Monday, May 26, 2014

Updates?

Are you looking for updates from the Life and Times of Tim?  Well, I've moved. I'm now posting under Tim-Foolery.com.  Point your browser and update your RSS feed accordingly.  If you haven't, you've missed out on how my trip to South East Asia ended up and details on my Thanksgiving in Mexico City. You'll also miss out on my recent trips to Stockholm, Quebec and Spain.

As always, you can reach me on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook and via email.

Monday, February 17, 2014

K6 108: REP-PNH (Economy)

After Siem Reap, our next stop was the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. There were several options that we actively explored as how to make the trek between these two cities. The most romanticized idea was to take a long boat down Tonle Sap Lake. We had a recommendation from a friend (of a friend) that the boat trip was amazing....

Read more about our trip to Phnom Pehn from Siem Reap at my new site.  This specific post can be found here -- or reset your readers and bookmarks to Tim-Foolery.com

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Siem Reap

We spent a total of 2 nights and 2 full days in Siem Reap. We landed around 20h00 the first night and after checking in at the hotel, we went to dinner at Nest. The five of us – including our tour guide – ordered several entrees and ate family style.  Our guide gave us some good recommendations – we were very much pushing for Khmer food and not the western option.  My favorite  thing we had at Nest was the Beef Loc Lac...

Want to read more about what we did in Siem Reap? Well then head on over to my new site to read all the details.  You can find this specific post here or just reset your reader to Tim-Foolery.com

Monday, January 27, 2014

Angkor Wat and Surounding Temples

The main reason to visit Siem Reap is to visit the temples of Angkor Wat and the surrounding area.  I will spare you all the regurgitation of an ancient peoples history class – mostly because I would not do it justice...

Don't forget, I moved away from Blogger and can now be found at Tim-Foolery.com.  Continue reading this post here.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Le Meridien Angkor - Review

We decided to stay at the Le Meridien Angkor (@SPG) while in Siem Reap.  While it wasn’t ranked all that highly on TripAdvisor (at time of posting 66 our of 208 hotels in Siem Reap), we did want to save a bit of money and cashed in some Starwood Points...

Want to read more about our stay at the Le Meridien Angkor -- click on over to my new blog home - Tim-Foolery.com.

Monday, January 13, 2014

VN 815: SGN-REP (Economy)

After we finished our bike tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels we headed to the Airport for our flight to Siem Reap. Before we left for Asia, I made sure to get a few extra passport photos taken, since we would need them for the visas in Cambodia. 

Well, as luck would have it.....

Don't forget - I moved.  You can now find my blog at Tim-Foolery.com.  Click on over to read the rest of this post - and don't forget to update your reader to the new address.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Travel: A Year In Review

As each year comes to a close, I like to review my year in travel.  This also helps me put together my goals for the next year.  Let’s start with what happened in 2013...

As you know, I've moved to a new blogsite -- click here to read the rest of this post and don't forget to update your RSS Readers!


Monday, December 30, 2013

I'm Moving!

I’m moving!  No, I’m not getting out of Chicago. I’ve decided to move my blog. Not only am I moving away from blogger.com I am changing names too.  I came up with the name of Life and Times of Tim in 2007 – which ended up being the name of a short lived HBO show.

I’ve decided to change the blog name to Tim-Foolery.  I find it to be mildly clever and is much less of a mouthful compared to the Life and Times of Tim – agreed?  The blog content will continue to focus on the following:

  • Travel
    • Reviews of Trips, including airlines, hotels and experiences
    • Points/Miles/Promotions
  • Food
    • Recipes/Cooking
    • Restaurant Reviews
    • Wine/Cocktails
  • Home
    • Design
    • Garden
Where can you find my new blog, you ask?  Point your browser to: Tim-Foolery.com.  Go ahead and update your apps/readers now.  I’ll be sure to post blog updates on both the new site and the legacy site for a while , but in a few weeks the old site will go dark.


I’m looking forward to this change and hope you all enjoy it too.  I also look forward to your thoughts and opinions of the new site – including both content and design.  Let me know your thoughts - but remember, whenever you move it takes a little while to get things setup the way you like...

