Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hanoi Elegance Ruby Hotel

How did we find the Hanoi Elegance Hotel? We scanned TripAdvisor. This hotel is part of a local chain and came very highly rated. Plus the rate was great - $50/night.  While we could have easily found a cheaper hotel, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't stay anywhere else in Hanoi.

We arranged for the hotel to pick us up at the airport and while the driver wasn't all that friendly, he did collect and deliver us as we all agreed.  The hotel is down an alley and if we didn't have a driver, I am not sure we would have ever found the property.  Our friends had arrived in Hanoi the night before and were waiting for us as we approached the hotel.  We were greeted by 4-5 hotel employees, all of whom looked to be about 15 years old.  We handed our passports over for check-in and we were immediately given the best mango juice I've ever had. It was a wonderfully refreshing mango puree - I would go back to Hanoi right now just for the mango juice.

We were given a room on the second floor with two twin beds.  We opted to get two beds mostly because of some of the stories we'd heard about how the Vietnamese treat gay visitors.  We ran into no issues whatsoever and our friends had a room with a king bed - again no issues.

The reviews of the hotel indicated the street noise was a bit too much from the lower floors. I heard nothing and slept very well each night.

Our room had two beds, with rose pedals welcoming us as we entered. We also had a small desk, with a laptop provided by the hotel, WiFi was included in the room rate and surprisingly the signal was quite strong.  There was also a TV above the foot of the bed which played an interesting mix of Vietnamese and foreign programming.

Twin beds with roses
Bare wall with TV
Unlike some hotels we came across (but luckily never stayed in one) we had a private bath attached to our room. The bath was quite spacious. One of my biggest pet peeves in a hotel is the lack of water pressure and inconsistently hot water - this hotel was great, these issues were non-existent.

Our $50/night room rate included a breakfast in the restaurant on the first floor.  The menu had about 10 items - eggs, fruit, pancakes, French toast, etc.  Each morning I had either a pancake or a crepe and several glasses of fresh mango juice.

Each time we'd return from exploring Hanoi, the folks at the reception area would stop us and ask us all about our day. What did we see? Where did we eat? Where are we going later in the day? Do we need help with reservations or taxis?  The staff at this hotel was beyond top notch. I really enjoyed every interaction with these folks.  The one issue I had with the staff was really relating to our mutual language skills.  They would say something that really seemed odd and out of place, then the whole staff would just stare at me -- then they'd burst out laughing.  The issue was really mine. I knew what they were saying but their turn of phrase made me unsure if they were making a joke or if they were just stumbling over the language.  Rest assured - they are making a joke.

Would I stay at this hotel again? Without a doubt.  While you won't earn any points at this hotel, nor is it one of the super cheap hotels you often associate with Vietnam, but in my mind you cannot find a better hotel for the value.

The folks at the hotel will also help you book a cruise on Halong Bay or a day trip away from Hanoi -- both of which they did help us with.

As I write this trip report I crave fresh mango juice.  If you are going to Hanoi - do yourself a favor and book the Hanoi Elegance Ruby Hotel. I am sure you will not be disappointed.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

W New York - Downtown: Hotel Review

The first of three @SPG hotels I stayed at while in New York was the W New York - Downtown. This was my first stay at this property. Located in lower Manhattan just immediately across the street from the 9/11 Memorial entrance, this hotel's lobby is on the 5th floor, which I really like. You get out of the hustle and bustle and you can start to relax immediately.

I arrive around 15h00 and was greeted by name as I approached the check-in desk.  I had not been in contact with the hotel prior to my arrival. My guess is that they had very few people checking in that day and I was the only one either queued up to arrive at that time or the only single arriving. Who knows.  I was thanked for my loyalty and offered a welcome amenity. I opted for the points in lieu of the free internet or a cocktail.  I was on a work trip so my cocktails were paid for by the vendor I was there to see, and I was queued up to be out of the room most of the time and my internet usage would be limited so those would have been a waste.

