Thursday, December 20, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - LAN Airlines 848 Economy Class (LIM-IPC)

***This post is part 3 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I headed down to Gate 27 with plenty of time to spare. Judging from the crowds in the waiting area, the plane didn't look to be completely full, which was a little surprising considering how few flights there are to Easter Island. After about half an hour, boarding commenced via shuttle bus, and we were dropped off in front of the ramp stairs.

LAN Airlines 848
Boeing 767-300ER
Lima (LIM) - Easter Island (IPC)
Sunday November 4, 2012
Departure: 1:20 AM (scheduled)
Arrival: 6:55 AM (scheduled)
Duration: 5h 35m (scheduled)
Seat: 26A (Economy) 

I took my time taking plenty of pictures of our Boeing 767-300ER before entering the aircraft. Once inside, I noticed that the layout was identical to my previous flight, and featured the old versions of their business and economy class seats.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - LAN Airlines 2609 Economy Class (SFO-LIM)

***This post is part 2 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I arrived at San Francisco International Airport two hours prior to departure, and the lines for check-in at the LAN counters were already quite long. LAN is not known for their customer service, efficiency, or timeliness, so while there were approximately five agents assisting economy customers, the line still moved at a glacial pace. Business passengers didn't fare much better.

Once I got up to the counter, however, the friendly agent checked me in without issue and tagged my bag all the way to Easter Island. She also reconfirmed the seating assignment I had already selected on LAN's website. Once my boarding passes were printed out, I headed over to Boarding Area A security check. Lines weren't long, and I was through the nude-o-scope and airside within ten minutes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

20% Off Virgin America Coupon From Banana Republic

Today only, go into your nearest Banana Republic store and grab a coupon for 20% off your next Virgin America flight. Unfortunately, it looks like the coupon is only available in stores and cannot be obtained online. Here is the fine print:

Coupon for 20% off, redeemable online for 3 day advance purchase non-refundable main cabin tickets only. Book by 12/31/12 (11:59 PM CST) to fly between 12/12/12 and 2/28/13. Significant blackout dates apply; subject to availability; and other restrictions apply. See store associate for complete details. One per customer, while supplies last in US (not including Puerto Rico) Banana Republic stores only. Not valid at Banana Republic factory stores or online.

I haven't seen the physical coupon yet, so I don't know exactly when the blackout dates are. If anyone has the coupon, please let us know. It says one per customer, but I'm sure you can go to multiple Banana Republic stores (if there is more than one in your area) and grab a couple, or just have some friends go into the same store and get some extras.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - Introduction

***This post is part 1 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I never imagined I would ever step foot on Easter Island. It's always been one of those places people read about, but never actually visit. And understandably so - it's billed as the most remote inhabited island in the world (although residents of Tristan da Cunha would probably disagree). Airfare from North America routinely tops $1,500 round-trip for the best routes, and even then, it's difficult to get the exact dates you want due to limited flights.

More than one year ago, British Airways overhauled their entire loyalty program and massively devalued their award chart in the process. Rather than a region-based method of calculating the cost of an award ticket, the new system became distance-based. Many of their most lucrative awards, like North America to Asia or South America, immediately became their most expensive overnight.

Thankfully, they gave us several months of warning, and many people (myself included) were able to burn some of those miles prior to the revamp. One trip I knew I had to book was to Easter Island. Strangely enough, British Airways had categorized Easter Island as South America in its old award chart, and as such, traveling there from North America only cost 40,000 miles round-trip in economy. This was an absolutely fantastic deal. Immediately after the program change, the same itinerary I booked (SFO-LIM-IPC-SCL-LIM-SFO) would have cost 85,000 miles instead. Taxes and fees amounted to a reasonable $185.09, including a $70.00 fee I incurred due to a date change. In all, I estimated a redemption rate >$0.03 per mile, which is as good as it gets for the British Airways program.

Hotels, on the other hand, are notoriously lacking on the island. Unless you are willing to shell out close to $1,000 a night for one of the few all-inclusive luxury resorts, you are pretty much left with older, family-run, hostel-quality, bed and breakfasts. And even those don't come cheap. There are no international brands that I know of on the island, and therefore, no use of points. I settled on Kaimana Inn, which had great reviews on TripAdvisor, although I made sure to temper my expectations to Easter Island standards when booking.