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Cu Chi Tunnel Bike Exploration

We've gotten in the habit of taking bike tours while we vacation and we decided to venture out a bit on our visit to Southeast Asia.  We didn't want just take an urban bike tour of Hanoi or Saigon (too damn dangerous in my mind), but we did want to get on the bikes again.

We did some research on TripAdvisor and found a group who would drive us out of Saigon where we would hop on the bikes and ride a total of 25km, which the route would include a ride through some rubber plantations, rice fields and small villages before we visit the tunnel areas.

The tunnels were essential for the Viet Cong's battle against the Americans during the Vietnam War (the American War).  The system of tunnels were more than 250km long covering multiple levels underground.  These tunnels allowed the Viet Cong to transport supplies (food and munitions) without the American's intervention.  People, not just soldiers, lived their lives in these little tunnels - cooking and sleeping here as well.

Our guide picked us up at 08h00 and we drove 30km outside of Saigon before we got on the bikes.  The bikes were in pretty good condition, not perfect but mostly safe. Our group of 4 were the only ones on the tour and our guide had just returned from leading an 8 day bike tour of the Mekong Delta area.  I think he was disappointed that we weren't as avid cyclers as his last group.

We made a couple stops along the way to look at the road side shops selling everything from fruits and veggies to live animals, etc.


Eels for sale
Dinner?
Moving farther down the road we come across a large rubber plantation. I really loved this part of the ride as it reminded me of the great film Indochine.  It was so calm and peaceful to ride being surrounded by the rubber trees.

Rubber tree plantation
The Cu Chi Tunnel area was more formally organized than I expected. There was an actual visitors center, guided tours, etc. Our bicycle guide acted as our guide on site as well, which was a bit of a double edged sword. He really seemed frustrated by our group.  He seemed quite hurried and rushed through some of the exhibits and areas.

One of the exhibit centers with a traditionally thatched roof.
Cap to the tunnel entrance
Peek-a-boo!
Booby trap!
We were then were given the chance to enter the tunnels through one of the access points.  It was a very tight fit and was quite unnerving ducking down into that area.


I could barely fit into the access point
GOOD BYE!
Now you see me, now you don't...
We continued through the area learning how the people lived during the American War, seeing their uniforms, their weapons and learning of their tactics.

Hammock

Rest area for VC troops including a hammock
Remains of a US Tank



Representation of daily VC life

VC Tunnel Hospital

Samples of ordinance used in war
We then left the official park and continued another 10km (or so) to get lunch.  The ride was long and very hot/humid at this point.  I lead the pack and decided that I was too hot and needed to stop for some sugar cane juice -- the guide did not want us to stop, he wanted us to power through the heat but I had no part of that. He was quite frustrated by me at this point too, but we needed to stop.

Exhausted and enjoying sugar cane juice.
We continued on a bit farther for lunch.  This was probably the worst selection for lunch on the entire trip. Most of the restaurant was filled with cruise ship people (Europeans and Americans). The food was bland and so poorly cooked. I was so horribly disappointed here.  The food thus far on the trip had been pretty great - this was really bad.

Lizard wanting to join us for lunch -- he could have it!
Watch out Ryan, he's right behind you!
Mediocre food after ride.
The one nice thing about that restaurant - and I must say, there was just one nice thing, was the views. The restaurant was surrounded by marshland.  I wouldn't visit this restaurant for the view though.
Marshland view from restaurant
View back to the restaurant
Closer to the restaurant
I am happy we did this bike tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. I was far from impressed with our tour guide. He was knowledgeable and spoke English very well - he was just rushed and seemed quite frustrated by us.  I would recommend taking this ride, but I would not recommend using this guide. We coordinated this tour through Exotissimo, which came highly recommended from other friends. They have a nice network throughout Southeast Asia.  The booking process and the plan of the tour was good - I think we just got a dud of a guide.

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

SPG Platinum - A First For Me

This week marked a first for me - achieving Platinum Status with @SPG.  I crossed the 50 night in a year threshold last week at the Le Meridien Mexico City, but since I hadn't fully earned the status, at the time of check-in, I didn't get to reap the benefits while in Mexico. 

