Saturday, January 6, 2024

Mommy is in Town

It has been 6.5 years since mom's last visit to Alabama, so we were glad to have her in town again after so long. When we booked our flights for Antarctica, we intentionally planned for her to fly to US first before continuing the journey to Argentina with us to break up her journey. Even though she only spent about 2.5 days at our place this time around, it was still good to spend some quality time together before starting our trip.

This was not mom's first time traveling alone as she had previously traveled by herselft to Maldives and India in the past 1.5 years...thanks to! As such, I felt a lil' more comfortable with her traveling all by herself from Malaysia to the US. 

18-19 Nov 2023 (Sat-Sun): Penang - Singapore - London - Denver - Huntsville

Nov 18 (Sat): I intentionally booked the route with Singapore airlines (always prefer Asian airlines) but this route goes through Europe so it was a long 52-hour journey. Since mom couldn't walk long, I requested for wheelchair assistance for her journey. She had Plaza Premium and United Club lounge access to make the long journey more comfortable. 

I booked her flight in March with our United miles before the devaluation, and was able to get her roundtrip flights between Penang and Huntsville for 88,000 United miles + $157.45.

I was tracking all of mom's flights and checking in with her on Whatsapp to make sure that everything was going smoothly. 

Leg 1: Penang - Singapore
Mom's journey started smoothly at 9.15pm from Penang with a short 1.5-hour flight to Singapore. 

Leg 2: Singapore - London
After a 2.5-hour transit in Singapore (she didn't get to go to the lounge coz the wheelchair took too long), she departed Singapore on time for the 14-hour flight to London. 

As she was still enroute to London, I received a message from United notifying that her flight from London to Denver will be delayed by about 1.5 hour. I started to worry as her transit in Denver which was supposed to be 3 hours is gonna be cut short by 1.5 hours. Problem is she still has to go through immigration, pick up her luggage, go through customs, and recheck her bags. If she misses her flight in Denver, she'd have to wait till the next day for the next flight to Huntsville. I quickly called United to find out what other options are available, and the customer agent gave the option to change her flight to an earlier flight departing London with a transit via Washington or Chicago. I wasn't able to get in touch with mom yet so I told the agent not to change anything yet.

Leg 3: London - Denver
Despite the on time departure, her flight arrived London 30-min behind schedule, leaving her with only 3.5-hour for transit. Apparently, she had to wait for the wheelchair which took quite some time as well. I called her as soon as she landed and asked her to go to the United Club lounge in Heathrow, thinking that it'd be easier to sort out the flight change with the United staff. I asked her to pass the phone to the United staff at the lounge and explained the situation, but the staff said that she should have enough time for transit and that they couldn't make any changes on their end. So we decided not to change anything and kept our fingers crossed that there wouldn't be any further delays. And if worse case scenario she misses the Huntsville flight due to this delay and got stuck in Denver, she will just spend the night in Denver as United should give her a hotel voucher. 

Her flight departed London at 1pm (1.5 hours behind schedule) and landed in Denver at 3.40pm (about 1 hour behind schedule).

Leg 4: Denver - Huntsville
Mom messaged me as soon as she arrived Denver to let me know that she has arrived and that the wheelchair people is helping her. I didn't hear back from her for awhile and didn't want to bother her so she could focus on getting through immigration, customs, and security. Thankfully, immigration was fast in Denver and she made it to her boarding gate with an hour to spare. Her flight from Denver departed on time at 5.30pm and she finally made it to Huntsville at 9pm.

Hubby and I went to the airport to pick her up and went home for her late dinner. Both her luggages arrived safely and one of them were filled with goodies for me. =D

19-22 Nov 2023 (Sun-Wed): Huntsville

20 Nov 2023 (Mom): I let mom rest as much as she wanted the next day to rest up and get through jetlag before we depart again on Wednesday. We didn't do much during the day, and only met up with MiL, SiL, BiL, and nephew for dinner at Viet Hoang.

21 Nov 2023 (Tues): I took the week off from work so I took mom out for some shopping and met up with hubby for lunch at 88 Buffet. 

That's all for mom's super short visit to Huntsville before we continue our journey to Argentina together.

Summer/Fall 2023

This post is long overdue, but better late than never right? I've been barely keeping up with all my trip reports and my quarterly update is slowly becoming a bi-annual update. Anyway, here are some photos and videos of we've been up to from May - Nov 2023.

