We’re off on a whirlwind round-the-world adventure in advance of Ricky’s upcoming nuptials this summer.
Ricky will be surprised with flights, destinations, and experiences, and we’ll be updating this article (with the elements of the trip that are fit to print) as we trot our way across the globe.
In This Post
- Prologue: Hatching a Plan
- Prologue, Part 2: A Turbulent Flight Path
- Prologue, Part 3: Wheels Up
- Chapter 1: Montreal, Quebec
- Chapter 2: Aloha from Doha – Qatar Airways Qsuites Quad
- Chapter 3: The Boozy Jacuzzi – Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge
- Chapter 4: Raising the Bar – Qatar Airways A380 First Class Quad
- Chapter 5: The WOW Factor – W Bangkok
- Chapter 6: [REDACTED] – Bangkok, Thailand
- Chapter 7: The Tables Have Turned – Emirates A380 to Hong Kong
- Chapter 8: A Tale of Two Cities – Hong Kong & Tokyo
- Chapter 9: Get a Room for the Groom – ANA The Room
Prologue: Hatching a Plan
Courtenay, British Columbia. February 2023.
Rewind a few months. I decided to pay my good friend T.J. a visit at his home on Vancouver Island for a couple of days. We had some laughs, busted open his Georgian cookbook, and took a rare opportunity to get some work done in person together. A normal week in the life of our fully remote workplace at Prince of Travel.
One night, after we’d wrapped up the work day, we cracked open a couple of cleansing ales, and the conversation shifted to our personal lives.
Hey, Ricky’s having a small wedding, and I haven’t caught wind of any bachelor party plans. We should really plan something special for him, something memorable. He only gets to do this once, so we better make it count.
I quickly agreed, and we started scheming.
But what do you do for the guy, the so-called “Prince of Travel”, who can travel anywhere, anytime?
How do you create an outlandish, once-in-a-lifetime experience for the champion of the idea that anyone can elevate their travel to make the unimaginable a reality? What could we possibly do, leveraging the power of Miles & Points, that Ricky hadn’t done before?
We racked our brains, thinking of ways to treat Ricky to an aspirational experience he’d never had before. Weaving in a cheeky boys’ trip, of course – with a destination where we could get up to no good.
And what better way to do it than to make the whole adventure a surprise? We’d whisk him away to a mystery locale, revealing every stop on the itinerary as we go.
And so, T.J.’s wife Ashley rolled her eyes and retired to bed early, as he and I cracked a few more beers, and sat down to start hammering out award searches for the next couple of hours.
Prologue, Part 2: A Turbulent Flight Path
Vancouver, British Columbia. May 6, 2023.
Fast-forward to the weekend of the Prince of Travel Signature Event in Vancouver.
During a team bonding session in the evening, while Ricky was away with our VIP guests on Bowen Island, we enlisted the help of the Prince of Travel team to keep it under wraps and help us brainstorm ideas.
We also pitched the idea to Leo, our Video Producer. We’d be silly to book a surprise round-the-world bachelor party on points and not to make a video out of it, right? Needless to say, he was in, with no questions asked.
Ricky’s fiancée Jessy was also in on it at this point. She’s grounded him for six weeks in the lead-up to the wedding, and gave us her blessing to snag him for a week within that period.
At this point, we encountered a rather uninspiring roster of award availability. If you’re not booking a year out or a week out, there aren’t many options for multiple passengers, especially if you’re adamant to book a particular redemption.
Still, we trudged forward, determined that we’d be able to put our expertise to good use and find something juicy.
Our challenge was finding a home-run points redemption, while trying to align it with Ricky’s opaque schedule and the fast-moving needs of the business.
Plus, as a huge Arsenal fan, Ricky was planning on attending the victory parade in London in late May in case Arsenal won the Premier League this season, which created a lot of uncertainty in the planning stages for a surprise trip.
It would be a lot easier to lock things down in advance, but despite our best efforts, that was proving impossible. The process began to take a toll on T.J. and me, as we devoted large swaths of
productive working hours our free time to futile award searches, scouring literally the entire earth.
Eventually, we decided that it may be more reasonable to have a traditional weekend away somewhere nearby. We settled on doing something memorable and new. The annual Iceberg Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland was calling, as a special but much more realistic option.
Getting from Vancouver to Newfoundland would require us to make at least one connection.
As it turns out, there was bountiful eUpgrade space on widebody aircraft between Vancouver and Toronto or Montreal with Air Canada, which was great. However, the Premium Rouge cabins on Air Canada Rouge flights to Newfoundland were full, and so we thought it would be funny to stick Ricky in the middle seat in economy.
We booked the flights, made hotel reservations, and started looking for fun things to do in and around St. John’s.
Prologue, Part 3: Wheels Up
Vancouver, British Columbia. Late May 2023.