This week I returned to the Sheraton Garden Grove - Anaheim South hotel for work.  While their systems hadn't been fully updated to reflect my new Platinum status, I showed them my "card" from the smart-phone app and they were able to update their records.  Here's what I got for being a Platinum at this hotel (compared to what Gold gets):

  • Welcome Gift of 500 Points (only 250 for Gold)
  • Complimentary Internet (charged at $9.95/day for Gold)
  • Complimentary Welcome Bottle of Wine (Nothing for Gold)
The best part, was how excited both of the young women who were working check-in when I arrived were when they found out this was my first stay as Platinum.  They were absolutely giddy.  The woman who was helping me was a bit stereotypical young Asian - she was super excited and when she laughed she covered her mouth and cast her gaze to the floor, almost like she was embarrassed she was so happy.  She was great!

I think I was supposed to get either the 500 Welcome Points or the bottle of wine.  I didn't drink the wine (I was hardly in the hotel room at all), so I left it for housekeeping with a note thanking them for their help. I am sure that wine goes right back into inventory.

There was only two nights from the time I earned Platinum until my next stay, so it isn't surprising that my reservation wasn't updated, but my SPG account was updated to reflect not only the new status, but I was immediately credited with the 10 Suite Night Upgrades (more on that later) as well.  

When you cross over a new Status Threshold (regular to Gold then again from Gold to Platinum) you get the option of choosing either Double Starpoints for a month of your choice or 35% off a redemption of Starpoints.  I haven't decided yet, but my gut says Double Points in April when I'll be staying at a relatively high priced hotel for work.  I haven't fully made my decision yet.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Infidelity

I am a @United guy. Everyone knows that. When I am not flying United, I'm flying one of their Star Alliance Partners (either because United doesn't fly directly to the destination in question -- or because I am using United MileagePlus miles for partner travel in a premium cabin, which I otherwise couldn't afford).  I flew non-Star Alliance Airlines on a trip to Southeastern Asia only because no Star Alliance carriers flew the routes I needed (HAN-SGN-REP-PHN).

I decided to try American Airlines for an upcoming trip to Nashville.  God Forbid.  I haven't flown American since 2007 (ORD-SAN-POS-MIA-ORD).  I made this choice for two simple reasons:
  • I do not need anymore EQMs on United to keep Premier Gold Status (50,000 miles)
  • United doesn't have a convenience schedule from ORD-BNA.
I have to be in Nashville for a holiday lunch party, but I also have a dinner that same night - both work functions that I really can't miss.  I must admit, I'm a bit excited about trying the American product - even if it is just a crappy little Regional Jet, on an airline with which I have no status.

How bad can it be, right? It's only an hour flight - and the times work for what I need.  

Do you ever feel like your cheating on your airline (or hotel) of choice when situations like this come up?  

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Monday, December 02, 2013

Thanksgiving Travel

How did this busy travel weekend treat you? Did you all take a trip to see family or did you stay home (or did you take a trip to get away from family)?  We took a quick trip to Mexico City (full trip report coming, I still need to finish Southeast Asia from earlier this year -- I promise to have that report finalized before the end of the month) and on this trip, we ran into many of the people who make travel so difficult.

Firstly, we had some of the rudest flight attendants I've ever come across - both the outbound and inbound flights were crewed by people who had lost all love for their jobs.  Everything from aggressively providing completely inaccurate information to lacking all the basics of customer service (waking me up to ask if I want a drink, then getting angry with me as they set the full trash bag on my tray table/lap while navigating a busy aisle).

The crews weren't the only ones who were struggling - we saw many people today who had the DYKWIA (Do you know who I am) mentality.  One guy was pissed because the flight from SFO-MEX had to land in Guadalajara because of fog in MEX. Evidently United should have called him before the flight left SFO to let him know he could sleep in (he was on the MEX-SFO leg).

