Author Topic: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)  (Read 11026 times)

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.

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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

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Dinner at Chabad Bangkok

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Dinner at Chabad Bangkok

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Dinner at Chabad Bangkok

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Taxi Service in Thailand

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The streets of Bangkok

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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

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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.

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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)

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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

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Full size kitchen ( not seen a small full size refrigerator)

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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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« Last Edit: February 11, 2020, 12:10:35 AM by CR »

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #45 on: February 11, 2020, 12:39:59 AM »
Amazing TR. I enjoyed reading every line. Thanks for taking the time

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #46 on: February 11, 2020, 10:12:50 AM »
Wow!  Shibuya crossing puts kikar Shabbos to shame  :D

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #47 on: February 11, 2020, 06:37:04 PM »
Wednesday:

Today was a big day trip we planned with the tour company we met in the airport the day before. They picked us up between 830 and 9 from our hotel. The tour includes a driver and a guide for the entire day. The driver waits at the attraction and the guide takes you in and guides you through all the activities. She also keeps track of different shows and other time sensitive things we were doing to make sure we would be able to do and see everything we planned. I really enjoyed this part since I always do this on a day trip and the constant coordination accompanied with the distance to drive from place to place takes away from some of the enjoyment. Todayís plan was to visit Tiger Kingdom, Cobra Show, Monkey Show, Elephant Sanctuary and butterfly museum. The reason all these activities are done in one day is because they are all near each other and are about 1 hoursí drive from the hotel. So, it makes sense to do it this way. All in all the day trip worked out great and we had an amazing experience. Cobra show- included seeing many different snakes and reptiles prior to the show, some were poisonous and some were not. Many of them you can get to hold and you can feed many of the reptiles too. The Cobra show was unbelievable, 2 men do a show with 2 King Cobras, the broadcaster during the show would constantly hype this up and say ďone bite and he is deadĒ. Anyways, the guys did all sorts of tricks like kiss the King Cobra on is his lips and do all sorts of other things with them. They also had him release his venom in a cup and showed it to us all. Monkey show- was a bunch of tricks that monkeys did like riding a bike, playing basketball, and other sort of circus type tricks. We got to take pictures with a monkey next to us as well. They all take pictures of you and offer to sell them but I declined since I want to use the pics digitally for an album. Next, we went to Tiger Kingdom which was unreal. We all went into cages with tigers and have lots of pictures with them. Honestly after the experience you think about it and itís kind of crazy what we did and put our kids through but everyone is doing it and it seems like its OK and you donít want to miss out. There are different sizes of tigers, the larger ones are more money generally. The rule of thumb is that the person needs to be bigger than the tiger so that they donít see them as prey. My little 7-year-old son had no choice but to be with 2 one-month old baby white tigers since they were smaller than him. They charged 2500 Baht since it was so unique that they had these baby tigers and a special experience. The medium and small tigers were about 700 to 800 per person. They charge a fee for a photographer to go into the cage with you and photograph the experience. My daughter and I chose the small tiger (which was large in my eyes) I am average woman height and it was big. Since we were in the same cage, we paid one photographer fee and I wanted to be with her during the experience as well. My husband and 2 older boys went with the medium tiger- an even larger tiger and had the photographer take pics of them too. They email you the pictures by the way. My youngest was the first to go in the cage with the baby tigers. He had to wash his hands with Purell and wear a white lab coat. There were at least 5 people in this large cage (which was almost like a large room) with him the entire time. They gave him instructions and were moving around the tigers and repositioning my son many times. Next up my daughter and I entered a large cage the size of a very big backyard with trees and areas for the tiger to play and hangout. There were at least 6 people in the cage with us including the photographer. They use sticks to guide the tiger to different places and positions. I must say is was surreal when I sat on a bench in the middle of two tigers each lying down on one side of the bench. My hands were touching the tigers and they were warm and I can feel their heart beating. They were completely awake and did not looked drugged as many people think they do that to them. Being scared for my safety I kept on turning my head from the right to the left to make sure they werenít getting up. We got to take many poses with the tigers in different positions. It was scary but I am glad we had that experience. They could never get away with this kind of stuff in the US and I had to experience it here. My husband and boys had similar experiences with their tigers too and really enjoyed the thrill. Great experience and must not be missed on a trip to Chiang Mai. Next, we went to the Elephant Sanctuary, I believe it was called Maitaeng or something like that. It seems to be that there are 2 in the area and I read reports that this one is better. After watching an elephant show with circus type tricks, we watched 2 elephants paint two beautiful paintings. See the pictures. We watched them do it from scratch. The man will give the elephant the paintbrush and he dips it into the paint and paints with his nose. The painting is offered for sale and the money goes to help the elephants. By the way half the audience in the elephant show was Israeli. Lots of families. After the elephant show we went on elephant rides. Luckily this place offers wooden seats on the elephants so you are not actually sitting on them. I met someone that went to the other elephant place and they actually sit on them. Since it is a very wobbly ride for them, they fall off the elephant into the brown muddy water and climb back on. Not something I would have done or my kids would have liked. Thatís why I think this is better for kids and people that donít want to get into the dirty water with the elephants. Although we had a wooden seat for 2 people on one elephant the closure was a metal wire across (not securing us properly). Since the elephant ride is very wobbly and he goes in and out of the water and through the jungle/forest you will feel very insecure at times. Many times it will lean towards one side and you will slide to the other side. Luckily all the kids were able to do it with an adult near them of course. They enjoyed it a lot. On the way back we stopped at a butterfly garden which was nice. They also had an area where they were selling all kinds of jewelry made from orchids. They go through a process of dehydration and put lacquer on it and paint it as well. The stuff is gorgeous and they make all kinds of cool jewelry. Obviously is was a nice thing to see but it was added on with no extra fee and we enjoyed it. On a way home we asked the driver if the can drop us off at Chabad for dinner instead of the hotel, so we only have to walk one way. We were tired from the long day and it was hot and humid these days in Chiang Mai, about 100 degrees. We were famished at dinner and walked back to the hotel for a restful sleep.

