Tag Archives: hotels

Earn SPG Gold status with a single stay (Updated: Extended till July 2017)

EDIT: This promotion has been extended for another year. Stay until 12 July 2017 and earn your SPG gold status! (see updated T&C here)

EDIT EDIT: This is only for World MC’s issued in Asia Pacific

EDIT EDIT EDIT: It seems they are now asking for a code when you register. You can call up the bank customer service to ask for this code. I suspect the codes are one-time use only because people have reported not being successful using other people’s codes

The Idea

  • SPG Gold usually requires 10 stays or 25 nights in 1 calendar year
  • If you have a World or World Elite Mastercard, you can sign up for a promotion that awards you SPG Gold with 1 stay at any Starwood Asia Pacific property by 13 July 2015
  • With SPG Gold you can get 4pm late checkout, a 50% points bonus, 250 bonus points per stay and room upgrades

The Details

There is an ongoing promotion which awards you SPG Gold with 1 stay at any Starwood Asia Pacific property by 13 July 2015.

SPG Gold is useful to have- you get guaranteed 4pm late checkout (which can be amazing to have when you’ve got a 6pm flight to catch and need a place to refresh prior), 50% bonus points earning, 250 bonus points per stay (at Four Points and Aloft you get 125 bonus points), room upgrades

So do you have a World Mastercard? If you own any of the following cards, you do

  • Manhattan World Mastercard
  • DBS Women’s World Mastercard
  • Maybank World Mastercard
  • Citi Dividend World Mastercard
  • Citi Paragon World Mastercard
  • Citi Rewards World Mastercard
  • HSBC Premier World Mastercard
  • CIMB World Mastercard
  • ANZ Optimum World Mastercard

It appears that the best way of getting in on this is to get a HSBC Premier World Mastercard– there is no annual fee and the minimum income requirement is S$30,000.

Alternatively you can get a Citi Rewards World Mastercard for S$30,000 min income and no first year annual fee.

As I mention in my post on hotel loyalty programs, if you’re the sort who believes in staying in the cheapest possible hotel, or in boutique hotels/B&Bs, this probably won’t interest you. But if you have an upcoming stay for a business trip at a Starwood property in the Asia Pacific region, why not register and get in on this?

The Milelion’s RTW Trip: Ten Bompas or why boutique hotels still exist

The Milelion is embarking on a round the world trip over the next 4 weeks to more than 10 different countries. En route I will be doing reviews of different airlines and hotels. This will be one really, really long trip report. Thanks for keeping me company.


Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Silvercar LAX
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United First Class  Mexico City to Houston
United Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Hilton Sandton
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Westin Zagreb
Croatia Airlines Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Westin Seoul
W Seoul
Asiana Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA Business Class Tokyo to Singapore


There comes a point for every frequent business traveller when you can only sleep in so many Heavenly Beds, use so many Shine toiletries or hear so many Le Meridien 24 Hour compositions in the lift. Sometimes you want something slightly different.

But what if you’re a chain(ed) man? What if you’re building up to something big, like that magic 500 night mark for Lifetime SPG Platinum status? How do you satisfy that craving for variety while still inching towards that?

In mid 2014 Starwood took a controlling stake in Design Hotels and in late 2015 announced how they were going to integrate the brand with the rest of the SPG portfolio.  I was delighted to hear this because it meant an opportunity to try many of their unique properties and not have that regret of missing out on a night that could have gone towards my 500 tally.

The Ten Bompas, a Design Hotel, was available at an affordable rate for the weekend in Joburg and I jumped on it immediately (also to chalk up a Design Hotel in my quest to fulfill the SPG Stay 11 Brands Get 11,000 points challenge. Only Element hotels left!)

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The Ten Bompas hotel is located at Number 10 Bompas Road and only has 10 rooms. To supplement operating revenue, the property also runs the very highly rated Ten Bompas Winehouse restaurant (more on that later).

I need to be honest, I didn’t think much of the hotel when I first arrived. It had a very nondescript exterior, with the usual defensive fencing you find on most Joburg houses, hotels, places of business, everything. There’s a reason why all the publicity photos show the interior rather than the exterior.

