Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Introduction

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I haven’t been home since February 16 when I boarded a plane from Honolulu for Newark. I have loved the I’m on trip because I finally got to play poker in Asia, see Angkor Wat, catch up with friends in Europe, see more of the Balkans, and experience the curiosities that are Macau and Singapore.

The trip took me to:

  • New York
  • Macau, China
  • Singapore
  • Cambodia
  • London
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Frankfurt
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 8.54.55 AM

Along the way, I’ve flown and stayed at:

  • Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Singapore Airlines First Class
  • Lufthansa First Class (and First Class Terminal)
  • Wizz Air and Jetstar Asia (low cost carriers)
  • Radisson Martinique on Broadway
  • Grand Hyatt Macau
  • Le Meridien Angkor Wat
  • The May Fair in London
  • A Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt
  • hostels in Cambodia, Singapore, and Ljubljana
  • a motel in Greensboro
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Lufthansa First Class, Hair Style by Nap

Booking Process

What was the booking process, how much time did I spend in each place, and what would I have done differently?

The original idea for this trip came from me thinking about how to link up some of the world’s nicest first class products into one around the world adventure. I wrote about that in Singapore Suites Class, Cathay Pacific First Class, and the Lufthansa First Class Terminal on One Trip last June.

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Stretching Out on a Cathay Pacific Bed

This was the first time that I had based the outline of a trip on flying certain products rather than experiencing certain countries. (It will be the last.)

I had determined that flying west offered me the best chance at enjoying each product and that starting in New York City would get me the most time in Cathay Pacific First Class and a few days in a city that I hadn’t visited in a decade.

I booked:

  • Honolulu to Newark in a flat bed in United First for 35,000 Lufthansa miles
  • New York to Hong Kong (23 hour layover) to Singapore in Cathay Pacific First for 67,500 American Airlines miles
  • Singapore to Siem Reap, returning Phnom Penh to Singapore for $140 from Jetstar Asia. I could have used about 12,300 (net) Arrival miles to book these flights for free, but I bought them before I got the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.
  • Singapore to London in Singapore First Class for 91,375 Singapore miles (transferred from Membership Rewards.)
  • London to Ljubljana on Wizzair for $54 even after having to pay a bag fee to check a carry on sized bag. Again this was an ideal award for Arrival miles.
  • Ljubljana to Frankfurt (23 hours) to Washington-Dulles (5 hours) to Greensboro, mostly in Lufthansa First Class for 67,500 United miles
  • Greensboro to Atlanta by rental car for $120 + gas for four days

As a group of one way awards with only one or two connections maximum, none of my awards was difficult to book. Every reader of MileValue should be able to book them all without the MileValue Award Booking Service, which is ideal for difficult international awards, especially in premium cabins.

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It’s Almost Cigar O’Clock at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal

I wrote Anatomy of an Award pieces for all of the international awards that you should read if you try to replicate one of the awards, since most of the awards were booked from programs with which you might not have much familiarity.

Trip Outline

  • Honolulu to Newark, United First (flat bed)
  • Radisson Martinique on Broadway (two nights)
  • Quality Inn, Jamaica AirTrain (one night)
  • New York (JFK) to Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Grand Hyatt Macau (one night)
  • Hong Kong to Singapore, Cathay Pacific Business Class
  • hostel (three nights)
  • Singapore to Siem Reap, Cambodia, Jetstar Asia
  • Le Meridien Angkor Wat (one night)
  • hostel (three nights)
  • Taxi to Battambang, Cambodia
  • hostel (two nights)
  • Bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • hostel (two nights)
  • Phnom Penh to Singapore, Jetstar Asia
  • Singapore to London, Singapore First Class
  • May Fair (two nights)
  • London to Ljubljana, Wizzair
  • hostel (three nights)
  • Ljubljana to Frankfurt, Adria Business Class
  • Holiday Inn Express Hauptbahnhof (one night)
  • Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles, Lufthansa First Class
  • Washington-Dulles to Greensboro, United economy
  • motel (four nights)
  • Drive a rental car to Atlanta

How I Messed Up

I’m fine with rapid travel where I spend only a day or two in each place for short periods of time, but those places need to be in the same time zone. I don’t deal particularly well with jet lag.

This trip had me changing 5, 6, 11 time zones every week right as I was somewhat adjusting to the last one. That has made me extremely tired for a lot of the trip, and I won’t repeat this breakneck pace on future trips.

I also messed up in where I had the Cathay Pacific award booked. By flying into Singapore on that award and back out of it on my next award, I had to backtrack to Singapore from Cambodia. Next time I’ll avoid backtracking with better planning. For instance, if I had flown directly from Hong Kong to Cambodia, I could have saved myself one flight.

Finally I messed up by not more proactively watching for changes in my reservations. I was hoping Hong Kong to Singapore would be three more hours of Cathay Pacific First Class, but an airplane swap put me in regional business class. On this one, the flight times were too important to me to change, so there’s not much I would have done had I noticed the plane swap earlier than I did (a few days before the first flight.)