Elephant Camp
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Tiger Kingdom
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This is the Small Tiger

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This is the Medium Tiger

One month old baby tigers
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Monkey Show
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King Cobra Show and Reptile World
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Poisonous venom in a cup from the King Cobra

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Orchid Garden/ Butterfly Sanctuary
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Jewelry Made from butterflies

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Jewelry made from fresh orchids

Thursday:

Today was a planned lousy day because we had an early evening trip planned to visit the Night Safari. We woke up late, swam in the pool, all got family massages and had dinner early at Chabad. We booked this trip with the Israeli travel agency next door to Chabad the previous night. We arranged for pickup from Chabad and drop-off at the hotel afterwards. This way it would save us the 10-15-minute walk in the heat. We ate dinner at Chabad and left from the travel agency next door. We left about 5 /530 and the driver took us in the Night safari and guided us around all the shows and activities so we would be able to see everything. We saw many animal shows with tigers, lions and bears. We saw some cool animals around that we can touch and hold other animals such as porcupine, iguanas, snakes and more. The highlight of the night safari was the tram tour in complete darkness, once we would reach an area of animals the driver would put on some lights. Since this is Thailand there are seemingly no rules in place and the animals are roaming around the open tram. The lions were behind a small fence right near us. Most other animals were pretty close to us as we drove by. The tram makes stops many times and we got to interact with the animals like zebras and giraffe and were able to get great pictures as well.

Safari Tram ride
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Friday:
 
Today we split up so we can get to do a fun trip that each of us enjoy. My husband and 16-year-old son went ATVing with a company called Ban Pong ATV. This was booked through the travel agency next door to Chabad. Trips include pickup and drop off from the hotel. They had a great time and had a bunch of Israelis with them in the group tour. I went with my 3 other children (ages 19, 10 & 7) to a ziplining trip. We went to Flying Squirrels and we also booked through tour agency next door to Chabad. Please note all our trips in Chiang Mai were booked once we arrived in the city. There are so many tours going on and you can even book the night before. We were picked up from the hotel and were in a van for about an hour. Our entire van was a Jewish group (all Israelis) besides for us. We felt really comfortable with the tour, many of the workers speak lots of Hebrew (they have learned this from the high influx of Israeli tourists that come to Thailand). We saw so many Jewish people at the zipline place, I would say roughly 65% of the people were Jewish when we were there. The zipline is a long course that includes many different types of ziplines and interesting zipline spinoffs, such as riding a bike, skateboarding, wall climbing etc. Check out their website. The weather was amazing due to being in the mountains and it was a very fun activity. My 7-year-old went on most ziplines himself and only a few select ones, he went together with the worker/guide. Since the day is long in the summer, we had time for massages and a swim before Shabbos which was nice. We made reservations the previous night for Shabbos meals at Chabad Chiang Mai. Meals are officially free but a donation is recommended obviously. The Le meridian hotel is familiar with Observant Jewish guests and will bring you to the room when you arrive back in the hotel on Shabbos.

