Author Topic: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison  (Read 5287 times)

Offline Wizmanison

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2019, 11:00:51 PM »
+2.. You need help writing it? ;)
Writing is the easy part! Itís the embedding and sorting through pictures that would take me too long! But, I intent to start working more on it ASAP as well as my several other TRís :/

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2019, 09:24:17 PM »
Unnecessarily Hyper Detailed Trip Report:

Hello and welcome to my second TR since I found this amazing Hobby! (You can find my first TR about Kauai here and second of Maui here. TR in the works are 1. Cancun, 2.South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, and Israel 3. Bora Bora 4.Miami 5. Park City Utah 6. London and Paris - Writing them down so I am held accountable for actually writing the TR's!)

Since I have taken so many pictures and I am not the best at choosing what to or not to include I have decided, throughout the TR, to include less important pictures embedded in the writing, as is done in the above paragraph, as opposed to cluttering the TR with standalone pictures. The standalone pictures will also be clickable so that if someone wants to see more pictures related to that one picture displayed they can do so by clicking through. Also, please note that any clickable links are simply to help the reader and have no affiliate link or anything of the sort to my knowledge.

As I am sure most of you have come to realize, for me at least, planning a trip like this was insanely time consuming. I would find myself spending sleepless nights and countless hours researching every destination I either wanted to go to or was advised to by those so kind to answer me through PM, on and off the thread, or from reading what must be thousands of comments spread out through different forums and threads. Although, this was not my first multi-city redemption since I started to amass points (LAX-JFK-ZRH-LHR,LTN-TLV-ZRH-ORD-LAX) this trip was definitely way more difficult to plan and more emotional considering the amount of points I was using. 


So, over a three week and two day period these are the destinations we visited:

Los Angeles-New York-Abu Dhabi-Cairo-Maldives-Singapore-Bali-(the following are 5 cities/islands throughout Thailand) Koh Samui-Bangkok-Phuket-Phi Phi Islands-Chiang Mai- Abu Dhabi-Dubai-New York-Los Angeles


Before our first flight I realized my wifeís birth year was incorrect on our Etihad (EY) flights but I was able to do fix it easily by calling in. (In hindsight we likely didnít have to even bother fixing this as it seems to be quite rare that they verify birthdates). With that taken care of we proceeded to our first flight. We flew Jetblue from LAX-JFK. Matching to Mosaic through their status match they offered in July was really convenient. Besides for constantly getting upgraded to EMS since matching, I have been setting google alerts for my flights and Ďprice matchingí it every time a lower fare became available. Since my wife is a heavy packer and we had a ton of food to bring with us(seems I forgot to take a picture of the cooler bag or its contents), the increased 70 pound luggage limit for Mosaic members really came in handy. We were already considerably over the 70 lb. limit but after chatting up the CSR she allowed us to breeze through with no excess baggage fees and upgraded EMS seats. I love Mosaic <3
   
We spent a little over 24 hours in NY to see family and to pick-up some POM meals before heading to JFK for the first long leg of the trip.

More about the POM meals for those interested:

I only ordered a few items from POM, as we found it easier for us to make, freeze, double wrap, and pack into our Polar Bear Cooler our own homemade food. It was super simple. We just made food as if we were making it to serve but prepared bigger portions that we then divided into aluminum takeout pans we purchased from amazon. We used a label maker we got from one of Danís post a while ago to label what was what and then shoved it in the bag with some ice packs providing enough room to fit the rest of the POM meals we were collecting from NY. My wife also created an itinerary (which we of course didnít actually follow) of what meals we will be eating and when, so we get a sense of what food we want and when we would have it as well as all the non frozen goods we needed for day to day or for shabbat (feel free to PM if youíd want it for any reason at all).

Food we prepared:
BBQ Ribs w/ Cous cous X 3
Schnitzel w/ Cous cous X 5
BBQ Chicken wings X 4
Olive Chicken X 6
Salmon fish X 2

Pom Meals:


I will review them as we eat them throughout the TR. But, pretty much everything but a dish or two was really amazing. Like everyone says the dairy food was truly spectacular and we wish we would have ordered more of those over the meat meals!

I flew EY to AUH. I decided to take advantage of the free stopover EY offers and visit Egypt, for about 32 hours, before heading off to our main destination of this trip; The Maldives.

