít deal with Chabad at all regarding the breakfast. Apparently one of the mangers orders it daily from Chabad. Food was generous, fresh & warm. Look at picture below. This is what we got from Chabad daily: 6 baguettes/rolls, 3 containers of scrambled eggs and 3 containers of Shakshuka, 6 small containers Israeli salad, 6 containers Techina, 3 containers Matbucha and 3 containers Tuna salad and soda cans, plus all the necessary paper goods. Food can easily last for lunch as well if you can get more rolls/ baguettes or pitas from Chabad, which one can do when eating out dinner at Chabad. Now back to this absolutely insane hotel which blew us away when we arrived. 

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A few weeks before we arrived the hotel had us complete a pre arrival checklist with names and ages of our family members. It also gave us pillow choices etc. and some other things. When we arrived and were given a tour of our villa at check in, we were blown away at all the amenities. I would say mostly the kids were blown away at the luxury, beauty and comfort of the villa. They have stayed at countless hotels in the past but such luxury was not the norm for them. One thing we never anticipated was the bathrobes they had for all us embroidered with our initials and hung up in bathroom near we were sleeping. They also had slippers embroidered with our first names (which we were able to keep) and they were nicely placed in each of our walk-in closets. The pillowcases also had the initial of the person sleeping in that bed! All I can say was wow! They really made us feel right at home.

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Lobby area where we were checked in

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View from the lobby of some of the villas

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View of main pool

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View of beach area from above

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Embroidered slippers with our names!

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Bathrobes and pillows had our initials embroidered on it as well

Here is an overview of what we did in Koh Samui:

Thursday:

Arrival in late morning hours. Checked into Conrad at about 1 PM. Made ourselves lunch, taking advantage of our full-size kitchen. We had plenty of cheese which I used to make grilled cheese for all of us. We spent the afternoon in our villa enjoying the private pool while taking in the most beautiful scenery of the blue ocean and 5 islands. At around 5 we took the Conrad shuttle (large 12-15 passenger van) to the town area near Chabad. It is a 10 min walk to Chabad from where you get dropped off. Our initial impression of Koh Samui during the drive was that people here pretty much do whatever they want in many aspects. The island has one-way roads in each direction. Many of the road signs are not marked. Many of the roads are dirt roads and many of them are one-way roads which the driver moves to the side to let the other driver pass. Drivers drive pretty fast here and will pass as many as 4 cars at a time on the opposite side of the ride. Our drivers have done that many times and I am literally breathless until he gets back to his lane. To complicate driving on this island, there are more scooters/ tuk tuks, motorcycles, dirt bikes etc. than cars! They weave in and out the road in between cars and pass on shoulder and even on the line that divides both directions of traffic. Of course, they speed while doing this. Most drivers are not wearing helmets and are definitely not wearing any other gear. Apparently, fatalities on scooters/motorcycles is very high on this island. I also am aware that many tourists want to get this experience and try it out, and they are at a greater risk since they are not used to living the motorcycle life here versus these people who spend their entire life here have lots more experience with these roads. We have passed numerous accidents throughout our stay, and it didnít look good. Some interesting things we saw was a father riding with child behind him and the mom behind the child. We have seen moms riding while holding their baby in the other arm / dads do this too with their kids. I have seen a man riding and since the woman behind him was wearing a skirt she would sit sideways with both of her feet on one side of the motorcycle! People on this island are pretty poor too and many have homemade stands selling one or two items. Many people even have portable stove stops and have pots and cook up some local food and people literally sit down near the stand to have a home cooked meal. Pretty much anything you can imagine goes on here. When we walked to Chabad we passed many types of people and letís put it this way I wouldnít walk there on my own at any time of the day. We were constantly holding on to our younger children throughout the walk since we read to many stories about child kidnappings in these 3rd world countries. Just pointing out that we felt 100% safe and secure at the 5-star Conrad (and all the other high-end hotels we stayed in and with the tour companies we used for trips). They by the way have armed security booth at the bottom of the mountain before the drive up to the Conrad and then one needs to drive up and around the mountain for another 5-7 minutes to get to the main lobby. From there you can get a golf cart ride to your villa. Chabad in Thailand has a very warm inviting feeling to all guests. At every Chabad house we went to we werenít just restaurant customers. The Rabbi and his helpers (many volunteers over the summer months) would come over to us and introduce themselves and want to find out about us. We were able to get mincha/maariv prayers in during our dinner at Chabad restaurant. We ate at the meat restaurant and they have a dairy one next door as well by the way. Lots of Israeli tourists, families, singles, backpackers and other people from around the world visiting. When we finished dinner, we ordered Shabbos food for our entire family since we were staying too far away from Chabad to be able to join them for Shabbos meals. They have lots of choices and all kind of Shabbos food options. The manager at the restaurant told us they will be delivering our Shabbos breakfast Friday afternoon and since the Conrad is paying the delivery fee, we can add our Shabbos order to be delivered at the same time and wonít have to pay another delivery fee. I was able to be in touch with the manager by WhatsApp and we coordinated all this without a hitch. We also stocked up on pasties, pitas and baguettes so we can have for our Sunday trip. By the way delivery to the Conrad cost about $25 generally. After dinner we went next door to the Israeli storefront travel agency to talk about trip options for Koh Samui. They were very helpful and showed us videos on big screens of the popular tours so we can all choose as a family what interested us. I did not book any elephant/ atv /ziplining tours for Koh Samui since they are suited better for Chiang Mai. I guess the people only coming to one destination in Thailand will take advantage of them here. But I wanted to visit elephant jungles and see them in their environment. We booked a full day tour for Sunday to Ang Thong National Park also known as 42 islands, which includes boating around many of the 42 islands, swimming in beach, canoeing, snorkeling, optional hikes and more. We took a taxi home but not before bargaining with a couple of them first. No meters used here itís all one set rate. But boy were the prices different when we started asking around.
 