I was assigned a room on the 8th floor and unlike the W on 49th and Lex this room was bright and much bigger than I was expecting. The rooms I've stayed in at the Lex property are slightly larger than my walk-in closet at home.  It's Manhattan and I get space is of a premium - and I've stayed multiple times at the W on Lex, so I know what I'm in for.  The downtown property was by no means spacious, but it was a nice upgrade from Midtown.

You walk in and find the bright white room with a red bed scarf that provides a huge punch of color.  The white was a bit worn, but at least you could see what was dirty and what was just worn - everything here was just worn and not dirty! Whew.

The desk was under the TV, which made it almost impossible to watch TV and work at the desk, nothing critical.  This layout actually made me a bit more productive too.  I was right next to the elevators, which Marriott is always good about following your preferences - I haven't had much luck with SPG regarding my placement away from an elevator.

The bathroom was immediately behind the bedroom and took the entire wall. This reminded me of the layouts of the various Alofts I've visited before. Obviously this is a good design layout for small spaces.  The bathroom was clean and featured a nice sized walk-in shower.  The closet was extremely small - and since I was in town for more formal meetings, I couldn't comfortably hang all my clothes - not even enough hangers. I requested some additional ones as well, but none ever showed up.

The hotel also offers complimentary car service within a given radius - although I don't know what that radius was. No free trips to the airports that's for sure.  I did use this service once, after check-out, when I was moving from the W Downtown to the Element Times Square.  I usually don't have much luck with complimentary transportation services at hotels. Someone either just beat me to it or it just stopped running.  This worked out perfectly. I rode in an Acura and I had to complete a quick survey on the service and if this made me want to buy an Acura. I don't need a car, but I told them it did, since I want this type of service to continue.

I did eat dinner one night in the hotel - mostly because there is a BLT Bar and Grill. I fell in love with BLT when we were in San Juan a few years ago. The popovers are worth the visit alone (although, I think mine are marginally better).

I often struggle with the W Hotels.  Sometimes they just seem too hip for me. I really dig the design - sleek, modern, functional - but the attitude of the guests and from time to time the staff really start to grate on my nerves.  By the end of the third day, I just want to go elsewhere.

Would I stay here again? In a heartbeat.  I like the location. I liked the room. The price was average for a Manhattan hotel. Both the Element (obviously) and Le Parker Meridien were substantially cheaper the weekend I stayed, which is part of the reason I changed hotels. I wanted to save a bit of money (50% of the cost of the W) and I wanted to try two additional properties (and get different stay credits).  My biggest complaint about the hotel, isn't the hotel itself. It is the tons of people across the street waiting to enter the 9/11 Memorial. So many people (tourists) who don't know where they are going. They have big bags and are bumping in to you and are just generally confused.  During the week it was great. The weekend (when I went to the Memorial) it was utter torture.

Have you stayed at the W Downtown? What's your favorite Starwood Property in Manhattan? Are you still shocked at the size of the rooms at the W on 49th/Lex?

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Westin Phoenix Downtown: Hotel Review

We ended our Arizona visit with a stay at the Westin Phoenix Downtown (@WestinPhoenix @SPG). We arrived around 17h00 on Saturday night and downtown Phoenix was as dead as can be.  We parked across the street and walked (in the blazing heat) to the hotel.  The lobby was empty, except for three Westin employees, two of which scattered when we entered the lobby.

The man working reception was very nice and thanked me for my loyalty (Gold status). We made small talk while he typed away for quite a while on his computer. Have you ever wondered what the hell they are typing during check-in?  I asked about the occupancy level at the hotel and he said they were well below 15% and it was so dead.  Of course, this encouraged me to ask about a room upgrade - which was immediately met with "No, we have no upgrades available."  Hmmmm.  Upgrades aren't guaranteed, so I can't really complain.

