Friday, April 27, 2012

My new toy: Panasonic GF1

My dad "donated" his "old" Panasonic GF1 camera to me a couple of weeks ago. I didn't have that much time to play with it until only recently. The GF1 is one of the latest trend in mirrorless cameras that allow people to switch in and out different lenses. That itself is nothing new and the biggest selling point is the comparatively smaller and lighter size compared to DSLRs. I was always reluctant to lug around a DSLR on my trips.

One of the biggest problem I have with taking pictures of our trips are being able to capture the entire room or plane in tight spots. The brother recommended I get myself a ultra wide angle Panasonic 7-14mm lens. It sure was pricey at ~$950 USD but it was so worth it. Some early pictures:

I'm looking forward to putting my new toy through its paces on our upcoming trip to Seychelles and Emirates First Class!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bump update

So I didn't get the bump by choice. There were about 10 people on the standby list as seen on the screens at the gate and they would have been happy to have my seat. Only problem was that the gate agents could not give me a confirmed seat on any routing to Portland even for later during the day and if I took the bump, I would be on standby only. They were "only" offering a $250 USD voucher for the seat.

I did also check on expertflyer some random routings to Portland and I couldn't seats myself so figured it wasn't the best idea to risk being on standby and getting stuck in San Fran.

Would you guys have taken the bump?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

#3 on bump list

I'm currently in the SFO United Club waiting for my flight to Portland. Looks like the flight is overbooked and I was offered to be put on the bump list during check-in. Took the agents at the United Club a while to confirm I was on the list and that I was #3 on the list (new computer system?). Here's to hoping I get bumped :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hilton Kuala Lumpur

Lydia and I were in Kuala Lumpur a couple of weeks ago for our US Visa interviews. We would typically stay at the Doubletree but surprisingly, the Hilton was actually cheaper. The hotel is located at KL Sentral which is easily accessible to and from the airport via the Express Train or bus. The downside is that the hotel is on the outskirts of the city itself and there's really nothing around this area. This didn't bother us since we were planning to just stay in.

There was no wait to get checked in. They were expecting us and provided us with an upgrade to the Executive floor and a welcome letter explaining the amenities.

Loved the modern rooms and fittings. The only downside was that the king bed was actually two double beds combined together.

Welcome Gift

When 86 miles aint worth it!

So I'm stateside for some meetings and a conference. The plan was to fly to Sacramento after getting in to San Francisco on SQ. The distance from San Fran to Sacramento is a mere 86 miles so it's one of those get up/get down short flights. On arrival in San Fran, I found out that my flight would be delayed for about an hour. No big deal, I thought to myself as I could use the time to catch up on email after a long flight.

After clearing my inbox at the United Club, I went to check my flight status and was shocked that it was further delayed another 2 hours! Needless to say, I wasn't too happy. If I had just drove when I get to San Fran, I would have been in bed by now.

After mulling my options, I got offloaded from the flight and did drive instead taking about 2 hours to get to Sacramento. Talking to the agents in the United Club who helped me with my options, this flight does get delayed a lot and it's much better to just drive. Flying this one sector for the 86 miles ain't worth it and I'll drive again in the future!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fun next couple of weeks..

The next couple of weeks look to be exciting on the travel front. I will be heading stateside again end of this week for a conference and some meetings. I will then have to "rush back" to Asia where I will meet up with Lydia in Singapore for a mini break/burn our remaining BMI miles trip to Mumbai and Seychelles. Straight after, I'm off to Melbourne for a friend's wedding via Dubai in Emirates in First Class with a flight on the A380.

That's about 55,000 miles flying in about 3 weeks! Plenty of stuff I'm looking forward to:
  • It will be Lydia's first time in India.
  • Excited to try out Ethiopian Airlines.
  • Seychelles - enough said.
  • Particular looking forward to breaking my A380 virginity especially in Emirates First Class.
 Trip reports to come for sure..

