March Trip - Where to Go?

Jul 27th, 2015, 07:31 AM
  #1  
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March Trip - Where to Go?

Double-posted with the lounge - I meant to post here in the first place...

So my wife and I are planning a trip for next March. We currently have some award tickets booked, but there is some flexibility there.

For now, our flights leave JFK just after midnight on March 12th (effectively Friday night) and connect in Seoul onward to Singapore, arriving around 8pm on March 13th.

We have two possibilities for return flights, both already booked, but either can be cancelled. The first option is a flight back to JFK from Singapore leaving around 10:30pm on March 26th, connecting via Seoul again. This puts us back into JFK around 11:20am on March 27th. We would have to book a separate flight to make it back to Boston from JFK.

Our second option is a flight from Male (Maldives), leaving around 7:30pm to Doha, where we would have to overnight and then take the morning nonstop back to Boston, putting us in around 2:30pm.

That leaves open the question of how to fill in the two weeks. Our first thought (well, probably 12th thought, but first fully-formed one) was:

- 3 or 4 days in Singapore
- 3 or 4 days in Kuching/environs, with hopes of seeing some orangutans
- 5 or 6 nights in the Maldives

My second thought that really hit me though would be
- Maybe as little as 2 nights in Singapore - we love Singapore, but have been enough that I feel comfortable limiting it to 2 nights
- 4-6 nights in Sri Lanka - what to do? where to base?
- 5 or 6 nights in the Maldives

Other ideas we've tossed around
- Myanmar - this was actually our first thought way back when, but I have been completely unable to get very excited about it
- Back to Vietnam to see some of what we missed the first time - maybe Dalat, Halong Bay, extra time in Hoi An, maybe a side trip to Luang Prabang
- Bali - I have to say that I wasn't blown away last time I was there, but we stayed at the beach rather than Ubud and maybe we would prefer Ubud
- Chiang Mai/Golden Triangle - In general, I have been underwhelmed with what I have seen of Thailand, but there are so many that love it that I'm willing to take my chances that I can be swayed
- Jump off from Singapore to Australia (I was shocked how cheap flights were) and visit friends for a week in Sydney and then do 4 or 5 days at a beach somewhere

A few notes:
- I don't mind hopping around a bit, but more than three locations would probably be a bit more than I could convince the wife to do. We'd also want to minimize flights as much as possible.
- We aren't necessarily on a strict budget, but we are trying to keep costs down a bit by strategic usage of points - for example, we would use Hyatt points to stay at the Park Hyatt in the Maldives, SPG points to stay at the Westin in Singapore, miles for the long flights, etc.
- With the above in mind, destinations with great Hyatt or SPG properties would be helpful.

Thanks for any thoughts.
travelgourmet is online now  
Jul 27th, 2015, 07:46 AM
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Some reactions to your thoughts:

Plan A: - 3 or 4 days in Singapore
- 3 or 4 days in Kuching/environs, with hopes of seeing some orangutans
- 5 or 6 nights in the Maldives

If you are interested in seeing orangutans, you want to be in Sabah, not Sarawak. There is a "Rehab" center near Kuching, but remember that these are simply captive orangutans. In Sabah, you can see orangutans in the wild. Two weeks would be the right amount of time for a few days in Singapore, and rime in both Sabah and Sarawak.

Plan B:- Maybe as little as 2 nights in Singapore - we love Singapore, but have been enough that I feel comfortable limiting it to 2 nights
- 4-6 nights in Sri Lanka - what to do? where to base?
- 5 or 6 nights in the Maldives

Two weeks would be the right amount of time for Sri Lanka, a marvelous destination. But 4-6 nights in Sri Lanka is not enough time, you could choose one area, like the cultural triangle and spend all of your time there, but you'd be missing tea country and Kandy and beaches.

Your other thoughts: Myanmar: I consider this to be one of the most compelling destinations in Asia. We loved our two trips there and are considering a return this year.

