Author Topic: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK  (Read 1413 times)

Offline eandd

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Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« on: February 27, 2018, 03:57:57 PM »
I mostly lurk on the forums, but really enjoy reading trip reports. I will make as much of an effort as I can to finish this one!

Introduction and Planning

While on last year’s big vacation, we met a sweet Australian family from Perth at the Phuket chabad, whose descriptions of Western Australia convinced me that I would need to find my way there this year. Our student lifestyle would never have supported such a trip; thankfully I began to vigorously “play” the credit card game about a year ago. As the year moved along, I became obsessed with the white sand beaches and gorgeous scenery, but realized that a WA road trip would need at least two weeks, and I NEEDED to see the swirling sand of Whitehaven beach. Unfortunately our time off would never allow for such a long trip. Instead, I settled on….the Conrad Maldives. We accumulated Hilton points specifically for this, and random other points for the flight redemptions. I took months to play around with dates, order of locations; should we fly to Israel, then to Maldives and then to AUS? Or to Asia first? Interviews for PA school in Oct/Nov forced us to push off the vacation to mid-winter time, and my husband’s hatred towards beaches influenced me to eventually add New Zealand South Island to the list. I realized that we were planning on seeing too much: Maldives, Sydney, Airlie Beach, and NZ in two and a half weeks! I regretfully chopped off Whitehaven beach (which ended up being fine because the Conrad was GORGEOUS.)

The first booking was for the Conrad, prompted by the 95,000 point redemption for a water villa in mid December. Once the trip dates for finalized, all the other bookings started trickling in; this was in January for an early February trip! (we have commitment issues…)
Order and dates and destinations were changed numerous times, and this was the final product (All flights in economy, and points are per person):

JFK-SVO-MLE- 25k Merrill lynch points
   Conrad Maldives 3 nights
MLE-BKK- (For Shabbos)  Cheap AirAsia flight
BKK-CGK-SYD- 40k delta miles
   Park Hyatt Sydney 1 night
SYD-AVV-cheap Jetstar flight
   Four Points Melbourne  (10k spg) 1 night
MEL-BNE- 15k Asia miles
BNE-CHC- cheap VA flight
   7 days on the South Island, 2 at the Doubletree Queenstown (30k Hilton)
CHC-SYD-LAX-JFK- 45k delta miles (somehow went down from 60k three weeks before the trip)

*The trip was crazy, and at times stressful and exhausting (I’m talking about you Australia). But totally worth it as I figured I wouldn’t be back in that side of the world for a while.

« Last Edit: February 27, 2018, 04:19:34 PM by eandd »

Offline Dan

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2018, 04:02:11 PM »
Nice!
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline eandd

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2018, 12:13:01 AM »
The Trip

Most of the beginning research for this trip was done right here on DDF, so I’d like to thank all you contributors! And thank you Dan for providing us with this platform! My inspiration for locations came from here, as well as lots of points advice etc. I read a lot on Tripadvisor, different travel blogs, and of course the NZ frenzy guide book.

Maldives
Sat night Feb 3rd:
   Drive to JFK, late night flight on Aeroflot with an expected stopover of close to 5 hours. Thankfully our flight was delayed by about an hour, or we would never have made it onto the plane. This also greatly lessened our connection time. The flight to SVO was normal; with obviously slightly more brusque service (c’mon it’s a Russian airline.) We spent most of our connection at one of the priority pass lounges (I think it was Amber) which was nothing special AT ALL, but served its purpose as a quiet place to sit and drink soda/beer.  The second flight was horrible, with eight hours of constant turbulence. By the last three hours, most of the passengers were throwing up. In MLE, passport control was easy/fast, but of course our luggage doesn’t show up (two suitcases, one full of food.) Hopefully we won’t starve. The Conrad Rep takes us to the seaplane “check-in”, someone drives us to the lounge, we take the seaplane to the hotel. (We ended up getting our luggage delivered to our room on our second day.)

IMG_3407 by eandd, on Flickr

A lot is already written on the Conrad Maldives. I will add a few things that I wish I would have known:
•   Going in February does not guarantee that you will not have a lot of rain. A rained our first  day there and part of the second (which doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun)
•   For the standard Water Villa (which was very nice), #330 is one of the best because it has a more unobstructed, sunset view.

IMG_3408 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3899 by eandd, on Flickr

•   We saw a sting ray and TONS of reef sharks, which are really cool and scary to snorkel with (they look like aggressive sharks under water. There’s not much to see when snorkeling off of the villa porch, instead go to the channel in the house reef (around beach villa 213 I think). We also snorkeled near Mandhoo restaurant at around 1:15 right before the fish feeding, and were able to see a lot of sharks there. (They kick you out before the feeding though. Instead just get out of the water and watch from on top.)