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Flying Squirrels Zipline
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Saturday/ Shabbos:

We walked for all the meals to Chabad on Shabbos. The experience was unreal. Friday night we were scheduled for the first shift dinner and had over 200 people there and then there was a second shift at 930 PM. Many Israelis but also many other people from all over the world. Shabbos morning, I came with my younger kids early and they have coffee and cake for everyone and we could daven/pray afterwards. Lunch was a group of about 150 people (one shift) and was so nice as well. So happy that our children were able to share in this experience and meet all kinds of Jewish people from around the world. The singing was beautiful throughout the meals. Food was pretty basic Israeli style and very good. Thank you to Chabad Chiang Mai for this wonderful experience. We returned for Mincha prayers and Shalosh Seudos (final meal) which turned out to be a much smaller group like 40 people. We stayed for Havdalah and met some more people. Such an amazing experience. Chabad has security with a gate around the restaurant/shul. No passports are needed they just talk to you. After a day or two of coming to the restaurant during the week, the security guard knows you already. After the Friday night meal, we were a large group walking out and he wanted us to disperse quickly and not hang around there for safety reasons. He also had the next shift for the Friday night meal wait in a different area for safety reasons. Throughout our walks in the evening and night to Chabad we would walk through the night market. We always heard Hebrew in the streets. By the way My husband and boys were not wearing baseball caps on Shabbos and felt very safe with the yarmulkes on their head. After Shabbos we did some more souvenir shopping at the night market and began packing for our early morning flight.

Sunday:

 We had a 6:05 AM flight to Hong Kong arriving at 9:45 AM local time. Flight is approximately 2 Ĺ hours. For those keeping track of the time change throughout our trip Ė Japan is +14, Thailand is +12 and Hong Kong is + 13 (from the East Coast USA). We scheduled a taxi service with the hotel to take us to the airport at like 3:30 AM. The airport is less than 15 minutes away. Turns out the airline agents at the airport come in at 4 AM. Se we waited on line in order to check in our luggage. Air Asia flight is a low-cost carrier and cannot be booked with miles directly. I made this reservation online with Air Asia. I prepaid for checked luggage for the 6 of us as well (20 kg allowance). I booked with CSR Card even though I could have used my Barclay Arrival and gotten it credited with points. This airline doesnít have the best reputation (similar to Spirit in the US) and I wanted the travel protection that comes with a Chase Sapphire Reserve Booking, so I paid cash. Although I never flew Spirit, it kind of reminded me of that airline, seats donít recline and you need to pay for a water bottle on the flight. All in all no complains, we arrived on time in Hong Kong. Enjoyed the beautiful view of the city during landing and were excited to begin the final phase of our trip in Hong Kong.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2020, 06:42:58 PM by CR »

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #48 on: February 13, 2020, 07:22:07 PM »
Amazing TR! Looking forward to the HK segment!

Offline Mimo

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #49 on: February 13, 2020, 10:36:26 PM »
Amazing TR! Looking forward to the HK segment!
Same here

Offline CR

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Sorry everyone for the long delay in finishing the Hong Kong segment. I pushed myself to complete this before my next family trip that is coming up soon... Enjoy!

Offline CR

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Hong Kong
Sunday:

We flew Air Asia from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong early Sunday morning. Flight was surprisingly ok after expecting the worst and reading up about Air Asia online. We had to pay for water bottles etc but we were expecting that. Upon landing in Hong Kong we immediately felt closer to home and that feeling was hard to explain. It was a sense of familiarity especially coming from Japan and most recently 11 nights in Thailand. Some of the things we noticed immediately was hearing lots of English, not only were all the signs in English as well, the street names had common English words like Nathan st. A lot of American/ Western culture is intertwined in the Chinese/Hong Kong culture. English and Chinese are the official languages of Hong Kong.