And then Ricky caught wind that something was up.
We’re not sure what he knew, or how, but he knew the team was planning something. Now the pressure was on for us to do something over-the-top, as originally intended.
As luck would have it, we were now in the timeframe where last-minute award availability had started materializing for our window of opportunity to take Ricky away.
When we found out that Ricky knew something was up, Josh and I were mad. We’d put so much time and effort into making a plan and keeping it secret from him, and he still managed to somehow thwart our best efforts.
Thinking that our Newfoundland plans were no longer a secret, we then moved to planning a new trip out of spite.
One thing led to another rather quickly, wheels were put in motion, and, well…
Chapter 1: Montreal, Quebec
Ricky was on a business trip to Toronto and New York for a week. Jessy had insisted that he return home in time for a couples’ retreat starting Wednesday, June 7th on Galiano Island, which would last through the weekend.
Ricky had booked himself on a flight from Newark to Vancouver, and was set to return the evening of Tuesday, June 6th.
Meanwhile, T.J., Leo, and I planned to rendez-vous à Montréal to catch a flight out the evening of the 6th to our first mystery destination.
We booked Ricky from Newark to Montreal, on a flight departing half an hour before his scheduled trip to Vancouver.
On the night before our plans were to take shape, I invited Ricky to a very important meeting about an undisclosed matter. At this point, I’d left my home on Vancouver Island, and was spending the night an airport hotel in Vancouver.
During the call, I suggested that we meet up in Montreal on Tuesday and spend a few days visiting some of our favourite places. A few years ago, we were both living in Montreal at the same time, and I tried to sell it as a nostalgic trip reliving memories from days past.
I then presented him with a booking reference, and said no more.
As part of a welcome gift from his hotel in New York, he was given a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. To get from Manhattan to Newark, he’d booked himself a BLADE Helicopter that was due to arrive at around 4:35pm.
His flight to Montreal was set to depart at 5:30pm, and at this point, he realized that he’d have to part ways with the bottle of bubbles (he wound up gifting it to a friend), as there wouldn’t be enough time to check a bag.
I met him landside in Montreal, and then made a weak excuse to take a quick detour back up to the departures level.
We passed through security, and then I presented him with a boarding pass for a flight to St. John’s. He didn’t look thrilled at being in a middle seat in economy, but was otherwise up for an adventure.
We made our way towards the gate, only to find…
I came through domestic security to find Josh and Leo posing at the CIBC Aventura sign-up desk, with no idea that they’d be coming along for the ride as well.
Then, after someone suggested that we pick up some bagels from a nearby shop, we proceeded down the terminal… only to waltz through the checkpoint of the international departures area.
At this point, I had a suspicion of what we might be doing. After all, there aren’t that many tantalizing international flights leaving from Montreal late in the evening, and there must be a reason why there were four of us travelling together…
Chapter 2: Aloha from Doha – Qatar Airways Qsuites Quad
This was it. The biggest piece of the puzzle. The aspirational flight that Ricky had never taken before, and it would be our treat.
Qsuites is famous for the “quad” configuration, where the partitions can be withdrawn between groups of four private seats in adjacent rows of the middle section of the 1-2-1 cabin, creating a four-person pod.
Most of us had flown Qsuites before. Qatar Airways’s bespoke product is famous for being one of the best business class experiences in aviation, arguably on par with First Class treatment. But none of us had ever flown it with a group of four before.
Booking a Qsuites quad is notoriously difficult, as it’s exceptionally rare to find four award seats in the business class cabin on the same route. Furthermore, not all planes use a Qsuites quad configuration, sometimes varying among the same model of aircraft in their fleet.
Qatar Airways has a penchant for equipment swaps, so you might not always get a quad when you’ve booked into a quad. And that would obviously be unacceptable, so we were adamant to find availability on a route with reliable Qsuites quad planes.
After months of observing seat release patterns, and with a little bit of dumb luck, we noticed that we’d be able to find ample last-minute space on the Montreal–Doha route, when booking via Qatar Airways Avios.
These seats would be in the higher fare bucket, costing twice as much as saver awards which are also bookable by partner programs, but it was the only viable way to reliably secure four seats in a guaranteed quad configuration.
A few hundred thousand points later, we had no choice but to strike when the opportunity presented itself.
This was actually my first time experiencing Qsuites, and I was almost as giddy as Ricky appeared to be as we moved the partitions to open up our quad.
The flight attendants came around with our welcome drink, and we all toasted the occasion with a glass of rosé.
When we hit the skies, the bubbles kept flowing, and we did our best to order as much food from the menu as we could possibly handle. Celebrations are best done with ample amounts of food and drink, and Qatar Airways certainly did not disappoint in this regard.
