How would you improve The Milelion?

Hello everyone!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I have absolutely no clue how to do anything technical on WordPress. Therefore, I’ve always just chugged along and prayed for the best. The problem is, when things do go wrong (like some content disappearing with the recent site migration or the site getting suspended temporarily for excessive CPU usage), I often have no idea how to fix it quickly and it stresses me out to no end.

As the site grows bigger the demands will only increase, and it’s important that the UX continues to be as smooth and as hassle free for all of you as it was on day one. Therefore I’m going to bring on a freelance webmaster to help make some fixes and optimizations on The Milelion.

Here’s where I need your help- if you’ve observed any annoying bugs, issues or if there’s anything at all you think would make the site easier for you to use (features, arrangement, layout, whatever) please leave a comment and a detailed description and I’ll see what can be done.

Be nitpicky, please. If I’m going to bring someone on board I’d rather fully employ them than have them sitting around twiddling their thumbs. If you’ve always been enduring some minor annoyance in order to access the ramblings of The Milelion, now’s the time to say something.

For example, Eddy wrote in to let me know the site doesn’t appear properly when a wide screen monitor is used. I assume it will be an easy fix for someone who knows what they’re doing.

Other features I’m thinking about

  • Implementing a system that allows you to reply to comments via email. For example, I post a comment. John replies to it and I get an email notification. Instead of going back to the site to reply, I can hit reply in my email program and shoot a message back
  • Improving site loading times and minimizing webpage size. The site still scores quite poorly on Google’s PageSpeed Insights and I’m sure there are easy fixes

  • Making full use of page width. In the current theme there’s a lot of white space on either side of posts and this also compresses pictures so they’re harder to read

  • Improving the current comments system to make it easier for people to converse in real time, maybe like a chat (I thought of creating a forum but do we really need another? HWZ and Flyertalk should be sufficient for most miles chasers in Singapore)

This list is of course not exhaustive and I’d really value your input here.

So let me know what can be done better, what needs to get fixed, and I’ll put together a list and engage someone who knows what he or she is doing

Thanks
Aaron

Citi Prestige 29,000 miles sign up bonus now available

I recently did a review of the so-called “$120K credit cards” in Singapore, which are targeted at the entry level prestige segment of the market. The conclusion I reached was that if I had to pick one, I’d probably go with the Citi Prestige, due to its unlimited lounge access, generous limo policy and fourth night free benefit.

The $120K credit card showdown

If you’ve been thinking about getting a Prestige card but haven’t pulled the trigger yet, you might be interested to know that from now till 30 November 2017, Citibank is offering a sign up bonus on its Prestige card which allows you to earn the equivalent of 80,000 miles when you spend $20,000 in the first 3 months and pay the $535 annual fee.

I find it interesting that Citibank’s SG site still refers to “Citi Dollars” when these have been phased out and replaced with Thank You points already

The breakdown of the 80,000 miles (creditied in the form of 200,000 Citi dollars…if only this TK deal were still around) is

  • 25,000 miles welcome gift (with the $535 annual fee)
  • 26,000 base miles ($20K spending @ 1.3 mpd for local*)
  • 29,000 miles bonus for hitting $20K threshold

*Note that the workings in Citibank’s example assume that your $20,000 is spent locally. On the other extreme if you spent all of that overseas, you’d end up with 94,000 miles instead of 80,000 miles. In reality, you can expect to hit something in between those two figures.

$20,000 in 3 months is certainly a lot of money, and unless you’ve got a big ticket life event coming up it’s certainly going to be very hard to hit that sum. The good news is that it’s confirmed that spending with Cardup will count towards the minimum spend, so if you have big rental bills or tax payments then this could potentially help you hit the threshold.

I tried going through the HWZ thread to see if I could find any past sign up offers to see how this one compares, but couldn’t find anything of note in the past 12 months. Still, if you’re thinking about getting the card, you should have a read of that thread because people post about some of the unpublished benefits that Citibank sends out from time to time (eg special dinner packages, priority access to shows etc) to Prestige cardholders.

The T&C can be found here. I didn’t find anything to be worried about, but note that you can’t take part in this promotion if you cancelled your Citi Prestige card within the last 6 months and reapply.