Worse, I had my A380 and Singapore Suites Class swapped for a 777 and Singapore First Class. I should have noticed that and made a change, but I’d hardly consider flying Singapore First Class much of a loss.

Plus I don’t want to get too upset about these downgrades from ultra-premium to premium cabins when I fancy myself more of a traveler than a flies-first-class-er. Neither “downgrade” affected my enjoyment of Angkor Wat at all.

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Angkor Wat

Full Trip Report


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28 COMMENTS

  1. I just returned from SE Asia. I gotta say that Cambodia was probably the highlight of my trip. Angkor Wat was great, but the people were even better in spite of their recent struggles with war and genocide.

    • Any Cambodian my parents’ age has lived through such an incredible and awful history. I’m glad that traveling there got me to research its history a bit.

  2. I love the fact that you can stay both at nice hotels and hostels, first class and budget airlines, unlike some other bloggers who complain they can’t stand a mediocre 4-star hotel. Looking forward to your report!

    • This is the travel style that suits me. I consider the cheap stuff to be the base line and everything above it to be gravy. I started traveling far before getting into miles and if my ability to fly first class ended tomorrow, I’d keep traveling.

      • I travel long haul in business class but actually prefer to often stay in hostels, when you’re traveling on your own you can bump into so many interesting people than being stuck in a sterile hotel room all on your own… Of course now and then it has its downsides!!

        • I have a very similar view to yours. I like business class for flights (don’t mind economy) but I prefer hostels where I can make friends to big lux 5-star by myself.

  3. Just wondering why not using the free one way on AA for HNL-EWR? Stop over in EWR/NYC then continue on your main itinerary. I think EWR is considered the the North American International Gateway city, no?

      • HNL-EWR//JFK-HKG-SIN would not be valid as it would far, far exceed any maximum permitted mileage between Honolulu and Singapore, but I like the idea!

        HNL-EWR leg was booked for 35k Lufthansa miles, which is one of Lufthansa miles’ best uses in my opinion.

    • Won’t work. Aside from the fact that it exceeds AA’s MPM, it isn’t “the most direct routing.” I’d venture that no AAgent would book it for that reason alone.

      @MV – perhaps you’re just a better sport, but if I got downgraded from SQ R to F, I’d definitely be disappointed.

      • I was for a few minutes, but I slept most of the flight, and had an awesome time in SE Asia and Europe, so I couldn’t stay too upset.

  4. Sounds like an epic trip with a great mix of over the top luxury awards and low priced out of pocket flights and stays. I’m looking forward to the report.

  5. Inspiring to read what you’ve shared so far, including your use of hostels which I too prefer, and your appreciation of Angkor Wat ,at the same time as your awareness and sympathy about the genocide, as well as your learning what you’d plan next time in terms of avoiding severe jetlag from rapid substantial timezone changes. Since you mentioned your parents’ age in relation to Cambodia, here’s a little contemporaneous history for you: I saw Angkor Wat in early 1967 before all that happened, although the future already looked ominous to savvy locals. The Air Cambodia flight, a DC4 I think, from Singapore to Pnom Penh lost power in one engine midflight, and when we regained stability, the crew served us all in coach excellent champagne as we returned to Singapore, where I discovered that they’d booked the few foreigners on the flight into Raffles Hotel, well beyond my price range, but the hotel gave me an extra night free since we didn’t check in until 5 a.m. Air Cambodia couldn’t pay for the hotel. The US would not provide Cambodia with a replacement engine, so it took two weeks before Canada issued one. On the flight from Pnom Penh to Siem Reap, the young woman sitting next to me was an American Peace Corps worker on R&R from Kabul where the US was teaching the Afghans hotel management. At Pnom Penh airport, we were kept carefully separate from Chinese passengers across about 100 yards of tarmac space, gazing at one another–it was the time of the Cultural Revolution. Aliens gazing at one another. Russian MIG fighters were parked on the tarmac. On the flight from Pnom Penh to Bangkok, there was no-one in first class, so the crew served us the (utterly delicious) first class food in coach. I spent about eight hours sitting in the Bangkok airport building, then a wooden one-storied structure on the side of the airfield, waiting for the possible arrival of a member of the New Zealand civilian surgical team after a year in Vietnam, and I couldn’t credit the number of aircraft landing–one every few minutes. No passengers seemed to emerge from them. One week later the establishment of the US airbase in Thailand for the Vietnam war, already well under way, was announced. I’ve often wondered if I had witnessed unknowingly the arrival of many of the aircraft that would fly from it.

    • Wow, what an amazing time to be traveling through Southeast Asia.

      Probably luckily I haven’t had the experience of traveling through an area right before it erupts. I was in Ukraine in 2012, but other than the fact that Kiev spoke Ukrainian and Kharkiv spoke Russian, I didn’t see the tension that we see exploding now.

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