After being at home for the longest period in quite some time, Angela and I set off for an exciting adventure that included stops in New York City, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. This trip was planned well in advance, but we had to make drastic changes in the middle of January due to the advent of COVID-19. So, while our original itinerary had us flying through mainland China on both the inbound and outbound, we ended up changing things around so that we transited Tokyo, Japan and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
We focused most of our time in Singapore, but made sure to stop for short periods of time en route to enjoy some exciting new experiences and some familiar old ones. In order to prepare for our time in Singapore, Angela read Singapore: A Biography, which she wholeheartedly recommends.
Planning the trip
Unlike most of our trips, the flights for this one were paid for with cash because there were exceptional deals to the places we wanted to go. Our hotels were paid for with points where the nightly rate was expensive and cash through American Express’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program where they were not.
Our original flight map looked like this, with an overall routing of LAS-LAX-XIY-PVG-SIN, SIN-HKG, and SZX-XIY-LAX-LAS. We were scheduled to fly on a combination of AS, HU, and SQ.
Because of COVID-19, Hainan Airlines cancelled all of their US flights so the initial itinerary became impossible. Our revised itinerary ended up routing LAS-JFK, JFK-HND, NRT-KUL-SIN, and SIN-KUL-NRT-LAX-LAS on a combination of B6, JL, SQ, MI, and AS. The JL itinerary was very cheap relative to standard business class fares to Southeast Asia and I was able to save us $300 per person by booking through American Express’s International Airline Program.
|#||Airline||Class of Service||Origin||Destination||Distance Traveled (Miles)|
|#||Airline||Class of Service||Origin||Destination||Distance Traveled (Miles)|
While we are normally loyal to the Marriott portfolio of brands, we were able to leverage existing loyalty points and an extremely good cash rate to stay at three different Conrad properties on this trip. Our hotel in Singapore was booked through American Express’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program. We stayed for six nights and broke that into two separate three night stays booked through Angela and my accounts to take advantage of a non-repeatable Stay 3, Pay 2 promotion. Because we booked through the FHR program, we received 100 USD property credit per stay, guaranteed 4PM late checkout, and breakfast for two. If you have access to FHR, I highly recommend taking a look at it before finalizing any bookings.
We ended up staying at the following:
|Property||Location||Points Redeemed||Length of Stay|
|Conrad New York Midtown||New York City, NY, USA||95,000 Hilton Honors
1 x 1-night certificate
|Conrad Tokyo||Tokyo, Japan||190,000 Hilton Honors||2 nights|
|Conrad Centennial Singapore||Singapore, Singapore||1,152 USD||6 nights|
|Property||Location||Points Redeemed||Length of Stay|
A delayed departure to New York City
After dropping Fitz off at camp, we took a car to the airport and arrived forty minutes prior to boarding, just enough time to grab a drink at the Centurion Lounge before jumping on the plane. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed three times and we ended up departing almost two and a half hours after our originally scheduled time. Of course, with lounge access and heading to the Mint cabin upon boarding, this was a much more pleasant experience than it could have been otherwise.
The JetBlue Mint experience was as good as ever. I particularly enjoyed the RefreshMINT signature drink, which they can make virgin if you ask, and the food on board. The ice cream on this flight was incredible tasting and the coffee was very good, as always. The service was extremely friendly, per usual, and the experience reminded me why JetBlue Mint is a product that we always look forward to flying.
We eventually made it to JFK and took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. The Conrad New York Midtown is a great property, in my opinion, with spacious rooms for NYC and good benefits for mid-tier elites. The best part is that the hotel is all suites, meaning you’ll definitely have a separate sitting area and sleeping area. If you have some Hilton points or free night certificates (or are looking for a cheaper cash option than the Park Hyatt or St. Regis) then it could be a great fit.
Brunch with a friend, a boisterous walk through the park, and a raucous Broadway experience
The next morning we took the opportunity to sleep in a bit and skipped breakfast before jumping on the subway and heading to Brooklyn where we met our friend Lori for brunch at The Common Brooklyn. There was a bit of a wait for a table, but it was definitely worth it as the dishes were hearty and delicious and the coffee was great.