Offline Wizmanison

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2019, 09:24:35 PM »
JFK-CAI:

For our EY flight, we arrived about an hour before departure (not on purpose!) and went to the Biz check in line. Like anything else in this hobby/life, when you are nice enough or simply genuinely kind, your chances of YMMV are greater skewed to benefit you. Therefore, the rep at the desk was nice enough to let us pass while being 15 pounds over the limit. We were then guided to the expedited security lane for business and first passengers, which are placed directly beside the TSA pre-check lane. It was nice to be able to chose between the two and at that instance the pre-check lane had no one in it so we went with that.





From there, it was only a short walk to the Etihad lounge. The lounge was truly stunning. At first glance the exterior and entrance of the lounge was breath taking. Inside, the lighting and design of the room and bar were definitely notable. After spending about 10-15 minutes in the lounge it was time to head to the gate for boarding.









The cabin was really nice and although flying in the apartment suites did not work out (although there was availability; ANA and EY have been having issues, for a couple months leading up to when they decided to implement a temporary suspension, where ANA was only showing availability for some seats) their business class product is still great. Kosher hot meal was served mixed. As in, we got our breakfast starter with dinner and dinner starter with breakfast. Besides for that, the food was bland and not the best, as expected. The bar/lounge was also really cool and we hung out there for a little bit. One thing I usually love on these flights is being able to view the camera views on the plane and see below and straight ahead. When not seeing oceans or clouds it was quite cool to see icy mountains and landscape tops among other things.













We landed in Abu Dhabi airport, which looks quite nice, and since our flight to CAI was booked in economy, for whatever reason, and we were not able to enter the EY lounge. So we went to the nearest PP lounge which was actually really nice and I gravitated towards the back where I davened Shacarit and then we walked back to our gate for boarding.







Our Economy EY flight was about 4 hours and we pretty much slept through the whole thing. Our kosher meal did not look appealing at all so we passed on that. We happened to be sitting next to someone my wife met once at work and he kindly noted some things to see as well as tips for Cairo, which were already on our itinerary.







Will work harder on getting the more exciting parts of this TR out ASAP!
« Last Edit: April 09, 2019, 09:32:20 PM by Wizmanison »

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2019, 10:05:54 PM »
Nice work there!
 Was waiting for this for quite some time!
Does the message on the seats really work?
Don't try to be someone else , be who you are because everyone else is taken.

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2019, 01:09:25 AM »
EGYPT:

We landed at 4:30pm and Cairoís airport was rather interesting. The outside looked rather nice and modern, whereas the inside was not nearly as much. They did not have Wi-Fi, which is just truly inconvenient these days.



Customs/immigration and getting a visa was pretty simple. Just had to pay $25 each for the visa. We hired a guide for $205 for the next 25 hours or so hours we spent in Egypt. We shopped around until we negotiated the best price we found for this guide. This included rides to and from the airport, all the entrance fees, lunch (Which we obviously did not take advantage of), and a camel ride by the pyramids. Our guide Laila was kind, knowledgable, and highly recommended. I will post her contact information because when seeing only a few others post theirs it was really helpful. The company was Egypt Tailor Made and her email was: Lailahassan33@gmail.com She mentioned how tourism has been really bad since the revolution and most people think Cairo is not a safe place, which in turn has a real effect on everything from wages to taxes and so on. She mentioned there were only 12 jews living in Cairo but that they had 25 synagogues and that she did not know of any hatred towards jews although it is pretty clear that there is no separation between state and IslamÖ I didn't care or want to delve any deeper about the 12 jews or synagogues as we were exhausted and we fell asleep on what must have been at least an hour drive from the airport to the Bazaar. Regardless, we felt safe and had no problems throughout our stay here which will hopefully shape the thoughts of the countless people who warned us how unsafe Egypt was and how we must be crazy to go thereÖ

In regards to Egypt and its infrastructure, driving in Egypt is quite hectic to say the least. Although there are lane lines they are simply a recommendation and not an enforced rule. Just like seat belts, texting and driving, stop lights, and the list goes on. Cars and motorcycles confidently drive inches away from each other and I can say that in the short time I spent in Egypt I heard more car honks then I have in total all my life. They honk for any and every reason. The traffic is likely always terrible and it can take hours to get from the airport to the old city.

