In late December 2010 we began thinking about how we should celebrate our 10th anniversary, and naturally the conversation turned to travel ideas. We were especially interested in using our stash of airline miles to create a memorable trip and started investigating destinations in Southern Asia served by OneWorld airlines. Bali and Thailand quickly jumped to the top of our list for their beauty, food and hiking opportunities. Based on our findings, Bali’s weather would be most comfortable around September while much of Thailand would be better around December and January. Eric’s parents offer to dog-sit made travel around Christmas the most efficient option, and with a little help from bookyouraward.com we were able to secure two first-class tickets on Cathay Pacific from NY to Hong Kong, then business class to Bangkok for the two weeks leading up to Christmas.
With the long flights taken care of the next step was to figure out where in Thailand we wanted to go, and importantly, how long we wanted to stay in each place. We knew there were a lot of waterfalls in the north from previous trip reports so Chiang Mai was an easy choice. We were also interested in trying the famous Thailand beaches so we spent some time researching Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi, etc. In the end the cost to fly to both Phuket and Chiang Mai was less than the cost for Koh Samui alone, so the decision became pretty easy.
There were two main airlines* we looked at for our intra-Thailand flights: Bangkok Air and AirAsia. Bangkok Air bills itself as a boutique airline, with free lounges for economy passengers and meals on each flight.
the fancy decorated jet at Bangkok Airways
Plus, if you join their frequent flier club you get an extra 10kg of checked luggage. We flew them from Bangkok to Phuket, and from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Both flights were uneventful, the seats were equivalent to a domestic US flight, and on the whole it felt like a cross between Southwest and JetBlue. We’d fly them again.
From Phuket to Chiang Mai we flew AirAsia as they were half the price of Bangkok Air on that route AND it was a direct flight (everyone else had a change in Bangkok). AirAsia is more akin to easyJet or Ryan Air with a cheap base price and a la carte charges for everything else.
Eric in his petite AirAsia seat
The seats seemed a bit tighter than Bangkok Air, and I’m glad I’m not taller, but it was reasonable for a 2 hour flight. One tricky item with their booking engine– it gave us the choice to pre-pay checked bag fees, and you pay by the kilogram (in units of 5). If you prepay there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to later add more weight, so it’s better to check-in online and prepay your bags then.
Over two weeks we flew just under 20,000 miles, through four airports on three different airlines. We also used the metro in two cities, took multiple taxis, several guided tours, and one speedboat trip… plus a good amount of walking. Over the next few weeks we’ll release a series of posts detailing our adventures.
*Thai Airways and Nok Air were also possibilities, but Thai was 3x the price of the others, and the Nok Air website was buggy when we were looking… it appears to be better in Jan 2012.