We were given a room on the 16th floor. The hotel really seemed like a ghost town.  When I opened the door to the room I was shocked at the rush of cold air hitting me -- such a huge (and wonderful) difference compared to the Aloft from a few days earlier.

Entering the room you immediately come across the bathroom, which was quite modern and except the two burned out lights (I called the front desk and this was remedied immediately) the bathroom was pretty nice.  I like the design aesthetic and the hotel is only 2 years old so it is still quite clean (and considering it is in Phoenix, I doubt the summers are all that busy here, reducing the number of guests even more). 
Door-less toilet alcove.
Great walk-in shower and modern vanity
Mini-Fridge, safe and coffee maker in closet.
When we walked into the room itself, we were quite surprised at the size. This room was huge, with a couch, a chair, a desk, along with a king sized bed and a bench.  My first thought was how I wanted to see what an upgraded room would be like.  Honestly, there was a lot of wasted space in this room -- I'm not complaining - I like the space and could see myself getting a lot of work done and having ample space to relax on a future stay.

Main area of standard room
Main area
Seating area
View from the room
As you all know one of my biggest hotel pet peeves is a total lack of electrical outlets near the bed. This hotel did a pretty good job of having outlets -- the biggest problem? The outlets were laid out so that your standard mobile device chargers could be plugged in (they were too big and the outlet was at the very bottom of the lamp base).

The hotel itself was actually quite nice -- and the restaurant Province was good too (we just had appetizers and some cocktails only).  We didn't have much interaction with the hotel staff at all, other than check-in and check-out (and the quick help from maintenance when they replaced our bathroom light bulbs), but all in all, I thought the stay was pretty good.

Since it was early July, we were able to get a very good rate and the location seemed pretty good too - we walked around the corner to grab dinner with a friend in Phoenix and we passed by several restaurants that looked like they had some decent selections.  I would definitely give this property another go if I were staying in downtown Phoenix again.

Have you stayed here before? What is your favorite Starwood property in Phoenix?  Does it surprise you how dead downtown Phoenix is on a weekend as much as it did me? Be the first to know when a new post is published: sign up to receive them via email or directly in your RSS Reader. Follow me on Twitter or Google Plus too!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tipping Hotel Housekeeping

Tipping the housekeepers at a hotel is a topic you see regularly on travel blogs. For some it is as standard as tipping at a restaurant. For others it's as common as tipping your dentist: Just doesn't happen.  For me, I usually leave a bit of cash - especially if I've stayed a few days.  I leave a lot of cash if I feel it is necessary (ahem, the Standard Hotel Downtown LA).

Yes, these folks get paid a wage. Is it a living wage is a topic for another blog.  These folks are doing a service for me and I appreciate it. I can also afford to put down a few dollars a day as a tip.  When I was younger (early in my career), I really didn't have the money to do so and consequently, I didn't. I didn't notice any service difference either. But seriously, do you tip only so you can get better service?

This brings me to this morning. I've been staying at the Aloft O'hare for 10 nights so far - I am staying a total of 18 because of housing changes (a different blog will walk through that).  I've asked for no housekeeping service since I'm working during the day and I am terrified Lilly will get out and she'll be gone for ever.

I went downstairs this morning and asked for immediate housekeeping (as I am going out later this morning).  I had to visit the front desk because my phone still doesn't work in my room, but luckily the internet is back up and running.

I know this is a pain in the ass for these folks. They have their routine down and demanding an immediate visit from housekeeping isn't ideal...plus the room hasn't been cleaned in 10 days and Lilly sheds when she's nervous and well anytime you have a litter box in a small area it gets kind of gross.

Lilly and I hanging out at the bar while the room is serviced.
As the housekeeper knocked on my door, I grabbed Lilly and stuck her in the carrier and headed downstairs. I preemptively tipped the housekeeper $10 (as that was all the cash I had on me, except for a bunch of singles--she's a maid, not a stripper).  She was shocked and tried to push it back in my hand. I insisted. To me this is a thank you for being so understanding and for the extra work she'll have to do.  If she takes it as a bribe to do a better job, so be it. That's not my intention.