20190721_082658 by cr**, on Flickr

View of Hong Kong from the plane

After exchanging money in the airport we proceeded to take the MTR train to Kowloon. Hong Kong is composed of a few main areas including Kowloon and Hong Kong Island which are separated by the beautiful Victoria Harbor. There are also new territories which are mostly parks and farms and then some outlying islands including a famous one called Lantau.  Most tourists will stay in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. There are advantages to staying in each area, we opted for Kowloon and chose the stunning Intercontinental Hong Kong as our hotel for the next 3 nights. We purchased one way tickets for the MTR in the airport. We didnít have to wait a long time for the train. The train was mostly empty, comfortable and very modern looking. There was plenty of storage space for our luggage as well. We had to switch trains in the middle and this allowed us to arrive right near the hotel. The area of the Intercontinental Kowloon is called Tsim Sha Tsui. Overall the train was convenient and very easy to get around.

When we arrived at the magnificent Intercontinental HK I knew we had made the right choice in choosing this hotel. The location is great and has beautiful views of Hong Kong Harbor/ Victoria Harbor. It is walking distance to Star ferry terminal (one of the ways to get to Hong Kong Island). Also walking distance to many attractions, high end shops/ malls, kosher restaurant and shul/ synagogue ( Kehilat Zion).
 DSC05263 by cr**, on Flickr

Intercontinental Hong Kong

We were very impressed by the beautiful landscaping, architecture and the high end look of HKI and Kowloon areas. The tourist and business areas are decorated so nicely and it is really welcoming to be in a place like that. Just a note we felt so safe in Hong Kong walking and traveling everywhere.
We stayed for 3 nights at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. We booked 2 connecting rooms for the 3 nights. This is how I paid for the rooms (based on the points I wanted to use at the time). Room 1- booked 2 nights with IHG points 70K IHG points per night x 2 =  140K ( mostly from IHG credit card signup). The 3rd night I paid $214 at Hotels.com (If you stay 10 nights a year- you get a free night valued at the average price spent on the 10 nights). The reason I decided to use this route was bc we had already stayed 3 nights in Japan (used $900 Hotels.com gift card I earned from the Pixel promo) I also knew my son and his friends would book more nights elsewhere at the end of the summer and I would earn my free night which we did. Room 2 was booked on the Chase portal using the CSR card -total 3 nights was 45,200 Chase points. Since I booked 3 different ways for the 2 rooms for 3 nights I emailed them to combine all the reservations into one and give us connecting rooms. I also asked for a roll away bed in each room, which was complimentary btw. They also acknowledged my IHG status (having the cc gives you that) and said they will upgrade to high floor with better view. The two rooms were connecting in a way I have never seen before: It is basically an outer door opening up to a small area and there you have the doors for the 2 rooms, so the actual rooms were private. We would only keep the outer set of doors locked and were also able to store all of our luggage in the entryway/area. That allowed us to enjoy our space in the room since it was not cluttered with all our entire luggage. The rooms were large and very spacious. (See pictures to better understand this).

IMG_20190721_115353 by cr**, on Flickr

King Size Room

IMG_20190721_115526 by cr**, on Flickr

Roll away bed we got in each of the rooms- complimentary

IMG_20190722_104759 by cr**, on Flickr

This is the area that combined our 2 rooms each door you see is the 2 rooms we got.

IMG_20190721_120239 by cr**, on Flickr

We even stored our luggage here. The double doors you see- lead to the hallway.

The rooms were on a high floor and we had amazing views of the pool area below and a partial view of the harbor and HKI. At night this view is unreal. One room had a King+ roll away (with a thick high end mattress btw) and other room had 2 queen beds + a roll away. Each room also had a sofa and a TV area so you can relax. Both rooms also have a really nice office area Ė especially the King size room. Bathrooms had a tub and shower all marble etc. Mini bar was stocked with many kosher items. Overall the amenities and high end items plus technology throughout were a 5 star experience. We received a number of complimentary welcome drinks due to our IHG status.  We also received a large bowl of fresh fruit daily x 2 rooms due to our status as well.

