“What was your favorite part?”

One year ago, we returned from our around-the-world adventure with credit card points.  Aside from a slew of questions about how we were able to redeem credit card points for business class flights, probably the most popular question was for us to name the favorite part of our trip.

From Dubai to Sri Lanka to Thailand, it’s hard to pick only one favorite part.  So instead, we’ve narrowed it down to three. (For quick a highlight summary of our whole trip, go here.)

Rooftop pool at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore

Singapore is already an “over-the-top” kind of city.  The Marina Bay Sands is a central piece of the city’s over-the-top(ness), and the world’s highest pool on top of the hotel was the one of the coolest experiences during our trip.

In the world’s highest rooftop pool at the Marina Bay Sands

The pool is only available to hotel guests, so we opted to splurge for three nights at the Marina Bay Sands.  We typically spend little time in our hotel room and would rather spend more money towards food and beer.  So I was reluctant to pay the couple hundred dollars more just for a fancy rooftop pool.

THAT VIEW THOUGH.

Evening rooftop swim
Night swim with the Singapore Skyline

It was completely worth it.  After seeing countless pictures and videos of the pool on TV and social media, it was crazy actually being there.

We visited the pool multiple times during our stay and set aside a half day to lounge poolside until the early afternoon.

And no… you don’t have to worry about falling off the ledge of the infinity pool.  As you can see, there is still plenty of space between the end of the pool itself and the actual edge of the building.

Not so scary on the edge

As you can imagine, we weren’t the only ones in the pool.  There was always an abundance of tourists getting selfies just like us.  Even though the pool was always busy, it was fairly easy to secure a few loungers and grab some sun.

Definitely not a calm and quiet pool, but worth it!

Even though it’s a bit on the expensive side relative to other options, we’d highly recommend the Marina Bay Sands for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim at the world’s highest rooftop pool.

Sandbar Picnic in the Maldives

I can’t imagine a place on earth more incredible than the Maldives.  Pictures just don’t do this place justice, but I attempted to capture our stay in the Maldives in a separate webpage.  Without a doubt, the coolest part during our visit was our afternoon sandbar picnic. 

After a short boat ride from our resort, we arrived at the deserted sandbar and the hotel staff setup our picnic:  two beach loungers, a sun umbrella, champagne on ice, and two lunch boxes.  And naturally small wooden hearts surrounded everything.

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Champagne brunch on a private sandbar island

Kitschiness aside, it was way more than we were expecting.  The food was “meh,” but I can safely say that was the first champagne bottle I’ve opened on the beach.

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A champagne ice bucket.  Because, the Maldives.

We had a little over two hours to eat our lunch, explore the tiny sandbar/island, and enjoy the famous clear Maldivian water.  We brought our snorkeling masks and headed into the water.

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The Maldives are INCREDIBLE

THAT WATER THOUGH.

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Our private island for the day

Having the whole place to ourselves was awesome.  Our boat was within eyesight, so had we needed anything, we could have easily waved them down for help.

The island was maybe 100 yards long and about 10-15 yards wide.  Besides some small agile crabs that scurried away as we walked along the surf, there wasn’t anything else on the sandbar island.

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Look back to our picnic area from the opposite side of the island.

After our champagne brunch and about an hour of snorkeling, the boat swung back around to pick us up.  Everything about the Maldives is amazing, but the opportunity to spend the afternoon on your own private island takes the cake for the best part.

ALL OF THE FOOD in Thailand

There’s a reason why there are so many Thai restaurants in the United States.  It’s not because there’s a large Thai diaspora; it’s because Thai food is EFFING DELICIOUS.

We had high expectations going into the trip, and we were still blown away.  We went on an evening street food tour our first night, which was an excellent introduction to navigating the food scene and also made for a dirt cheap dinner.

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One of five meals during our Thai street food tour

I’m not going to kid myself and claim that I remember all of the dishes we ate.  But what crazy was that these little ad hoc food markets spring up each night and are gone by the next morning.  Kinda like Thailand’s version of food trucks.

It’s definitely for locals and not designed for the gringo tourists, but many of the stall owners spoke enough English to get the job done.

Of all the dishes we had, khao soi was our favorite. It’s a northern Thailand specialty soup with rice noodles, coconut milk, and a curry base.  Seriously delicious.

Khao soi FTW

We also scarfed down more mango sticky rice than I’ve ever had in my life.  In fact, we embarrassingly ate three servings one day after breakfast, lunch, and then dinner.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

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I could seriously eat mango sticky rice for every meal

In addition to our food tour, we also went to a Thai cooking class while in Chiang Mai. We went to the market to survey the variety of produce.

No durian, but still lots of options

Then started preparing our dinner, which included Thai spring rolls, an entree, and (of course) mango sticky rice.

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You could tell an expert chef made this spring roll
Chef Jameson approves this dish

Food is always better when you cook it yourself.  But I’ll give more credit to Thai cuisine than my cooking skills for this one.

Delicious, cheap, and easy.  I would seriously go back to Chiang Mai just for the food.


Our Least Favorite Parts

Thankfully, we avoided any horrible flight cancellations, delays, or lost baggage.  But we did have a few disappointments during our trip.

An Emergency Visit to a Singaporean Urgent Care Clinic

It turns out that the sun in the Maldives is really intense.  Or maybe we didn’t put enough sunscreen on.  In any case, Taryn and I both sunburned after that amazing afternoon on the private sand bank… to the point that Taryn’s whole face was swollen and her nose was dripping with yellow pus.  I’ll spare you the pictures.

The final straw was our flight from Sri Lanka to Singapore.  She was in pain and desperate for help.  Singapore being Singapore, there was a doctor’s office in each terminal at the airport.  Not an on-call doctor or a doctor’s station… a full-doctor’s office.  

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One of the Singapore Airport’s doctors offices.  Yes… offices.  Plural.

We were expecting a hellacious wait and an uber expensive bill.  But 26 minutes and $128 later, we were walking out the door after being seen by a doctor and receiving three different prescriptions.  MIND = BLOWN.  And I’ll remind you… this was at the airport.  Probably the best first impression we could have received.

Cancelled Chinese New Year Fireworks in Hong Kong

We didn’t plan it like this, but it turns out we were spending Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.  That meant a lot of restaurants and stores would be closed, but it also meant we would have the opportunity to watch the iconic fireworks show over Victoria Harbor.

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Fireworks over Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor that we looked forward to seeing.

Given the timing of our visit to Hong Kong, we decided to redeem 60,000 Hyatt points for three-night stay at the Grand Hyatt overlooking the harbor.

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The view that wasn’t meant to be 😦

I had it all planned out… until our taxi driver from the Hong Kong airport shared the sad news.  Because of a tragic bus accident that killed 19 locals, the Hong Kong government cancelled the Chinese New Year fireworks celebration out of respect for the mourning families.  

My first reaction was that this Hong Kong taxi driver was messing with us.  Would New York City cancel the ball drop on New Year’s Eve for a similar tragedy?  Yes, it was a bit disappointing.  But this was a good introduction for us to Chinese values and the importance of respect.


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