"- Back to Vietnam to see some of what we missed the first time - maybe Dalat, Halong Bay, extra time in Hoi An, maybe a side trip to Luang Prabang
- Bali - I have to say that I wasn't blown away last time I was there, but we stayed at the beach rather than Ubud and maybe we would prefer Ubud
- Chiang Mai/Golden Triangle - In general, I have been underwhelmed with what I have seen of Thailand, but there are so many that love it that I'm willing to take my chances that I can be swayed"

These are all return trips to places that didn't prove especially inspiring the first time. Why return?

I can't comment on your Australia idea, as I haven't been there. I also have no interest in the Maldives, so can't comment on that.

You might find browsing some photos helpful: www.marlandc.com for photos of our trip to Sri Lanka (a place we loved and would like to return there), two trips to Burma, and a trip to Sabah and Sarawak.

Happy planning!
Kathie is online now  
Jul 27th, 2015, 08:14 AM
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But 4-6 nights in Sri Lanka is not enough time, you could choose one area, like the cultural triangle and spend all of your time there, but you'd be missing tea country and Kandy and beaches.

We are fine just focusing on one location. If we like it, we will be back at some other time to see more. FWIW, the Maldives would mean we would skip the beaches in Sri Lanka entirely.

These are all return trips to places that didn't prove especially inspiring the first time. Why return?

Just for clarification, we loved Vietnam. It was Thailand and Bali that we weren't crazy about. I would return only because I don't want to write them off if we just "missed something".

In Sabah, you can see orangutans in the wild.

Any recommendations for locales and/or tour operators? Are we talking trekking out to them or some other access?

Thank you for the responses.
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Jul 27th, 2015, 09:02 AM
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We stayed at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Sabah (you fly from Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu, then it's a two hour drive to the lodge. It is an amazing place. I understand the accommodations have been significantly upgraded since we were there. We happened to be there when the wildlife biologist who sited the lodge was staying there - very interesting to hear about the origins of the lodge. His friend, a botanist from the UK was visiting as well, and we learned about how they did the plantings around the lodge to attract wildlife.

We took two to three wildlife walks per day, did a night wildlife drive, and saw wildlife from the lodge (a whole troop of red leaf monkeys). So no real trekking. We booked directly with the lodge. I believe people who have been there more recently have used a local agent to book the BRL.
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Jul 27th, 2015, 08:11 PM
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Some thoughts.....

I'm not sure when you were last in Singapore, if you haven't been recently spend a morning or afternoon at Gardens by the Bay.

If you like beaches you'll love the Maldives. Visiting the Maldives will spoil you for beaches elsewhere. I'm not a beach person but have been to the Maldives, Mauritius, the Philippines, Thailand, Bali, Hawaii, Oz and Caribbean beaches in Central America and on the islands. Nothing compares to the beaches in the Maldives. If you do go to the Maldives make sure to take a sea plane, the views from the air are simply amazing.

Sri Lanka is a great country to visit, but I'd visit Sri Lanka when you can spend more time there. You won't be able to see/do much in 4 - 6 nights. In Sri Lanka I recommend the Cultural Triangle, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. These sights will easily take 10 days (or more) to see properly. You'll need to fly to Colombo, and depart from Colombo too, the tourist sights aren't near Colombo and will require a day to travel to. It doesn't make sense to me to see just one or two of the sights only to head back to Colombo and fly out to the Maldives.

If you head to Borneo, definitely see the proboscis monkey, they are only found on Borneo.