IMG_3661 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3714 by eandd, on Flickr

•   The happy hour at Vilu and tea at Mandhoo were both fun to go to, even though we couldn’t have much (and we don’t drink much alcohol, but they serve fruit juice.) 

IMG_3798 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4034 by eandd, on Flickr

•   I literally thought that I would be so bored of the Conrad, just from reading so much about it. That’s not possible, this place is insane. You can’t imagine it until you’re there. If you’ve never been, bump to the top of your bucket list. I’m the type of person who never has the patience to visit a destination more than once, but I’d seriously consider the Conrad Maldives in a couple of years.

IMG_4092 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3878 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4295 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3616 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4289 by eandd, on Flickr

Bangkok

 
The Conrad rep took us all the way through until security, and we made it just in the nick of time for our uneventful AirAsia flight to BKK. We took an Uber to our hotel, the Lucky House (they are sometimes cheaper, and easier to deal with than cabs.) It was clean, normal, cheap, and around the corner from Chabad. All we did in Bangkok this year was eat, and shop at MBK for souvenirs. The best ones are on the sixth floor, where it’s almost like an indoor market. Make sure to bargain!
Shabbat was spent at Ohr Menachem, and was really fun and nice (mostly Israelis, but we speak hebrew.)



Offline damaxer91

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2018, 08:20:01 AM »
Nice! After all that, you didn't make it to Perth?
(Spoiler Alert: You didn't miss much)

Offline eandd

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2018, 11:36:32 PM »
Nice! After all that, you didn't make it to Perth?
(Spoiler Alert: You didn't miss much)
Thanks! Nope, no Perth, but the plan originally wasn't to stay in Perth. We wanted to spend time driving up the coast toward Exmouth.

Offline eandd

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2018, 07:06:21 PM »
Australia
*Disclaimer: My husband and I are used to traveling hard, aka multiple flights in a little amount of days, switching hotels daily, lots of driving. Our Australia itinerary proved to be way too exhausting for us, not sure if it’s just us getting old :D. We’re glad we did it though, and do not regret it for a second. We figured that we wouldn’t be back for a long time, and we’d take what we could get.

Sydney

We flew Garuda Indonesia from BKK to SYD, with a stopover in CGK. Overall, flight was ok with the expected nasty (seriously mint green colored chicken?) KSML, really glad we brought A LOT of food with us from the Chabad restaurant. The flight was a redeye, so arrived at SYD late morning (didn’t get much sleep in economy…) We came prepared for Australia’s notorious customs, but ended up getting lots of shelf stable salami confiscated because apparently there was poultry listed in the ingredients…there goes our New Zealand food. Thankfully we brought lots of other food that was fine. Taxis were expensive, so we took the train to Circular Quay, and then walked to the Park Hyatt Sydney. It was probably our muddled brains, but the hotel was kind of hard to find. I was not expecting to be upgraded as a lowly discoverist, as well as it being high season, but lo and behold we were upgraded to a harbor room! (And when booking originally there had been no availability, but I kept checking every day until I got ahold of one night.)

IMG_4422 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4425 by eandd, on Flickr

The side view of the Opera House was more than enough for us. They even gave us kosher wine and a really cute bouquet of flowers, as I had emailed them that it was our honeymoon.
After settling in, we walked (dragged ourselves) to the Royal botanical gardens to Mrs. Macquarie’s chair, where we had very nice views of the harbour bridge and opera house.

IMG_4438 by eandd, on Flickr

Then, walked back to a closer train station and took the train to the Bondi Junction station. I’m not sure if it is normally a long walk or we were very tired, but the kosher restaurants were pretty far. We had delicious pizza at Bondi Kosher Pizza Gallery, and then walked down the hill to Bondi Beach.

IMG_4461 by eandd, on Flickr

The beach was underwhelming, so we took an uber to the Coles at Bondi Junction. The entrance was impossible to find, and nobody around could tell us where to go! Finally we found it, but they were close to closing, and we were too drained to think about what we wanted for the rest of our trip. We decided to do our New Zealand shopping in Melbourne. Our taxi back to the Park Hyatt was pretty expensive, but at least they took credit card. Stupidly, we stayed up later than we should, taking night pictures of the Opera house.

