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"I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!"

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

In this next segment of Stamped From A 2 Z, the holiday edition, I begin with a quote from Hannibal of The A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together!". Referencing the joy when plans come together. We had what we considered a lot of British Air Avios points, (roughly 212,000), and hadn't been able to use them. Believe me, we tried, and it was quite frustrating. My wife had heard that there were various awards points services out there that can help with this seemingly impossible task of helping one utilize their travel points.

One such company was Juicy Miles, found online here. Our point of contact person was James, and we communicated our wishes through email. James was quite professional, very knowledgeable, and very patient with us, as we had a myriad of questions. James informed us that since it was so late in the game, (most people book at least a year out), there were very few options. But, he did cause us to do a paradigm shift in our thinking. He could get us across the ocean to Japan, using Avios points, with one of British Airways partners, JAL. Once we're over there, we could take advantage of the reasonable prices to fly to the countries we wanted to see. So we decided to take James' advice, and we burned all, or mostly all of our points, flying JAL, business class, one-way to Japan. From New York Kennedy, one way, it was a 14 1/2 hour flight, well worth the points.

So you might be thinking, that's it? You just settled for a flight back to Japan, which is quite a lovely country, by the way, and we've already been there several times. Nope, that wasn't it. Initially, our plans were to just visit a couple of countries, Hong Kong and Singapore. But then, the thought occurred to us that there may be individuals that would like to set a more ambitious agenda. Taking a page from our travels in 2003, where we were able to do 7 countries in 2 weeks. As we develop our travel programs, we want to pay special attention to the travelers that want a taste of each country, then move on. So, prior to booking, I said to my wife, "Given the time that I can take off, between Christmas and about the 8th of January, 2019, do you think that we could expand our itinerary to include South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, as well as Taipei?" She said that she believed that it could be done, so I said, (smart-aleck that I am), "Well, write me up a proposal, and I'll look at it." To my surprise, she did just that. While it was ambitious, I could see how it could be achieved. Here is the itinerary that we followed.

We booked primarily one-way flights, with different airlines, some of which I'd never heard of, but apparently have very good ratings. So our flights were as follows: JAL (Japan Airlines business class) from JFK. Our departure flight was on Christmas day.

For our first night in Japan, we opted to stay at an AirBNB. Our host, Osamu, was incredibly kind and hospitable throughout our stay. He went above and beyond by picking us up from the airport, preparing a delicious breakfast for us the next morning, and even arranging transportation back to the airport for our onward journey. We boarded a Jin Air flight to South Korea, where we then caught a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, we continued our adventure by flying with Scoot Air to Singapore. On our return journey, we flew with EVA Air, which included an exciting stay in Taipei, Taiwan. Phew! Now, let's delve deeper into the unique experiences and wonders of each country we had the pleasure of visiting.

Business Class Japan Airlines

Miles of Smiles on this one.

View from L7 Hotel in Seoul, South Korea.

Chasing Winter Adventures: From Japan to Seoul and Hong Kong

After exploring Japan, our journey led us to our second stop: Seoul, South Korea. Let me tell you, it was a chilly experience! The temperature hovered around 9 degrees, with the wind chill making it even colder. During our stay in Seoul, we had the pleasure of staying at the L7 Gangnam by LOTTE. This hotel was not only stunning and stylish but also surprisingly affordable. With its chic ambiance, it perfectly complemented our travel experience.

Peel Fresco Music Lounge in Hong Kong, New Year's Eve Countdown Party featuring jazz tap dancer from Tokyo Tansei Nonaka and singer Jess Leung from Toronto. Also featuring Hong Kongers Rod Chui, Farley Sangels, and Nate Wong.

During our time in Hong Kong, we had the most incredible New Year's Eve celebration at a hidden gem of a jazz club called Peel-Fresco. Despite its small size, the club exuded a wonderful ambiance and featured live music that was simply magical. With a capacity of around 40-50 people, it offered an intimate and up-close jazz experience like no other. We were lucky enough to secure seats in the front row, where we found ourselves just a few feet away from the mesmerizing stage. It was a truly unforgettable evening of music and connection.

After bidding farewell to Hong Kong, our next destination was the captivating city of Singapore. This time, we decided to indulge ourselves and treat ourselves to a luxurious stay at the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Prior to our arrival, we had arranged for a car service to pick us up from the airport, courtesy of the hotel. During the drive, our friendly driver mentioned that it was possible to explore the entire island of Singapore in just a day.

Upon reaching the Mandarin Oriental, we were greeted with the same level of warmth and hospitality we had experienced during our previous stay at the Taj Land's End in India. We were swiftly escorted to our room and given a thorough overview of the exceptional amenities available to us. The highlight, however, was the breathtaking view from our room. From the window, we were treated to a magnificent sight of the bustling marina, the iconic Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, and the awe-inspiring Marina Bay Sands Hotel, often referred to as the boat hotel due to its unique architecture.

The combination of luxurious accommodations and the mesmerizing view made our stay at the Mandarin Oriental truly unforgettable. It was the perfect base from which to explore the wonders of Singapore.

View from the hotel room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore.

Navigating Singapore was a breeze thanks to its efficient public transportation system. To make our exploration even more convenient, we decided to get the Singapore Tourist Pass, which granted us unlimited access to buses and trains throughout the city.

Raffles Hotel, birthplace of the Singapore Sling.

While in Singapore, we were hosted by a wonderful couple, Rose and Chris, at their home. The food, the camaraderie, and the conversations were exceptional. We also went to a place known as the Newton Food Center. The Chili Crab is not to be missed.

As we reached the final stretch of our journey, an unexpected bonus awaited us. We departed from Singapore, and little did we know that flying EVA Air from Singapore to JFK/New York would come with a delightful layover opportunity in Taipei, Taiwan. This allowed us to get a taste of yet another captivating country. Despite the limited time available, we decided to make the most of it by hopping aboard the convenient Hop-On Hop-Off bus to explore the city. The following day, we bid farewell to Taiwan and embarked on our flight back to the States. Though our adventure was packed with excitement, it provided us with invaluable insights into these wonderfully diverse cultures.

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