IMG_20190721_120640 by cr**, on Flickr

View from our room

IMG_20190721_120640 by cr**, on Flickr

Another view from our room- that is Hong Kong Island across the water

IMG_20190723_180012 by cr**, on Flickr

View of New Luxury mall being built adjacent to Intercontinental

IMG_20190723_180029 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190723_180032 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190722_191223 by cr**, on Flickr

Fresh fruit we got daily for each of our rooms

After arriving in our rooms we made lunch with the food we had and set out to walk to the Star ferry terminal to take the ferry to HKI. It is about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Cash is needed to buy the tokens used for the ferry. The ferry ride was very nice. When we arrived to HKI with the kids we were feeling really hot and tired. It was a pretty hot/sunny day and the tiredness from waking up at 3 AM in Chiang Mai started to kick in. Our goal initially was to explore some popular areas in HKI near the ferry terminal. However since we needed to cool down and stay out of the sun for a little while we made a quick decision to visit the HK Maritime Museum which was right near us at the time. Although this was not something I had researched and planned to do in our 3.5 day trip to HK, I had to do what was right for our family at that time. It was a very nice museum and we learned a lot about the history of HK, all bout trade, shipping and naval warfare. There are lots of model ships on display and it was very child friendly.  We learned a lot about the trade in this part of Asia which was very interesting to all since it is literally a hub for shipping and we actually saw that throughout our travels around Hong Kong over the few days we stayed here. Thankfully we are flexible with our travel plans and donít get caught up if we are not doing everything we planned to do and we make the best out of it. It is very important to us to keep the general attitude of our children happy and content throughout the trip and many times we have to make small last minute changes to accomplish that and by all means itís worth it. We all end up with amazing memories of the trip. The museum was nice and cool and really energized us for those few hours and kept us indoors during the hottest time of the day. After the museum we continued with our self guided walking tour in HKI (I researched some areas prior of nice cool things to see.) It is amazing to see it from up close, the cool architecture throughout amidst high end landscaping and dťcor. Hong Kong Island is very hilly, mountainous and that also adds to its beauty. Since many streets are on different levels, there are many outdoor escalators and walkways throughout. Keep in mind that this is a prime real estate area and every inch is utilized. We went on the largest outdoor escalator in the world called central/ mid level escalator and walkway. It was nice to see the culture as we walked around. Saw some street performers and got a taste of this very cool city.

DSC05284 by cr**, on Flickr

Star Ferry

20190721_154434 by cr**, on Flickr

20190721_154434 by cr**, on Flickr

View of Hong Kong Island taken from the ferry

IMG_20190721_165839 by cr**, on Flickr

Some of the streets in Hong Kong Island

We then took a cab to the JCC of Hong Kong (on HKI) to have dinner there at the famous Sunday night buffet. The cab ride took us around the many windy streets lined with sky scrapers in a residential area. Security at the JCC is tight. You need to bring passports and are interviewed and bags are inspected. The meat restaurant at the JCC has a famous buffet every Sunday night. The buffet consists of a large variety of foods in every category, meats, Salads, soups, entrees and desserts. Lots of choices for all and we stuffed ourselves. Prices are definitely on the high side and since we have 4 adults in our family it was a pricey treat. We had a beautiful view from our table of the city below (restaurant is on a very high floor).

MVIMG_20190721_182557 by cr**, on Flickr

The view from our table at JCC Restaurant in HKI

Our plan was to take a cab from the JCC directly to the Star ferry terminal and take the ferry back to Kowloon. Btw there are cabs that come regularly to the JCC area so it was easy to find one, or one can flag them down as well. The cab ride is metered for the most part in Hong Kong. As our cab was nearing the popular business area in HKI traffic was getting worse and our cab driver didnít want to get stuck in it. He dropped us off a couple blocks away from the ferry terminal. We didnít know it in advance but we were walking straight into the large nightly protests that has been going on for mos. The protests have been growing increasingly large over the last few weeks and the government has increased their patrols accordingly trying to keep the calm. As we started walking we saw very large groups of people (mostly younger to middle age) wearing all black and many had long black umbrellas with them as well. Many were wearing masks, bandannas over part of their face, which was unusual at the time. We had asked a passerby and they told us what was going on and that it was mostly peaceful but not to walk in their way. There were thousands of people everywhere coming from all directions and going to some main large areas. The tourists and passersbyís were a small minority at this time compared to the throngs of protesters that were swarming the area. We did get a bit nervous since we werenít following the news closely and werenít sure if this would take a violent turn as we were attempting to walk to the terminal. There was chanting, people walking briskly stopping traffic everywhere they went. This was definitely an experience to see. Traffic was at a complete standstill all over and now I realized why the driver insisted on dropping us outside this area. We saw graffiti written in large areas ďHong Kong is not ChinaĒ and that summarized the whole agenda here.