IMG_4512 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4518 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4532 by eandd, on Flickr

I’d originally booked an airport shuttle for transport returning to the airport using asia miles, but did not expect it to go smoothly. Unfortunately we were never issued a proper voucher, and ended up just taking an uber to the airport for our early morning flight to Melbourne. The uber ended up being close to the amount we’d spent on two train fares coming from the airport. At this point (and for many points during the rest of our trip) we were functioning on four hours of sleep.

Offline eandd

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2018, 07:56:52 PM »
Melbourne

Forgot to mention that everywhere we went in Australia and New Zealand, it was PACKED with Asian tourists. Luckily we also know how to push a little to see the sights  8)

Our Melbourne flight was booked for cheap on Jetstar, and thankfully I realized before the trip that it was flying into AVV and not MEL the main airport. I was able to book a rental car to be picked up at AVV and dropped off at MEL; I don’t know if at the end of day, taking the more expensive car and baggage fees into account, that Jetstar is cheaper than other carriers. Of course, AVV is about 50 min closer to the GOR, so that ended up being a plus.

We landed at 10 am, walked off the plane into the tiny airport, picked up luggage and car, and we were on the road within twenty minutes. Since the Australian sims were not working in either of our phones, we relied on offline google maps which ended up being perfectly fine. Driving on the left side of the road takes literally a second of adjustment time (at least for us), so we found the GOR’s driving to be pretty easy in that sense. However, the roads are also very windy, sometimes steep, and very long.  I had read a lot of warnings against driving it in one day, and although it was very exhausting, I think it was totally doable if that is all the time you have and you’re used to endless hours of driving.

   The stops we made:
•   Angelsea golf course- Not allowed to go on the course, but one can see kangaroos from far. Someone told us that they saw Kangaroos further away from the parking lot, so we walked there and saw some up close. We didn’t realize that we were actually on the course until we saw a golfer yelling at us to move away.

IMG_4563 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4577 by eandd, on Flickr

view from parking lot
IMG_4597 by eandd, on Flickr

•   A boringly situated lighthouse (don’t remember the name) with pretty views further down the path

IMG_4609 by eandd, on Flickr

•   Teddy Viewpoint-gorgeous views of ocean and the GOR

IMG_4649 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4650 by eandd, on Flickr

•   Random pullouts along the way

IMG_4681 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4790 by eandd, on Flickr

•   Kenneth River campgrounds-can see koalas in the wild, and feed wild parrots! We fed them crackers and they were landing on our shoulders and arms (and hair..feed at your own risk)

we were so close to this cute little guy!
IMG_4722 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4747 by eandd, on Flickr

•   Gibson steps, Twelve apostles and loch ard gorge- really gorgeous, just don’t go at the wrong time of day like we did, when the lighting is really bad

IMG_4864 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4850 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4921 by eandd, on Flickr

The inland drive back to Melbourne takes about 2 hours 45 minutes, and is also mostly one lane and sometimes windy. We drove in the dark; both of us were beyond exhausting. All I can say is thank God we got back safely. We got to the Coles in St. Kilda right before 10, not realizing that they don’t close at 12 like the others. Besides, there was no kosher section. Thankfully we ran into a Jewish looking couple as we were leaving, who recommended we go to the Coles Balaclava.  (We also met a very cute, middle aged frum couple in the store who recommended we visit the St. Kilda pier to see penguins! Unfortunately it was already way too late for us, and we had to catch an early flight the next morning.) We were able to replenish our salami stash, and buy other kosher foods like meat pies etc.

We stayed that night at the Four Points Melbourne Docklands, which exceeded our expectations.  There was valet parking, but we were able to find free street parking across the street from the hotel, as long as we’d leave before 7 AM. Also, because I’d mentioned honeymoon, they left us really cute koalas and macarons.
   
IMG_4937 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4938 by eandd, on Flickr

view from the window
IMG_4941 by eandd, on Flickr

Offline sruliL

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2018, 12:10:37 AM »
Gorgeous pictures!
Life's not about doing things good, its about doing good things.

Offline sam28

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2018, 01:10:35 PM »
Thanks for taking your time . keep it coming .

Offline eandd

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2018, 09:41:13 AM »
Gorgeous pictures!
Thanks!

Thanks for taking your time . keep it coming .

Sure thing

Offline eandd

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2018, 09:45:11 AM »
Brisbane

Another three hours of sleep, and an early flight to Brisbane. The flight was with Qantas, booked through Asia miles; best economy domestic flight ever! The plane was probably a quarter full, they served a meal (two hour flight!), and after chatting with the very friendly flight attendants were offered champagne for our honeymoon-we declined.