I knew I wanted to include a stopover in Santiago as well since I had never been before. Luckily, Santiago has a much wider selection of hotels, though prices are very high as well. I decided to use a cash and points redemption for the Crowne Plaza Santiago, which is perfectly located within walking distance to many of the city's famous sites as well as the convenient metro system.

Total out-of-pocket cost for airfare and hotels combined amounted to $509.94 (with the hotels divided between two people), plus 40,000 British Airways miles and 30,000 Priority Club points. Without the benefit of miles and points, this trip would definitely not have been financially justifiable. Fortunately, I was able to go and experience some of the most beautiful and sublime scenery I've ever seen.

Sunrise at Tongariki

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 Trip Report

This will be a quick trip report covering my recent adventure to Easter Island and Santiago, Chile. The whole trip took just over a week, but it definitely required a bit of extra work to reach one of the most remote islands in the world. Sadly, all of my flights were in economy, so they may not be quite as exciting to read about. Although I do believe it's a good thing to have some balance between luxury and frugality while traveling. Read on for all the details:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - United Airlines 480/1405 First Class (LAX-SFO)

***This post is the conclusion to a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Originally, I wasn't going to include this flight in my trip report, given how short and mundane it was. I did, however, want to give a shout-out to the good folks at United, who have gotten plenty of flak this past year. They really went out of their way to accommodate me, and I wanted to make sure I thanked them for it.

Upon arriving at Tom Bradley International Terminal, I breezed through customs (surprisingly) with hardly anybody in line. My checked duffel, still in the Asiana plastic wrap, was one of the first to come out of the carousel, and I quickly made my way over to Terminal 7.

After dropping off my baggage at the check-in counter, I asked the agent about the possibility of catching an earlier flight up to SFO, since I was looking at an almost three-hour layover with UA480 departing at 2:55 pm. I wasn't expecting much, given that I have no status with United and this was also an award ticket. My entire itinerary, however, was in first class, and I made sure to tell her that I didn't mind being bumped into economy if it meant I could get on an earlier flight.

She clicked away for a minute on the computer, and said unfortunately, it didn't look possible. She then suggested that I ask the gate agent to see if they could do anything for me. After a painless security check, I decided to visit the United Club, which granted me access since I arrived on a Star Alliance international first class flight.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Asiana Airlines 202 First Class (ICN-LAX)

***This post is part 18 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

This was hands down the best flight I've ever experienced. Granted, perhaps I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy as many international first class flights compared to other bloggers... but I honestly can't imagine the service or food on any other airline getting much better than this. I kid you not, the attentiveness, consideration, and diligence shown by every single flight attendant working the cabin was bordering on the level of absurdity. And that's a very good thing.

I walked to the gate fairly early since the Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge was starting to freak me out a little bit. The waiting area was still empty when I arrived, but after about half an hour, it started to fill out and lines began to form. As per Asiana tradition, all of the agents took a deep bow prior to the start of boarding.

One of the agents called out for first class passengers, and a few of us gathered around her to the right of the doors. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were only one or two other people waiting with me. An empty first class cabin almost always means friendlier, less-stressed, flight attendants, which typically translates to better service. Once boarding began, we were personally escorted down the jet bridge and into the nose of the 747-400.

Asiana Airlines 202
Boeing 747-400
Seoul (ICN) - Los Angeles (LAX)
Sunday April 8, 2012
Departure: 4:30 PM (scheduled) / 4:35 PM (actual)
Arrival: 11:30 AM (scheduled) / 11:22 AM (actual)
Duration: 11h 00m (scheduled) / 10h 47m (actual)
Seat: 2K (First) 

I'd seen many pictures of Asiana's first class cabin prior to this flight, and despite this being the older configuration (Asiana has since introduced fully-enclosed suites), everything still looked modern and clean. The large seats were spacious, but lacked the higher walls of suites or even semi-suites such as those found in Cathay Pacific's first class cabin. The cushion was maybe a bit on the stiffer side, though that's really a matter of personal preference. Despite these minor shortcomings, I felt like I was afforded plenty of privacy and comfort.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

And I'm Off To Easter Island!