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The first thing you see when you enter is a set of 3 figurines greeting you.

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And around the corner to check-in. The bar area doubled up as the check-in counter. The rooms were managed on the same screen that waiters punched in orders.

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The check-in took about 5 minutes to complete, even though SPG’s systems are not yet talking to any of the Design Hotels and my SPG number had to be fed in manually.

I was assigned Suite 5 and a gentleman from reception walked me to my room, which gave me a chance to see some of the grounds

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We got to Suite 5. The room was amazing, but not because  it was super modern or high tech. It just had so much character that repeated stays in Westins, Sheratons and Le Meridiens had drilled out of me.

First view-

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There is a separate guest toilet near the entrance too.

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The gentleman from reception started the tour.

“Here’s the minibar. Everything here is complimentary.”

“Everything?”

“Yes sir”

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“Including the full-sized bottles?”

“Yes sir. We will top it up daily”

I paused. This place would be a recovering alcoholic’s nightmare.

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“Here’s the fireplace. Just let us know if you need someone to start it up”

Nights in Joburg can go as low as 5 degrees in winter and I found myself using this on the second night.

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He mentioned to the basket at the foot of the cupboard.

“Here’s the basket for your laundry. All your laundry is complimentary, dry cleaning costs extra”

I blinked. All those words individually made sense, but I wasn’t sure they could be used in that order in a sentence.

“All laundry is free?”

“Yes sir”

This hotel was fast becoming a cheapskate’s wet dream come true.

The bedroom was next, on the other side of the wall that segmented the bedroom from the living room.

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The bathroom was another highlight.

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There was a heater just beneath the sink so you wouldn’t get cold feet while you brushed your teeth after bathing.

L’Occitane toiletries were available as well

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There were other random useful touches in the room, like a DVD player (they’ve got a selection of DVDs you can borrow)

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The TV was on a rolling platform so you could either angle it to watch from the bed or from the sofa in the living room.

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Also welcome was the addition of USB charging ports in the room. Why can’t more hotels do this simple step.

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Finally there was an outdoor seating area which I didn’t use

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Tour complete, the gentleman left. I giggled a very manly giggle. Then popped open the minibar, sent a week’s worth of dirty clothes off for cleaning (they came back slightly over an hour later, tumble dried and neatly folded) and turned on the TV, munching some nuts from the minibar.

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No sooner had I settled down then a knock came on the door and the welcome wagon brought a hot appetizer and a bottle of sparkling South African wine.

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It was the easiest to drink of all the sparkling wines I ever tasted. I polished it off in an evening while watching the French Open. Life was good. Unless you’re a Nadal fan. Which I am.

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I hadn’t had lunch yet so I decided to try out some of the fabled Ten Bompas Winehouse food.

The first time round I ordered a beef soup that lets you believe you put it together yourself by putting the ingredients and the soup separately. It was hot and excellent on a cold day.

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I would subsequently order room service again the following night, this time for the full 3 course tasting menu.

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The appetizer was braised trout with lemon, cucumber, salmon roe and almond.

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Followed by Mauritian sea bass, with sourdough, fennel, citrus and herb butter

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The sourdough was served separately, but I’m not sure how I feel about raw sourdough

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This was served with a side salad and crispy potatoes

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Desert was caramel, almond and white chocolate.

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I have to say the quality of the food was exquisite. It certainly beat any run-of-the-mill Sheraton’s room service menu.

There were other amazing small touches that made the stay all the better. When the maids came to do turndown service, they placed this under the sheets.

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I only realized it when I crawled into bed later that night, very cold, and wondered why the sheets were warm. At first I thought I had an electric blanket. But I’m a sucker for small touches like this.

During the second night the maids left cookies by the bedside too

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Breakfast is served in the Ten Bompas Winehouse. I didn’t see a single other soul at the restaurant (you can have breakfast served to you in the room, free of charge)

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The menu read as follows

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They served a fruit cup to start.