Sign up for the 29,000 mile Citi Prestige bonus offer here (I earn a referral bonus)

One last point about Citibank cards. Remember that Thank You points do not pool across cards. That is, you will not be able to combine the points you earn from your Citibank Rewards card with your Prestige card, nor your Premiermiles card with your Prestige card. This means paying multiple conversion fees when you want to cash out. Needless to say I find this extremely infuriating and customer unfriendly, but those are the rules. Citibank somewhat makes up for it by having a much wider range of transfer partners than other banks, but still…

The Tokyo Ramen Run: The Great Tokyo Ramen Hunt

The Tokyo Ramen Run: Trip Planning
British Airways Galleries Lounge, Singapore
Qantas Lounge, Singapore
Japan Airlines B772 Business Class SIN-HND
My Tokyo Food Pilgrimage
Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station
The Great Tokyo Ramen Hunt
The Great Tokyo Ramen Lug
ANA Suite Lounge Narita
Singapore Airlines B77W First Class NRT-SIN


A knock on my door and 4 large boxes of Nakiryu noodles were now in my possession, delivered to my room by a very bewildered front desk associate. “I like Japanese ramen,” I said helpfully.

Inside the boxes were 11 cartons…

Note the Michelin Star seal on the box. These guys are really milking it

…and inside each carton were 12 cups of the most highly sought after cup noodles anywhere in the world right now.

These babies are sold out six ways from sunday and black market prices are reaching stratospheric levels (although there are sporadic reports of some lucky folks being able to get their hands on some). And here I was with 132 cups of the stuff. It was like having Astatine on my hands.

There was only one sensible thing to do.

I am the one who knocks #tokyoramenrun

A post shared by Aaron Wong (@themilelion) on

Fun over, I started packing the noodles, praying that I’d have enough space. Twenty minutes later I was done.

And that’s when I stood up and cursed my abject lack of ambition. When ordering the noodles, my biggest fear was that I simply wouldn’t have enough space to lug everything back. Hence my decision to bring two of the largest roll on bags I’d had plus four duffel bags (not pictured below)

But when it was all packed away, I still had two entire duffel bags worth of space to spare. Of course, by now my supplier was completely sold out and the Nissin website had gone listing from the Nakiryu noodles as “sold out” to removing them altogether. I was thoroughly annoyed at myself and my lack of a killer instinct. “This is why the chiobu don’t come knocking” I chastized myself.

Visiting numerous convenience stores and supermarkets didn’t yield any results either. Every shop assistant I asked either hadn’t seen them before or mentioned that they were long gone. I did however get to see a whole range of Japanese ramen, the variety of which we can only hope to have in Singapore.

That left me with one last hope- going to the source. I wasn’t able to find the Nissin factory, so I settled on the next best thing- the Cup Noodle Museum operated by Nissin. The museum hosts a gift shop selling every manner of Nissin products and I figured that was my best shot of finding more Nakiryu noodles.

The Cup Noodle Museum has two branches (making it a hipster’s dilemma): one in Osaka, and one in Tokyo. Ok technically it’s not in Tokyo. It’s in Yokohama, which is about 45 minutes away from Tokyo by public transport.

Was that too far to travel for cup noodles? Yes. Was that too far to travel for one star Michelin cup noodles? Well, also yes. Did I have too much time on my hands? Do you really need to ask?

The train ride to Yokohama is fairly uneventful- thankfully the trains are express with limited stops, and before I knew it I was alighting at Sakuragicho station, a ten minute walk from the Cup Noodle Museum.

Here’s a close up view of the environs.

You’ll note “Cosmo World”, which you’ll definitely pass en route to the museum. It’s not quite Tokyo Disneyworld but still.

The Cup Noodle Museum isn’t much of a looker from the outside, but then again I believe that is the point. Kind of like cup noodles- it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, it’s the goodness inside. If you squint hard enough, it’s supposed to look like a cup noodle cup. If you squint really, really hard.

The museum is open 10am to 6pm daily except Tuesdays. Admission is JPY 500 (but you can buy an annual passport for JPY 1,500 that give you unlimited visits. No, really).

500 JPY isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, and a few minutes later I had a museum guide, an entrance ticket and a reservation time for a “make your own cup noodle” session (more on that shortly).

The museum uses a mix of English and Japanese, but they provide a free of charge English audio tour for the sections that are exclusively in Japanese. You just need to leave a refundable deposit with the front desk.