Just about one year ago, I took advantage of British Airways' final days of offering the ridiculously good redemption rate of 40,000 miles for round-trip travel in economy to anywhere in South America, including Easter Island (which technically should be classified as the South Pacific). On November 16, 2011, British Airways completely overhauled their award chart and scrapped their region-based method of calculating miles needed for redemption. In its place came their new currency, Avios, as well as a distance-based award system.

Hence, the routing below (SFO-LIM-IPC-SCL-LIM-SFO), which I redeemed for 40,000 miles round-trip in economy one year ago, would now cost a whopping 85,000 Avios. This is definitely one of those trips where, if it weren't for miles, I would never be able to justify in terms of actual cost. I don't think it has really sunken in yet that I'm headed to Easter Island tomorrow morning, but I'm sure it will once I come face to face with my first Moai. In addition to four days on Easter Island, I will also have a three-day stopover in Santiago, Chile. But for now, it's back to packing!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge ICN

***This post is part 17 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Airport Bus 6008 dropped us off directly outside of the main terminal at Incheon International Airport. Once inside, I made my way over to the Asiana Airlines aisle and walked up to the first class check-in counter, which was completely empty. While there was not an exclusive first class check-in area like Thai Airways at Suvarnabhumi Airport, I found the agent helping me to be incredibly personable, constantly smiling and very friendly.

A male assistant came over and took my large checked duffel and wrapped it with a sealed plastic bag before placing it on the conveyer. I thought that was a nice touch - keeping first class luggage clean and safe (despite how dirty and nasty my duffel was already). After my boarding pass and lounge invitation were both printed out, I was asked to follow another female assistant, and she would take me through security.

Security was a two-minute affair at most, and afterwards, I waited in line to clear customs. At this point, I expected the assistant to disappear, and I would find my own way to the lounge once I was airside. But then I noticed she was still waiting for me just past customs. This was definitely a full-service operation by Asiana! I felt kind of bad that she had to walk all that way in her heels, but slowly, we made our way down the concourse, up an elevator, and finally, into the Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Courtyard Seoul Times Square

***This post is part 16 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Incheon International Airport is approximately 30 miles west of Seoul, but with traffic, it can take more than an hour to get into downtown by bus or taxi. The relatively new AREX airport railroad connecting Incheon International Airport and Seoul Station is a quick and affordable way to get into the heart of Seoul in less than 45 minutes. Fares for the express service is set at 13,800 KRW, which translates to approximately $13 USD.

Following the signs inside the airport, I headed down to the AREX station and bought my express ticket. Everything was fairly simple and straightforward. Incheon International Airport, by the way, has some really cool architecture. I kept stopping every five minutes to take pictures of strange building features. The train ride into the city also offers some spectacular views of the rural and suburban landscape outside of Seoul.

AREX station

On the way to Seoul

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - CNAC VIP Lounge HKG and Asiana Airlines 722 Business Class (HKG-ICN)

***This post is part 15 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

When we stepped off the jet bridge at Hong Kong International Airport, there were multiple carts awaiting the first class passengers to take them through to immigration. Since I only had a quick layover and needed to get to my departure gate, I skipped over this perk and started walking. Looking back, I realized that I basically didn't get to experience any of the amazing ground services offered by Thai Airways despite booking this itinerary specifically for that purpose. Oh well, better luck next time I guess!

As a business class passenger traveling on Asiana Airlines, I had access to the CNAC VIP Lounge, which is located across from Gate 16 on Level 7. This is a shared lounge serving mostly Mainland Chinese airlines, and some other really random airlines like Air Mauritius, Air New Zealand, Garuda Indonesia, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, South African Airways, and SriLankan Airlines.

If you're used to Cathay Pacific's The Wing and The Pier lounges at Hong Kong International Airport, I would recommend setting your expectations for the CNAC VIP Lounge low... like, really low. The food was abysmal at best, consisting of a few finger sandwiches with dried-out bread and a single slice of mystery meat, along with some snacks that looked like it had been sitting out for a few hours.