May 29 (Mon): I was back in the US for 2 weeks after returning from Malaysia and before I left for India so we spent Memorial Day holiday with the family and SIL's place.

Aug 12 (Sat): Celebrated hubby and my birthdays with the family at Viet Hoang and went for bowling after.

Aug 13 (Sun): Missed out celebrating grandma's birthday in Malaysia but glad to see the family gather to celebrate it.

Oct 7-8 (Sat-Sun): Took a road trip to Atlanta over the weekend and visited Georgia Aquarium with SIL, BIL, and nephew.

After visiting the aquarium, hubby and I had lunch at Grindhouse Killer Burger, window shopped at IKEA, bought Asian groceries at Super H Mart, had dinner at Northern China Eatery, and spent the night at Holiday Inn Express Atlanta Clairmont to use up a free night that was expiring soon.

Nov 11 (Sat): Celebrated Thanksgiving with the family and SIL and BIL's house.

Sept 14 - Oct 16: Hubby bought the NASA Apollo Saturn V lego and completed it after working on and off for about a month.

Aug 7 (Mon): Received this new 'free' luggage as a replacement for my damaged bag after returning from Malaysia.

May 24, Sept 30 & Oct 9: Almost 'free' tech stuffs from work. My phone contract was up so it was a good timing to switch carrier and paid only $199 for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. :) My work laptop was also up for replacement but I am not a fan of the Microsoft Surface at all so I'm gonna hang on to my old HP laptop until they force me to change :P

Aug 25-30: Spent a good amount of $$ on exterior home improvement this summer. Removed 3 trees from our backyard for $3,200, and replaced our fence for $3,400.

Also had fun playing with with LED lights for our office / game room.

For the rest of the time, we were either working or chilling at home.

And as usual, my weekly meal prep photo collection...

May 21 & Jul 23 (Sun): Mash potato and pork tenderloin, salad, fried rice with mussels, chicken herbal soup, stir-fry veggies.

Jul 30 & Aug 6 (Sun): Bbq ribs, stir-fry veggie, tomyum noodles soup with mussels, mash potato with pork tenderloin.

Aug 13 & 20 (Sun): Chicken herbal soup, pasta with meatballs, stir-fy veggies, tomyum soup with mussels, mash potatos with pork tenderloin.

Aug 20 & 27 (Sun): Mash potato with pork tenderloin, tomyum soup with mussels, pasta with meatballs, fried rice with ham and veggies, beef chili.

Sept 10 & 17 (Sun): Jambalaya rice with sausage, yellow rice with pork tenderloin, stir-fry cabbage, pasta with meatballs, mash potato with pork tenderloin.

Sept 24 & Oct 1 (Sun): Luroufan, stir-fry veggies, mash potato with pork tenderloin, tomyum noodles soup with mussels and veggies.

Oct 8 & 15 (Sun): Chicken herbal soup, yellow rice with pork tenderloin, stir-fry veggies, salad, tomyum noodle soup with mussels, pasta with meatballs.

Oct 22 & 29 (Sun): Luroufan with ribs, stir-fry veggies salad, mash potato with pork tenderloin, stir-fry veggies, salad. 

Nov 5 & 12 (Sun): Pasta with pork tenderloin, porridge with pork tenderoin, stir-fry veggies, salad, taco beef, stir-fry veggies with mussels.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Thank You Wonderful 2023...Hello 2024!

And with that, the 2023 season comes to an end. This year has flown by and I am truly grateful for a wonderful 2023. This has been a year of achieving milestones, making memories, and making dreams come true, so let's reflect and recap on the past year.

The big travel milestone this year was definitely traveling to Antarctica and finally step foot on my 7th continent. Antarctica had always felt like a unattainable dream, so I am so thankful to make this dream come true this year. We finally made it back to Japan after multiple cancellations over the past 3 years, traveled home to Malaysia twice, visited 4 new countries (Qatar, Bhutan, Argentina, Brazil) and a new continent. I definitely blew our travel budget this year visiting 2 very expensive destinations - Bhutan & Antarctica, but if not now, when? :P

Summary of my travels for 2023 (work+leisure):
Number of hotel/cruise nights - 91 nights (Marriott-68; Hilton-3; IHG-9; Others-14)
Number of hotels - 22 hotels (Marriott-5; Hilton-3; IHG-4; Others-3)
Number of airlines - 11 airlines (United, American Airlines, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, JAL, ThaiSmiles, Bhutan Airlines, Aerolineas Argentina, Latam)

The big work milestone this year was my promotion from Senior Manager to Director. So thankful for everyone who have supported me along the way. I was given the opportunity to return to India again for 6 weeks, and it was great to see all the familiar faces again. I am thankful that work allowed me to take leave of absence to travel home for a month to spend time with family and help out with dad.

