...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Chase Freedom 2nd Quarter Earnings bonus now active!

Don't forget to activate and use your Chase Freedom card in selected categories for the 2nd quarter!

I'm looking forward to earning 5x points on the first $1500 for all Restaurant purchases (since I don't shop at BBB, H&M, or Overstock regularly)  That's even better than using the Chase Sapphire Preferred!

Monday, April 6, 2015

MR Trip Report Part 2: Jakarta

Here's the part where the trip gets interesting...Jakarta.  Or, as I found out, the proper way to say it is sza-kar-TA, emphasis on the last syllable.

My departure from Bangkok was slightly delayed in the morning due to heavy rains.  The hotel stood up well - I got about 4-5 hours of sleep and after a short counter wait I was off to the gate for Thai Airways 433...another new airline to try on my adventure!  Overall I can't complain - the seats were standard for economy on the A330 and service was overall good.  After landing Jakarta things got interesting.
Infamous Jakarta Arrivals area...

For starters, the arrival area is not well marked.  And it's warm.  Borderline hot. If the AC was on I couldn't tell.  But since I knew I was a transit passenger I walked toward the labeled 'transit' area signs instead of the visa/immigration area.  And was promptly stopped short of the moving walkway by a guy who wanted to see my ticket info.  I had done my research and knew that IATA and Indonesia are in agreement on transit passengers so I really didn't think I'd have an issue.  Boy was I wrong.

An arrivals staffer proceeded to hold me up and question me about all parts of my trip. Where did I come from?  What flight?  Where am I going?  Why did I fly Thai Airways?  (I had receipts for all of my bookings, but the theme of the afternoon was that no one understood why I took two different airlines to connect).  While I was standing there, my seatmate from the Thai Airways flight (who also happened to be an editor of one of the main Jakarta newspapers) stopped in and tried to intervene.  I caught most of what was being said as they poured over my receipts but it wasn't good.  In the end, though, I was given the option of waiting in the Garuda Indonesian Lounge area until 9pm in order to transit.  Not exactly ideal but I took it and camped out.

I wasn't going to let that stop me.  After 2 hours the first guy left and two girls replaced him. Thought I'd give it a try again. This time I was told I had to wait until 8 hours before and then I could transit.  So...back to the Lounge to wait an hour.  By then the two girls were gone and an immigration officer was now on duty.  The third time definitely was not the charm.

After explaining and showing my tickets, this officer said to follow him and off we went to the immigration office...where four officers proceeded to pour over my info and try to figure out why I was transiting with so much time in between and with different airlines.  The main guy asked me pointed questions - and when I tried to explain why I should be able to transit, he wasn't having any of it.  He told me I was the only person he's heard of to try and transit like this (right).  I explained that I had called and done my research on transiting, but I knew I lost my argument when he proclaimed, "I don't care what the rules are or what it says, this is my country".  Yep - done.  I waited a bit more but finally relented and went to do (and pay) the immigration into Indonesia.  After finding a place to take my credit card, I was told to come back to the office where they took my passport for 10 minutes and had to personally stamp me in.  Soon after I was off through baggage claim and into Indonesia...only to try and re-enter and get back into the airport lounge areas.  I was hot, tired, hungry, and thirsty...all I wanted was water.

And I couldn't even get that.

They have a Coffee Bean, Starbucks, and even an A&W in the front area of CGK.  But little did I know that none of the places take a credit card - only local currency (of which I had none).  Luckily I had bought a $50 bill along and rather than use my debit card in one of their machines, I was able to change that into local currency and could eat and get a drink.  I had a bunch of hours to wait so I took my time and eventually made it back into the main check in area, where I waited in another long line to get my boarding passes.  I then changed my money back into US Dollars (and five Euros) and proceeded to immigration again where I then paid the departure tax.  Lesson learned...bring currency or be prepared to change dollars.
The escalator immigration would not let me access

After going through security I was back in the main terminal - amazing how many high end shops they have compared to the small kiosks in the front.