Travelling solo is fun, travelling as a couple is great, but travelling as a group of four is a completely different experience. For the next couple of hours, we laughed, shared stories, and feasted in what turned out to be an epic flight.
While I’ve flown through Doha many times before, this was indeed an epic experience, and one that I surely wasn’t expecting.
Needless to say, T.J. and Josh have set the bar very high for the start of this surprise trip, and I’ll be curious to see what else they have up their sleeves as the adventure unfolds.
Chapter 3: The Boozy Jacuzzi – Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge
After a celebratory and impressively restful 12 hours in the quad, we deplaned in Doha, with Ricky still none the wiser as to our upcoming plans.
It was pretty clear that we had no intention of entering the country, instead staying airside with a connecting flight to our first proper destination.
The airport has expanded significantly since any of us had been here, so we took some time to briefly explore the new spaces.
We went for a stroll through the Garden, a new indoor green space inspired by the Jewel at Singapore Changi, and checked out the adjacent new Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge Garden, recently opened to alleviate overcrowding in the old terminal.
But of course, the real jewel of the Qatar ground experience is the Al Safwa First Class Lounge. We quickly headed that way, and saddled Ricky with the expectation of paying $165 (USD) per person to buy First Class lounge access for an onward business class boarding pass.
Little did he know, we’d be flying First Class after all, and we entered the lounge at no additional cost. We arrived around 8pm Doha time.
It was time for one of my favourite aspirational travel experiences yet – a party in the Al Safwa jacuzzi, but this time with a group of friends.
We immediately put our names down on the waitlist for the nap rooms, and had the spa staff begin preparing the jacuzzi for us while we enjoyed a phenomenal portion of seared scallops and Arabic mezze.
We knew we had to celebrate in style, and over dinner we strategized on how to slip some Laurent-Perrier Rosé champagne into the spa. Suffice to say, when there’s a will, there’s a way.
We had a lovely time toasting in the hot tub, and we’re happy to report that it can indeed accommodate approximately a party of four comfortably enough, but likely no more.
Over my years as a traveller, I’ve developed a fondness for bathing rituals around the world. Whether for personal comfort or simply as a cultural experience, there’s nothing quite like a good soak, steam, or sweat to set you straight.
In particular, bathing in airports is a special treat, taking the edge off a greasy travel day and allowing for a refreshed arrival. With a 15-hour layover, I was stoked to give the Al Safwa spa a go and compare it to my memorable time in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal bathtub.
I was ecstatic to enjoy my first visit to Al Safwa, happy as a clam the entire time, and the first in and last out of the jacuzzi.
Ricky, on the other hand, a seasoned veteran of premium award travel, wasted no time in dumping a bottle of shampoo into the water, creating a makeshift bubble bath to complement the bubbles in our champagne flutes.
Next up, it was off to our nap rooms to get a proper night of sleep at the appropriate hour, ready to hit the skies again the following morning.
Chapter 4: Raising the Bar – Qatar Airways A380 First Class Quad
At this point in the journey, we had experienced the Qsuites Quad together from Montreal to Doha, and we had indulged in a 12-hour layover in the Al Safwa First Class Lounge… but I still had no idea where we were actually going.
T.J. and Josh had done a great job of giving me no clue at all about our final destination, strategically instructing gate agents and airport staff to play along when necessary.
Initially, my best guess was that we were transiting Doha en route to another destination in the Gulf, such as Dubai. After all, Qatar Airways markets its premium cabin as “First Class” on regional flights, and these short-haul flights are known as one of the easiest ways to gain access to the Al Safwa Lounge as a result.
However, as I was pressing T.J. and Josh for clues over a decadent dinner of Arabic mezze, king prawns, and free-flowing bubbly, an offhand comment gave me pause.
“At least tell me if it’s a long-haul or a short-haul flight…”
“If we were to tell you, then you’d know the aircraft!”
Hmm… why would the aircraft type be significant, I wondered?
Unless, of course, we’d be travelling on a very special aircraft type, of which Qatar Airways only operates a handful?
Indeed, I knew we’d need to be travelling onwards in First Class to have gained access to the Al Safwa Lounge in the first place. And while short-haul regional “First Class” is one way to gain access, the other way is by flying Qatar Airways’s “true” First Class product on the double-decker Airbus A380.
Qatar Airways only operates the A380 to a handful of destinations, so my head was spinning as I tried to narrow it down.
London? Paris? This would’ve been an awfully long detour to fly to Europe via the Middle East.
Perth? Possibly – but Western Australia would be a bit of odd choice for a bachelor party destination, to say the least.
Bangkok? Ah, of course.
Now, even though I had a fairly good hunch, I still decided to be a good sport and play along as we polished off a few more glasses of Champagne, soaked in the jacuzzi, and retreated to our nap rooms for some rest.