Our first stop on our tour was the Khan El-Khalili Bazaar. Here we simply walked through the Bazaar passing by shops, cafes, restaurants, in a souk like format. There were some tourists and lots of locals as this seems to be the place to hang out at night. The Bazaar streets are filled with historic buildings as well as several Mosques. We were not here for long before we left as there was not much to see.

On the drive to the old city from the airport









Popular spot for locals to hang out at night





Driving by the Nile River

Our drive to the Le Meridian Pyramids in Giza took us quite a long time (about an hour) with the traffic. Upon arrival, like almost everywhere else in Cairo (not exaggerating), we had to go through metal detectors and the bag check machine. When checking in I had already confirmed an upgrade prior to arrival to a pyramid view room. The lobby was pretty nice and we were to exhausted to properly check out the property so we went straight to our room. As I emailed every property before our stay how excited we were to stay, blah blah blah, celebrating anniversary, birthday, honeymoon, as well as the holidays as it was Christmas time (which all happened to be true) to heighten my chances of upgrades at every hotel they also brought along gifts like birthday cakes, champagne, rose petals decorations and so onÖ Itís a shame the cakes and the champagne had to go to waste every time so we just gifted it to the bell man or the cleaners every time. Whether they understood what we were saying or not was beyond me.









View of the pool from our Balcony

Balcony night view from our room with Pyramid View

Besides the Balcony view of the pyramids, the room was nothing special. We lit our 8th day of Chanukah candles on the balcony overlooking the pyramids, ate our food that we had the hotel store and heat up for our short stay, and then called it a night. Since the Wi-Fi was truly terrible and was constantly turning on and off I called the front desk to complain and they sent a technician over to install my very own modem for the room which actually helped a lot.

Being able to light our last night of Chanukah candles with the view of the Pyramids was surreal

Just to show how the meals were labeled

Olive Chicken made by me :)

Schnitzel and cous-cous that we made



The following morning was super stressful. I intended to check into my Emirates flight scheduled for that evening to MLE only to see that my wifeís flight was under a different name! I had booked this ticket using my Merril+ points and this was the first time I ever used them. I booked using the portal and only realized the day of that her ticket was booked in some other name I definitely have no recollection of putting in. I found it truly strange as her birthday and all the other info was correct but whatever... Just another issue to deal with on this trip! I only had a couple minutes to deal with this as our tour guide had just arrived downstairs to start our days journey. Just my luck the power in the room seemed to go out taking out the modem. I had no time to call and get someone to fix it so I came to peace with the situation and decided to not let it ruin my morning activity of visiting one of the 7 wonders; the Giza Pyramids.

Offline Wizmanison

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2019, 01:11:17 AM »
Nice work there!
 Was waiting for this for quite some time!
Does the message on the seats really work?

Thank you! The massage works as well as they do on any other business class flights I flew... pretty worthless IMO.

Offline mmgfarb

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2019, 01:21:32 AM »
Nice start! Don't keep us waiting too long for the rest  😛
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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2019, 02:12:28 AM »
Wow! love the details great pics and my gd thats a lot of fights to get the mle trip done ;D ;D!! ill be heading there in a month cant wait!
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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2019, 02:30:50 AM »
Wow. You set the standard quite high, with this one. Well done! Don't keep us waiting again...
I will review them as we eat them throughout the TR.
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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2019, 12:56:35 AM »
Keep it coming

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #25 on: September 20, 2019, 12:05:13 PM »
bump

Offline Wizmanison

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #26 on: October 27, 2020, 03:11:24 PM »
Been a long time since I updated this so Im just going to upload what I can without overthinking it and add more in the following days!

Since our hotel, The Le Meridian, was right by the Pyramids, it was a short drive to get there. I davened on our balcony with the Pyramids in view and shortly after went downstairs to meet our tour guide and driver.





Driving up to the Giza Pyramid Complex, the height of the pyramids as you get closer is really just breathtaking.








Some pictures for scale:







We first went into the main and largest of the 3 pyramids. It belonged to Pharaoh Khufu and it was a really cool experience to go through. I believe it cost around $10 USD a person to enter the Pyramid and since it was an extra I don’t recall the tour guide covering that. We were able to walk (pretty much had to crouch the whole way up because the king wanted those who enter to be bowing in respect throughout or something like that) through the pyramid to be able to see where the sarcophagus was kept/found.