I was ready to fly on to Hong Kong.  After a short wait and a bit of Internet from Starbucks, I was off to the gate and my next new airline - Cathay Pacific.  We had another A330 for this segment and I must say that Cathay does it right.  Nice seats, excellent entertainment, and food is top notch.  They even left food at my seat when I fell asleep so I could wake up and eat.  Can't wait to try them on a longer transpacific flight!  Other than my seatmate almost sleeping on my shoulder it was a smooth flight into Hong Kong.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MR Trip Report Part 1: On to Bangkok

Busy waiting area LAX
I knew that the start of this trip would be the longest since it involved a full work day on top of an evening drive from San Diego to LAX.  Normally rush hour traffic makes things pretty unbearable, but I chose to wait until later evening and was glad I did.  It took me about 2.5 hours to drive up via the 5 and 105 - thankfully getting into LAX Lot C was easy (my chosen lot when I have to fly out from there).  The shuttle ride in, though, took a long time - I guess I've never flown out of LAX so late (1:00am) but traffic was at a standstill between terminals.  And lines to check in were long - when I finally got to the desk it took 15 minutes to check me in.  I started to get a bit worried since my itinerary was unique with so many segments, but after a bit I was off and ready to go to the gate.  Security was ok - lines were long (and I still don't understand why PreCheck was closed...maybe due to the late hour?).  Upon getting to the gate I also missed out on $500 vouchers due to the flight being oversold - couldn't change up my complicated itinerary as it was.  I was upgraded to first class for the initial flight to DFW and after boarding promptly fell asleep.

We arrived to DFW about 30 minutes early - I had time to take a quick walk before heading to the gate to check in.  I inquired about upgrading but passed on the 25,000 mile/$350 co-pay to get to Business Class.  I could make it in Main Cabin Extra.  :)

In-flight needs an upgrade!
The flight to Narita went without any incident - service was smooth and fast, and the flight overall was smooth with little turbulence. I was a bit surprised that American uses an older aging 777 for this flight - hopefully they upgrade it to a newer plane soon.  The entertainment option made me chuckle at how ancient it was.  I slept about 6-7 hours of the 13 hour flight, which for me was a record.  My seatmate was an active US military member (Navy) who was on his way back to Tokyo for another tour - found out he was part of the PR team (he didn't specify which area).  He was impressed by what he called my "power sleeping" in economy...I had a good chuckle about that.  I was a bit worried though when we took off - he got out a mask and cleaning equipment and used it liberally throughout the flight.  I've been teased in the past about how I am not afraid to use hand sanitizer on planes, but this guy...he was meticulous.  Besides the mask and sanitizer, he also had wipes and wiped down everything.  All his utensils, the seat, the tray, the top of each can of drink...I found myself watching and guessing to myself to see what he would handi-wipe next.  We talked for a bit about his service, my trip, etc - he was a great seatmate for the flight and we shared mutual best wishes upon landing to NRT.

Shakura Lounge NRT
Transiting in NRT was easy.  A quick right turn into a bag scanner and I was on an through to my transit gate.  Since I had some time before the next flight, I quickly asked about lounge access and was directed to try the Shakura Lounge near my departure gate.  I was pretty happy overall with the options - no shower, but great food choices and very quiet.

My next flight was to Bangkok on a new airline and plane type for me: Japan Airlines and the 787!  I was very excited to try out the 787 - for all the hype we read about, I wanted to see for myself whether it was warranted.  Right away I noticed the cabin pressure changes - the air was much more humidified and not as dry.  Plus I really liked the seats and new windows - when taxiing you can see the entire travel path and runway lineup.  I had a seatmate at the window who kept falling asleep near/on my shoulder - otherwise, it was a relatively quick 7 hour segment to BKK.  I took the opportunity to get another 3.5 hour nap in as we flew.

Upon arrival it was late (11:15pm), so I needed to find my place of stay: The Louis Tavern Transit Hotel and Dayrooms.  I booked this via Kayak.com and admittedly was a bit nervous when I did.  Reviews were mixed online from most people about noise levels and privacy, but the cost point was good so I gave it a try.  I'm happy to report that it was a very pleasant stay - no noise issues, a clean bed, and the shower was adequate.  Finding the hotel wasn't too difficult either - upon arrival to BKK, don't go into the formal arrival/customs area - just transfer via a short escalator and bag check point to the 4th level in Concourse G. 

Time for sleep!