Growing up in Hong Kong, I can vividly remember TV commercials featuring the Malaysian tourism board with the jingle “Malaysia, truly Asia”.
It’s a catchphrase that feels particularly poignant now that I’m preparing to embark on my first leisure trip to the Asia-Pacific region of the post-pandemic era.
Looking back on those long, dreary days in March 2020, I remember feeling deep disbelief that my typical fast-paced travel would have to be put on hold for a while. I remember wondering when, if ever, we’d be able to take to the skies again, and in particular when we’d be able to visit Asia like the good old days, given how shut down everything was in this part of the world.
In fact, the vast majority of Asian countries have taken a long time to reopen their borders to tourists. But you know how the saying goes: “Better late than never”.
2022 has proven to be the year of grand reopenings across the region, with Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea welcoming back tourists without quarantine.
Planning a trip around Jessy’s week-long vacation period this April, my thoughts naturally gravitated toward one of the aforementioned countries.
After deliberating for a long time between Thailand and Malaysia, we looked back on our beautiful time in Langkawi a couple of years ago and decided a return visit was something we couldn’t resist.
We will spend a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur to soak up the energy of one of Asia’s great metropolises, then three nights in Penang to see a new city and delve into its world-renowned food scene, before ending with two nights on the island paradise of Langkawi – all encompassed by a series of premium flights that I am very excited about.
On my way to Malaysia, I have booked a very convenient route from ANA 787 business class from Vancouver to Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur, for a total of 85,000 airplane points per person.
In fact, I had also secured some reservations for Japan Airlines First Class from Los Angeles, but the flight schedule didn’t quite work out: we would arrive in Tokyo too late to catch the direct flight to Kuala Lumpur.
Plus, with a whirlwind route of several stops on the way back servicing a top notch bucket list product, I figured we’d take it easy on the way out with the more direct route.
The irony of flying a Japanese airline with transit in Tokyo, and being so close, yet so far from entering Japan, is not lost on me, and I will definitely be devouring my emotions by gobbling up lunch. , snacks and dinner menus on board my twin ANA Business Class flights.
The good news? We will return from Malaysia on a westward route through Europe, making this my first round-the-world trip since before the pandemic.
The bad news? Well, it’s going to be quite a laborious journey.
The entire return trip is based on the item that is currently at the top of my bucket list when it comes to aspiring to fly First Class: Singapore Airlines A380 New Class Suites.
As you can imagine, prize space in the crème de la crème of Singapore Airlines is extremely rare; however, a few months ago, the airline decided to roll out a large batch of “Saver” level award availability (including many two-seat dates and even some three-seat dates) for members of its own KrisFlyer loyalty program.
Now was my time – I had personally transferred a large number of points from my Amex US MR and HSBC Rewards accounts to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer when they had a 15% transfer bonus a few years ago, waiting for this exact opportunity.
I booked two seats in Suites Class at JFK in Frankfurt-New York for 86,000 miles Kris Flyer per person. Having thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the former A380 Suites in early 2019, I am beyond excited to see the new Singapore suites experience, and to share it with Jessy this time, no less.
The transatlantic crossing promises to be memorable, but the rest of the itinerary still needs to be built.
As it is, I have redeemed 80,000 airplane points flying Thai Airways business class from Bangkok to Frankfurt to catch Singapore Suites right after, and a hodgepodge of budget airlines and regional economy flights to get from Langkawi to Bangkok.
(I would love to see a more direct route open up, say Qatar Airways’ Qsuites award space to open in Kuala Lumpur-Doha-Frankfurt, but I’m not holding my breath at this stage.)
From New York, a “Latitude Attitude” booking takes us back to Vancouver aboard Air Canada Signature Class via Montreal. I expect to be pretty exhausted but by the end of our journey back, but in a good way, and in a way I’ve missed a lot in the last two years.
Kuala Lumpur is one of the best “sweet spots” in the world for luxury hotels at very affordable prices. When the St. Regis is under $200/night and the Alila is under $100/night, you know you’re getting a great deal.
In fact, I was spoiled for choice as I looked at where to stay for our two nights. Only Marriott has the St Regis, W, Ritz-Carlton, Y JW Marriott as four very attractive options, while oriental mandarin and four seasons – two chains without points with which I wanted to broaden my horizons – they are also very affordable in relation to their quality.
In the end, I knew that we would not be spending much time in the hotel given our intention to explore the city as much as we could. And since I’m still undecided about whether I plan to keep my Hyatt Globalist status this year, I figured I might as well maximize my Globalist benefits while I still had them.
The Alila Bangsar Kuala Lumpur turned out to be $90/night at the Hyatt Privé rate, which was an offer I just couldn’t resist. Even its Category 1 designation and point rate of just 5,000 Hyatt points per night fell short of our target redemption value of 1.9 cents per point (CAD).
After Kuala Lumpur, we would head to Penang for three nights, where hotel options are not as plentiful.
Still, Marriott Bonvoy has two hotels next to each other, which would suit our needs. I booked two nights at the Courtyard Penang for an excellent value in 5,000 bonus points per night, interspersed $300/night cash rate at the most exclusive Design Hotels Macalister Mansion on our anniversary.
(Of course, all the hotels on this trip are told that we’re “celebrating our anniversary this week” to chat in the suite.)
Finally, the last time we were in Langkawi, we stayed at the The Ritz-Carlton Y The Andaman, luxury collection. This time, we opted to try a new property, and what better option than to secure a good price on a Marriott property that had dynamically increased in price as of March 29?
we will be in the Saint Regis Langkawi, booked using two free night prizes worth 50,000 points of Jessy’s Amex US Bonvoy Brilliant card. I am excited to conclude our trip with a few relaxing days on the beach, as we visit a new corner of a beautiful island that has given us such great memories a few years ago.
Malaysia requires a negative PCR test within two days prior to departure, which we complete in Vancouver. We also had to purchase travel insurance of at least $20,000 (we purchased a one-year plan from Manulife) and submit a traveler form on the MySejahtera app.
Transit through Germany, plus possible transits through Singapore and Bangkok, should be manageable for fully vaccinated travelers, so the only remaining hurdle is a negative antigen test within a day of flying. to the United States, which shouldn’t be too hard to locate. .
Of course, Canada has removed the requirement for a negative test before entry as of April 1, which means our trip home from New York should be a smooth ride.
The agenda for this trip is quite simple: eat well, celebrate our anniversary and just soak up the feeling of being back in South East Asia after two long years of uncertainty about when we would return to this part of the world.
In the meantime, there is a truly spectacular first class experience to look forward to at the end of the journey, as I finally tick off one of my most urgent bucket list items in the form of the Singapore Airlines A380 New Suites First Class.
It’s great to travel more freely around the world again. This ride kicks off an emerging “revenge ride” period for me in the spring and summer months, and I can’t wait to share reviews and highlights of upcoming rides with you.