Before I even started viewing the exhibits, there was an itch at the back of my head I needed to resolve. I made a beeline for the gift shop, looking for my white whale.

The gift shop is fascinating in its own right. Inside you’ll find all sorts of cup noodle products you never knew existed.

Here’s a quick walkthrough video

And something cool for AV geeks- the Nissin museum sells JAL’s cup noodles. These are specially formulated for high-altitude consumption. Remember, the higher you go, the lower the boiling point of water. So even inside a pressurized cabin, your boiling water would not be as hot as boiling water at sea level. So these noodles are made to cook properly with water that’s slightly less hot.

I approached the sales staff and explained in as simple English as I could what I was looking for. After much rummaging in a back room and swiping through a digital inventory list they told me the noodles were completely gone and there was no new production on the way. Some part of me already knew this, but since I’d come all the way here there was no way I was going to leave empty-handed. If Nakiryu noodles weren’t available for sale, then dammit, I was going to make my own.

Yes, that’s what I said. The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly the “design your own cup noodles” experience. For a mere 300 JPY per cup, you can design a one-of-a-kind souvenir cup noodle, right down to the ingredients that go inside. As you’d expect, this is one of the most popular attractions and you need to get a timed reservation for a slot.

The process is straightforward. First, you buy an empty cup from a vending machine for 300 JPY.

Next, you sanitize your hands. Don’t even think about skipping this step! I saw the staff send a few visitors back to this station after seeing them bypass it. The Japanese don’t kid around with hygiene…

Properly sanitized, you present yourself to a staff member who will assign you a table.

Scattered throughout this area are many communal tables with marker pens

You’re not allowed to use any instruments other than the markers on the table- so no stickers or pens for example. The reason being that using such things can weaken the integrity of the cup. They do inspect each cup before they agree to seal it, so don’t fool around here. Otherwise, you’re free to design your noodle cup however you want. I suppose drawing naughty things with many tentacles would be frowned upon, as would writing the name of any competing brands.

What would I draw? Well…

Eventually I had what I believed was an acceptable looking cup of Nakiryu noodles. No one will ever know, I told myself.

Now that your cup’s made, you need to get some noodles into it.

Here’s where the museum tries to get you involved. The staff position your cup and ask you to give the wheel a few cranks. This rotates the cup and drops a block of ramen inside.

You’re then passed a few airbags (for the final step)

Now the fun part- choosing the ingredients. Think of this as a big caifan display, just point and go. You get a choice of one soup base and four ingredients.

The selection is really diverse- prawn, fishcake, pork, chicken, chili, chives, cheese, garlic and egg are the ingredients that I recall.

The mission was simple: recreate Nakiryu noodles, in a cup.

Image result for nakiryu ramen

I knew the soup was slightly spicy, so I picked the chili tomato soup base. I knew it had pork, so the pork cubes went in too. Chives were an obvious choice too, as well as egg (albeit in a very different form). For my final ingredient I added extra chili powder, as the soup looks quite potent.

Once your cup is filled, the tops are then placed on the cup noodles by a special machine.

The noodles then get wrapped in clear plastic cling film…

…passed through a heat sealer…

…and emerge in glorious shrink wrap on the other side.

You’re not done just yet. Those noodles are fragile and if a long trip home is on the cards, you’d best provide them with some protection. That’s where the airbags you’re given come in handy.

You pump air into the clear plastic bag until you get a lovely cushion surrounding your creation.

I guess I really should have read this sign before I pumped up all my bags. If you’re taking a flight home, the pressure difference in the aircraft is going to be problematic for the noodles in the airbag you just pumped. I ended up having to deflate all my airbags.

I was very proud of my creation, and I reckon my Primary 3 art teacher would be too.

For 300 JPY, this is an unbeatable opportunity to create unique gifts for people. The experience was so fun I got a bit carried away. After making my bootleg noodles, I made more cups- one for the family, one for the Milelioness, one for the Milelion (corporate gifts yo), and one for the crew of SQ637, who the next day would have to entertain some pretty unusual requests from me.

I also put a note on the cup in case SQ management was watching.

I left the station very happy, convinced that no one would know I was a tourist.

The rest of the museum? Well, it’s kitsch meets advertainment. Five stories of nothing but cup noodles- the making of, the history of, the eating of. It’s the kind of place you’d bring this kind of person to.