After cleaning our plates, we went and picked up Lori’s dog, Noodles, for a quick walk around the park near their apartment. Noodles is an absolutely adorable dachshund and possesses all the traits that make them so endearing and frustrating all at once – he’s curious and loving but loud and stubborn. We brought him some treats from our local pet store and a stuffed hedgehog because that is his favorite type of toy.
Noodles loves Angela and couldn’t get enough pets from her. It was so sweet to see them interact.
After our walk, we headed to Little Cupcake Bakeshop to secure Brooklyn Blackout and Dreaming Princess cake slices. We stopped by the Bay Ridge location first, but they were out of Dreaming Princess cake so we headed to the Manhattan location only to find they didn’t have it either! Angela was dismayed, to be sure, but she made do with a slice of Coconut Cloud cake. We split some delicious banana pudding to top it off.
We relaxed for a couple of hours before heading to Benjamin Steakhouse for a delicious dinner. The steaks and service at this restaurant are both awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great meal at a relatively reasonable price.
After dinner we went to see Beetlejuice the Musical. It was an excellent show from beginning to end. It was a good adaptation of the movie, the songs were fun and entertaining, and the set design was inventive and well-done. I wholeheartedly recommend this musical if you can get tickets.
After the show, it was a quick walk back to the hotel in preparation for our international travel the next day.
An enjoyable journey to Japan
We ate breakfast at the hotel and found that most of it was covered by the credit granted to us ($30 / person / night) due to our Hilton Gold status. Afterwards, we grabbed our bags and hopped in a cab to JFK. After a quick trip through security, we headed to the Lufthansa Business Lounge that Japan Airlines partners with to hydrate before our flight. From there, it was a five minute walk to our gate where we experienced JL’s typically ordered boarding process.
The seats on JL’s Boeing 777 we flew were some of their oldest ones (the original Sky Suite). Regardless of their age, though, they were so comfortable. There is space under the ottoman for your backpack, the seat is comfortable, and a mattress pad is provided for when you’re ready to sleep. The service on board was excellent and I’m quite the fan of JAL SKY TIME (JL’s name for kiwi juice that they serve on board).
The flight was fourteen hours, but it didn’t feel that long between meal service, work, and sleep. I was very happy with the travel experience. The Western meal we were served was quite tasty. The beef was cooked medium rather than well done as most airlines serve in business class. I have to applaud them for that.
We arrived at Haneda Airport and cleared immigration quickly. We decided to take the monorail from the airport to Hamamatsucho Station and walked to the hotel from there. The Conrad Tokyo is beautiful and located directly above a small shopping center where you can easily buy supplies, like water, if you need them. Reception is located on the 28th floor, a short elevator ride from the lobby. The reception and lobby area were beautiful with extremely high ceilings and posh decor. Service at check-in was wonderful and they confirmed we would receive a full breakfast on both mornings of our stay as a Hilton Gold benefit. They also proactively offered to book us on the airport limousine bus to Narita Airport on our day of departure and charge it to our room. I thought this was an exceptional gesture because I would have had to book separately otherwise.
When we got to the room, a tray of treats was waiting for us. We had a beautiful view of the nearby park, although it was hard to see at night, and a gigantic room for a major metropolitan area like Tokyo. The bed was quite comfortable, although it was a little firm as is typical for Asian hotels. I definitely recommend the Conrad Tokyo if you’re looking for a spot to burn your Hilton Honors points in Asia.
We got a really good night’s sleep thanks to massive shifts in time zones over the previous few days and were rested and ready for the following day.
Sushi, digital art, and a long walk hometel
We woke up early, rested and ready to tackle the day. Our breakfast featured lobster omelets and delicious fruit, after which we rested for a few hours to continue our recovery from jet lag, and then set off to partake of some delicious sushi at a spot that we have come to love, Sushino Midori Ginza. We walked up about twenty minutes before opening and were able to get seated as soon as the doors opened. We both ordered the tuna set and enjoyed every single bite. If you’re looking for quality sushi in Tokyo at a price that won’t break the bank, this restaurant is the place to go.
After eating our fill of fish, we headed off for dessert and decided to go to another favorite or ours, Manneken Belgian Waffle. I opted for the double chocolate and Angela chose the chocolate frosted. They were both excellent!
