Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018 Home-coming Trip

Since I moved to the US in 2014, I've made it a point to go home at least once a year to spend time with family and friends, and I'm glad I've been able to do so over the last 3 years. Unfortunately, hubby couldn't join this time due to his limited vacation days (10 days a year) and we've got other travel plans scheduled for the year already. Hopefully we can make it back together next year.

Deciding the timing for this year's home trip was made easy by the following factors:
  • The expected delivery date of bro and SIL's baby was May 10, 2018
  • My work busy season wrapped up end of April/early May
  • My vacation hours will be maxed out (and forfeited) by May if I don't use them
  • I was able to change our Iceland flight (ori. Apr 27) for free thanks to my Platinum status
This was a short 10-day trip but it was a meaningful one. Always cherish spending time with family and share memorable moments. =) Here are some photos from this home trip.

It's easy to pack light for summer travels. =)

Plenty of extra luggage space for gifts for families and friends.

This was how I rolled...2 check-ins + 2 carry-ons...all with just one!

40 hours journey home...Huntsville - Washington Dulles - Newark - Tokyo - KL.
Received my temporary Premier Gold status thanks to the partnership between United and my employer. The perks include complimentary access to Economy Plus seating at booking, and 2 complimentary checked bags up to 70 pounds each.

May 8 (Tues): Started my journey with an empty row to myself in Economy Plus...not bad. =) Managed to make a quick stop at the United Club lounge (Gate C17) in IAD airport despite the short layover.

This was how I spent my 12 hours overnight layover at Newark airport after wrapping up some work.

May 9 (Wed): Fortunately, I was able to drop my bags earlier (6 hours before flight), probably due to Premier Access. Went through security and spent the 2nd half of the layover bumming in the United Club lounge (Gate C124).

Got lucky again to have an empty row of 3 Economy Plus seats to myself for the 14 hours flight to Tokyo (UA 79). =) Turned it into my personal 'economy flat-bed' and had a few hours of good sleep. The best part, my round-trip ticket cost only $413. =P 

Nothing exciting about airplane food but it actually tasted pretty good. 

May 10 (Fri): Landed Narita at 2pm with a 3.5 hours transit before my next flight. I've been to the United Club at Tokyo Narita last August so I decided to check out the ANA lounge (2nd Floor, #4 Satellite) this time around. This lounge is not as big as the United lounge, but it wasn't crowded either when I was there.

On a side note, I was bombarded with 200+ whatsapp messages when I finally got 'connected' to the world, all thanks to the shocking election results in Malaysia.

First stop...the shower room. Nothing beats a good refreshing hot shower after traveling for more than 24 hours. =P There were several shower rooms available and I didn't have to wait at all. The shower rooms were very clean, had Toto toilets (of course) and a basket filled with towels, sandals, and Shiseido amenities. =)

Western food (didn't bother looking), sushi, alcoholic beverages, and best of all...Kirin beer machine (my favorite Japanese beer)!

One of the main reasons I prefer ANA's lounge over United Club is the noodles bar, where you can order noodles and/or rice. 

Ordered the Kakiage udon and ANA original curry chicken. Hot food and cold beer...yums!

After spending a good 3 hours lounging, I went to the boarding gate and saw! 

Had emergency row seat for the flight from Tokyo-KL (ANA 815). Plenty of leg space but I don't like not being able to put my bags under the seat. Anyway, I still like ANA...good service and good food. =)

Finally arrived at 11.30pm after 40 hours of traveling and was welcomed to a new government, and a very 'efficient' airport. Waited 30 min on the tarmac, and another 30 minutes at the baggage carousel. It was already 1am by the time I got on KLIA express.

May 11 (Fri): Spent the night at the Majestic Hotel KL with my Marriott free night award.

Was informed at check-in that I was upgraded from the Deluxe room to the Grand Suite....sweeeet!! =D Even though I desperately needed a good sleep, I ended up exploring every corners of the fancy suite. 