As you’d expect, there are exhibits dedicated to telling the story of the origin of cup noodles, and how Momofuku’s humble invention went on to take the world by storm (they neglected to talk about the corresponding health implications)

It is pretty cool to see the cross section of a noodle cup.

As well as space ramen.

They even have a mock up of Momofuku’s original hut where legend has it he had his eureka moment. It’s all very Disneyesque, this idolizing of the founder. One man with a dream…

On the fourth floor you’ll find the Noodle Bazaar, the museum’s own food court that features different countries interpretation of ramen.

I spotted pho, mi goreng, laksa and lamian stalls.

It’s a fascinating concept, but I can’t help but feel the purpose of the exhibit is to convince visitors that no one else does it right but the Japanese. That’s at least the takeaway I had based on my sampling of Italian ramen, colloquially known as spaghetti.

I make a mean amatriciana, as those who have tasted it before will attest to, and I can tell you that this interpretation was just vile.

Outside the food court there’s something called Cup Noodles Park. This is a play area where kids can, er, I guess, pretend that they’re cup noodles?

I’m not kidding. The play slides and webbing here are meant to simulate what the ramen noodles go through before they get packaged in cups.

The rest of the exhibits are quite frankly forgettable, but the novelty of making your own cup noodles makes the entire visit worthwhile in my opinion. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re going to be in Yokohama why not drop by?

To top it off, I now had my very own bootleg Nissin Nakiryu noodles. I hope Nissin doesn’t file a complaint with the WTO regarding trademark violation because I can imagine many consumers getting fooled by how similar the two are.

The only thing left was to get everything back home…

Intercontinental Prague and Luxury Shopping

With a Rolls-Royce Showroom, Poor Wifi

And Great Shopping!

Stayed Mar 2017

After the once-in-a-lifetime stay at the Gritti Palace, I found my way to Prague in the Czech Republic (Or Czechoslovakia for those stuck in a time machine) where the residents are supposedly unimaginably good-looking as I was told.

A quick fuss free ride from the airport put me in the hotel lobby in no time!

The check in was not that fast and as I want to get to my room to rest as fast as possible too, I think I wasn’t too patient. I also opted for the breakfast the next morning as it was not included in my rate.

Having read previous reviews, one thing I noticed was that it was pretty old and another was the Rolls-Royce showroom.

From the lobby to my room, it was indeed obvious that the hotel is pretty old and it felt rather like the late 80s in the elevator.

The room looked rather worn as well but the toilet was rather fine, and the marbled walls reminded me of the incomparable bathroom in the Gritti Palace.

I believe I was upgraded to a bigger but I wasn’t paying attention at the front desk as I was really tired. On the table was a plate of snacks and 2 bottles of water with another bottle of wine, and I still have no idea what Qvijote means even after plugging it in Google Search.

One issue I had was the poor WIFI in the room. I endured it for a day and called the front desk the next day. A router was sent to my room and it solved the problem.

Breakfast was served at the restaurant to the side of the lobby and I felt it was not worth the price, although I was intrigued by the ‘Chinese bowls’ available.

Perhaps to cater to Chinese tourists??

The hotel is really at the edge of the Old Town and a quick 5 to 10 mins walk gets one to the Town Square and the famous Astronomical Clock.

The Charles Bridge and Prague Castle were nearby too but in another direction.

There were many famous brand boutiques in the old houses near the hotel as well and fans would be delighted to find quite a number of items priced at 30-40% less, including LV and Tods.

A pair of Bally shoes bought at the store at the hotel went at 30% less as well.

My UOB VS credit card had a really good workout in the city.

Before leaving the hotel, I finally took a look at the Rolls-Royce showroom, followed by complimentary drinks at the lobby bar as part of my elite benefits.

I was so glad to see ‘Singapore Sling’ listed!

I didn’t have a chance to use the gym and pool but merely took a look and photo.

Gathering my thoughts and opinions, I would say this is an excellent hotel if location is important, but otherwise I was not impressed with the hardware nor the service.

And I didn’t opt for breakfast on subsequent days too.

The price of 75 Euros per night was definitely a mitigating factor.

Happy and Healthy travels!