Our flight to CHC was scheduled to leave BNE at around 4, and we arrived 10. We planned on renting a car and visiting the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to fulfill my dream of holding a koala. Queensland is one of the only states that allows visitors to actually hold, or “cuddle” koalas instead of just touching them, so we’d planned on being in BNE for that purpose. The car rental was through Alpha car hire, a low cost family car rental that uses older cars. Spoiler alert: they were horrible.

We got an email with instructions to call them and let them know when we arrive so they can send the shuttle. Since we didn’t have a sim, and the pay phones weren’t working, we borrowed a phone from some random person. They instructed us how to get to the shuttle parking, and off we went. We were a several feet away from the parked shuttle, and saw that it was about to pull away, so we started running toward it waving our hands. They left without us. Ok, so now we need to wait another half hour until the next shuttle. The shuttle took us to the warehouse where the office and cars are located, and we proceeded to attempt to check in. The woman that helped us was nasty from the start. One example, she made a huge fuss that we didn’t have an Australian number for them to call, and that we couldn’t rent the car because we’d run away with it, and it was worth $30k (yeah right…) etc. We offered to leave our passport as an assurance (we were tired and stupid) and she went on and on about our not having a number meant we couldn’t be trusted with the car. Finally my smart husband remembered that we could just turn on roaming, and use our regular phone number (and ignore them if we call.) After that incident, we were very nervous about using the car, sure that we would come back and she would find all kinds of things wrong with it; that put a bit of a damper on the day.

The koala sanctuary is about 20 min from the airport area, and pretty easy to find. We pre-booked vouchers, but understood that we would pay for the koala holding at the place. When we got there at around 12 they told us that they had already filled the number of visitors who are allowed to hold koalas. Apparently, legally each koala is only allowed to be held by a certain number of people per day, and because it was the week of Chinese New Year there were so many visitors wanting to hold a koala.

The combination of exhaustion, lack of sleep, and the car rental experience meant I was very upset about not holding that koala. We went to the area and depressingly watched others hold my koala. Finally, I asked my husband to beg the handlers, and he was successful! Only I was able to hold one, but he hadn’t really cared about it to begin with.

IMG_4964 cropped by eandd, on Flickr

I was satisfied that the whole reason I came to Australia was fulfilled, and now we could move on to feeding kangaroos – lets just say they love bissli :D

IMG_5014 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_5033 kang touch by eandd, on Flickr

We also saw a sleeping Tasmanian devil, a platypus, and lots of parrots.
IMG_5176 by eandd, on Flickr

Because of the time spent at the koalas and kangaroos, we didn’t have time to check out everything the sanctuary had to offer.

   

Offline mgoldhammer18

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2018, 01:11:01 PM »
The Trip

Most of the beginning research for this trip was done right here on DDF, so I’d like to thank all you contributors! And thank you Dan for providing us with this platform! My inspiration for locations came from here, as well as lots of points advice etc. I read a lot on Tripadvisor, different travel blogs, and of course the NZ frenzy guide book.

Maldives
Sat night Feb 3rd:
   Drive to JFK, late night flight on Aeroflot with an expected stopover of close to 5 hours. Thankfully our flight was delayed by about an hour, or we would never have made it onto the plane. This also greatly lessened our connection time. The flight to SVO was normal; with obviously slightly more brusque service (c’mon it’s a Russian airline.) We spent most of our connection at one of the priority pass lounges (I think it was Amber) which was nothing special AT ALL, but served its purpose as a quiet place to sit and drink soda/beer.  The second flight was horrible, with eight hours of constant turbulence. By the last three hours, most of the passengers were throwing up. In MLE, passport control was easy/fast, but of course our luggage doesn’t show up (two suitcases, one full of food.) Hopefully we won’t starve. The Conrad Rep takes us to the seaplane “check-in”, someone drives us to the lounge, we take the seaplane to the hotel. (We ended up getting our luggage delivered to our room on our second day.)

IMG_3407 by eandd, on Flickr

.......

How can we see these pictures that are no longer available?
« Last Edit: April 18, 2018, 12:25:07 PM by Something Fishy »

Offline eandd

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Re: Unexpected RTW: JFK-MLE-BKK-SYD-MEL-BNE-CHC-JFK
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2018, 01:57:46 PM »
How can we see these pictures that are no longer available?

Yeah, I don't know what happened! Will post the Maldives pictures again.

IMG_3407 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3408 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3899 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3661 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3714 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3798 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4034 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4092 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3878 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4295 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_3616 by eandd, on Flickr

IMG_4289 by eandd, on Flickr