Australia....I'm wondering why you didn't look at redeeming your points to go to Australia to begin with. Why fly to Singapore, only to fly to Australia and then head back to Singapore? Don't get me wrong, Sydney has enough to keep you occupied for a week and if you'd like to venture to beaches, there are many spots in Queensland which are a short flight from Sydney. Having said that, there's so much more to Australia than Sydney and a beach in Queensland. I'm a city person, nevertheless, the highlights of my various trips to Oz are not the major cities. Uluru, the Great Ocean Road, the Great Barrier Reef, the Pinnacles and Monkey Mia are definitely worth exploring. In short, I wouldn't venture to Australia just to see one city and spend time on a beach. Leave Australia for when you have longer to spend there and travel to sights away from the cities too.
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Jul 27th, 2015, 08:54 PM
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I agree with planningtravel that more time would be ideal to explore Australia. However, if you do decide to visit your friends in Sydney (a stunning city with lots to do and see), check out Scoot, a budget carrier owned by Singapore Airlines who fly direct SIN - SYD.

Fares start from about $360 AUD return pp.

Also check when Easter is, always a very busy time when accomodation might be more expensive and harder to get.

Good luck deciding.
sartoric is online now  
Jul 28th, 2015, 03:08 AM
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Australia....I'm wondering why you didn't look at redeeming your points to go to Australia to begin with.

We did. Nothing available.

I'm not sure when you were last in Singapore, if you haven't been recently spend a morning or afternoon at Gardens by the Bay.

Definitely on the agenda. My wife was last in Singapore in 2012. Late 2011 for me.

It doesn't make sense to me to see just one or two of the sights only to head back to Colombo and fly out to the Maldives.

Is there a particular reason other than the idea that "you are there, make the most of it"? We aren't trying to cram everything in and are fine picking one place, but if there are special logistics that make it impossible or undesirable I would certainly be keen to hear about it.

One thing we should note is that we will definitely be back to Asia. This is the third straight year we will be going to Asia and we've been every year save one since 2007 - several years more than once. So, to our mind, we are fine focusing our trips.

I agree with planningtravel that more time would be ideal to explore Australia.

Just to be clear, we have been to Oz, this would strictly be a trip to visit friends and hang out in Sydney.
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Jul 28th, 2015, 06:59 AM
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"One thing we should note is that we will definitely be back to Asia. This is the third straight year we will be going to Asia and we've been every year save one since 2007 - several years more than once. So, to our mind, we are fine focusing our trips."

And, that's exactly why I would recommend you focus on a country or region, see the sights that are of interest to tourists and leave countries that require longer to travel in for later trips.

Have you thought of flying from Singapore to Laos for a few days? Or, flying to Cambodia, if you haven't been there.

Another recommendation is spend a few days in Malaysia after Singapore, perhaps in Melacca or Penang. Then get yourself to KL from here you can fly the Male on Air Asia.

I'm fully aware my suggestions skip Sri Lanka entirely, with four to six nights in Sri Lanka you'd be skipping over some of the main sights and would have to very selective which you'd include on the short trip. None of the sights are near Colombo. Galle and the beaches are to the south. Tea Country, the Cultural Triangle and Kandy are north east. Yala is in the east. Don't underestimate travel time involved between the sights in Sri Lanka.
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Jul 28th, 2015, 07:24 AM
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We all travel differently. I like to spend enough time in a place to feel I've seen/done/experienced enough of a place to have a real feel for it. It sounds like you prefer the "sampler" approach. That's fine, unless it doesn't serve you well.

On your list of possibilities are three places you've been before - two you didn't like, one you did. You are aware that you may not have explored the two you didn't like enough to judge whether to return. I'm not sure whether the sampler approach has served you well in your travels in SE Asia. And I tend to think (maybe because of my own biases) that this approach would not serve you well for Sri Lanka. One of the delights of Sri Lanka is the variety of experiences available there. If you go and do just one thing, you won't have a sense of the place, instead, your natural inclination is to think of the whole country as being like the little segment you saw. There are plenty of places/experiences where you an just drop in for a few days and enjoy. Sri Lanka, IMO, isn't like that.

Different destinations lend themselves well to different travel styles. Planningtravel has given you some ideas of places that work well as a "drop in" destination: The temples of Angkor, and Georgetown, Penang as examples. And of course, you and I and many others use Singapore in this way. I understand you are not interested in Burma, but it, like Sri Lanka, would require a time commitment of 10 days to 2 weeks. Likewise, Borneo would be best as at least 10 days.