And usually I would cheer at the sight of dessert, but strangely enough, they had small cups of pre-scooped ice cream sitting in a tiny old refrigerator. I just kept wondering how long they had been in there for. There were jugs of chilled juices that I didn't touch, and maybe the only upside, a couple bottles of bottom shelf liquor and wine. I ended up just sticking with water. For the 20 minutes that I was there, I did notice one or two attendants walking around collecting used plates and glasses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Thai Airways 600 First Class (BKK-HKG)

***This post is part 14 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

With a disappointing visit to the Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge behind me, I decided to move on and focus on the flight itself. While Thai Airways is known far more for its ground services at Suvarnabhumi Airport than the actual in-flight experience, first class is still first class, and I was looking forward to a comfortable and relaxing flight to Hong Kong.

Thai Airways 600
Boeing 747-400
Bangkok (BKK) - Hong Kong (HKG)
Saturday April 7, 2012
Departure: 8:00 AM (scheduled) / 8:01 AM (actual)
Arrival: 11:45 AM (scheduled) / 11:33 AM (actual)
Duration: 2h 45m (scheduled) / 2h 32m (actual)
Seat: 2K (First) 

Boarding was soon announced, and premium passengers were called to line up. I quickly noticed that there appeared to be a large number of first class guests. Once we entered the 747-400, it became clear that all ten first class seats were going to occupied. I guess that was part of the reason why the Royal First Class Lounge was so full earlier in the morning.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge BKK (Or How I Stayed For 20 Minutes)

***This post is part 13 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I really have apologize for this post in advance. Without a doubt, it will be the worst (and possibly shortest) review of the Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge ever written. And honestly, I have to take credit for much of the blame.

I was already quite aware of the Royal First Class Lounge's sterling reputation. We've all read about the amazing accolades, and the numerous glowing reviews from around the blogosphere. My expectations, understandably, were set pretty high. In fact, part of the reason why I even bothered booking such a roundabout way of getting home from Cambodia (REP-BKK-HKG-ICN-LAX-SFO) was to experience the first class ground service offered by Thai Airways.

There were two daily departures from Bangkok to Hong Kong on Thai Airways with their Royal First Class service. Unfortunately, I chose the earlier one. With an 8:00 am departure, I had to make sure I got to Suvarnabhumi Airport at least a couple of hours in advance to get the full lounge experience. I left the Aloft Bangkok at approximately 4:30 am via taxi (make sure you request the meter, or they will try to overcharge you with a flat rate), and with hardly any cars on the road at that time, I arrived at the airport in just over half an hour.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Aloft Bangkok - Sukhumvit 11

***This post is part 12 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Getting from Suvarnabhumi Aiport to the city is actually quite simple. The Airport Rail Link Express Line goes directly from the terminal all the way to Makkasan Station near central Bangkok. While the station itself isn't in a particularly popular part of town, it is conveniently located next to the Metro Blue Line's Petchaburi Station, which also connects with the BTS Skytrain. These lines can get you to many of the more interesting destinations within Bangkok.

To get to the Aloft Bangkok, take the Metro Blue Line south one stop from Petchaburi Station to Sukhumvit Station. Then follow the signs up to the BTS Skytrain Asok Station. Once there, take the Skytrain one stop west and get off at Nana Station. After exiting and heading downstairs, you will be standing at the intersection of Sukhumvit Road and Sukhumvit Soi 11. Head north on Sukhumvit Soi 11 by foot for about 10 minutes, and the Aloft Bangkok is on your left. While these directions seemed technically straightforward to me, it still ended up being quite a trek, especially in the muggy heat of the day. If you have a lot of luggage with you, a taxi from the airport might still be the best way to go.

The Aloft brand follows in the footsteps of its pricier sibling, the W Hotels chain. However, it does seem to be a lot less pretentious in attitude, and has a bit more of a boutique feel to it. The lobby was loud and flashy, but the attendants were very friendly as I checked in. I had booked my stay using the Starwood Preferred Guest cash + points option, which was a great value since the Aloft Bangkok had recently been lowered to Category 1, costing just $25 and 1,200 Starpoints per night. It is important to note that taxes and fees on the cash portion is charged at the discretion of the hotel. Many, including the Aloft Bangkok, do tack on taxes and fees separately, while others don't.

