Friday, November 2, 2012

Flashback Friday: Babymoon 2011

Flashback Friday: Because sometimes having kids means your best traveling days are behind you-

It was October of last year, I was 6 months pregnant, and with doctor's blessings, we headed off to Hong Kong and Thailand for one last epic getaway before baby. I'd wanted to go to Thailand since I first saw the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. It was somewhat of a last minute trip and with a growing belly and due date approaching, I figured the only way we were going to afford this one was with miles.

Pregnant Bond Girl
SFO-HKG(Stopover)-HKT-BKK(Long Layover)-NRT-SFO was an absolute bargain at 65,000 miles per person (Star Alliance Saver Award). The itinerary I chose used 3 different airlines: Singapore, Thai and United, and priced out to over $9,000. United only allows one stopover (HKG) on award travel, so we tricked them into getting one night in Bangkok by making it a long layover- Fly in from Phuket mid-morning, and depart for the US slightly earlier the next day. All it took a few phone calls. The golden rule with United is that if you don't get what you want, hang up and call again. Eventually, I got what I wanted.

So the only problem with this dream itinerary was that it was in coach. Did I mention I was pregnant? Actually it turned out to not be that bad. The worst part SFO-HKG was about 14 hours on SQ1, but Singapore is a nice airline and I slept most of the way. My only complaint was that my back hurt a little...and after seeing the ginormous seats in Singapore's Business Class, I really, REALLY wanted to sit there. Unfortunately, trying to use United miles to fly transpacific in a Singapore premium cabin is as easy as going to the moon without a rocket ship. Flying in Singapore Coach is kind of like showing up at the rodeo without a horse- you just get to sit and watch the other people have all the fun. Anyway, I guess we have to save something to look forward to for next time (note to self, must save KrisFlyer miles), and you can bet on it, there will be a next time!

We got to Hong Kong early in the morning and checked into our room at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. With 80,000 Priority Club points from a credit card sign-up, our $400+ room was free for 2 nights.  We even got upgraded to Harbour View. Normally getting an upgrade on an award stay doesn't happen, especially at this hotel, but I guess they were extra nice because of my condition and the harbor side of the building is much quieter...and the view was spectacular!

Room with a View: Intercontinental Hong Kong
Our time in Hong Kong was mostly spent wandering around, eating, and shopping. We didn't do much sightseeing, as we'd been there before in 2005, but we did go to the top of Victoria Peak one night. Another highlight of the Hong Kong trip was discovering nanoblocks in a toy store there. I know it's probably not much to get excited about, but I'm like a kid at heart and they're like miniature legos- totally awesome! I bought a few boxes. Getting Dim Sum at Maxim Palace was a treat as was our meal at Din Tai Fung in Kowloon. If you're hungry (and pregnant) Hong Kong is a great place to be!

After 2 nights and almost 3 days, we flew HKG to HKT direct on Thai Airways. We had bulkhead seats on an Airbus A-330 and we were very comfortable there, just the two of us next to the window. A nice-looking Australian couple sitting across the plane from us had kids, so I casually observed to try and pick up a few tips. In a few short months I knew that would be me. I was then shocked and horrified as the young mom appeared to be nursing her toddler...in public, on an airplane! I vowed I would never do that. Little did I know. Fast forward 6 months. I let my little guy sneak a meal under a blanket in the privacy of row 6 on a 767 (you know, the seats in the back of first by the closet). Not my proudest moment; I'm kind of not the breastfeeding-in-public type (if you are, that's great), but you'll be amazed at the things that somehow become not that big of a deal once you are a parent.

We spent 3 days/nights in Phuket. Due to my husband's newfound love of racking up Priority Club points we chose the Holiday Inn Resort in Patong for about $100 a night. Because of his Platinum Ambassador status we were guaranteed an upgrade to the Busakorn wing, but they were out of standard rooms, so we got a villa instead. It was an oasis of 5-star resort quality bliss in the middle of a not-so-great neighborhood. Wait, who am I kidding? Patong is fun. If I wasn't pregnant I could totally party there!

James Bond Island, Phang Nga Bay
The best part of Thailand was the day trip we took to Phang Nga Bay. Being pregnant means speedboats are off-limits (turns out so is sushi and probably stand up paddleboarding), but it was a calm day and the people at Amazing Adventures took great care of me. We went canoeing inside of Hong Island and got our fix of cheesy pics taken in front of James Bond Island. We then stopped at a nice beach on the way back, and while I was sitting there in the sand, I saw my baby kick for the first time. I'd felt him before, but this was the first time I actually saw a foot! I definitely won't be forgetting that day!

Sightseeing in Bangkok
Next stop, Bangkok, and honestly we couldn't have picked a better time to go there. I know this probably sounds really bad, but with the whole country flooded and much of the city evacuated, traffic was a breeze, and we were able to get in a lot of sightseeing during our short stay there. We finished up our trip with a Hangovertini (and a bottled water) at Lebua and took in the panoramic view high above the city.

Our trip back to the states was on a United 747 in Economy Plus. Knowing that the plane was virtually empty, I booked a window and an aisle counting on the fact that no one would want that middle seat if others were available. It worked! The row was ours and I got to stretch out. We made friends with a one of the flight attendants and as soon she found out I was pregnant (She said I wasn't showing), she gave me a couple bottles of water to keep with me at my seat. It was really nice except I had to get up every half hour after that. I'm sure all you other moms and moms-to-be out there know exactly what I'm talking about.

Looking back I always think its funny what leaves an impression and what you remember about a trip. One of those things was the high tech magic beer-dispensing machine I encountered in the United Club at Narita airport. I takes your frozen glass, tilts it slightly, and gently fills it with ice cold Asahi beer. I definitely missed out on that during this trip, but watch out NRT, I'm sure we'll meet again...

NRT-SFO (c) thirtysixthousand.com

Trip Tab: 130,000 United Miles, 80,000 Priority Club points and less than $1000 spent on hotels, food, tours, and everything else (including nanoblocks).

Beast Meal: Blue Horizon in Patong, Thailand.

Travel Tip: Flying while pregnant? Make sure you stay hydrated and get up and walk as much as possible.  Also get a doctors note. Some airlines (Singapore) require it no matter for far along you are.

Another Tip: don't bother buying Duty Free Alcohol in BKK if you're flying on United. You'll have to go through security again at NRT...and we all know what that means- nothing over 3 oz.

Duty Free heaven at HKG! Did I mention I like toys? and airplanes? and toy airplanes?
Getting a "fishy" pedicure in Patong. Note sign on the window.
BYOB: Bring Your Own Boat at the Intercontinental in Bangkok

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