Our big family milestone this year was celebrating our 10th anniversary, and we celebrated with an awesome trip to Antarctica! I'm thankful to be able to take leave of absence at work to travel home for 4 weeks to spend time with my family in Malaysia. Besides, I am also glad that mom was able to visit me in India, and explored Bhutan together. Our making memories with moms journey continued this year with an epic trip to Argentina, Antarctica, and Brazil in 2.5 weeks. 

Despite all the travels this year, I'm thankful to be able to stay healthy, physically and mentally, throughout the year and especially during our travels. I know I need to do better exercising so that's something to improve in the new year.

As compared to last year, the stock market has been great this year, which made everything looked great as we continue our wealth building journey. Our expenses spiked this year with the Antarctica trip, but fortunately, I received some bonuses from work which certainly helped offset this big blow.

Very thankful for an amazing 2023. I'm glad that work & life have been very well-balanced this year, while accomplishing big milestones in both work & life (travels). Life is good. :) Look forward to exploring more of the world and making more memories in 2024. Happy New Year 2024!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Homecoming Trip 2023 ✈ Malaysia 2.0

After wrapping up my 1.5 month work trip in India, I took a detour home to Malaysia to visit the family before returning to the US. Thankful to be able to travel home again for the 2nd time in 2023 after my last home trip in May 2023.

14-15 July 2023 (Fri-Sat): Kolkata - Singapore - Penang

Arrived Kolkata airport at 8.55pm for my 11.10pm flight to Singapore. Check-in was quick and thanks to my Star Alliance Gold status (with United Premier Platinum), I was able to check in all 3 bags (total weight of 68.7kg) without paying excess baggage fees. Learnt from my mistake last year and asked the hotel conceirge staff to help weigh my heavy bag before going to the airport, so I didn't have to repack my bags in the airport this time. Went to the Travel Club Business Lounge to chill before boarding the flight.

3hr 50min on Singapore Airlines business class from Kolkata to Singapore. Business class was fully occupied wih a family taking 7 of the 10 seats. This flight had a 2-2 layout so I chose the aisle seat coz I didn't want to 'climb over' someone to go to the lavatory. Singapore Sling, yoghurt patties with tamarind and mint sauce, and herb crusted chicken roulade for supper at 1am. Slept for about 3 hours in the lay-flat seats.

Landed in Singapore at 6.40am with a 3-hour transit so I went to the Singapore Airlines Silverkris Lounge in T2 to grab some food and took a shower.

Had Dim Sum, Singapore Laksa, and champagne for breakfast at! Do not judge my breakfast combo.

Singapore Airlines business class from Singapore to Penang at 10am. A meal was served on this short 1hr 20min flight but I was too sleepy to eat, even the flight attendant noticed I and said I looked so! Instead, I opted for a Tiger and some snacks.

Landed on time at Penang at 11.25am. Received all my bags within 15 min but was held up by the custom and was taxed $5 for excess alcohol...whoops! But blessing in disguise, the custom officer noticed that my bag was damaged (I didn't notice) and asked me to file a complaint with Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines wanted to repair my bag initially but after seeing another crack, they decided to just give me a new replacement bag, and didn't even bother taking my damaged bag coz there was too much stuffs in it.

15-20 July 2023 (Sat-Thurs): 5 Days in Penang

Being home means spending quality time with the family even though this was a short trip of only 5 days.

Celebrated dad's early birthday with the family and conveniently repurposed the cake for our August birthdays.

How time flies!

Caught up with friends.

20-21 July 2023 (Thurs-Fri): Penang - Hong Kong - Doha - Chicago - Huntsville

After a short trip home, it was time to say goodbye again. Arrived at the airport at 10.30am and the Cathay Pacific counters were still empty. I did not weigh my bags at all after packing at home and surprisingly both bags were on the dot (32kg + 31kg) for the baggage allowance of 32kg per bag...I'm legit amazed by my packing!!