Citibank offering free and discounted Cardup payments till 31 Oct

Image result for cardupIt’s been a hard couple of months for miles chasers using Cardup. First, DBS modified its T&Cs such that payments with the Woman’s World card no longer earned 10X points. Then UOB followed suit for its PPV. To my knowledge, there do not exist any 10X earning opportunities for Cardup right now.

In certain situations, however, it can still make sense to use your general spending cards with Cardup. Cardup levies a fee of 2.6% on all transactions, which means that paying with a general spending 1.4 mpd card like the UOB PRVI Miles is the equivalent of buying miles at 1.86 cents each.

Do note, however, that Cardup requires you to have a bona fide transaction before you can use their platform (eg a condo bill, a school fees invoice, a rental agreement) and you can’t use it as a way of generating unlimited miles (for that, consider using the UOB PRVI Pay feature which lets you generate unlimited miles at 2 cents each).

Citibank and Cardup are now running a promotion for Premiermiles (Visa only)Prestige and Ultima cardholders:

  • The first 300 new users with the code CITIFIRSTFREE will enjoy a waiver of all Cardup fees (max transaction: S$5K)
  • Existing users and new users after the 300 codes have been exhausted can enjoy a 2.1% promotional Cardup fee with the code CITI21

This promotion is valid on eligible payments made up to 31 October 2017. The T&C for the promotion defines eligible payments as the following

  • income tax
  • rent and rental deposits
  • insurance
  • school fees
  • condo fees
  • season parking

I imagine the 300 zero-fee vouchers will be snapped up pretty quickly, and if you’re in the position to use one you definitely should. But is the 2.1% promotional rate worth jumping on?

Here’s how the math works out for the three different cards

  • Citibank PM Visa (1.2 mpd)- 1.75 cpm 1.71 cpm
  • Citibank Prestige (1.3 mpd)- 1.62 cpm 1.58 cpm
  • Citibank Ultima (1.6 mpd)- 1.31 cpm 1.29 cpm

*edit: have been reminded that the Cardup fees themselves earn miles, so the calculations get adjusted accordingly

For your reference, here are the different options available for buying miles in Singapore and how much each will cost. 1.31-1.75 cpm seem like decent prices to buy miles, assuming you don’t qualify for any of the other methods listed below.

MethodTypeImplied Income ReqCents Per MileAnnual Limit
SCB VI Tax Payment- >$2K p.mPayment Facility1500001.14Tax bill
HSBC VI IRAS Payment- >$50K p.a (1)Payment Facility1200001.2Tax bill
HSBC Premier MC IRAS Payment (2)Payment Facility300001.25Tax bill
HSBC VI- Premier CustomerWelcome Gift1200001.3935000
HSBC VI IRAS Payment- <$50K p.aPayment Facility1200001.5Tax bill
SCB VI Tax Payment- <$2K p.mPayment Facility1500001.6Tax bill
SCB VIWelcome Gift1500001.6835000
HSBC Visa Plat/Revo Tax PaymentPayment Facility300001.75Tax bill
Citibank PM AmexAnnual Fee800001.7815000
HSBC VI- Regular CustomerWelcome Gift1200001.8635000
iPayMy/Cardup with UOB PRVIPayment Facility500001.86Unlimited
UOB Reserve VI "Pay Anything"Payment FacilityInvitation1.9Unlimited
Citibank PM VisaAnnual Fee500001.9310000
DBS AltitudeAnnual Fee300001.9310000
OCBC Voyage- Option 3Annual Fee1200002500000
UOB PRVI PayPayment Facility50000 2Unlimited
OCBC Voyage- Option 2Annual Fee1200002.14150000
Citibank PrestigeAnnual Fee1200002.1425000
iPayMy/Cardup with DBS Altitude/Citibank PM VisaPayment Facility300002.17Unlimited
DBS Altitude- Tax PaymentPayment Facility300002.5Tax bill
OCBC Voyage- Option 1 (3)Annual Fee1200003.2515000
Buy from Singapore Airlines (4)Stupid05.51Unlimited

(1) The HSBC website says that $1=0.4 miles for tax payment facility, but I have received reports that VI holders have received 1/1.25 mpd as per their relationship bonus
(2)  The income requirement to get a HSBC Premier MC is $30,000, but you need $200K in deposits to open a HSBC Premier account
(3) OCBC Voyage Option 1 involves paying $488 to get 15,000 Voyage miles. These can be converted to Krisflyer miles at a 1:1 ratio but are technically more valuable than Krisflyer miles as they can also be used to pay for revenue fares at a fixed value per mile.
(4) SQ charges US$40 per 1,000 miles purchased. Price shown here is reflective of current exchange rates. The only way I could justify paying this is if I needed the miles right this minute, as SQ will credit them instantly

It’s unfortunate that the Citibank Rewards card isn’t covered under this promotion, but we can only hope it’ll make an appearance in the future. Such a promotion is definitely a move in the right direction, however, insofar as it implies that banks are starting to see Cardup as a legitimate business partner instead of something to be excluded under their T&C.