Upon waking up, we had just enough time to sneak in a shakshouka and an espresso martini before our 7:15am boarding time approached. And as we exited the Al Safwa Lounge, T.J. finally handed me my boarding pass: Doha to Bangkok, Seat 2F in First Class.
We boarded the behemoth of a plane via the upper level. Even though I’ve flown Qatar Airways A380 First Class before (about a year ago on the same route), it would still be a very new experience for me to enjoy the flight as a group, occupying all four seats across the entire right-side aisle of the First Class cabin!
Champagne was poured: Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 2007. Our meal orders were taken: three appetizers, a main course, a dessert, and a snack.
And then it was wheels up, with a shorter-than-expected flight time of six hours to Bangkok… which meant we had little time to spare as we headed to the crown jewel of the Qatar Airways First Class experience: the onboard bar.
We kicked off proceedings with a round of blanc de blancs Champagne for four, which was then swiftly followed by a round of Old Fashioneds for four, which was then swiftly followed by a round of gin martinis for four…
And let me tell you this: as much fun as I’ve had in the past enjoying aspirational flying experiences on my own and as a couple, enjoying this flight with the gang was on a whole other level.
(It was also at this stage that I calculated in my head exactly how many points this overall redemption of Montreal–Doha–Bangkok at the higher fare bucket would’ve cost: 190,000 Qatar Airways Avios per person. Needless to say, I ordered T.J. and Josh a few extra rounds of drinks at the bar.)
After spending about two hours at the bar, we then retreated to our suites, where we proceeded to take a nap in the comfort of Qatar Airways’s excellent First Class bedding.
We asked the crew to wake us up for the meal service, at which point we kicked things off with… you guessed it, caviar and Champagne for four.
Then, following a delicious feast – consisting of broccoli miso soup, wagyu beef medallions, Qatari chicken mashkhool, Thai-style khao soi, pandan coconut mousse with mango sorbet, and open-faced lobster roll with XO sauce – we began our descent into Bangkok, bringing to an end a 36-hour “Qatar Airways extravaganza” that promises to live long in the collective memories of the four of us who experienced it together.
Chapter 5: The WOW Factor – W Bangkok
Once we’d chosen Bangkok as our primary destination for Ricky’s bachelor party, the planning phase then shifted towards finding a suitable venue for our group.
Bangkok is a major global destination, and we weren’t lacking for choice by any means. My task was to sort through the noise to find a place that catered to the vibes of a bachelor party.
At the same time, we’d fuelled the rest of the trip with Miles & Points, and I wanted to still find great value in the choice that we made.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of spending a night at the W Bangkok as part of a trip with friends. While our one-night visit in February didn’t carry the same weight as a three-night stay with a larger group, I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d be making a return to the hotel just months later, albeit with a few more friends in tow this time around.
I’ve ranted and raved about the hotel ever since my stay, and I’d heard similar stories from friends and clients who’ve visited the property since then. I presented the options to Josh, and then we secured two PointSavers reservations for around 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each for three nights.
In the days leading up to our stay, my Suite Night Awards cleared, and I’d secured a Marvelous Suite, the hotel’s third-highest room type. Josh didn’t happen to have the same luck with his Suite Night Awards, which were at first denied…
Until he opened his phone to do some “suite-talking” before we left the Al Safwa First Class Lounge, only to notice that he’d been proactively upgraded to a WOW Suite, the hotel’s vice-presidential suite.
Ricky’s reaction to our walkthrough was priceless. For the next three nights, we had a massive suite to base out of, complete with a separate bar area, a massive living room that was generously stocked with Chang beers and wine, a bedroom with sweeping views of Bangkok, and a gigantic bathroom with a jacuzzi big enough to host the second such gathering on this trip.
A few hours after we settled in at the hotel, Rohin Jain, our Head of Partnerships & Events, arrived from Bali, and we wanted to set Ricky up for another surprise. We snuck Rohin in a side entrance to the room, and had him hide behind the bar for a few minutes.
We’d just finished our first round of Changs, and we sent Ricky to the bar area to grab some more. As he rounded the corner, Rohin popped up, and Ricky’s reaction was once again priceless (stay tuned for the vlog).
With our group fully complete, we set out to enjoy Bangkok in earnest.
Our stay at the W Bangkok had everything we needed, and then some. The general manager and executive chef popped by our table one morning to check in on us and offer their best wishes on Ricky’s wedding, which was a kind gesture.
We were generously provided with a copious amount of free drink vouchers, which we were sure to make full use of, and were very well looked after by all of the staff throughout our visit. While we were surely capable of having a good time on our own, the staff made our stay even more engaging.
For those who were able to make it to breakfast, there was a bountiful amount of toasted coconuts each morning for replenishing liquids lost the night before, and a superb breakfast spread complete with noodle soups, fresh juices, and just about anything we needed.