Afterwards, we took the train from a station near our hotel to the art exhibition we were visiting for the day, teamLab Planets. teamLab is a group of technologists who produce reactive digital art exhibitions. The group has two exhibitions in Tokyo, teamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets. We chose to visit Planets because Borderless was closed for maintenance the two days we were in Tokyo.
To say the exhibit was exciting would be a massive understatement. It took us about an hour to get through the pieces and each one was interesting in its own unique way. I won’t try to describe them as I feel like the pictures we took will do a better job.
The next time we return to Tokyo, we’ll be sure to visit the Borderless exhibit given how amazing the smaller Planets exhibit was. After leaving the exhibition, we walked back to our hotel the long way, enjoying the crisp air and the ability to concentrate on each other and our surroundings. Before heading back to the Conrad, we stopped at a small Australian coffee shop called Byron Bay in the adjacent neighborhood to enjoy some delicious (albeit weak) flat whites.
Off to Singapore (via Malaysia)
After another delicious breakfast, we checked out and headed to the bus for transport to the airport. The bus was clean, comfortable, and quick and we were at Narita Airport before we knew it.
Check-in was a breeze and we spent some time in the Sakura lounge before our flight. Before long, we were settled in and on our way to Kuala Lumpur on JL’s new 787-9 featured SKY SUITE III. To be quite frank, I think the older staggered seats are much more comfortable, although I won’t complain too much about sitting in the front of the plane.
Once we arrived at KUL, we headed to the transfer desk in the sattelite terminal to get our boarding passes for our Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore. Unfortunately, the transfer desk was no help and told us to go to the main terminal’s transfer desk. Once we got there, they told us they couldn’t help us either. We really didn’t want to clear immigration just to turn around and get our boarding passes, so we went to the Singapore Airlines lounge (even though we didn’t have access) and asked for help. They finally directed us to a gate where Angela was able to get the agent to come over and help us get our boarding passes. One good side affect of this was that we were able to get bulkhead seat assignments for free from the gate agent.
After that whole ordeal, we were able to access the Plaza Premium Lounge for a few minutes before our flight to get some refreshments.
We touched down in Singapore eighty minutes after boarding, cleared immigration quickly, and grabbed a taxi for transport to our hotel. The taxi driver told us that he had been waiting almost an hour and a half because tourist traffic was down so much due to the developing novel coronavirus.
The Conrad Centennial Singapore is a beautiful property, with check-in on the ground floor adjacent to the restaurant where breakfast is served. First, the check-in agent checked our temperatures via infrared thermometer on our forehead to ensure we were healthy and, afterwards, we were given information about the benefits associated with our booking and headed up to our beautiful room where we were presented with a fruit plate, savory snacks, local soft drinks, and a box of delicious chocolates. The bed was incredibly comfortable and we got a great night’s sleep in preparation for a full day of touring.
A day at the gardens
We visited the most talked about attraction in Singapore on our first full day in the city, making our way via foot to Gardens by the Bay. When we arrived, we could count the number of people at the attraction. There was almost no one in the park which, to be quite frank, was great for us.
I didn’t know what to expect from such a well-known tourist attraction, so I went in with an open mind. Suffice to say, if you like plants (and even if you’re not totally enraptured by them) this place is amazing. There are so many beautiful pieces throughout each of the main attractions. We visited the different locations within the gardens complex in the following order:
The OCBC Skyway gave great views of the SuperTree Grove and the Singapore skyline:
The Flower Dome conservatory had plants from around the world arranged by region and some very interesting sculpted topiaries:
The Cloud Forest conservatory contained an incredible variety of flora across seven different floors with a huge indoor waterfall as the main attraction:
The Floral Fantasy conservatory hosted a tremendous number of different flowers, all real, and a 4D ride where you strap in and pretend to be a dragonfly:
After spending several hours wandering around the various conservatories, we walked through the rest of the garden areas, starting with the Ted Cruz hatchery:
Finally, it was time to return to the hotel for an early dinner and to rest up for the next day.
