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.

India Work Trip 2023 ✈ 6 Weeks in India

Following my 2-month work trip to India at the end of 2022, I was given the opportunity to travel to India again this year for round 2 of secondment. This trip was slightly shorter (1.5 months) but I was excited to return and see all the familiar faces again.

1 June 2023 - 14 July 2023: Working and Living in India for 1.5 Months

After spending 10 days home with the hubby, it was time to say goodbye and hit the road again. Learning from my own experience last year, I decided to travel 'lighter' this time around and packed everything in only one 30kg, with 2 smaller luggages in the big bag. First leg of the flight was a 2-hour flight from Huntsville to Dallas on American Airlines.

My long journey to Kolkata...Huntsville - Dallas - Doha - KL - Bangkok - Kolkata

My flight landed in Dallas 30 min early so I went to check out the Capital One lounge. Didn't stay long as my transit was short and the lounge was full.

2nd & 3rd flights (Dallas - Doha - KL) on Qatar Airways

So glad to travel on Qatar Qsuites for this 14.5 hours flight! Anti-social mode on!

I didn't even wait till take off to change into the pyjamas...getting myself comfortable for this long flight.

I didn't even wait till take off to change into the pyjamas...getting myself comfortable for this long flight. Ordered the Tandoori prawns with kachumber salad, seared Atlantic salmon, and ice-cream for dinner, and corn flakes, strawberry smooth, and assorted cold cuts for breakfast.

Got a good 8 hours of sleep on this flight! Thankful for a good and well rested flight. =)

My cute neighbor was so good and did not cry (not made any noise) at all throughout the 15 hours flight! Kudos to this mom for being a pro. She was so calm and chill, and was prepared iwth milk bottles for both take off and landing. Alll while handling 2 kids. She even managed to multitask and enjoyed her chocolate while feeding the baby.Asked the flight attendant if they had any souvenirs for kids and got this lil' soft toy and pencil case.

Landed 30 min late in Doha at 6.25pm. I had only about 30 minutes before my next flight boards and was lucky my next gate was close to the lounge. It also helped that I was familiar with the location of the lounge so I was able to go there right away and even got a quick shower with just enough time for some drinks.

Time to board my next flight to KL. Boarding was a bit disorganized but it was all good.

Yayy for another Qsuite for this 7.5 hours flight from Doha to KL.

Got a nice leather pouch amenity kit...and ordered 2 champagnes to start off the flight.

I was tired so I requested the flight attendant to wake me up 2 hours before landing for my meal coz I wanted to sleep first.

After about 4 hours of sleep, it was time for food. Almost everything I ordered had prawn.

All good things must come to an end. Landed in KL at 8.10am on 3 June 2023. I asked for a cappuccino prior to landing and the flight attendant kindly put it in a paper cup and gave a cookie as we were landing soon.

Back in Malaysia for 5 hours before continuing my journey with Thai Airways in Economy. I had to check-in for this flight again so I kiasu and went to the check in counter before they were opened to make sure I get to check in as soon as they opened. I had Star Alliance Gold status so I was able to use the Thai Royal Silk counter for check-in.

4th & 5th flights on Thai Airways. 

Even though I was traveling in economy, I was able to access the Plaza Premium First lounge with my Capital One Venture X credit card. Apparently, Star Alliance Gold only gets access to Plaza Premium Lounge. I ordered Kai Si Hor Fun, herbal soup noodle, and cappucinno for breakfast via the app.

Full filght for this 2 hour flight from KL to Bangkok.

I had a 9-hour transit in Bangkok airport so it's time for Priority Pass lounging. There are so many lounges in Bangkok that I could access to with Priority Pass and Star Alliance Gold status. I wasn't planning to come to this lounge initially but saw someone getting a massage as I was walking by and quickly checked my Priority Passs app and indeed! Yes I went in just for the 15 minutes neck and shoulder massage.

I was too lazy to lounge-hop so I hung out at the Turkish Airlines lounge till my next flight. The lounge was pretty empty when I got there in the afternoon.

The reason I chose the Turkish Airlines lounge....this 15 minutes complimentary head and shoulder massage which was available between 3pm to 11pm. Glad I got my massage first coz people started coming and it was back to back reservations after I got mine.

Took a shower to freshen up.