In the afternoons, we’d spend some time recuperating at the rooftop pool, floating on the oversized pillows with a Bluetooth speaker and enjoying some work-by-pool moments and bathrobe meetings.
After we’d nursed ourselves back to life, it was time for an order from the hotel’s noodle bar at The Kitchen Table and a unique cocktail or two at The House on Sathorn to kickstart the nights in style.
It was a perfect fit for our occasion, and I can’t thank the hotel enough for its very generous hospitality and support of our ridiculous plan.
Chapter 6: [REDACTED] – Bangkok, Thailand
Chapter 7: The Tables Have Turned – Emirates A380 to Hong Kong
Poolside, W Bangkok. Saturday, June 10, 3pm.
As Josh, T.J., and I slowly regained full control of our minds and bodies following the activities of Friday night, we began talking about the plans for the trip after our three days in Bangkok.
Where would we be going? And how would be flying there? Throughout our whole time here, Josh and T.J. had been playfully keeping everything a secret from me, and they continued to take great delight in teasing me about the fact that I had no idea what was up next.
I was naturally feeling annoyed at being kept in the dark, but trying to continue being a good sport about it. More importantly, though, I had my own ideas as to how to optimize the rest of the trip and make this the best bachelor party in the skies that ever was.
(Plus, as impressive as Josh and T.J.’s travails were in pulling off the “Qatar Airways extravaganza” a few days before, I had a sneaking feeling that my knowledge of airline route networks around the world still exceeded theirs by just a touch.)
“Hear me out,” I said, pulling up the Aeroplan app to search for some last-minute availability, “Emirates fifth-freedom Airbus A380 from Bangkok to Hong Kong on Sunday. There’s nine seats available in business class right now for 30,000 Aeroplan points apiece.”
I watched as their faces lit up. It was an idea they hadn’t considered before, and an opportunity that we’d be silly to turn down if it was available. After all, Emirates business class passengers get access to the onboard bar at the Airbus A380’s upper level, which meant that we’d get to continue our misadventures from the Qatar Airways A380 bar just a few days ago.
Without missing a beat, Josh and T.J. whispered among themselves to see if they could alter their proposed itinerary to include an overnight layover in Hong Kong, tapped around on their phones to search for awards and complete some bookings, and finally looked up and gave me a nod of confirmation: everything was locked in.
We were going bar-hopping on the Airbus A380.
The House on Sathorn, W Bangkok, 9pm.
The House on Sathorn is a distinctive venue situated on the grounds of the W Bangkok. As a former home-of-a-local-lord-turned-Soviet-embassy, it’s an obligatory drink stop for any guest at the W, and we decided to start our Saturday night activities here in an effort to keep things a bit classier than yesterday (the fistful of drink tickets given to us by Crystal at the W’s front desk certainly helped our decision).
Our group ventured in and ordered a fun round – everything from T.J.’s matryoshka doll daiquiri to Josh’s durian-based concoction – and the conversation inevitably shifted to our onward travel plans tomorrow.
Leo would sadly be heading home to Toronto tonight in order to attend to some family matters. Rohin was set to return to his home in Bali by way of an AirAsia flight in the afternoon. And of course, Josh and T.J. were continuing to be coy in front of the group about our next destinations, though it was now fair game to revel in our excitement for our Emirates A380 business class flight tomorrow.
Next to me, Rohin wondered aloud: “Hmm, my friends in Hong Kong whom I haven’t seen for years have been telling me to come visit…”
Having fully embraced the over-the-top outlandishness of being whisked away by Josh and T.J. on this trip, I decided that now was the time to do some whisking away myself, immediately saying to Rohin: “You’re coming to Hong Kong.”
A few moments later, T.J. returned from the bathroom, and I don’t think I’ve ever delegated a task quite as aggressively as this: “Pull out your phone and book Rohin a flight to Hong Kong tomorrow.”
Within a matter of seconds, tomorrow’s travel plans had completely evolved, and another crazy aviation experience as a group of four beckoned. The kidnapped had become the kidnapper, and Rohin was along for the ride whether he liked it or not.
There was only one wrinkle, though: somehow, even though there were ample seats in business class remaining by the time we had originally made our booking in the afternoon, there were zero seats left in business class as of now in the evening.
Either the final six seats or so had all been booked up in the interim or Emirates was playing games with the availability – regardless, it wasn’t looking good to get Rohin a seat in business class on Aeroplan points.
Still, Rohin was coming one way or another, so we locked in an economy class seat for now, and resolved to check back often for business class availability so that we could get him up to the Airbus A380 bar.
Ratchada Night Market, later that night.
After sending Leo off on a Grab ride to the airport, there was a mood of excitement amidst the four of us as we chowed down on king crab and Chang beers at a bustling Ratchada Night Market.