I wonder what percentage of people here actually leave tips for the housekeeping staff.

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Aloft Phoenix - Airport: Hotel Review

We decided to stay at the Aloft Phoenix Airport (@AloftPHX @SPG) on our recent trip to Arizona, mostly because our flight got in so late. We landed around 23h00 and the drive to Prescott (our final destination) would have us arriving around 02h00. No good.  The Aloft had a complimentary shuttle from the airport, which had us arriving at the hotel around 23h30.

When we arrived the Lobby was pretty packed. Who knew that a Wednesday night would be the rockin' night at an airport hotel bar?  At check-in I was offered either a free drink at the bar or 250 Starpoints as my Gold Welcome Amenity. I opted for the points (figuring that since it was nearly 02h00 on our body clocks we'd just go to bed - I was wrong).  

We headed to the room to drop off our bags.  The halls were absolutely sweltering. Phoenix was hot - when we landed - it was still 41C (107F) outside at nearly midnight.  We made it to our room and were quite surprised at how hot this room was too.  We cranked up the A/C and knew that we'd be tossing and turning all night if we tried to sleep in that heat.

When you enter the room, immediately to the right you find a small closet, room safe and the bathroom sink.  Continuing on through the sliding mirrored door you find the toilet and the shower.  The very standard / cookie-cutter design for an Aloft.


Bathroom vanity with mini-fridge
I am disgusted when I enter a room and find a gaping toilet greeting me.  How hard is it to close the lid after you clean it.
Shower Room and Gaping Toilet
The main room, on the other side of the closet wall, consisted of a king bed, a small desk and a chair in the corner.  The bed was the standard Aloft bed - which isn't as great as the W Bed or the Westin Heavenly Bed, but I do find them to be quite acceptable. A whole hell of a lot better than the Hotel Indigo beds.

Main room with desk
Bed and Chair - Mike relaxing
Another bed / room shot
Since we arrived so late, I didn't get a chance to take a picture of our view until the next morning. Whoa, what a beautiful industrial Arizona view, eh?  Makes you want to sit and stare out the window watching the world go by, doesn't it...

Stellar view
I didn't get any pictures of the common areas, unfortunately. We arrived too late and were in a hurry the next morning.  The service at the bar was very lackluster. All the servers were too busy on their phones and attempting to coordinate an ad hoc karaoke party amongst themselves - they need not quit their night jobs to be singers, that's for sure.  Unfortunately they didn't even know the items they were serving. We asked one server about the beers they had on tap and she suggested we go up to the bar and look -- then she left us.  It took us quite a while to get our check too - everyone was a little preoccupied that night.

I would stay at this hotel again, but only if I had either a late arriving flight or an early departure the following morning. There really isn't any other reason, in my mind, to stay at this hotel.  I must admit, I do like the Aloft chain.  They are consistent.  Interestingly enough, as I write this review, I sit in an Aloft near O'hare and the room is EXACTLY the same as the PHX room, except I got stuck with two queen beds and no chair.  Sometimes it is nice to find a reasonably priced hotel that is extremely consistent.

Have you stayed at the Aloft - PHX before? Do you dig the Aloft or do you prefer slightly more glamorous digs?

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

SPG Gold Status Gift

I recently re-earned @SPG Gold Status. When you hit this elite level Starwood gives you a gift – either 1) 25% of an Award Redemption or 2) Double Starpoints for a month.  Last year I qualified as Gold  a day or two before the end of the year and never got this gift, thus this is the first time I've had to make this selection.

