I was celebrating my seventh birthday the last time I was in Bangkok, and I’ve been intrigued by it ever since. Defined by perpetual hustle and bustle, over-the-top nightlife, and ornate temples and palaces from centuries past, Bangkok was characterized in a guide book as a “town of juxtapositions.” Within moments of leaving the airport, it’s obvious how “The Big Mango” earned such a reputation. Whether it’s a seedy brothel sitting right next to an ancient monastery, an eight-story tall megamall next to a dilapidated flea market, or a man driving a gleaming Ferrari in a sea of rusty tuk-tuks and Vespas, Bangkok is an eclectic, jumbled city with so much (too much?) going on. Exploring the urban sprawl here is unlike anywhere else in the world, and those who can survive the sweltering heat, chaotic streets, and overpowering smells are rewarded handsomely with an unforgettable trip.

With my studies completed, diploma in hand, I had a few free weeks prior to starting my day job in the “real world.” In celebration of my graduation, my father and I booked tickets on United Airlines and ANA to return once again to Thailand. Our original flight left out of New York LaGuardia and routed via Washington Dulles and Tokyo Narita. I was having technical difficulties in the air for the first few legs of the trip, so I won’t be reviewing those (gah, my pictures didn’t save!), but I was able to snag some of the United Club in Tokyo.

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Inside the United Club at Tokyo Narita

While I don’t particularly enjoy long-haul economy class (but then again, does anyone?), the airfare was too cheap to pass up: about $350 one way, per person. This is a great deal no matter how you look at it, and even though I didn’t earn a lot of redeemable miles on United, I was able to net almost 20,000 Premier Qualifying Miles. That alone is about 5,000 miles short of the requirement for Premier Silver, which represents a fantastic haul, especially given the price. Plus, it means less flying in long-haul economy class for me this year…

After being in transit for 33 hours, my father and I immediately made our way to the Okura Prestige Hotel in downtown Bangkok. The Okura isn’t a part of the five main hotel families, but it is owned by Japan Airlines’s parent company. We were able to secure a discounted rate at $166 per night, which also included free continental breakfast and access to the club lounge.

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The Okura Prestige Corner Room

While we didn’t earn any Program Specific Points with our stay, it was still a great value in terms of bang-for-your-buck. It is a five star hotel at three star prices. When I go back to Bangkok, I’ll gladly stay at the Okura again; it’s an exceptional property in a prime location.

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The Okura Prestige’s delicious breakfast spread

Neither my father and I had been to Angkor Wat, so we took a detour one weekend to visit the Cambodian UNESCO World Heritage site. We flew to the nearby town, Siem Reap, on a cheap Air Asia fare, which we upgraded on the return leg in order to sit in an exit row. We also got to check out the Plaza Premium Lounge at the recently renovated airport in Siem Reap; it exceeded my expectations by a long shot.

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Plaza Premium Lounge in Siem Reap

In terms of lodging, instead of the various Western chain hotels in town, we opted for a cheap boutique hotel, The Aviary. Our rates were cheap at around $80 per night, and that included breakfast as well. Like the Okura, this is a charming hotel with local flair, and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again, even if it means foregoing points.

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The pool at the Aviary Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

As we were getting ready to go back home to the United States, we were dreading another 33 hours in United/ANA Economy Class. My father had never been on a “higher flyer” trip before, so the night before we were supposed to leave, I cancelled our return legs and booked us first class award tickets with United MileagePlus Miles. We started the journey in the “new” Thai Business Class onboard a 777-300ER and flew to Beijing. After a brief layover, we connected on to a United 777-200 with legacy First Class seats installed.

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Legacy United First Class onboard the 777-200

It was a surprisingly comfortable ride, but moreover, it was a special surprise for my father. An exceptional exclamation point to an already unforgettable vacation.

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All smiles in Thai Business Class

With the modifications to the itinerary, our final routing looked like this…

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From New York LaGuardia (LGA) to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK), via Washington Dulles (IAD) and Tokyo Narita (NRT), from Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK) to Siem Reap (REP) and back, from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) to Washington Dulles (IAD), via Beijing Capital (PEK)

 

…and we paid…

  • ~$350 per person to fly LGA-IAD-NRT-BKK on United and ANA
  • $166 per night at the Okura Prestige
  • ~$90 per person to fly DMK-REP on Air Asia
  • ~$105 per person to fly REP-DMK on Air Asia in an exit row
  • 80,000 United MileagePlus Miles per person to fly BKK-PEK-IAD

The trip report will include…

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