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The streets near Chabad

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Dinner at Chabad Koh Samui

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Dinner at Chabad Koh Samui

Friday:

 One of the things we discuss as a family prior to our trips is what everyone would like to do and what is important for them. We try very hard to satisfy them all throughout the trip as much as possible. Just a reminder we have children in various ages and they all have their goals and ideas of what this vacation is about. We obviously compromise a lot but itís really important for us on these longer trips to accommodate everyone so they have a good time and come back with memories of their special times. Many of my kids just want relaxation times at pools/beaches etc. So we dedicated a full day of staying at the resort and taking advantage of many of its amenities. I started each morning drinking my Nespresso coffee with my kids on the lounge chairs in front of the pool while watching a late sunrise. After we ate and got dressed, we went down to the main pool area which has a large infinity pool as well with lounge chairs in the water. We pretty much had the pool to ourselves most of the time. We then headed to the beach area which has hammocks over the water, lounge chairs on a floating dock and beach cabanas (no extra fee). The full-time beach attendant brought us all lots of cold-water bottles, fresh fruit and snacks which was so helpful on this hot sunny day. My kids loved playing in the white sand and played in the shade for a while. My husband and 2 older boys went canoeing (complimentary) in the water in front of us and we were able to see them the whole time. The took beautiful pictures of the resort while being in the canoe looking up at the resort. The beach has a very large shallow area that kids can explore and there are minimal waves if any. My husband found crabs, octopus, snails and other sea urchins with the kids in the shallow water. After lunch we checked out the gym, childrenís playroom and swam some more in our private pool. We were able to watch a beautiful sunset after candle lighting (we missed it the previous day because we went to Chabad for dinner). See some of the pictures we took on the other nights.

Main pool at the resort
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Beach Area
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Lounge areas around the resort

View of the Resort from the ocean while kayaking
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Some of the most stunning sunsets we have have seen!
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Saturday/ Shabbos:

We spend the day relaxing, eating, reading, sleeping, we took turns walking down to the ocean and relaxing. It took about 10 minutes to walk down and double that to walk uphill. Luckily most of the area was shady. After Shabbos we had some night family swim and went to bed early so we can be up on time for the big day trip the next morning.

Sunday:
 