All in all, we had no delays and very few personal run-ins with idiot travelers.  Obviously, Thanksgiving travel brings out the folks who aren't frequent travelers, so those of us who are in the air a bit more need to cut them some slack and try to go with the flow. If you are a frequent flyer and you are stressed, just think about how people who fly but once a year feel.

What are your Thanksgiving travel horror stories?  Did you have trouble getting to your destination? Did you have trouble with house guests?  Did you have a guest use bath linens as toilet paper (I got two texts from friends who had friends/family do that this weekend)?

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Starwood Promotion

Starwood today announced their first promotion for 2014.  The promotion itself is pretty lackluster.  For every 5 nights you stay you earn 2,500 bonus Starpoints.  This equates to getting an additional 500 Starpoints per night. This really isn't that exciting of a promotion, but it's a whole lot better than nothing, I guess. If can earn a maximum of 10,000 bonus Starpoints for staying a total of 20 nights.
You have to register for this promotion, but registration isn't open quite yet. Registration should open mid-December, according to the SPG website.  You'll earn these points for stays at ANY SPG hotel (this is huge, because most of the time dozens of hotels - usually the ones I want to visit - opt out of these promotions) between January 5 through April 30, 2014.
Image
While it's nice to see any type of promotion for the first part of 2014, this one isn't very lucrative and is definitely not mattress run worthy.  In any event, don't forget to sign up - it'd suck to miss out on this opportunity, no matter how bleh it is.
Will you be planning any special SPG stays because of this promotion?
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Aloft Smart Check-In

I received an email from @SPG congratulating me on being specially chosen to participate in an exclusive program wherein they send me a special key card and when I stay at participating Aloft hotels I can by-pass the check-in desk and go directly to my room. The day of check-in, the hotel would send participants of this program an email notifying us of the rooms to which we've been assigned.


This is an interesting idea - and based on a few of the last hotel stays I've had, I would have loved this benefit.  Recently in Nashville I was stuck in line (in the SPG Gold/Platinum Line) behind people who seemed like they had never been out of their mother's basement before.  The people in the non-Gold/Platinum line were even worse - they were demanding suite upgrades because they had a long cab ride in from the airport.  God I hate these people.

Usually when I check in to a hotel, I like to chat up the front desk people - mostly to see if I can talk them into giving me a better room.  At an Aloft that is usually just a room with a better view or located in a quieter part of the hotel (away from elevators, on higher floors, away from public outdoor spaces, etc).

I signed up for this benefit and once I make my first stay, I'll report back on how the whole thing works.  I'm not at all sold on this "benefit" as of yet.  Since this is only for Aloft and there isn't a chance for any real upgrade I don't think any other benefits would be lost.

Who else got this "benefit"?  What do you think about it? Do you think there is any benefit to this new program? Have you received your new Aloft Card yet? Does it indicate your SPG status on it?  I'd hate to be stuck carrying two SPG cards (Aloft permanent room key, SPG Platinum Card...and my SPG Amex).

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Huge Day In Dubai

Today was the first day of the Dubai Airshow and it was big.  There are a ton of news articles about the transactions.  Emirates made the biggest splash by agreeing to purchase 200 aircraft - 150 Boeing 777X and 50 Airbus A380 - plus options to buy an additional 50 planes.  According to an Emirates representative, this will be the largest aircraft order in the history of aviation.

Love this photo from the official Airshow website, don't you?
When you include the other two major gulf carriers - Qatar and Etihad - $150B worth of airplanes (list price) were committed to in the first day alone.  These carriers purchased nearly 260 aircraft on Sunday. While there is still the option to cancel the orders at a future point (economic downturn, delivery delays, etc), but this order shows that the 3 main Gulf Carriers are investing in their future. They intend to bring the world to the Gulf - even if it just to connect as you travel the world.

I haven't had a chance to fly any of the Gulf-3, but I would love to cash in some miles/points to fly a premium cabin and spend a few days in Dubai/Abu Dhabi.  If you were going to hit the UAE for a long weekend, which airline would you fly and more importantly, how would you pay for it - cash (not I), American Express Membership Rewards? Starwood Preferred Guest Points? Codeshare miles?

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