I was given a room on the 18th floor with a king bed and a nice view of the city. While it wasn't particularly large, I really grew to like the overall design and smart space allocation. There was a cozy sitting area next to the large window, which I took advantage of while doing some reading. A simple work desk shared space with the flat-screen television, while the mini-bar was tucked directly underneath. The bed was very comfortable, as were the sheets and duvet.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Bangkok Airways 924 Economy Class (REP-BKK)

***This post is part 11 of a full trip report. The index can be found here*** 

I took a tuk-tuk to the airport, which was quick and painless. The Siem Reap airport is quite modern, with the new terminal having been inaugurated in 2006. Despite its small size, I admired the architecture and clear design effort that went into the construction.

A quick background on this flight: since Bangkok Airways has had a monopoly on the Siem Reap - Bangkok route for many years now, they can basically charge whatever the hell they want. This one-way flight lasting approximately one hour and ten minutes cost a whopping $276.68! Fortunately, the latest news indicates that the monopoly will finally be broken in November of this year, when Cambodia Angkor Air begins service on this route, operating 4x per week. Hopefully, they will increase the frequency as demand picks up (as I'm sure it will).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Exploring Angkor Archaeological Park And Siem Reap

***This post is part 10 of a full trip report. The index can be found here*** 

As with most people, when I first started doing research for this trip, I didn't realize just how many temples there actually were in the area surrounding Siem Reap. I only knew of Angkor Wat, of course, and a couple of other famous sites like Ta Prohm and Bayon, and thought that was pretty much all there was to see. Boy was I wrong. There are literally hundreds of ruins within an area stretching out hundreds of miles from Angkor Wat, all in varying stages of decay or restoration.

Because I was traveling solo, I was a little more wary of exploring the entire Angkor Archaeological Park on my own, so I decided to hire a personal guide for the three full days that I would be there. Luckily, my housemate had been to Cambodia years earlier and recommended his guide, Nicky (or Yem in Khmer). Email correspondence setting up the itinerary was quick and easy, and I thought the $185 rate (excluding entrance fees) he charged was reasonable enough. He also seemed fairly proficient in English, which was very important since I tend to ask a lot of questions.

Typically, almost all visitors to Angkor Archaeological Park will do the Little Circuit, which includes the most famous sites like Angkor Thom, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, and of course, Angkor Wat. For those with more time, the Big Circuit encompasses temples that are a little more obscure and farther away. However, some of these temples are definitely worth a visit, especially because they don't attract the massive crowds seen on the Little Circuit. And for those who are a bit more adventurous, the outlying temples 20-50 miles beyond the immediate Angkor area boasts some of the most unique and stunning ruins, in my opinion.

I'll go ahead and list the temples/sites I visited on each of the three days, and then describe in detail some of the more interesting events along the way.

Day 1:  Angkor Thom + Big Circuit + Banteay Srey
  • Angkor Thom (Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King)
  • Preah Khan
  • Ta Som
  • Banteay Srey (outlying temple 23 miles north of Angkor area)
  • East Mebon
  • Pre Rup

Day 2:  Beng Mealea + Kompong Phluk
  • Beng Mealea (outlying temple 45 miles east of Siem Reap)
  • Kompong Phluk (floating village)

Day 3:  Angkor Wat + Little Circuit
  • Angkor Wat (sunrise and afternoon)
  • Ta Prohm
  • Ta Nei
  • Ta Keo
  • Banteay Kdei

The first day actually turned out to be the longest and most strenuous, which, in hindsight, was probably a good plan. By the third day, I was pretty worn out by all the walking in the intense heat. The best advice I can give is to start the day as early as you can. Not only will you avoid some of the harshest daytime sunlight, but arriving at 6:00 or 7:00 am also affords you the opportunity to bypass the massive crowds of tourists that descend on the ruins later in the morning. Unfortunately, we arrived a little late at Angkor Thom on the first day, and Bayon was absolutely packed to the brim. It was even difficult to walk along the pathways at times because of the congestion. Still, it was quite amazing to see the famous stone faces that adorn just about every facet of the temple.


Friday, September 7, 2012

24,490 Priority Club Points For A Four-Night Stay

One of the most useful tips for earning bonus Priority Club points is that their promotions are stackable - and Priority Club seems to always have a ton of promotions running concurrently. In addition, while some of these promotions appear to be targeted towards certain members, anyone can register for them. And that brings me to my stay last month at the Holiday Inn Express in Lompoc, CA. Lompoc is a fairly small city, and the only two major hotels nearby are the Embassy Suites and the Holiday Inn Express. I decided to go with the latter since I'm much more active with Priority Club than with Hilton HHonors.