Citibank adds Turkish Airlines as a transfer partner…and something fishy is going on

I was tipped off by Louis that Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles has been added as a transfer partner for Citibank, and there’s something funny afoot.

If you use the Citibank Rewards card, you’ll know that points transfers are typically in blocks of 25,000 Thank You points= 10,000 miles (as you see below with Royal Orchid Plus). But look at TK- 10,000 points= 10,000 miles!

Now I’m pretty certain this is a bug because when you try to redeem Premiermiles, you get a rate of 10,000 Premiermiles= 10,000 TK miles

But it says very clearly in black and white on the Thank You points portal that 10,000 Thank You points= 10,000 TK miles. And I’d feel pretty confident about getting Citibank to honor that, given that it’s stated in black and white when you click through

Here’s TK’s award chart. Singapore is part of the Far East region.

Here are some sample one-way prices in business/first class from Singapore

  • To Europe: 45,000/67,500
  • To North America: 67,500/100,000
  • To Far East (including Japan): 35,000/55,000

I’ve not played around enough with the TK award engine to know how good space is, but it appears you can only book TK awards online. I believe you need to call in to book Star Alliance partner tickets

I was really tempted to give this a shot and called up the hotline to get them to pool my ThankYou points together (I have 47K on the Visa rewards card and 3K on the Mastercard) before transferring. Unfortunately, Citibank’s CSO told me there is no way to combine points across different credit cards, even if they’re both earning Thank You points. He mentioned that it used to be possible but they’ve since been instructed not to. (This is another article for another time, but it is infuriating that Citibank has two rewards currencies (Premiermiles and Thank You points) does not pool points even among similar currencies (eg Citibank Prestige / Citibank Rewards). There is no logical reason for refusing to do so, other than being customer unfriendly)

I’ve not quite decided what I want to do- it is mighty tempting to transfer over 40,000 Thank You points to 40,000 miles and redeem a one-way business class ticket to Japan for what is essentially 16,000 miles opportunity cost (40,000*2/5; I only need 35,000 miles but I must transfer in intervals of 10,000 which means I’m going to waste 5000 if I do this), but I’m still on the fence about this.

In the meantime, I wanted to alert the rest of you about it so you can decide whether you want to gamble with Citibank honoring this. Like I said, it’d be hard for them to argue otherwise given that the rate is printed in black and white, but still…

Hotel Review: Conrad Bali (Conrad Suite Twin)

I recently had a short 2-night stay at Conrad Bali – recent posts at the FlyerTalk thread didn’t seem all that hot about the property, so my expectations were relatively low going in – this ended up perhaps a good thing, since the stay far exceeded my expectations and the property is now in the running for (my mental list of) best Conrad properties around – possibly the best if taking value into account , considering the relatively low cost of a stay there.

The property

Upon checking in, we were notified to some awesome news – we had been upgraded to the new(er) Conrad Suites wing. I got a welcome letter as a Diamond guest – I’m pretty sure the first three benefits listed would apply to any guest staying in a suite; I’m guessing that Diamond members would get to enjoy them (essentially lounge benefits) even if not upgraded.

It wasn’t all perfect – I’d originally booked a basic king room, but the upgraded room came with twin beds. Having said that, these are two queen beds we’re talking about – I wasn’t about to reject a suite upgrade just because of that.

Part of the welcome package includes a map of the property (it says a lot when you need one to help navigate yourself around the grounds). The Conrad Suites wing is at the top right of the map (IV), pretty much the opposite end from the main entrance (1). If this is your first time at the property, it probably makes sense to just let a porter help you with directions and your luggage – they don’t seem to necessarily expect tips, but given the exchange rate even tips of <$1 would probably be plenty.