My thoughts on these options:

1) I don’t really redeem Starpoints all that regularly. I’ve been building up a bit of a stockpile for some great award stay in the future.  Starwood does give you the 5th consecutive night free (for stays at hotels category 3 or higher) which can be stacked with this reward.  So if I were so inclined to take a week and stay at the same hotel someplace I could get it for only 60% of the required points (5 nights for the price of 4 minus 25%). Maybe I could stay at the Parker Palm Springs for a week, or cash in some miles and points and return to the St. Regis Bangkok or maybe one of the Starwood properties in Paris…or….

2) The idea of double Starpoints is, on the surface, pretty interesting. Unfortunately, I don’t get the choice of what month to select. I just checked and they offer the double points for me in October. I have ONE stay planned in October. What a waste. I was thinking that using double points in August could make sense since I’m (currently) staying 16 consecutive days at the Aloft O’Hare.  I’m getting a pretty good rate here and even doubling the points doesn’t get me all that far.  I’m usually more interested in the double points than the reduced redemption options.

Who out there has recently requalified for SPG Gold? What gift did you choose? What gift would you choose if you had to make this choice and why?

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Up to 50K Miles or 4 Regional Upgrades on United

Last week United sent me an offer for either 50K miles or 4 Regional Upgrades.  I've read that others received equivalent offers but most that I've heard about are maxing out at only 25K miles.  Why did I get a greater promotional amount? God only knows - but the one thing I do know is that this is the first time in 7-8 years that I don't have ANY United flights in the queue.  Maybe United thinks I'm cheating on them and are trying to lure me back.

The promotion grants either 10K miles or 1 Regional Premium Upgrade for flying 1 qualifying round trip, 15K miles or 2 Regional Premium Upgrades for 2 qualifying round trips and 50K miles or 4 Regional Premium Upgrades for 4 qualifying round trips.

Seems pretty straight forward. The fine print is where they get you though. For economy tickets (I won't even talk about First of Business class, because I've never purchased Business or First class tickets and I have no intention of starting now) you need to purchase a fare of Y, B, M, E, U or H. These are not the low cost tickets - and while I think this is a great promotion, I doubt I will actually earn anything as I usually buy the cheapest tickets.

The other kicker is that when registering you have to select either the miles or the upgrades and you cannot change.  Since I've got a TON of miles, I decided to opt for the Upgrades.

This is a targeted promotion, but I say give it a try and see if you can register (maybe your email got lost, right??) - Register here.

What option are you signing up for - Miles or Upgrades?

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TK560: BKK-HAN (Royal Silk Class)

We landed about an hour late into BKK from FRA, meaning we had only 20 minutes to deplane, go through security / passport control and make it to our next flight. The BKK ground service got a bit confused and sent me and Mike to the First Class Lounge and said they'd be back to collect us in about 90 minutes. My first thought was our flight to Hanoi was delayed - which excited me since I wanted to have a massage in the first class lounge.  We checked the monitors and found that our flight was in final boarding (which is total BS - I don't think I've ever seen a status of "boarding" just "final boarding").  In any event, we had to hurry to our gate.

As we made it to the departure gate we ran across our Ground Crew Escort and she was very apologetic. She got confused on who was going where. Very frustrating.  We made it to the gate, which ironically was the gate immediately next to the A380 we flew in on from FRA.

We walk down the jet bridge to find that we are actually boarding a bus and are being schlepped clear across the airport.  Our flight to Hanoi was on a very old A300 which was an amazing change from flying Flagship Service from FRA to BKK on the A380.

We were seated in the first row of Business Class (and the first row of the plane) in seats 11A and 11B.  We were greeted by a much less polished stew crew but were offered champagne to start.  I didn't have the heart to ask them if they were serving 2003 Dom on this flight.  We did get a tall pour, but it tasted much more like sparkling turpentine than champagne. Such a change.

That's not a 2003 Dom Perignon...
Mike checking in with our friends in Hanoi.
Check out that old monitor in the center bulkhead!
After two red eye flights (even in Business and First) we were feeling a bit exhausted and the sparkling wine didn't really aid that feeling.