20190721_191752 by cr**, on Flickr

People walking to the protest

20190721_193746 by cr**, on Flickr

Some more of what we saw

20190721_191608 by cr**, on Flickr

Video of people walking to the protest (click on picture to watch video on Flickr)

20190721_192200 by cr**, on Flickr

Another video of the pre protest walk (click on picture to watch video on Flickr)

When we got to the Star ferry terminal the line for the ferry was insanely long. We unfortunately had to wait a very long time but finally made it onto the ferry a few minutes after the nightly laser show had started.
Every night at 8 PM there is a laser show called ďSymphony of LightsĒ. One needs to be either on the water or on the Kowloon side to watch this. This is a spectacular multimedia show combining lights and music on over 40 key buildings in HKI. Official best place to watch this nightly show is at the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade (Ave of the Stars) where you can hear the corresponding music as well. This is a 5 minute walk from the Intercontinental HK. There is an app btw to hear the music so you can experience the full effect of it from anywhere technically. We got to watch the second half of the show from the ferry ( no music) and we realized how beautiful this is so we made a plan to prepare better for the following 2 nights. We arrived at the hotel and stopped at the back lobby area to see Hong Kong Island skyline all lit up with colorful lights. What a view! We came back later for some drinks and got to gaze at this stunning scene for some time.

IMG_20190721_200701 by cr**, on Flickr

Symphony of lights show

IMG_20190721_200729 by cr**, on Flickr

Another view

20190721_202225 by cr**, on Flickr

Walking back to the hotel after watching the show

Monday:

After a quick breakfast I ran out to get some snacks for the kids, eggs and ice cream. Turns out they got bored of all the stuff I had brought. Many stores do carry American brands and products so I googled the closest international grocery store (sorry I forgot the name) and walked about 10 minutes to get there. I found many kosher products there and it was a successful trip.
We started the day today with a trip to Victoria Peak.  We took a train from the train station below the Peninsula hotel across the street from the Intercontinental. The closest train stop is about a 10- 15 minute walk to the Peak Tram. On the way we passed Hong Kong Park and enjoyed it a lot. It is very different than your typical US Park. Waterfalls, gardens, koi fish, lily pads and so much more. We passed some more really cool architectural buildings.

20190722_133131 by cr**, on Flickr

Hong Kong Park

IMG_20190722_132931 by cr**, on Flickr

20190722_133340 by cr**, on Flickr

20190722_133659 by cr**, on Flickr

The peak Tram is a must for any tourist. There are 2 types of tickets one can buy either a round trip or a round trip + Sky Terrace 360 degree view to experience the natural beauty at the highest platform in Hong Kong. We bought the ticket with the Sky Terrace view. The tram is Swiss made and is a very steep incline up the mountain to get to the peak. We read about an optical illusion done by University of Hong Kong, a visual illusion when going uphill the high rises on the right side of the tram appear to fall toward the peak (caused by a tilted visual environment and reclining body position of observers inside the tram), really cool to watch as you are going up.
Overall Victoria Peak is amazing, the pictures speak for themselves.

MVIMG_20190722_135813 by cr**, on Flickr

View of peak tram as it is arriving at the station near Hong Kong Park

00100lPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190722140348375_COVER by cr**, on Flickr

Optical illusion

20190722_140722 by cr**, on Flickr

Peak Tram from above

Here are some of the cool views we saw from Victoria Peak:
 
20190722_140611 by cr**, on Flickr

20190722_143645 by cr**, on Flickr

20190722_144806 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190722_145103 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190722_145637 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190722_145521 by cr**, on Flickr

After we took the return tram back down, we hailed a cab to the JCC of Hong Kong to the Dairy Restaurant. Our passports were checked and we were interviewed again (same security guy btw). Food was delicious at the dairy restaurant. There were some game tables on that floor and we played some games for a little while as well.