Walking towards the Conrad Suites wing at night, we were led past the Conrad Suites pool area – it’s a rather stunning view; one that my mobile phone camera really fails to do justice to. Thankfully, the internet offers superior alternatives.


(Image from pic-travel.com.tw)

The room

(Floor plan from the Conrad Bali website – my room was essentially a mirror image of this with twin beds)

When you first step into the suite, you really only see about half of it. Already that’s pretty huge. At an advertised 110 sq. m./1184 sq. ft., the entire area is probably bigger than many homes in Singapore (keeping in mind that there are no bay windows, planters or bomb shelters in here)…

A welcome platter of fruit on the dining table near the entrance. This was changed daily – I felt pretty bad since I didn’t really touch any of it (little space left after stuffing myself at other parts of the property). Hopefully the staff get to feast on untouched items, rather than just disposing of it…

Power sockets at the dining table cleverly hidden away – this hiding thing is pretty common throughout the room. Given that there’s no dedicated work desk (who works while staying at a resort? Probably lots of people, sadly) this allows the area to function as one.

Just behind the dining table lies the kitchenette area, equipped with a sink and Nespresso-compatible (counterfeit?) coffee machine.

Complimentary Nespresso-compatible coffee pods and TWG teabags. They replenished these while tidying in the morning as well as during evening turndown service, so you know what to do if you’re aiming to maximise your souvenirs from a stay…

Tucked away from view are two mini-fridges (mini-bar plus an extra one with some extra bottles of water), the bin, cutlery, crockery, a kettle, a toaster, and even a juicer. I guess that was one thing I could have done with some of that complimentary fruit.

Adjoining the dining area is the living area, with plenty of sitting space and a flat screen TV. There’s a ceiling fan here for air circulation, in addition to the air-conditioning. This was the only TV with easy access to HDMI ports, and though they seemed to have disabled the input button on the remote, it was possible to switch to HDMI input using the physical button on the TV set.

Just outside the living area was a little balcony. Not pictured – a day bed. I was on the ground floor, though, so the balcony lacked privacy. It allowed quick access towards the pool, but since there’s no way to lock the door if you exit that way, it ended up not being used very much during the stay.

At this point we’re only halfway through the suite – here’s a quick video to give an idea of the scale of the place, unfortunately taken in that annoying vertical format that works better for mobile viewing (yes, it was meant for Instagram use).

The bedroom area is also equipped with a ceiling fan. When checking in, the front desk officer had offered to push the twin beds closer to each other to form a mega (faux super-king?) bed. We’d declined the offer, but given the default positioning of the twin beds, I’m not sure how much this would have changed anything!

(Not pictured – another flat screen TV for your in-bed viewing pleasure. This one is recessed more deeply in a fixture and doesn’t offer easy connectivity to personal devices.)

Conrad Bali offers a free monkey toy (presumably a reference to the Monkey Forest near Ubud). We initially thought it was a female monkey wearing a dress, but now we think that’s actually a sarong.

More stuff hidden at the bedside tables – apparently, a simple bottle of water is too unsightly to go uncovered.

The bedside radio offers support for mobile device connectivity, but it’s older equipment supporting older iOS devices. Better than nothing, I suppose?

Moving on towards the dressing area, there’s a dressing table opposite the closet.

Yet another hidden object – this time, a hairdryer.

 

Also a hidden power plug (presumably for the said hairdryer) and various miscellaneous kits.

 

Closet. Open; functional. There are nice, fluffy bathrobes provided – also more fanciful-looking (traditional?) robes.

It’s probably a worrying sign when a hotel provides bug spray in your room – I think you get mosquitos at the balcony area, but if you keep the doors closed you should be fine. They also provide a straw bag that comes in handy when going to the pool.

Finally, there’s the bathroom. Two sinks, a bathtub accompanied by a small TV, a toilet and shower. There’s a gigantic ottoman in the middle of the bathroom that looks pretty comfortable… but also rather unnecessary?

The default Aromatherapy Associates bath amenities, as with other Conrad properties, can be swapped upon request – I usually prefer the Shanghai Tang ones, but I think the default ones are fine too.

The grounds

The lagoon and main pool in the resort are less exclusive than the suites area (and thus more crowded), but still pretty nifty. I thought the lagoon in particular was pretty interesting since it sloped into sandy beach-like areas at certain parts, offering an area for kids to safely play with sand.