Had tom yum with rice, some Thai beer and snacks. Was nice that this lounge didn't have a time limit so I was able to stay and chill for 8 hours while working on 'content creation'.

Final leg of my long journey to Kolkata. This was another full flight but a short 2-hour one.

Finally landed in Kolkata at 12.45am after traveling for 48! Glad to be back again after 6 months. Got through immigration pretty quickly and the airport was empty at midnight. Tapas, the hotel driver was already waiting for me at the arrival area.

I tred to lay low and didn't tell any of the JW Marriott staff I knew from the last trip that I would be back but I was immediately recogized by some familiar faces from the conceirge and reception as soon as I got off the car with 'Welcome Back'! Glad to be back at this 'home' in Kolkata. I was assigned room 2023....perfect...haha!

Home and view for the next 6 weeks.

Turned the hotel into my 'home office' when I wasn't in the office.

One of the main reasons I preferred this hotel is because of the weekly complimentary spa for an hour, which I definitely fully utilized. Didn't go to the gym as diligently even though all I had to do was to take the elevator to 2nd :P

Another perk for our corporate rate....complimentary laundry service of 4 pieces daily.

Thanks to the housekeepng staffs for all these towel animals, plants, and flowers throughout my stay. Yes I am spoilt. :P

Hotel-hopped over to the Westin on the weekend and my lay-low attempt failed again. Intentionally made my reservation only 30 minutes before arriving and tried to blend into the crowd in the lobby for check-in but got recognized by the sales guy and guest relations manager. I appreciate the fact that they still remember me after 6 months and gave me a suite upgrade again, but I guess there is no such thing as lay-low!

Thanks to the hotel drivers for the daily office drop-offs and pick-ups. I made it a point to remember the drivers' names this time around so that I could thank them later.

Our Kolkata office with my team members. The team booked a room for me but I don't mind sitting out in the open areas. I hardly get any work done in the office any way coz I end up socializing the whole day.

Our Kolkata office with my team members. The team booked a room for me but I don't mind sitting out in the open areas. I hardly get any work done in the office coz I end up socializing the whole day any way.

Received the news about my promotion from my Partner while I was in India, and was thankful that mom was there to celebrate together with me at that time. Incredibly thankful for all the people who have helped and supported me along the way to get to this milestone, especially my Partner in the COE since 2020.

As for food, I was very consistent for all 3 meals. For breakfast, I usually request for a to-go box at the JW Kitchen to pack some pastries and cappucino to take to the office. For days when I don't go to the office, I went up to the 23rd floor Executive Lounge for breakfast. There are usually not many people in the lounge so it's much more peaceful.

As for lunches, I'd usually order delivery to the office and eat in the pantry with my co-workers. There were few occassions where I ate out with other co-workers at restaurants that were within walking distance from the Fenicia and Slyfox. 

As for dinners, I usually go down to the Vintage Asia restaurant on the 1st floor... and the staff knows my usual orders...salmon nigiri, stir-fried veggies, kingfisher. :P 

I was pretty consistent with my orders and but switched things up few the dishes above when they had the Bombay pop-up event.  

Or when I ate with co-workers. :P Yes I prefer to eat here coz I was lazy to go elsewhere.

When the evening schedules got busy (my 'night' shift started at 7pm), I'd take my laptop up to the lounge and eat there...while enjoying some drinks. =)

When things got too hectic with back-to-back calls, I just ordered room service for dinner.

The one time I went out for dinner was to Peshwari at the ITC Royal Bengal next door for the farewell of another secondee.

Apart from work, I also visited a local orphanage with my team members, and we brought snacks, goodies, stationeries, and hygiene supplies for the kids. Thank you to the many staffs at JW Marriott Kolkata, especially the concierge guys for helping to move the many things I had and providing the nice paper bags for our gifts.

Farewell with the team on my last day at work. Thank you for the cake and book! :)

Also prepared some gifts for the hotel staff for the warm hospitality during my stay.

6 weeks flew by and it's a wrap for round 2 in Kolkata! Thankful for the opportunity to return to this city again and see so many familiar faces who made this place feel like home. I am incredibly grateful to my co-workers and all the JW Marriott Kolkata staff for the warm hospitality throughout my stay.

Kolkata can certainly be considered my 3rd home at this 'rate of return', to the extent that everyone was asking when I'm coming back. Honestly, I have no answer tot his question but I sure hope our paths will cross again (in person) someday.