Delicious food at he JCC Dairy Restaurant

IMG_20190722_162739 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190722_161552 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190722_161540 by cr**, on Flickr

After the late lunch at the JCC we had some time to kill and we googled cool things to see near us. My husband found the Aberdeen Fish Market and it seems like it was a great place to go, since the ideal time is towards the end of the day. We really wanted to see the famous fish market in Japan but you need to be up really early and that wasnít going to work for us then. So we jumped on this idea. (We like to do interesting things in other countries that we canít do or see back at home.)We took a cab to a different area in Hong Kong Island. The Aberdeen Fish Market is highly rated online and is a wholesale fish market run by local fisherman. They say itís a must to visit to experience some of the local culture. The best time to visit is before evening when many fishing boats come in and unload their daily ďcatchĒ. We arrived and were the only tourists there and they let us in to browse and walk around. The market is a messy wet place; most areas have 1-2 inches of water on the ground. We werenít planning this in advance so we walked on some pallets that were dispersed all over so we could try to stay dry. We saw hundreds of open tanks with every kind of seafood you can imagine and in a very large quantity. We then went to the dock and saw many fishing boats dropping off their catch of the day in very large quantities. It is amazing to see the sheer volume and color of all the seafood that is brought in. We spent about an hour in total over there and took a cab to the star ferry much earlier in the evening so we could see the light show tonight on time from the Promenade.
 
DSC05351 by cr**, on Flickr

Aberdeen Fish market

20190722_175355 by cr**, on Flickr

DSC05376 by cr**, on Flickr

Boats pulling up to deliver their "catch" after a day of fishing

We watched the Symphony of Lights show from Ave of the Stars in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon. As I mentioned earlier you can hear the music from lampposts in the promenade. We loved every minute of it. I would rate it 5 stars and a must for every tourist! My advice is to come 15 to 30 minutes early to get a good spot so you can get an unobstructed view for pictures of the Harbor. We then walked by the Avenue of the Stars which models after Hollywood Ave of the Stars in LA, they have statues of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan etc. We completed our day with a quick swim/hot tub in the magnificent hotel pool with views of the Hong Kong skyline all lit up in color.

IMG_20190722_092831 by cr**, on Flickr

Another view of the Intercontinental Hotel

IMG_20190722_121156 by cr**, on Flickr

View of Hong Kong Island from the Hotel Lounge/ Bar during the day

MVIMG_20190722_202231_1 by cr**, on Flickr

Same area= at night, when Hong Kong Island is all lit up

MVIMG_20190722_202318 by cr**, on Flickr

Another view of Hong Kong Island all lit up ( from the hotel lounge/ bar)

20190723_200935 by cr**, on Flickr

Symphony of Lights from Ave of the Stars

Tuesday:

There are always cabs waiting in from of the hotel btw so itís very convenient to go anywhere quickly. We took a cab to the Ladies Market and walked around and bought some stuff for the kids and souvenirs. This is a very large outdoor market that spans many blocks. I donít know why it has that name. We bargained for everything we bought and many times got the price down over 80% from the original asking price. A real market! After walking around we needed to cool down a bit so we walked a few blocks to a very extravagant and large indoor mall. On the way we found a 7 / 11 store and found kosher Haaagan Daaz ice cream which was a nice surprise. The indoor mall had some cool stores to see and a LEGO store on the top floor. Kids had a break from walking around and we spent some time there. After the indoor mall as we looked at Google maps and we realized that we are in market area of town and there are all types of specialty markets near us. One that interested us and we thought the kids would like is a pet market. We happened to be a block or two away from there so we went. Turns out that there are blocks and blocks of pet stores, literally one after the other of everything pet related from fish, dogs, cats, birds and everything in between. Things are pretty different than in the US and all stores have a no picture taking policy.  I did manage to sneak a few pics fortunately. We really found this interesting. Next we passed some produce, meat and seafood markets which we walked though pretty quickly. Much of it grossed me and the kids out. Again many things go on in these markets that wouldnít fly in AmericaÖthis definitely stayed stamped in our minds and it was something we would visualize during the early corona virus outbreak when all the talk was about bats from the seafood markets in China!

IMG_20190723_154552 by cr**, on Flickr

Seafood Market

MVIMG_20190723_161713 by cr**, on Flickr

One of the many stores in the pet market (notice the fish in bags that are for sale)

We arrived back to our hotel in the afternoon and had a beautiful late afternoon swim in the large hotel pool with stunning scenery all around. We picked up dinner from Mul Hayam restaurant located in KZ Shul in Kowloon. 10-15 walk from hotel and ate at the Hotel. We continued swimming into evening and then moved to the hot tub area which has obstructed views of the Skyline in HKI and since its in an elevated area all you see is the harbor and beyond. The hotel has a few large infinity hot tubs. Watching the Symphony of light show while we were all in the hot tubs was so magical and enjoyable for all.
 