After exiting that pyramid we then walked by the other pyramids





And then took a camel ride by a viewpoint that shows the pyramids from a distance.








Our teenage camel walker guide thought this would make a great picture.






After that we briefly headed to see the sphinx which was really amazing to see.







 It’s at this point my driver happens to divulge that he has a Wi-Fi hotspot device and it is included in the tour package! You can imagine just how happy as well as confused that they didn’t mention this earlier. Regardless, I started making phone calls during our hour drive to the Museum of Antiquities.

First I called the Merril travel number, to which they tell me they can’t do anything and I would have to wait for a supervisor to arrive in 4 hours. I HUCA’d a couple times (sometimes by choice and sometimes because the phone call dropped :/). Then I tried Emirates and they also could not change anything. I didn’t really expect for either of them to change it but I guess I was hoping for a miracle. Which in a way I guess happened when I found out that my fare booked with Merril happened to be fully refundable fare. [Something I noticed with all the flights I booked was that when I booked it through a portal like chase or Merril the fare is usually refundable by default. Not sure if that is well known or not but definitely something to keep in mind!].

Unfortunately I had already checked in earlier that day meaning they could not refund my flight. BUT, a quick phone call to Emirates had them remove my checkin in. But, of course their systems were down as I called in. They asked me to call back again in and hour and so I did. They were finally able to remove my check in status.

While driving it's hard not to notice how poor some of the infrastructure of Cairo was. The buildings were just missing floors and there were stray dirty looking dogs throughout.





Regardless, what the city has to offer in terms of history is unmatched and I would love to return to see different parts of Egypt.



After breezing through the Museum of Antiquities in about 45 minutes (an activity that the guide had planned 2:30 hours for) we decided to end our stay in Cairo early and go to the airport to sort things out. The Museum was amazing and there was so much material that they simply had no room to store anymore artifacts. Therefore, there were some left outside surrounding the building. Since the museum can no longer house any more artifacts they have seized excavations until they finish building their new museum. Which has been years in the making. As I am writing this TR in 2020 I still don't think its finished.

There were truly brilliant things to see here. Some of the notable few are (bear in mind that in some of the areas of the museum one is not allowed to take pictures and therefore there are pictures that might be of worse quality. Also, feel free to skip these pictures if it doesn't interest you as I couldn't narrow down which are notable and am just uploading a bunch ;D):
















































Mummified Humans & Animals:

















On the way to the airport I toyed around with several flight options which had either had me meeting my wife in AUH for our connection or just meeting in MLE as well as countless other flight routes of which I cannot recall. I wish it would have been as simple to just rebook her on the same flight but that EK flight was completely booked and they could/would not open up any seats. I waited to cancel my flight on the slight chance that perhaps someone at the Emirates counter would be able to help me. Since the Airport had no wifi I asked my tour guide to wait outside while I use the hotspot device inside. She kindly waited outside for a little over an hour while I sorted everything out. Of course, Emirates couldn’t help me and so I was left with not many options. I called Merril and cancelled my flight. I wasn’t ever going to actually send my wife alone on these flights so we found a suitable EY flight that leaves 7 hours later then planned.

This ruined my plan to try to get to MLE as early as possible to take advantage of my time at the St. Regis Maldives. It was really a shame because I have yet to fly on EK and was looking forward to it. Our flight didn’t ticket immediately through the chase portal and so I called chase and asked them to expedite the ticketing process. I made friends with the counter agent and got his WhatsApp number so he could contact me when our flight gets ticketed while we walked to the nearby Le Meridian hotel that is connected to the airport.