In the back of my mind, though, I still felt a niggling sense of dissatisfaction at the fact that one of us would be separated from the others. Taking over the Emirates A380 bar as another group of four was quite a tantalizing prospect, and I couldn’t help but feel like there were more possibilities we hadn’t considered yet.
Then, I remembered a fact about the Bangkok–Hong Kong fifth freedom route in particular: as a short three-hour flight departing out of a market known for cheap premium cabins, this route offers some of the most attractive one-way fares if you simply want to experience Emirates A380 First Class in all its glory – including the shower in the sky, the signature caviar service, the free-flowing Dom Perignon, and $1,000+/bottle Hennessy Paradis cognac.
The others looked at me with bemusement as I pulled out my phone and navigated to Google Flights, a man on a mission.
The fare for tomorrow’s Emirates flight to Hong Kong in First Class? $800 Canadian dollars.
That’s certainly no small expense. But then again, the others had put so much time, energy, and resources into making this a memorable bachelor’s trip for me, that this felt like the least I could do to keep the party going.
(Plus, it’s been quite a few years since I had first flown Emirates A380 First Class, and it’s about time we got some new photos of the shower in the sky for the website given how much we talk about it.)
Since Josh, T.J., and I were already booked in business class with no award availability left, we’d need to pull a somewhat advanced maneuver to make this happen: I’d book the First Class ticket in Rohin’s name, and then we’d need to swap boarding passes as we headed down the jet bridge so that I could shoot First Class content while the rest of the guys could head straight to the bar.
The logistics were looking good, and with that, the decision had been made. I tossed my Amex US Platinum Card down on the table with a clang next to our mango sticky rice and began to initiate payment.
One seat in First Class and three seats in business class on an Emirates A380 joyride across the South China Sea – ticketed and confirmed.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Sunday, June 11, 12pm.
Following the chaotic way in which our plans had come together, the flight itself turned out exactly the way you’d expect: all the Emirates excess that you can think of, squeezed into two hours and 15 minutes of precious flight time.
Immediately upon taking
my Rohin’s First Class seat in 1K, I asked the flight attendant to secure the first slot for the shower spa as soon as we began our takeoff, with the intention of joining the rest of the gang at the bar immediately afterwards.
Meanwhile, Josh, T.J., and Rohin headed to the bar to sip on their first two glasses of Moët & Chandon prior to takeoff. It was all three of their first times experiencing the Emirates bar and checking off this aviation bucket list item, and I’m sure that the shared experience made it all the more special.
As we rocketed into the skies with the A380’s signature quietness, I began to prepare for my shower in the sky… by ordering a first glass of Dom Perignon 2013.
You see, for my second-time experience in Emirates A380 First Class, I had a few curiosities following my first flight a few years ago.
Here’s one of them: I’ve heard people talk about the allure of a “shower beer” before, so I was wondering whether First Class passengers would be permitted to indulge in a cheeky “shower Dom”, seamlessly blending together two otherwise distinct elements of the Emirates First Class experience.
I’m pleased to report that it all worked out on this occasion – and the shower is indeed large enough to not get any water in your bubbles!
After using up my five minutes of hot running water and once again revelling at the fact that I was showering at 40,000 feet, it was time to pickup the adventures as a group of four.
I took a quick hit of caviar at my seat, and then I sauntered all the way through the business class cabin towards the back of the A380’s upper level.
Reuniting with the group – who were already getting quite rowdy and rambunctious back there – it was time to satisfy my second curiosity of the day.
Emirates First Class passengers can order Dom Perignon at the bar, but business class passengers can only order less expensive Champagnes: Veuve Clicquot on routes to Europe and the Americas, or Moët & Chandon on routes to the rest of the world.
But if a group were travelling together across both cabins, could First Class passengers order Dom Perignon on behalf of business class passengers?
In the end, let’s just say that the answer very much depends on the level of rapport you’ve built with the cabin crew working at the bar. 😉
As you can imagine, we loitered around at the bar until the last possible moment before we had to take our seats for landing, revelling in the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
I returned to my First Class seat having worked up a nice buzz, intending to relax and enjoy the views on approach to one of my favourite cities and a place I once called home.
But then I realized that there was one unique treat for First Class passengers that I hadn’t yet maximized: the Hennessy Paradis.
And on a flight like this, where maximizing was the mantra, that was a problem that needed rectifying. With moments left on this flight, I hurriedly asked my cabin crew member if she could pour me a shot in a to-go cup…
…only to remember that I was being awfully selfish. Obviously, my travel companions would need to continue pre-gaming ahead of our one night in Hong Kong as well.