IMG_20190722_202947 by cr**, on Flickr

Hotel Hot tub at night- view is HKI

IMG_20190722_203228 by cr**, on Flickr

Another close up of the hot tubs

IMG_20190723_192616 by cr**, on Flickr

View at dusk from the hot tub at the Intercontinental HK

MVIMG_20190723_193548 by cr**, on Flickr

IMG_20190723_200819 by cr**, on Flickr

Wednesday:

Our last day in Hong Kong and the final day in our 3 week adventure! Today was a relaxing day spent packing up and going to gym with some more family time in the pool. The weather in Hong Kong has been perfect the entire stay and we really appreciated it. We had late checkout at 2 pm (IHG cc) which allowed us to eat lunch and shower in our rooms after the swim. After that we hung out in the lobby until 3 pm. We had ordered 2 cabs to take us to the airport in advance. The ride to the airport was under 30 minutes and worked out well.
We had a 6:45 PM flight booked in Cathay Business for all 6 of us. We used 50K Alaska miles for each of us. Read more in the beginning of this trip report what I went through to find availability for all of us in business.
I had read on DDF about being able to order kosher meals in the Cathay lounges if reserved in advance on twitter. I DMíed Cathay on twitter and got a quick response asking for booking numbers for all passengers, what lounge we wanted the food and what time. We also got to chose between chicken, lamb or fish. She had confirmed everything and I was set to go. This was done about 6 weeks prior to this flight.
Intíl Cathay Business Class passengers in Hong Kong Airport have 2 lounges to choose from; The Wing and The Pier. I researched them a bit online prior and figured we could check them both out. I had scheduled the Kosher meals for the Pier lounge, so we checked out the Wing lounge first. We had a private area to relax for about 45 min with all kinds of US newspapers and magazines plus kosher ice cream from Haagan Daaz. We enjoyed our time in the newer and more modern looking Wing lounge. We then went to the Pier lounge which was so large, I had never seen a lounge so big before and it had so many different kinds of rooms in it such as a noodle bar, meditation/yoga room, tea house, private sleeping areas and so much more. Both lounges had showers as well. When we arrived to check in to the Pier lounge they right away knew we had ordered kosher meals and showed us some choices of where to sit. We got our hot food about 15 minutes later. Food was from Hermolis and identical to what we would be getting on the plane a few hours later. We ate some of the food and stayed at the lounge until boarding time.

IMG_20190724_174319 by cr**, on Flickr

At the Pier Lounge

The flight from HKG to JFK is a 16 hour flight. We departed and 6:45 PM and arrived around 9 Pm in JFK. Flight ended up being around 15 hrs. Business class was amazing for our family, after eating another dinner we slept most of the flight. Honestly to me it felt like a 2-3 hour flight to Miami. Time also went by really quickly for my husband and the kids and before we knew it, it was time for breakfast and landing. By the time we arrived home close to midnight we went straight to sleep and slept the entire night. Looking back I am glad I chose that flight time for this particular flight.
 
IMG_20190724_182846 by cr**, on Flickr

Cathay Pacific Business Class

Summary:

As I am writing this final segment now- one year after we started this trip, I am so thankful we got to experience this last year. It was an epic trip and we feel very fortunate to have done this with our kids. Now more than ever in a time of uncertainty over what future travel will look like and the restrictions that may come along with it, I feel blessed and fulfilled with this trip under our belts.
This trip was definitely lots of hard work but I enjoyed planning every minute of it and experiencing it as a family.
Side note: The protests in Hong Kong dramatically escalated in the weeks after we left Hong Kong. Within 3 weeks of arriving home on Cathay, they cancelled flights out of Hong Kong for a few weeks. Thank god our trip wasnít affected by all this.


 


 
« Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 08:35:35 PM by CR »

Offline lakewood34

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a really exceptional trip report.
Thank you for taking the time to write it and share your experiences

Online tavster

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Wonderful TR.
Really appreciate the level of details, the way you booked everything. Thanks for taking the time

Offline Cat18

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #54 on: August 20, 2020, 12:45:41 PM »
Amazing TR!!! Really shows how much love and effort was put in.

I really would love to hear how you were able to earn enough for an epic trip like this in such a short amount of time.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2020, 01:18:23 PM by Cat18 »

Offline coffeebean

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Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
« Reply #55 on: August 31, 2020, 02:19:06 PM »
Have you calculated the total amount of points used for this trip? Looks like at least 3m
I try to sound as intelligent as possible.