Despite going to bed at 3.30am, I very gung ho set my alarm for 6.30am to go work out and swim. And the reward for waking up so early was this stunning sunrise view of KL's modern skyline and heritage sites from the room. What a pleasant surprise!

Told ya I was gung ho! Worked out, had a refreshing swim, showered...all done by 8.30am. =P

Went downstairs to the Contango restaurant for my complimentary buffet breakfast. Wide selection of both local and western delicacies. 

Obviously, I was only interested in the local delicacies. Got myself some congee, dimsum, nasi lemak, roti canai, and a cuppa cappuccino...yummy!!!!

Since I was in KL, I took this opportunity to meet up with aunt and uncle for breakfast at the hotel. It was nice to catch up with them after more than a year.

Also met up with college friends for lunch at Brickfields and high-tea at the Tea Lounge.

Invited them to come hangout at the hotel room after lunch to catch up more and played with baby Owen. =)

This hotel is a heritage site with colonial architectures. 

Spent some time walking around the hotel to check out the famous Orchid conservatory, the Drawing room, the Reading room, and the executive club lounge.

Thought this hotel was a celebrity hotspot when I spotted 李心洁 at breakfast and 张艾嘉 during high-tea. Found out later that they were there for a charity event.

Another side note, I usually don't bother looking through any books or magazines in the hotel room. However, this book caught my attention and I stayed up for an hour flipping through it the night I arrived. I asked the reception the next day if they had any extra used ones that I could have, but they said they had limited copies of it as well. However, the awesome general manager of the hotel was kind enough to offer to mail a copy to me in Penang! Thank you so much for the great gesture, I really appreciate it!

I didn't spend much time in KL (less than 24 hours) but I definitely had a very 'productive' day catching up with friends and family before taking the bus back to Penang. =)

May 12 (Sat): Happy to be back in Penang with the family and being in Penang means....FOOD!

May 13 (Sun): And more food!

I mean...a lot of food! Gotta check off my food-craving list. =)

May 17 (Thurs): Met up with ex-colleagues for dinner at CRC.

May 20 (Sun): Of course can't miss out good seafood in Tambun.

One thing I try my best to do whenever I'm home...spend as much time as I could with family. Sorry friends if I don't ask to meet up, time is limited and family is always the priority. =P

May 14 (Mon): One of the main reasons for this home trip was to welcome twin bro and SIL's baby...the very first grand-baby of the Tang family (a.k.a. 金孙). I was expecting the baby to be born already by the time I landed in Malaysia, but baby Li-Anne decided to 'sleep-in' for a few more days and finally arrived 4 days after the expected due date. Officially promoted as an Aunty (sounds so old). =P 

Proud to say her first ever Birth-day card came from me and hubby (even though she may never know/care). :P Our 'birth' day gift for baby niece is a custodial savings/investment account that we will keep contributing until she turns 18 (sorry no toys or nonsense that will become trash/clutter by the time you grow up). 

May 20 (Sat): Presenting to you....the 'kim soon' (golden grandbaby) of the Tang family!! First grand-kid on both sides of the family...totally on track to be!!

Family photo session before I flew back to the US.

It was a short but meaningful 10 days back home...witnessed the arrival of a new life, a ‘new’ Malaysia, and most importantly spent some quality time with family and friends. ❤️ 

May 21 (Mon): Time to bid goodbye again. Thanks to the parents and grandaunt for sending me off at Penang airport.Till we meet again next year!!! Love y'all!!

Time for another long journey back. Penang - Singapore - Tokyo - New York - Nashville. Took Scoot air from Penang to Singapore and had a 12-hours transit in Changi. Fortunately, Changi airport allowed early check-in (up to 24 hours before departure). Went to the counter for ANA at T2, checked-in (and strategically changed my seats), dropped my bags, went through security, and headed straight to the lounge.

KrisFlyer Gold Lounge at T2. This lounge is for United Club Card or Star Alliance Gold members traveling on Economy. I was hoping to take a shower but this lounge doesn't have one.