And that, my friends, is how we stumbled into the airside concourse of Hong Kong International Airport, once again as a group of four, mixing $1,000/bottle cognac with a mini-can of Pepsi that Rohin had astutely nabbed from his seat’s minibar, polishing off the full-to-the-brim final offerings from an unforgettable flight so that we wouldn’t have to declare it at customs.
Chapter 8: A Tale of Two Cities – Hong Kong & Tokyo
After a rather festive flight that was mostly spent at the Emirates A380 bar, we strolled through the vast Hong Kong International Airport and began to make our way to the city.
We had just shy of 15 hours before our next flight departed, and we wanted to pack in as much food and follies as we could manage.
This happened to be the first time visiting Hong Kong for me and Josh, but Rohin had visited before. Ricky, having lived in and visited the city many times before, was glad to take the lead in getting us to where we needed to go.
We took the train to the W Hong Kong, which was central enough to our destinations for the night, as well as to the train station to get us back to the airport for an early flight.
The day before we landed, I noticed an Instagram story of some old friends out for a night in Hong Kong. At that point, we’d just confirmed my ticket on the Emirates flight, and I got in touch with them to see if they’d be up for showing us around.
Fast forward less than 24 hours later, and they met us in the bar at the W when we checked in. Both of them work in the hospitality industry, and they were in the perfect position to show us around their neck of the woods.
We began the night with an epic feast at Ho Lee Fook, an upscale Cantonese restaurant in Soho. My friends guided us through the menu, and we all enjoyed an incredible feast that was highlighted by two servings of wagyu short ribs.
With full bellies, we headed down for a quick cocktail at The Pontiac, followed by another at Penicillin. Then, we spent the rest of the evening at The Mixing Room, where my friend Steffen works as the manager, showing us incredible hospitality across the three unique venues all housed under one roof.
In keeping with our flight earlier that day, we were surprised and delighted to see a bottle of Dom Perignon uncorked right before our eyes, which wound up being the third (and last) of the day.
I almost feel like the best measure of our day would be calculated in the unit of Doms per hour (Dph). Between the time on the plane and our night out in Hong Kong, a rough guess is that we managed about 0.25 Dph, which I’d say is pretty good.
Mindful of an early departure for the rest of the crew, we headed back to the hotel at the most reasonable hour since we all met up in Bangkok, and called it a night.
Rohin had the luxury of sleeping in a bit later than the rest of us, as he was heading back to his home base in Bali the next day. Luckily, the airport train was just steps away, and we had time for a quick nap en route.
A breezy airport experience afforded us a few moments to snack at the Chase Sapphire Lounge, before we made our way to the gate.
Ricky still didn’t know where we were going… until his eyes lit up upon arriving at the boarding gate, and he saw that Tokyo was next up.
As we headed down the jet bridge, T.J. made a quick left to walk down the Cathay Pacific First Class jetway, which elicited a shriek of joy from Ricky… only to sharply turn back towards the economy jetway, much to Ricky’s dismay.
With such a last-minute trip planning process, we were at the mercy of award availability for three seats, and the best we could do was premium economy for this intra-Asia flight.
Ricky and T.J. had been to Tokyo many times before, but this happened to be my first. With just over 24 hours at our disposal, we decided that the best plan of attack would be to eat our way across the city.
After a quick bowl of udon at the metro station, we checked into our room at Mesm Tokyo, and devoted a couple of hours to catching up on work that needed to get done.
We made a brief stop at a convenience store to enjoy some onigiri, before we headed over to The SG Club, a top-rated cocktail bar in Shibuya.
I’d coordinated a meetup with a mutual friend, Nomadic Matt, who happened to be celebrating his birthday in Tokyo. This was the last surprise meetup we’d arranged for Ricky, and it worked out very favourably (stay tuned for the vlog).
T.J., Ricky, and I made our way to Ricky’s favourite ramen joint, Mutekiya, for a late dinner, before crashing Nomadic Matt’s birthday festivities once again.
After another night of less sleep than we needed, we headed over to Koto City for breakfast sushi at Daiwa Sushi.
As a long-time Vancouverite, I’ve had my fair share of top-notch sushi, but I don’t think anything quite compares to the omakase meal we were served with some of the freshest fish in Japan.
The tuna auction at the nearby Toyosu Fish Market had long since finished, so we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before venturing out to another meal.
This time, it was a multi-course tempura lunch served high in the sky near the Imperial Palace. During the meal, which was exquisite, we all took stock of the sprawling city right before our eyes.
Our time was quickly coming to a very delicious end, and as much as we wanted to stay and enjoy more of what Tokyo had to offer, it was time to get back to reality after a whirlwind week on the road.
In the combined 48 hours that we spent in Hong Kong and Tokyo, I had a good enough taste of the two cities (both literally and figuratively) to pique my interest. Each was the perfect layover, giving me a sense of what defines them, and what I’d come back for.