We booked a trip to the 42 islands/ Ang Thong National Park through Mercaz Hametayel the Israeli travel agency near Chabad. All trips include pick up and drop transportation from your hotel. We had a 45-minute drive to the boat area. Where they offered breakfast (not kosher of course) and divided us with color coded bands according to the boat we were taking. There were about 30 people on boat and it was a smaller boat not a catamaran which we have done before. The company was pretty good and I have no complaints. We got adequate snorkel training on board and the had decent snorkel gear. We all had to use lifejackets when we snorkeled. We stopped for 45 min to 1 hour at a beautiful area to snorkel, near large rocks in the water. We then continued on the boat seeing many of the 42 islands of various different shapes and sizes. It is absolutely beautiful to see it in real life. We then continued on the boat for another Ĺ hour and stopped at another location surrounded by many of the 42 islands, they had canoes waiting for us on one of those islands and we divided up in the canoes and started canoeing and were following the guide in his canoe. The view of the islands from the water is even nicer. We canoed in and around smaller islands where our boat could not have traveled, our guide even brought us close to one of the small uninhabited islands to see wild wolves and other ones had wild monkeys in the trees. He also took us through some natural caves that were made out of rock. We canoed for about 45 min and we then reached the beach area of Ang Thong National Park which is the ďmain islandĒ in the 42 islands. They have beach facilities with lifeguards, food stands, park benches, bathroom facilities and most of all a hike up steps to get to see the most beautiful view ever from on top of the island. The tour included lunch and we were able to get whole fruit and cold water, besides for that we brought our own lunch. The tour then had 2 options, one to hike up over 1000 uneven steps of various heights (with your flip flops, of course?) or hang out and swim at the beach area which has an enclosed safe area for swimming. My husband ventured on the hike up the steps and I stayed back with my children because they were so tired. We swam in the very warm beach and had a great time, we even spotted monkeys in the trees near the beach and were able to photograph them. My husband on the other hand climbed a very tiring hike up a never-ending number of uneven/ unpaved steps that you literally must hold on to the rail at all times. And it took him a good 45 minutes to climb up. However, the views were unreal (see pics) and thank god he was able to take pictures for us to enjoy even though we werenít able to go up. After we left this island, we made a quick stop at another small island for an unparalleled view as well. We climbed up some steps (very easy for the kids to do) and saw this lagoon surrounded by other islands. The lagoon is turquoise in color and absolutely stunning. We were told the lagoon has lots of sting trays and swimming is forbidden there. The view of the lagoon from above and many of the smaller islands in the background is also a sight to admire its beauty. Overall great trip I would highly recommend. It is the main attraction here in Koh Samui. We were very happy with the company we used although I have not tried any other ones so I canít really compare. Sunday Dinner was much of our leftovers from Shabbos and some supplemental food we had brought, like fresh pasta etc.

Some pictures of the 42 islands national park
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The island we docked to have lunch and do the scenic climb for views

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View from above on the main island:

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Monday:

This was our last full day in Koh Samui, an island we enjoyed so much. We spent the day in complete relaxation which included spa time for me. We received a bonus Hilton points offer from the hotel if we spend a certain amount of money at the spa. So, I took advantage of that and enjoyed one of the local massage treatments at the Conrad. The kids spent much of their time relaxing and swimming in pool and beach. We ordered dinner from Chabad; menu is online by the way for all of the Chabad restaurants in Thailand. Since I already had the WhatsApp contact of the manager on my phone, I ordered the food that way. They have a $25 delivery charge to the Conrad.

Tuesday:

We made arrangements with the hotel to have the kosher breakfast from Chabad delivered earlier on Tuesday morning because we had a scheduled departure from our hotel at 7:30 AM. We ended up waiting a bit for the food but we had extra time allotted for these kinds of things so it wasnít a big deal. We had prearranged transportation to the airport with Mr. Samui (The guy that brought us from the airport to the Conrad.) His service was on time, comfortable air-conditioned vans and best of all we can communicate by WhatsApp so that is convenient in a foreign country.  Airport check-in was pretty smooth. We flew Bangkok Air from USM- CNX. Booked flights online on Bangkok air website for the same reason I did in the previous flight to USM. Paid with my Barclay Arrival card and was credited the full amount based on redemption of my points/miles. As I mentioned earlier their luggage weight policy is same for all their flights, they add up all allowed weight for all passengers in same group and add up all baggage and as long as itís less in total weight allowed, we are good. Flight was around 1 to 1 Ĺ hours in length. Pretty scenic most of the time as we saw lots of islands first and later on the mountainous region as we neared Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai

Arrival in Chiang Mai was pretty smooth. At the airport you are bombarded with taxi services, tour companies etc. We ended up finding a sales lady with one of the tour companies and offered us a free ride to the Le Meridian hotel where we were staying. She said we can sit in the lobby and talk about all the trips they offer and she gave me some general pricing prior and it seemed like it would be a good deal so we went with her. The airport is less than a 15-minute ride to the Le Meridian. She works with a local driver and is part of a larger company so we felt comfortable with her. I checked into the hotel and since our room wasnít quite ready yet we hung out in the lobby a bit. At that time, she showed me albums and pamphlets of various tours we can take. I ended up booking a full day tour to see the Monkey show, Tigers, Elephants etc. She had good prices when I converted things to the USD but since I didnít know Chabadís prices, I wanted to see what they would charge for the other activities. I figured I can always contact her for more activities as the days go on, she gave me her whatís app number and that made things easy. The Le Meridian is a Marriot hotel that can be booked with points and I would have gotten the 5th night free with points however booking 2 rooms with that amount of points wasnít worth it in this case since the cost per room per night is really low, just over $100 for the dates I booked. We paid with our Marriott card of course earning the extra points per dollar of course. The paid rate for both rooms also came with free breakfast. We were able to get 2 rooms next to each other, one had 2 twin beds and other had a queen bed. Both rooms have sofas as well which they converted at our request to beds, see pictures of before and after. At check-in my husband mentioned we keep kosher and they immediately offered to call the chef; they apparently have dealt with kosher before. We didnít know what they could do for us, but it didnít hurt to try. We sat down with the chef who knew a lot about kosher by the way (however he was talking of different levels of kosher some of which we werenít comfortable with like making us fresh salmon in foil etc.) However, he said he would send up to our room all kinds of whole fresh fruit and vegies for our family. He also sent up 6 raw eggs daily and we used our frying pan and our portable burner to make fresh omelets daily. Of course, we would still go down to the buffet but there wasnít much we could have there. Being able to have a fresh supply of eggs and produce delivered daily for free really made things convenient to supplement the breakfasts we had already brought from home. (cereal with non-refrigerated soy and almond milk and hot cereals.) We were able to get 2 rooms next door to each other but not adjoining. We walked over to Chabad for a late lunch and had some Shawarma and Falafel for lunch. Chabad restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is a meat restaurant. The also carry fresh baked goods like the restaurant in other cities (baked fresh daily pita, baguettes, rolls and pastries.) We stocked up on lots of those for tomorrows lunch since we had a full day trip planned. Chabad is a 10 minute straight walk from the hotel. Lots of religious Jews have stayed there in the past and they are familiar with many of the laws regarding Shabbos and kosher. The rest of the late afternoon we spent the day getting inexpensive massages at one of the parlors we passed (literally every 3rd or 4th store is a massage parlor). The kids got small back and foot massages and really enjoyed. Later we went swimming on the rooftop hotel at the Le Meridian. Hotel pool is beautiful, however coming from the Conrad it didnít seem that special and was a bit packed. We did hang out there for a little while. Most of my kids had a light dinner since lunch was so late and went to bed early. Earlier during our walk back from Chabad to our hotel I spotted a laundromat (part of the sign was in Hebrew as well) near the hotel (on the left side street when facing the hotel) and I brought many bags of laundry to them to wash. I sorted the bags according to color. They wash and fold the clothes and charge by the weight. Laundry takes 24 hours however can be done express for additional cost. I donít remember the price but it was really cheap and such a great service to have as it didnít waste any time from our days to do laundry.  Later that night my husband and I went out with my older son to explore the night market and grab a bite at Chabad. The Chiang Mai night market is literally on the side of the hotel and goes on for a couple of blocks to the right and some to the left. They sell all kinds of things, souvenirs and unique local stuff. We strolled down and checked out all the fake high-end clothing and watches which they claimed were authentic btw. Many of the Thai vendors speak Hebrew due to the influx of Israeli tourists that come to Thailand. They would see us and start talking Hebrew. We also heard lots of Hebrew as we walked through the market every day which was nice and made us feel at home in the midst of Asia. We bought a door sign that had our family name in Hebrew. The guy made it on the spot, he had all the letters and had it ready for us in no time. Later we went back to Chabad around 10 pm for a quick dinner and boy was the restaurant hopping. Seems like much of the crowd comes in later after they come back from their day trips. Chabad has security outside all their restaurants by the way and they have a secure gate as well. No need to bring passports however I did bring them in case, they just ask you questions and let you in. Many minyanim were going on for maariv at that time which was nice. We met many people from around the world and I always loved coming back to all the Chabad restaurants throughout Thailand. The restaurant is not a typical restaurant you would expect in other cities, it has an area of couches for people to relax, shul /prayer area. Many times, you will meet the Rabbi and his assistants and they are helping people out with anything they need. The food is at cost price so donations are very important at all the Chabad centers. On the way back from Chabad we stopped at the large open market which is in the center of the night market. We had outdoor back and foot massages and my son was brave a got a fish spa pedicure (see pictures).

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Lobby at Le Meridian Chiang Mai

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Room in Le Meridian

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Another picture of room/ bathroom and view

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View from our room

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Night market In Chiang Mai

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More massage parlors in Thailand!

Chabad Chiang Mai
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