I saw some floats being used in the main pool, so I guess it’s cool to use them there. Plenty of opportunities for fun for kids, which is great since they’re not allowed at the Conrad Suites pool.

There’s a gym on the property – other than acknowledging its existence and providing these two pictures, I can’t really say much more about it.

There’s a general lounge area called Reflections that has some seating and a pool table. It was unattended when we walked past at night, but we were able to help ourselves to the pool equipment on our own. Unfortunately, there was only one proper cue stick, and the table was also in pretty poor state.

Near the Conrad Suites wing is a chapel – it seems like the property handles numerous weddings.

Beyond the chapel is the beach. It seems to be a public access area, since there were some hawkers walking around trying to sell their wares. Regardless, a very nice area. There are cabanas along the beach maintained by the property, though you’ll need to pay a fee to make use of them. No such charge for the beach chairs.

The beach faces east, making it a great place to enjoy the sunrise.

Once you get back to the Conrad Suites wing, you’ll see a sign reminding you that children are not allowed at the pool. It helps to maintain an exclusive feel, but given that the suits are so huge (and thus great for families), it can seem rather  counter-intuitive to make families travel further to the main pool and lagoon.

The (restricted) poolside cabanas here are free to use, unlike the beach-side ones around the rest of the property. They’re great for just spending a lazy afternoon, with the option of easily going in and out of the pool.

Hotel staff send you wet towels and ice water when using the cabanas, with a menu to make additional orders. They’re not pushy about it – we didn’t order any additional items, though they looked relatively affordable as far as resorts go.

Breakfast (RIN)

The Japanese restaurant at the Conrad Suites wing serves as a possible venue for breakfast. It’s the one recommended for Suites (and Diamond) guests. I also suspect that the quality of food is better here than at the other restaurants.

When having breakfast there, you can order a number of items off their a la carte menu. A special shout out to their French toast in particular – it’s done with thick-cut French loaf, which was remarkably soft and really quite delightful.

You could also head into the restaurant to help yourself to the buffet spread. Various options including hot food, pastries, cereal, salad and fruit. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

 

I was particularly impressed by the stir-fried (Japanese style) beef they had on offer. The chicken katsu was pretty good too (a little tough, but very tasty).

Breakfast (Suku)

On our second morning we tried out breakfast at the largest on-site restaurant.

You also get to order from an a la carte menu.

The spread here was even larger, at least partially by virtue of being a larger space catering to more people. Again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

 

I particularly enjoyed the wider range of fruit available (including mangosteens and passionfruit).

All in all, despite the larger spread available, I thought the quality of food was better at RIN. That said, it was still a very enjoyable meal.

Afternoon tea (RIN)

Afternoon tea is served at RIN from 3-5pm. You get to order drinks off a menu and they serve a tray of snacks and pastries for tea. We generally found these all to be enjoyable.

 

Evening cocktails (Club lounge)

From 5-7pm you can go to the club lounge (just one storey above RIN) for evening cocktails. Again, you get to order off a menu – quite similar to the tea drinks menu, but with alcoholic options as well. We didn’t realise food would be provided as well; these were also quite enjoyable.

Conclusion

Given that it’s an Asian beach resort, an immediate comparison with Conrad Koh Samui jumps to mind. When I’d stayed there earlier this year, I was pretty much blown away by the experience. Conrad Bali hasn’t dethroned that experience, but given the price difference I’ll have to say this place offers a lot more bang for buck (I’d paid about S$180 per night including taxes for this; it was a sale rate, but if you manage to catch it a 50% flash sale it’ll be even cheaper). Imagine pairing this with the Citi Prestige 4th night free offer – 4 nights here at less than S$600 would be pretty sweet!

Even if you don’t get upgraded to a suite (I suspect it’s rare for Golds or lower), I’d say that there’s enough on the property to make for a very pleasant stay. The suite experience might be worth an additional investment, though it would severely erode the bang-for-buck advantage.

Conrad Koh Samui was kinda a bucket list item of sorts for me, but I personally find it too pricey (even if paid in points) to justify a return visit anytime soon. An affordable alternative, Conrad Bali has sufficiently impressed me to to displace it as the go-to option for a nearby beach resort.


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

Travel Better for Less