Since I had so much time in Changi airport, I decided to hop on the sky train and explore the other KrisFlyer Gold Lounge at T3. Stopped by on the way for a free leg massage. =P Changi airport is definitely one of the nicest airports for long layovers, just look at the fancy washroom. 

Found out that apparently KrisFlyer Gold Lounge and SilverKris Lounge are two separate lounges, for different 'class' of travelers. The Star Alliance lounge app was a bit confusing mixing up the names for both lounges. The  (no shower) is for people traveling in Economy, whereas SilverKris lounge (has shower) is for people traveling in Business/First class.

The Krisflyer Gold lounge at T3 is nicer with nicer entrance, more natural light and bigger space. However, the food selections were the same as the ones in T2. Bummed here for a few hours before going back to T2 to board my flight.

May 22 (Tues): As usual, I took my own sweet time being the last to board the 12.35am flight to Tokyo (ANA 804). It was dark outside but I decided to peek out to look at the plane, and got super stoked that it was a Star Wars jet!!! What a pleasant surprise!!

The Star Wars theme song was playing as we boarded, and all seats had R2-D2 head covers! I had to tone down my excitement because nobody else in the plane seemed to be excited. I got even more excited when I found out that I had an empty row to myself (again) for the 3rd time this trip!! This was a 7-hour red-eye flight so you know what I did. =P

I would like to emphasize again that I really enjoyed traveling on ANA. Ample leg space even for normal economy, good food, and extremely courteous service!! I was asleep when they were serving snacks so the stewardess placed a 'goody bag' of sandwich, water, and chips in front of my seat without waking me nice lah!

So what's unique about this R2-D2 jet apart from the Star Wars theme song and head covers? Futuristic lighting, Star Wars movie, R2-D2 plastic cups, R2-D2 apron for the stewardess, super cute flight announcement with R2-D2 sound, and all passengers received a 'boarding certificate' and postcard as souvenir!! I requested for an extra R2-D2 cup for souvenir and the stewardess came back with 4...haha! I also asked if I could keep the head covers as souvenirs as they were going to trash them anyway...

...and so I took these back with me, and put them to good use...haha!! I wished I could help clean up the plane and took all those head covers!!

Beep beep...R2-D2 finally landed Narita airport at 8.45am. Thank you ANA for the awesome experience! :) #maytheforcebewithyou

I had another 8 hours layover at Narita airport. Back at the ANA lounge (2nd Floor, #4 Satellite) again. Now that I've traveled on the R2-D2 jet, I have more reasons to take pic of these exhibits at the side of the lounge entrance. =P

Starting the day of lounging with a good refreshing shower. =)

Ramen and Kirin beer for breakfast...amazing!

Followed by a full body massage....can it get any better??

Decided to make use of the workstation and free wifi to do some 'work' while enjoying more Kirin beer and a cuppa hot green tea.

The 'work' I was referring to...Iceland trip planning. Managed to figure out how to use the Japanese-only (no English) copy machine to print these. =P 

After finishing my 'work', I took another shower, had another bowl of ramen and Kirin, enjoyed another round of full body massage before heading to the boarding gate for the final long flight. The lounge started getting crowded in the afternoon.

Spotted the BB-8 version of Star Wars jet before boarding my 'normal' ANA flight.

Emergency row seat for this 13-hour flight (ANA 10). Good food and service as expected.

Arrived JFK 20 minutes behind schedule and was almost certain I was going to miss my 6.50pm flight from JFK to Nashville because I had to go through immigration and re-check in for Delta at a different terminal (separate ticket). It was miraculous that I made it through immigration and customs within 20 minutes (without Global Entry and I'm not a citizen/PR)! Fortunately my bags were already out on the carousel, thanks 'Priority'. Had to 'late check' my bags for Delta and chuck my Starbucks water bottle (stupidly forgot to empty it before security), but glad I made it in time for the flight!

Overall, I'd consider this a very successful trip and everything went well as planned. =D So how much did this trip cost? Find out more here!

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