After booking the stay, my first course of action was to go to the Priority Club Insider website, which is an awesome resource for all things Priority Club. From there, I registered for every promotion I could find that hadn't yet expired. Here are the offers I registered for:

  • Up to 20,000 points: Earn 1,000 points per night, up to 20,000 points total. This was Priority Club's worldwide summer promotion (already expired on 9/3/2012).
  • Stay 3 nights earn 5,000 points: Stay 3 nights during the promotion period and earn 5,000 points. There are also other versions of this promotion, including stay 7 nights earn 10,000 points, and stay 15 nights earn 15,000 points. Be aware that you can only register for one of these, so choose wisely (expires 9/30/2012).
  • Next stay bonus: Earn 3,000 points on your next stay (within 90 days of registering).
  • Next stay bonus: Earn 1,500 points on your next stay (within 90 days of registering).
  • Welcome back bonus: Earn 1,500 points on your next stay (within 90 days of registering).
  • Anniversary bonus offer: Earn 1,000 points for every stay during the promotion period (within 90 days of registering).
  • Elite member next stay bonus: Earn 3,000 points on your next stay (within 90 days of registering). There may be another elite member next stay bonus that can be stacked with this one as well. It is also for 3,000 points on your next stay (within 90 days of registering).
  • Weekend stay bonus: Earn 5,000 points on your next weekend stay (Friday and Saturday, or Saturday and Sunday).

Of course, not every promotion you register for will be a success. Out of all the offers above, I had about two thirds of them post to my account after completing my stay, which is not bad at all! In total, I earned 24,490 Priority Club points for my four-night stay, which is enough for a free night at many of the IHG Hotels worldwide. The best advice is to keep checking the Priority Club Insider website for new promotions, then stack on as many as you can!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Le Méridien Angkor (Or How I Was Violated In My Own Room)

***This post is part 9 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

My stay at the Le Méridien Angkor started out wonderfully. It then devolved into the most surreal and downright terrifying experience I've ever had at a hotel. When I later met with the general manager, he commented that in his 22 years of working in the industry, this was an incident he'd never even heard of.

I arrived at the Le Méridien Angkor around early evening, and was immediately taken by the beautiful lobby area. The high ceilings and modern, yet stately, architecture really made for a good first impression. Check-in was smooth, as I was asked to relax in the sitting area while they prepared the paperwork. A cold welcome drink was also served.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Cambodia Angkor Air 109 Economy Class (PNH-REP)

***This post is part 8 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport approximately two hours prior to departure, which I knew would be way more time than I actually needed. My taxi driver had come to the hotel a lot earlier than expected, and it didn't really make sense to tell him to come back later. Hence, an arrival at the airport before the counters were even open.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - The Pavilion Hotel And Exploring Phnom Penh

***This post is part 7 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I located the line for the official airport taxi and decided it was worth a few extra dollars for the peace of mind that comes with legitimate cabs. I've heard way too many horror stories of taxi scams, rigged meters, abductions, etc. And the set price of $9 USD for the one-way trip into town wasn't terrible either.

Once inside the taxi, the driver asked if I needed a cab over the next few days to see the sights around Phnom Penh. I had already anticipated having to find a taxi to take me to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and Russian Market, so I negotiated a price of $25 for a half day with him to see all three sites. While that might not have been the lowest price I could have gotten if I shopped around and really bargained hard, I felt it was reasonable enough, and the driver seemed like a friendly guy. We set the pick-up time for 10:00 am the next day.

By the time I arrived at the hotel, it was already dark and I was getting hungry. The entrance to The Pavilion Hotel was very nondescript - just a wooden door set in a high wall along a quiet street. Once inside, I noticed how lush the landscaping was, with so many plants it felt a bit like you were in a jungle. The lobby was nicely decorated, and I was greeted with a refreshing passion fruit drink. After checking in, I was led to my room in the back of the hotel - which I liked because it was a bit more private and away from the other guest rooms.

Entrance to The Pavilion Hotel

Lobby area