Author Archives: Andy Shuman

My (Mostly) Miles’n’Points Epic Trip to Hong Kong, Bali, and Tokyo and a Plea for Help

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Conrad Tokyo

I’m on the road again. Woo-hoo!

In January, I was going to travel to the Bahamas (Atlantis) and Colombia, but it didn’t happen due to an illness in the family. Hopefully, the second time is the charm. I’m very excited about my upcoming trip, since I’m about to visit 2 places I’ve never been to. I’m flying to Bali (maiden trip) via Hong Kong (3-day stopover), then to Tokyo (another first).

I know! Looking back, I’m puzzled how I’ve managed to skip 2 fascinating destinations in my 20+ years of world traveling. Here is my itinerary.

  • JFK to HKG
  • 3 days in Hong Kong
  • HKG to DPS
  • 10 days in Bali
  • DPS to NRT
  • 5 days in Tokyo

New York to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific First Class (70,000 Alaska miles)

It’s been 5 or 6 years since I’ve flown CX in First Class, and I remember that it was good. 🙂 It would’ve been even better had I not caught a nasty cold in Koh Samui the day before. Unfortunately, neither Krug nor caviar tasted right to me during that flight, but, at least, I slept like a baby.

Just like the last time, I booked it with Alaska miles: 70,000 of them. Yes, Business Class would be totally adequate, and I once pledged not to waste miles on First Class travel anymore, but it’s just 20,000 more miles …

Cathay Pacific: 70,000 Alaska miles

3 days in Hong Kong: Conrad and InterContinental 

I’m arriving in Hong Kong on Saturday. I didn’t plan it, but that allowed me to use 2 Amex Hilton Aspire Free Weekend Night Certificates — my own, and the one from another Amex Aspire account that I opened last December in my cousin Timmy’s name. The certificate lets you book for anybody, so there is no need to resort to any tricks.

Conrad Hong Kong — the view

My third and last night is at InterContinental across the harbor in Kowloon on Timmy’s IHG card Free Anniversary Night (he owes me one after our last trip to Hong Kong).  This will be my second time staying at that property. Last time I wasn’t happy, since they gave Timmy and me a tiny room with 2 single beds. The room was simply too small for 2 [not closely related] people and they had the gall to ask $200 (yes, U.S. dollars!) for an upgrade to a slightly bigger one. However, the hotel itself is gorgeous and the huge Jacuzzi overlooking the harbor is a lot of fun, especially after dark.

InterContinental — the view over the harbor from the IHG hot tub is magnificent! This picture doesn’t do it justice

10 days in Bali: multiple lodgings

Every major chain has a presence in Bali, so you would think using points on the Island of Gods is a no-brainer, right? Wrong! Bali is so cheap that most point redemptions would make no sense. You would think — again — that 8,000 Hyatt points for Hyatt Regency or Grand Hyatt can’t be a bad deal, yet it is when the cash price is $113. All Marriott hotels are overpriced on points too, except maybe a couple. And so are 2 Hiltons out of 3, and so are most IHG properties, and don’t even get me started on Radisson, which wants 70,000 points for a $113 hotel room. Yikes!

So, no problem, you’d say, just pay cash. Ah, but paying cash would be too easy for us cheap charlies mile-and-point purists, wouldn’t it?

However, I’ve managed to find one hotel chain in Bali that offers a decent redemption value: Best Western. I applied for both Best Western cards, Personal and Business, last year and ended up with 100K+ points. Best Western redemptions tend to be badly overpriced in the U.S. for the quality of lodgings, which is one reason why I value them around $0.0025-$0.003 per — but in Bali they can take you quite far.

For the sake of fairness, May is not a peak month in Bali, so the point-to-cash ratio may be more favorable at other times of the year.

My Bali accommodations 

  • Day 1: Hilton Garden Inn Bali Ngurah Rai Airport (5,000 points)
  • Day 2,3: Best Western Kuta Beach (8,000 points)
  • Day 4,5,6: Airbnb Villa in Sanur ($85)
  • Day 6,7,8: Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud (12,000 points)
  • Day 9: Hilton Garden Inn Bali Ngurah Rai Airport (5,000 points)

Why an airport hotel?

According to multiple reports, Hilton Garden Inn is pretty good as a destination hotel. Besides, it’s only for 2 very short stays, anyway.

Hilton Garden Inn — an airport hotel with a resort feel for 5,000 points per night

Why Kuta?

No one loves Kuta from what I’ve read, but I’m curious what is there to hate. Ah, just kidding, it’s this rooftop pool that sold me. Besides, I’m going to spend one full day out of 2 on a guided trip, anyway.

Best Western Kuta Beach — nice rooftop pool and appears to be a good value at just 8,000 points

Why villa in Sanur?

Because you can book a vacation pool villa for under $100. I’ve booked my 3-bdrm villa for $286 for 3 days total. The pics are great, as are the reviews. We’ll see.

Why else? A few months ago, I loaded up on Airbnb gift cards when Amazon ran that Amex 25% promo. That effectively reduced my rate to $72 a day. I don’t know about you, but even I can live with that.

Why 3 days in Ubud?

I’m corresponding with a private guide/driver to show me around the island. He said we’d be better off doing two tours from Ubud — so be it. His services are going to run me $40-45 a day (not a lot for a full day of work). While my research has shown that I could hire a driver locally for $20 a day, this particular guide comes highly recommended on both Flyertalk and Trip Advisor.

Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud — 12,000 points

Why Hilton Garden Inn again?

I have an early flight at 12:45 AM next day, so why not relax before the flight for 5,000 points?

Why not Conrad Bali

Three nights at Conrad Bali would cost me ~$500, which I would almost get back with the Amex Aspire $250 annual resort credit and three $100 nightly resort credits. But my understanding is that Conrad Bali is in the middle of nowhere and I thought I might get bored. I chose my villa in Sanur because it’s located between the beach and the town for those days and nights when I feel like going out.

Denpasar, Bali to Tokyo: Garuda Business Class (40,000 Delta miles)

What can I say? 40,000 Sky Pesos seems like a great bargain for 7 hours in a good Business Class seat!

5 days in Tokyo: Conrad Tokyo

Paying 380,000 Hilton points (with the fifth night free) has almost depleted my Hilton account, but I’ve read rave reviews. Initially, Conrad was unavailable, and I booked 5 nights at Hilton Odaiba for 240,000 points. However, last week the rooms opened up. I’d rather stay at a more central Hilton Tokyo, but there are no standard awards for my dates.

Conrad Tokyo: 95,000 points per night, 5th night free — still ouch!

Haneda, Tokyo to JFK: JAL First Class (70,000 Alaska miles)

Alright, JAL First is just 10,000 miles more than Business. If there ever were a definition of a bona fide no-brainer, that would be it, IMHO.

And, now my plea for help

I’ve checked some advice for Bali, especially the excellent TIF’s piece on Bali, but if you’re in the mood to share any personal experiences and time management tips in Bali and Tokyo, please don’t hold back. 🙂

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