It seemed like about 4,000 people boarded the flight to Hanoi, but business class was only about 75% full.  The pitch in these seats was pretty bad. I couldn't stretch my legs out -- that's the problem with bulkhead seating. We just didn't plan this leg properly.

A breakfast of fruit, beef noodle and a pastry was served and I have to tell you, the beef noodle was GREAT!  I'm not usually a breakfast guy, but since I'd been flying for two days it didn't really seem breakfast time to me, so the beef noodle was perfect.

Beef noodle breakfast
There was no IFE and all the large screen on the center bulkhead showed was the map - which I'm usually OK with.  At this point, I just wanted to get to Hanoi take a real shower and start the land portion of our trip.

Up to this point, we hadn't really put any final plans on the land portion of our trip so after breakfast we pulled out our guide books and started making a plan for Hanoi.  We started our initial decent about 25 minutes out of Hanoi and there was a little bit of chop as we came through the clouds.

Coming into Hanoi
Farmland near HAN
Hanoi was very hazy. Once we landed we taxied around the runway quite a bit. It was fun to see all the Vietnam Airline planes. There wasn't really any other airline there when we landed.

Hazy taxiway
Vietnam Airlines taxing
Hanoi Airport and ramp crew
This flight was the worst of the trip to Hanoi, but that's to be expected considering the two other flights we took to get here.  The flight itself was perfectly fine. Service was a definitely unpolished but on a quick 90 minute flight to Hanoi I don't necessarily expect a great experience. If I was flying this route again, I'd totally take Thai versus the competitors (Vietnam Airlines).

Have you flown an old A300 recently?  Did it remind you of flights when you were a child?  Do you feel cheated when you are in business class, but the leg room is so bad you can't even stretch out your legs?
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TK 941: FRA-BKK (Thai Royal First Class)

Our escort dropped us off at the door to Thai's A380 and bid us adieu. The two flight attendants greeted us with a bow, hands in prayer position and a soft "Sawasdee Ka" (which in Thai is kind of like Aloha - meaning: Hello, Good Bye, Good Morning, Good Evening, etc).  Our hand luggage was taken by the Stews and we were escorted to our seats.  I was assigned to seat 1A and MS was in seat 1E.

Mike taking photos as we get settled in.
Less than flattering photo of me in 1A
I moved from 1A to 1F so we could chat easier

Our new home for our 10 hour flight to BKK
Seat 1A including large screen IFE, duvet and ample storage
As the rest of the plane boards, the Stew asked me if I would like a pre-departure beverage, which of course I asked for champagne. She immediately apologized: "Oh, Mr. Nickerson, I am so sorry. We are only serving a 2003 Dom Perignon while on the ground. Is that Okay?"   Uh, yeah, I think I can slum it with a 2003 Dom...

Pre-departure 2003 Dom...
Another Stew came up and asked if I wanted an "M" or an "L".  This confused me at first, but I looked more closely at what she was talking about - the Thai First Class Pajamas.  "L" please.
Enjoying my pre-departure beverage
After the beverage service was finished we were handed Thai branded noise cancelling headphones.

As mentioned earlier, there was a bit of a snow storm in FRA so we were delayed about 30 minutes waiting to be de-iced. Never have I been so excited for a delay.  Our champagne was collected right as we turned onto the runway for take off. Enjoying the drink until the very last minute was perfect.

We had what seemed like a very long and very slow take off roll. The A380 was super quiet and we slowly ascended.  After about 10 minutes the seat belt sign was turned off and our Stews delivered more Dom, an amuse bouche and the full menus. The amuse was two bite size slices of bread one with cheese and the other topped with beef and veg.  Very tasty.

First serving menu
Anytime meal menu
Our tables were then fully set for the dinner service with multiple wine glasses, salt & pepper shakers, water and butter.