Friday, April 13, 2012

Farewell to Thai's Airbus: Bangkok Layover - Indra Regent Hotel


Thai offers day rooms to passengers which long layover and I opted for a day room in town since I had close to a 12 hour layover until my flight back to Penang. The day room also included transfer provided by AOT Limo to and from the airport in a Toyota Camry and meals at the hotel.

The hotel is a typical 3 star frequented by big tour groups. The rooms were slightly dated but adequate for the couple of hours. The complimentary breakfast and lunch provided was disappointing and I should have just eaten out.

Farewell to Thai's Airbus 345: Flight back home


I got to LAX at 5.30pm and the check-in counters for my Thai flight to Bangkok were still occupied by Turkish Airlines. They were already a couple of other passengers waiting for the counter switch over to happen and for check in to start. While waiting, there was a couple who showed up and were shocked they couldn't check in for their flight to Istanbul even though it was 30 minutes to departure and obviously check-in had already closed.

Check-in started about 45 minutes later and I was the forth passenger in the business class line. I tried to pay for an upgrade to Premium Economy but it would have costs me an extra USD $850 since I was supposedly booked on a cheap economy class fare. Oh well but at least I did manage to get them to open an aisle seat at the last row for me.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Farewell to Thai's Airbus 345: Los Angeles Layover


I had a whole day to spend in Los Angeles. I checked out of the Radisson LAX around noon and headed back to LAX on their complimentary shuttle before catching another shuttle to Hertz to get a rental car. By the time I got the car, I was starving and headed to Korea town for some authentic Soon Tofu and BBQ ribs at a restaurant I used to frequent going to college at USC.

I spent a good part of the rest of the day at USC just walking around and restocking on my USC gear. The last time I visited was about 3 years ago and the new buildings

Monday, April 9, 2012

Farewell to Thai's Airbus 345: Austin to Los Angeles

I arrived at Austin airport after a slow day at work and spending part of the day looking for places to stay at Austin. I had actually gotten to the airport way too early at 3pm for a 7pm flight since I was already tired from the house hunting and didn't have a hotel at this point. The plan was to chill out at the United Club with some gin and tonics.

When I tried to check-in at the automated kiosk, the machine offered if I wanted to get an on earlier flight but could not complete the request when I said yes. A ground agent had to help out and got me on a flight to Los Angeles via Houston that was leaving in 30 minutes. After rushing through security, boarding for the United flight to Houston was already underway.

The short flight to Houston by a pretty brand new 737-800 that comes with the new interiors but there were no PTVs on this flight.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Farewell to Thai's Airbus 345: Extended Stay Austin Southwest


I had a "gap day" in which I couldn't find a preferred Hilton hotel for a reasonable price. When situations like this happens, my preferred booking method is through where I get a one free night for every 10 hotel nights.

I ended up staying at the Extended Stay Austin Southwest which similar to Homewood Suites, is targeted at long term stays and comes equipped with a kitchen. Well, that's the only thing similar I guess. The Extended Stay Austin Southwest was dated and crummy and no where close to the Homewood Suites that I just stayed in. I would have found other options if I had to stay here long term.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Farewell to Thai's Airbus 345: Homewood Suites Round Rock


I had to move to Homewood Suites in Round Rock which was a 30 minute commute to and from work as the Embassy Suites and other hotels in Austin were fully booked due to SXSW. Homewood Suites is an extended stay hotel that comes equipped with a kitchen. I was initially excited about the possibility of cooking but after 16 hour days, cooking was the last thing I wanted to do.

Living Area


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Farewell to Thai's Airbus 345: Embassy Suites Townlake Austin


One of my favorite places to stay when I visit Austin for work is the Embassy Suites Townlake. It's located on South Congress right by the lake and the "bat bridge" giving easy access for my morning/evening runs. The free breakfast and cocktail hour was also a plus but the rooms were pretty dated that is until my last visit (click here for my previous visit).

Amazing view of downtown Austin from my room
I didn't realize that the hotel had finished renovations on all their rooms and was pleasantly surprised by the new furniture when I walked into the rooms. New beds, sofa, and bathrooms - nice!