It is your vacation, so it's important that you do what you want to do, not what the rest of us think you "should" do. But I hope our experiences can be helpful in your decision-making.

Happy planning!
Kathie is online now  
Jul 28th, 2015, 08:41 AM
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You are aware that you may not have explored the two you didn't like enough to judge whether to return.

I have some pretty strong suspicions, but I'm just trying to be open-minded, recognizing the limits of my experience. Based upon what I've read here and elsewhere, my opinion about Bali has been further cemented, though, and it is probably out.

Don't underestimate travel time involved between the sights in Sri Lanka.

I'll keep that in mind. Thanks. I'm trying to figure it out at that level of detail. I'm not terribly concerned about getting to, say Kandy on our arrival, but we'd likely have to overnight near the airport before our departure, which can be a PITA.

Have you thought of flying from Singapore to Laos for a few days?

We definitely did. Unfortunately, nobody I would trust flies from Singapore to Laos nonstop. I don't feel comfortable with Lao Airlines.

Or, flying to Cambodia, if you haven't been there.

We've been to Cambodia, but a re-visit is definitely an option to consider.

Another recommendation is spend a few days in Malaysia after Singapore, perhaps in Melacca or Penang. Then get yourself to KL from here you can fly the Male on Air Asia.

Hmmm... Penang is a definite possibility.
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Jul 28th, 2015, 08:51 AM
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Hmmm... Penang is a definite possibility.

Strike that. The AirAsia flight isn't every day and their schedule doesn't work with ours.

To be frank, part of the appeal behind Sri Lanka is that CMB is pretty much the hub for flights to the Maldives. I hadn't even considered Sri Lanka until I looked at flights from SE Asia to the Maldives and it kept coming up for connections.
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Jul 28th, 2015, 01:41 PM
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"Unfortunately, nobody I would trust flies from Singapore to Laos nonstop." Has Silk Air discontinued their flight to Luang Prabang?
Kathie is online now  
Jul 28th, 2015, 02:04 PM
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"Unfortunately, nobody I would trust flies from Singapore to Laos nonstop." Has Silk Air discontinued their flight to Luang Prabang?

Looks that way. Nothing on Kayak and they aren't listed on the LPQ Wikipedia page.
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Jul 28th, 2015, 08:18 PM
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"To be frank, part of the appeal behind Sri Lanka is that CMB is pretty much the hub for flights to the Maldives. I hadn't even considered Sri Lanka until I looked at flights from SE Asia to the Maldives and it kept coming up for connections."

I disagree, that certainly used to be the case but now there are many more options for flying to Male.

Have you checked flight times, flights to Sri Lanka can arrive and depart at unearthly hours. That could force you overnight near the airport the day you arrive.

It sounds like beach time is a must on your upcoming trip. Only you can decide if you want to visit the beaches in the Maldives or elsewhere.

One suggestion, is to travel from Singapore - Melacca - KLIA - Penang - KLIA - Maldives. Melacca is easy to get to from Singapore, from there you can take a bus directly to KLIA. Fly to Penang on Malaysian then return to KLIA and fly to Male. If Melacca and Penang appeal, I'd recommend two days in Melacca. Weekends are best, the main sights are all within walking distance and concentrated on two or three main streets. Weekends the city is transformed to a street market in the evenings. Penang requires more time than Melacca. You could divide the remaining number of days between Penang and the Maldives.
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Jul 29th, 2015, 03:33 AM
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Have you checked flight times, flights to Sri Lanka can arrive and depart at unearthly hours. That could force you overnight near the airport the day you arrive.

Yes, I have checked. Sri Lankan flies four times per day, including a morning flight and early afternoon flight that are perfect. Emirates, China Eastern, and Korean Air also operate flights on the route, though not all at great times.

then return to KLIA and fly to Male.