Dinner setting
Our Stew, who said her name was too hard to pronounce, asked us to call her Popcorn (that's kind of what her name sounds like, she said). Popcorn delivered us each a bread basket with a couple rolls and a cheesy flat bread cracker.

Individual bread basket.
After bread, we were asked if we wanted to start with the caviar service, which was served from a trolley.  I of course agreed and enjoyed all the standard accompaniments including red onion, cheese and lemon.  The plating was done individually, so if you wanted more onion, all you had to do was ask.  Of course I opted to include the ice cold vodka with this course.

MS Caviar service. Popcorn is the Stew not facing the camera
Rillette of Crab / Grilled Prawns / Salmon Roe
Everything up to this point was really great. For the entree, I selected the Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Mike chose the Chicken with Eggplant Green Curry. My beef was flavorful, but very tough and over done - honestly disappointing. Mike's curry was top notch. I am very jealous I did not choose as he did.

Flavorful yet dry beef.
Chicken and Eggplant Curry
The cheese course followed with a nice selection of fruit and cheese - which of course I paired with a nice port (a very tall pour too).

For dessert I had the pineapple cake, which was a bit dry. I'm not a really big dessert person, unless it is chocolate of course.

After meal service (which took about 90 minutes from start to finish), the cabin lights were dimmed and I opted to change in to my Thai pajamas.  When I left the lavatory, Popcorn was standing outside the door with clothes hangers. She took my items, hung them up and placed them in my individual closet at my seat.  When I made it back to my seat, the crew had already converted my seat into a bed.

The PJs were quite comfortable and fit very well.  I ended up using them throughout much of the trip and once winter sets back in in Chicago, I'll probably bring them out again. They're holding up quite well so far.
In PJs getting ready to relax and sleep a bit
I wasn't really sleepy yet, so I decided to watch Argo after dinner.  Interestingly enough, the film finished up right as we were over Iran.  I really enjoyed Argo, it was very well done and if you haven't seen it yet, go watch it...what are you waiting for?
Air show over India.
About 90 minutes out of Bangkok, breakfast was served. We started off with individual pastry baskets and sliced fruit.  The pineapple was quite amazing and who doesn't love a big buttery croissant in the morning...

First course of breakfast
For my full breakfast, I decided to have a crepe with a grilled tomato, asparagus and bacon. This was by far the best airline breakfast I've ever had.  I actually wanted a second full serving of this plate!
Savory breakfast crepe

Tail camera on landing

Tail camera after touchdown.
We had only a 1 hour and 25 minute connection time in BKK and with out delay out of FRA it was not a foregone conclusion that we'd actually make our flight to Hanoi.  Popcorn let us know that we'd have ground services waiting for us to escort us through security and passport control.  As we deplaned, we noticed the flight attendants were blocking the business class passengers from exiting. When one protested, Popcorn said "Sir, I am sorry, First Class passengers are still aboard - once they deplane you will be allowed to leave." Love it.

Our plane post landing in BKK.
I had been looking forward to this flight for nearly a year. I had done a ton of research so I'd know what to expect. This was by far the best flight I have ever been on. The service was top notch, the food (except for my entree selection) was great. The seats and the IFE were near perfect for me. My biggest complaint - other than not wanting the experience to end - was the temperature. It was sweltering when we tried to sleep.  It was so hot that we really couldn't sleep very much.  I did venture to the back of the plane and it was down right freezing back there.  I do wish there was a way to better regulate the temperature.

Would  I take this flight again? In a heartbeat. The ticket (ORD-FRA-BKK-HAN) cost 70K UAL miles and was worth every one of them.  I absolutely loved every aspect of this flight and I cannot wait to try this flight again. The service here also makes me very excited to try the A380 First Class Service on other carriers too (Lufthansa, Air France, British, Emirates, Qantas, etc).

What is the best flight you've ever taken? When going to Southeast Asia, do you choose to go the wrong way around the world just to try a new product or experience fantastic service?

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