Had 2 hours to wait before my 1pm flight so I went to the Plaza Premium Lounge to grab some food. The lounge was pretty busy as there were 2 international fligts departing around the same time, SIA and Cathay Pacific. Cathay Pacific passengersget to choose an ala carte item but I wasn't hungry so I juts had some koey teow soup. 

4-hours on Cathay Pacific business class from Penang to Hong Kong. Was lucky to get this lie-flat seat on this relatively short flight.

Salad, Thai style prawns salad with pomelo, Hainanese chicken rice, and a not so bubbly champagne was served. Took a 2 hour nap after meal. 

Landed in Hong Kong at 4.40pm, 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Call me crazy but one of the main reasons I chose to transit in Hong Kong (instead of KL) was to visit this First Class lounge even though I wasn't flying First Class. I had access to this lounge with my Oneworld Emerald status.

What I didn't know was that this lounge had been closed since Feb 17, 2020 and was still closed when I booked my flight. I got lucky that the lounge reopened just one day before my transit...couldn't have timed it better than this! Perfect timing for my 7-hour transit!

First things first... a complimentary 15 minutes foot massage or neck and shoulder massage. I opted for the latter.

Then it was time for some food and drinks at the Dining Room. Everything was ala carte like a restaurant. I ordered the Double boiled forest mushroom soup, the signature wonton soup, Movenpick ice cream, and of course, champagne. 

Went back to the Retreat for a shower to freshen up before another long flight. The shower room was nice with brass finishes.

Had 4 more hours before my flight so I went to the Day Suites for a nap. 

Went to the Bureau at 9pm to get some work done, and had a work call at 10pm, accompanied by a Hong Kong beer. :P

Went back to the Dining Room at 10.45pm for the signature Dan Dan Mien. Checked out the fancy bathroom before heading over to the gate. It was time to say bye bye to the lounge at 11.25pm after spending the last 5.5 hours here.

2nd leg...8-hour on Qatar business class (not Qsuite) from Hong Kong to Doha.

Even though this was a Qatar flight, the seat was exactly the same as the Cathay flight earlier. No Qsuite on this flight but it was still better than a 2-2-2 layout.

 I wasted no time changing into the pyjamas even before take off. I wanted to sleep as soon as possible so I requested the flight attendant to serve both Hainan chicken rice and congee after I woke up. Unfortunately, the Hainan chicken rice wasn't available so I got the congee instead. Also got myself a 'fancy' corn flakes and cappucino.

I asked the flight attendant if I could get an extra pajamas for hubby and she graciously gave this nice amenity kit to me as well.

Arrived Doha at 3.30pm, 35 minutes ahead of schedule. Our flight was taxied further away from the terminal so we had to take a bus. Business class passengers get separate bus where everyone gets a seat. Btw, I was just here at this airport 2 months ago.

Went straight from the main terminal to the new terminal for the Al Mourjan business class lounge. The lounge was pretty empty at 4.20am. 

Had about 3.5 hours before my next flight so of course gotta get a shower coz the next flight was a 15-hour long flight. Then it was time for more champagne at!

Headed to the boarding gate at 7am for my flight to Chicago.

15-hour on Qatar business class (Qsuite) from Doha to Chicago. Yayy for anti-social.

Food and drinks menu on this flight.

Pretty impressed with the food menu. Started off with the 'light' option...Chicken Tikka Masala with jeera rice, then it was time for a good 6 hours of sleep. 7.5 hours into the flight, had the cauliflower soup and Classic Arabic mezze with pita bread. Continued sleeping for another 4.5 hours and got this fancy lobster meal 2 hours before arrival.

Landed Chicago at 2.47pm, 13 minutes ahead of schedule. Took 15 minutes to walk from our gate to the immigration and there was no line at all for Global Entry, and I was through immigration by 3.16pm. Got my bags pretty quickly as well but I was 'welcomed' back to the US where the escalator and airport tram didn't work. Deja vu of my experience in Atlanta airport 2 months ago.

Had 5 hours transit before my next flight. Glad I was able to access the AA Flagship Lounge as I was connecting from an international flight. One last round of champagne before wrapping up this wonderful journey.

1.5 hours on American Airlines business class from Chicago to Huntsville. Finally made it back home at 10pm after traveling for 48 hours, and my buddy was waiting for me. :) My poor luggage was officially done. That's all for my short trip and my long journey home.