I looked at Malaysia. There are no nonstops on the days we would be looking to go. What nonstops there are leave us either looking at a stay that is too long or too short. Plus, the flight gets in in the evening, which doesn't align that well with the internal flights needed to get to the hotel and means a bit of a "waste" of points for that first night. Unfortunately, Malaysia Airlines no longer serves Male, reducing options.

If I were to do Penang or Melacca, I'd probably be best served backtracking to Singapore and overnighting there before heading to the Maldives.
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Jul 29th, 2015, 03:41 AM
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It sounds like beach time is a must on your upcoming trip. Only you can decide if you want to visit the beaches in the Maldives or elsewhere.

Yes, beach time is probably a must. And weather in the region doesn't always cooperate. The best options would likely be Samui (been there), Phu Quoc, Vietnamese coast (been there), or Con Dao (super hard to get to, super pricey for the Six Senses). Langkawi might work too, but it looked a bit wetter than the other choices. Beaches in Sri Lanka would also be an option, but there aren't any desirable points options, unlike the Maldives, and I can't afford Amanwella.

From a cost/weather/luxury perspective, the Maldives really looked like the best choice.
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Jul 29th, 2015, 06:45 AM
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So it sound like the Maldives are your first choice.

You wouldn't be using hotel points in Sri Lanka. And where you want to stay in Penang won't take your points. But perhaps you'd be ok paying for a few nights at the E&O.

Given your constraints, Singapore, Penang and the Maldives may be your best option.
Kathie is online now  
Jul 29th, 2015, 07:34 AM
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My concern with Penang isn't the hotels, but with the logistics around getting there and to the Maldives. Getting to Penang is straightforward enough, but getting from there to Male requires backtracking to Singapore and an overnight connection.

I do appreciate the advice on destinations, but I might be finding that flight schedules preclude too much creativity.
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Jul 29th, 2015, 06:38 PM
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Well, if you're convinced that the best flight options to Male are from Singapore, why not do a Singapore - Melacca - Singapore - Male trip. You obviously want to go to the Maldives. The big question is what the destination(s) between Singapore and the Maldives will be.

I really wonder why you didn't get a flight from JFK to Colombo, then from Male back to the US and skip Singapore entirely as it really isn't near Sri Lanka or the Maldives. Regardless, I'm even more confused as to your unwillingness to connect (or overnight) somewhere due to flight schedules when in the op you are willing to travel from the US - Singapore - Australia - Singapore - US, or, from Male to Boston with an overnight in Doha.

"I do appreciate the advice on destinations, but I might be finding that flight schedules preclude too much creativity."

The above really is a mute point if flight schedules change for your travel dates given that you're looking at March, 2016 it's possible that may happen. Even if you have flights planned to a "T" you might be forced to rework your schedule a little if the flight schedules change. I don't blame you for wanting non stop flights or even the most convenient flight times. Unfortunately, airlines don't schedule their flights based on what's most convenient for the passengers.

Getting back to the Maldives. Male isn't the most interesting destination, but if your flight schedule forces you to overnight in Male use it to your advantage and see another side of the country besides a beach resort.

You're familiar with Singapore, and it sounds like you're fond of beaches. Beaches in the Maldives won't disappoint. I hope the destination you visit in between is one that you enjoy. There are so many possibilities, and you've been given lots of good advice on this thread.
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Jul 29th, 2015, 07:27 PM
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I really wonder why you didn't get a flight from JFK to Colombo, then from Male back to the US and skip Singapore entirely as it really isn't near Sri Lanka or the Maldives.

Such are the vagaries of award travel. We booked flights somewhere cool when they became available and are going from there. We've looked for more direct options to Sri Lanka, but so far no dice. Certainly, we will continue to assess available award flights on an ongoing basis.

it sounds like you're fond of beaches.

More my wife, but yes. Increasingly, I've grown to appreciate relaxing on vacation.
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