A food tour that ended with us being full
After a great night’s sleep and a much-needed breakfast, we jumped in a GrabTaxi and met up with our tour guide for the small group food tour we had booked. We’ve done a few food tours before, but this was the first one that left me feeling full when we left! We ate a ton of different things during the day, most of which were delicious in one way or another. Most of them were uniquely Singaporean in that they were a fusion of different cultures. We tried the following:
Curry Puff and Kopi
Nonya Bak Chang and Nonya Kuehs
Chicken Rice, Carrot Cake, Beef Hor Fun, and Sugar Cane Juice
On foot to Little India.
After the end of the food tour, we walked back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon of espresso and reading.
A historic park and a walk through a beautiful garden
After eating our fill on the previous day, it was time to burn some calories before eating anymore. We went off in search of some natural beauty, starting with an important historic site, Fort Canning Park. We left the hotel, walked through War Memorial Park and Esplanade Park, and then proceeded along the Singapore River Walk.
Finally, we arrived at Fort Canning Park where we enjoyed a long walk around looking at the various sites.
After the garden, we returned to the hotel and had the best afternoon tea experience of our life. It was an exquisite experience, with a welcome drink (essentially strawberry milk with chocolate sauce), seafood course, a tiered course, a couple of scones, and a cheese plate to finish everything off.
A couple of hours later, we headed out for a viewing of Garden Rhapsody where, like polite people, we didn’t record the entire performance while blocking people’s sightlines. We did snap a sweet picture of the Singaporean skyline after the performance, though.
A chill day with a unique indoor experience
Our second to last day in Singapore was filled with thunderstorms. Luckily, we had planned a down day as part of our Singapore trip so this didn’t affect our plans much. We did take a brief respite from the comforts of our room to try our hand at an immersive virtual reality experience called Zero Latency. It was really interesting, although a little expensive. Essentially, you strap yourself into a backpack with attached VR goggles, pick up a marked weapon with location markers on it, and then you’re inside of a situation where zombies are coming at you.
Other than being a bit expensive, I thought it was a worthwhile experience and was one I enjoyed. I think that, if the price was lowered a bit, it is something I could find myself doing regularly (if there was one locally in Las Vegas, that is). I do have to mention that Angela outdueled me by killing way more zombies than I did in both the rounds we played.
The rest of the day was spent getting a bit of work done and finishing some books.
The sweatiest we’ve ever been
On our last day in Singapore, we decided to get some real exercise in. First, we took the train to Beauty World station and then hiked up to the top of Bukit Timah Hill, the highest peak in Singapore. Here’s what we looked like at the beginning of our hike:
Here’s what we looked like at the end:
In the middle, we saw some beautiful views:
Of course, we weren’t done yet. We hopped back on the MRT and took it to Kent Ridge station where we embarked upon a walk down the Southern Ridges trail. It was quite the trek, but it was definitely worth it. The views were stunning thorughout and the time we spent together was priceless.
To finish up our tour in Singapore, we decided to get one last Kopi & Tarts combo and then do some chocolate tasting. We purchased a few different delicacies from some local shops and tested them all. They were all tasty, but the best dessert was called the G Spot from Patisserie G in Millenia Walk.
The long, but pleasant, journey home
After a hearty breakfast and some time packing up, we headed to the airport to explore a little bit before starting our long journey home. First, we stopped at The Jewel to see the famous indoor waterfall:
After that, it was off to the SATS Premier Lounge for some food before our flight to KUL. After relaxing there for a bit over an hour, we jumped on our short flight. We alighted and hung out in the Cathay Pacific lounge for a bit before getting on our overnight flight to Tokyo. The flight was great, although there was a very limited window in which to sleep. Once we got to Tokyo, we cleared immigration and stored our bags in a coin operated locker before heading off into the city.
After a two hour subway ride, we stopped at a Starbucks for a quick treat to tide us over for lunch. We enjoyed the Japanese specific Sakura donut alongside a couple of Americanos and then hung out for a couple of hours before heading, again, to Sushino Midori Ginza. After another delicious tuna platter, it was back to the airport. Check-in was smooth for our flight back to LAX, but we were informed that there wouldn’t be no food and minimal drinks served in the lounge because of COVID-19 infection risk.
Before long, we were off to LAX and then off to LAS after a short layover to cap off a fantastic trip.
While things changed along the way and we had to monitor the situation with COVID-19, the trip turned out to be everything I wanted it to be. Angela and I are lucky to spend so much time together experiencing the world, and I wouldn’t change any of it.