I’m strongly compelled to return, probably sooner than later. We crammed as much as we could into two short visits, and we left feeling fulfilled and excited for the final leg of the adventure.
Chapter 9: Get a Room for the Groom – ANA The Room
After a perfect whirlwind 24 hours in Tokyo, it was time to continue our homeward journey to North America.
Originally, we’d found business class seats on All Nippon Airways to Mexico City. However, our better judgement (and ExpertFlyer seat alerts) came through, and T.J. used his Aeroplan Super Elite status to adjust our itinerary to pass through San Francisco with no change fee.
We scrambled from downtown Tokyo to Narita, and the trip to the airport was not without drama. We were running quite late, and we had to channel our inner “The Amazing Race” mindset with a strategic sprint through the airport.
T.J. and I were quite unimpressed with ourselves – such seasoned travellers have no business being rushed when the alternative is showing up early and enjoying the airport lounge. Meanwhile, Ricky relished the airport chaos, happy to turn the tables on us after all we’d put him through this week.
Sure enough, we made our flight – and it would’ve been a shame to miss it, as there had been a fortuitous equipment swap which put us in The Room, ANA’s newest (and best) business class seat!
Ricky was overjoyed to discover that we’d be capping off the trip with one of his favourite aviation experiences. Between ANA’s The Room and Qatar Airways Qsuites, we successfully bookended the trip with the two best business class products in the world.
This would be my first time flying ANA, and T.J.’s first time in the airline’s business class cabin, having flown economy years ago and First Class twice this year.
T.J. was particularly enthused to be experiencing ANA’s “Another Sky” boarding music yet again, by far his favourite in the industry. Turns out he’s nearly as much of a connoisseur of airplane tunes as he is of bathing in airports. There was no sweeter sound after thinking we’d miss our flight.
We made ourselves comfortable in the cavernous seats, playfully making the space our own just as we had done in the Qatar Airways Qsuites Quad, and the A380 bars in Qatar Airways and Emirates First Class.
We all ordered the Japanese washoku menu, an adventurous proposition for sure, but an easy choice to continue the culinary delights of our brief visit to the country.
The meal service was exquisite, with the braised pork belly main course being arguably the best dish I’ve ever eaten on an airplane.
The pours of Suntory Hibiki were exceedingly generous, and we all slurped down multiple servings of ANA’s signature juice, kabosu, to keep our buzz in check.
After a non-stop week of galavanting literally across the world, we’d knocked ourselves out for some much-needed rest. We raised our privacy barriers, closed our doors, and unfurled our girthy beds for some much-needed shut-eye as we rapidly approached our home time zone.
And so, while there are some parts of every bachelor party story that can’t be told, we’re happy to confirm that yes, indeed, the groom got a Room.
And just like that, with one final short-haul flight, Josh and T.J. dropped me off in
Las Vegas the loving arms of my fiancée in Vancouver, bringing the grand adventure to an end.
All said and done, I can’t quite believe that Josh and T.J. pulled this off. Somehow, through a combination ingenuity, spontaneity, and luck, they ticked just about every box for a perfect bachelor party for me:
- unlocking a new aspirational award travel achievement in the form of a group trip across five of the world’s most coveted air and ground experiences, including the world’s two best business class products and the two Airbus A380 bars in the sky;
- some typical bachelor party debauchery in a far-flung locale;
- some wholesome fun in the form of decadent eats and drinks;
- surprise encounters with friends around the world;
- and successfully keeping the vast majority of their plans under wraps.
Truth be told, I wasn’t all too interested in the idea of a bachelor party in the lead-up to my wedding at all, and I was looking forward to enjoying some quiet time at home for a change. In that sense, this was the bachelor’s trip I didn’t know I needed – and as someone who’s always meticulously planning out my travels, it was a refreshing feeling to be whisked away with no knowledge of our destination for once!
What’s more, when I think about the range of possible future outcomes from back when I first started Prince of Travel more than six years ago, the idea of my most senior team members kidnapping me for a never-before-done surprise round-the-world bachelor party is something that would’ve far exceeded my highest hopes.
I’m proud that this incredible experience arose out of the company that I’ve built for the better part of a decade, and I’m pleased to say that it’s brought all of us much closer together, both personally and professionally. On the back of this transformative trip, I’m feeling more inspired than ever to build bigger and better things with our dream team.
However, I can honestly say that while I wouldn’t change a single thing, I definitely don’t want to do a trip quite like this again. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to mark a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, for a group that has shattered the constraints of once-in-a-lifetime travel thanks to the power of Miles & Points.
That being said, like any true maximizer, I’ve got a competitive streak of upping the ante, so we’ll have to see how we can top all of this when it’s Josh’s turn to get hitched. 😉