I can’t even count the amount of times we went through the whole baggage check process with all our luggages throughout our stay in Egypt. Whether it was to go in our out of the airport or in and out of the hotel it was a massive pain in the a** . For the next 7 hours we relaxed on the couches at the LM and my wife slept while I planned the rest of our trip details and made phone calls on their free guest Wi-FI. Although we got some weird glances from the staff, surprisingly, no one kicked us out. We then walked with all our bags uphill back to the airport (PITA) and went through baggage check to enter the check in area for the third time. One of the baggage helpers took our bags forcefully from us and loaded it on to the security belt (something I could have easily done) and then demanded payment for it. I gave him $1. It was also pretty clear throughout the whole trip that you could literally bribe anyone. This was later confirmed by our tour guide who encouraged us to do so if we wanted something to go our way.
The rude airport employee who’s job it was to look at the screen scanning the luggages decided to put our food luggage aside to inspect, despite having gone through this specific scanner several times with no issues that day, he asked us to open the bag. We tried to explain that we are kosher and this was our food for our trip the next 3 weeks but he seemed to not care at all. He then took one of my wrapped meals and opened it and stuck his fingers in there asked us to close it back up and let us go.  ::)

Once passing security, the EY employee we dealt with earlier was no longer there, and as the airport had no Wi-Fi I could not reach out through whatsapp, but to our surprise he informed the employee checking us in to just give us free checked bags (which were substantially over weight) and also assigned us seats with extra legroom. I tried to give him some money for his kindness but he would not accept. We walked quite a bit to our gate and bribed some cafe employee who was closing up for the Wi-Fi code. After about an hour we started boarding the plane and took off to AUH! (This woman was putting great use to her Hijab).














We landed during a beautiful Sunrise and as we were flying in Y we were meant to wait in this crazy long line. But, it was clear no one was checking so we just said we were flying in J and got through in a matter of minutes (we continued to do this for the next two times we came through AUH and got the idea from when we flew in flying Biz no one checked our ticket to verify anything). The employees supposed to be watching the luggage scanner didn’t seem to care and were just chatting with other employees.





After a 4.5 hour flight we were FINALLY in the Maldives!

That concludes our EGYPT part of the trip!

« Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 03:45:30 PM by Wizmanison »

Offline Wizmanison

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #27 on: October 27, 2020, 04:00:13 PM »
MALDIVES:

We landed at around 2:00pm and were shuttled from the plane to this small indoors arrivals area where we got our bags and cleared customs.



It was only a short walk to get outside where you have a strip of shops and seaplane operators. Someone from the St. Regis held out a card with our names and checked in our luggages onto Trans Maldivian Airways. While they did that they let us stay in the SR van (forgot to request the Bentley!), which had A/C and WiFi. But we walked around for a couple minutes.











The airport is surrounded by a beautiful blue ocean and is entirely an island of its own. The actual city of Male is like a 3 minute boat ride away. We were joined by another couple, who also booked on points, and drove like 15-30 mins to the SR lounge.










We had to wait a couple hours for other guests to arrive until we could all take the seaplane. The lounge was really nice and they offered an iPad Menu with a bunch of non kosher stuff. We just ordered some drinks and some kosher yogurt (could have been like Chobani or something, donít remember) and ate some snacks we packed. As soon as I arrived I asked if we could get the Bentley on our way to the seaplane transfer and when we were to return in 6 days. I was also able to shower in their nice bathroom.

We took the Bentley to the seaplane and since we had a head start, because the others were behind us in the van, we were able to chose our seats on the seaplane. We decided we would sit on the right side on the way there and sit on the left on the way back.








Canít say the the flight itself was amazing, with a barefoot pilot, heated (no A/C), and a choppy flight. But the views were out of this world amazing. Seeing hundreds of islands, hotels, beautiful reefs, and sandbanks all surrounded by this gorgeous blue water was a great tease for what was to come at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.













Timelapse video of takeoff and some islands from the window


Upon landing we were welcomed by a row of butlers and workers who took our luggage and sat us down with coconuts.



We were then introduced to our butlers. After reading reviews on DDF, FT, and TA as well as speaking to some people on DDF who visited it seemed Nasyb was one of the top choices. Therefore, we emailed a couple weeks beforehand requesting Nasyb as a butler as well as some other options if Nasyb was not available. Nasyb was really nice and was well versed with the whole kosher and shabbat situation among other things! He then drove us around to give us a tour of the island before taking us to our room.

We were staying in Villa 544 (circled below).




Pictures of the room and resort coming next!

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2020, 05:17:14 PM »
Great TR! Can't wait for the rest

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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
« Reply #29 on: November 08, 2020, 03:00:01 PM »
I wanna see bora bora tr next please and thank you :)
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