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And then the blueberry pancakes came. I wasn’t a fan of the thick yogurt they smothered all over it but I suppose I could have asked them to put it on the side.

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But the fry up was amazing. I know what you’re thinking, how good can it be? I can’t explain it to you, but every item on the dish felt like it was made with care. The potatoes were crispy, the tomatoes gushed juices when you bit into them, the mushrooms had been seasoned with just the right amount of sea salt, the bacon and sausage had the right amount of grill on them, the baked beans were homemade and not something out of a can and the eggs didn’t have those annoying burnt ends you usually get with sunny side.

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After breakfast I walked the grounds a bit. There was a very small, shallow pool

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On Sunday a band came and set up in this outdoor courtyard, playing jazz for the brunch crowd. This hotel is a very popular destination for brunch.

Service was uniformly great. Clothes sent off for cleaning came back after an hour at most. I loved the little touches they did with the hot water bottle and the snacks during the day. They even gave me a 4pm checkout, which they’re not obliged to under SPG rules (Plat 4pm checkout benefit doesn’t apply to Design Hotels).

The Ten Bompas made me realise that the boutique hotels business model is indeed alive and well. And that all the corporatized hospitality in the world can’t beat a hot water bottle in your bed.

It was now time to get back on the road again, this time for Zagreb…

The Milelion’s RTW Trip: Big Fish, Please Upsell

The Milelion is embarking on a round the world trip over the next 4 weeks to more than 10 different countries. En route I will be doing reviews of different airlines and hotels. This will be one really, really long trip report. Thanks for keeping me company.


Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Silvercar LAX
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United First Class  Mexico City to Houston
United Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Hilton Sandton
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Westin Zagreb
Croatia Airlines Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Westin Seoul
W Seoul
Asiana Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA Business Class Tokyo to Singapore


One important lesson of travelling is that it’s always useful to have backup elite status, in case your primary chain isn’t available. Although SPG is my primary program and I’d gladly travel half an hour out of the way instead of taking a more conveniently located Hilton or Hyatt, I still keep Hilton and Hyatt Diamond status for emergency situations.

Hilton and Hyatt Diamond status were recently available through no questions asked status matches. I did both and now my Hyatt status is valid till 2017, and my Hilton till 2018. That said, if you’re used to the Starwood experience you might find Hilton’s elite member treatment rather underwhelming (it’s my understanding that Hyatt generally treats its elites as good as Starwood)

There are only 2 Starwood options in Johannesburg, and one of them was technically in Petoria.

spg joburg

The other one, Ten Bompas, is a Design Hotel that recently joined SPG. It has only ten rooms, which further limits practicality. Because I was travelling with my colleague we needed two rooms, and Ten Bompas only had one available.Since my colleague would only be staying for one night and going to Cape Town for the weekend, while I’d be staying in Joburg to enjoy the finest malls South Africa had to offer, I ended up booking one night at the Hilton Sandton and two nights at Ten Bompas (which was an amazing stay- look out for that report next)

The Hilton in Johannesburg is located in Sandton, which my host told me is one of the wealthiest districts in Joburg. The hotel itself is nothing special though, it’s unapologetically a very business-focused property.

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The lobby had a very Sheraton-y vibe about it, in that I could imagine that exact same layout being used at Hiltons all over the world

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When I arrived all their systems were down and the front desk was trying to sort them out. Although they were more than willing to accommodate our early arrival (around 930am), they couldn’t make keys for us until someone came to sort out the computers.

While I was waiting I noticed something disturbing. On the desk, in full view of anyone who walked up, was a list of customers who were checking in that day and their personal info. I could see everyone’s full name and their Hilton HHonors number, and for a few customers even the 3 digits on the back of their card. And people wonder how data breaches happen.

It gets better. Next to selected customer’s names, there was this tag “BIG FISH. PLZ UPSELL” (click on the image to enlarge)

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It’s no secret that any hotel or airline chain worth its salt will keep a detailed CRM system where you note the average value of each customer, and some of them will be tagged as more premium or more lucrative, but I’d imagine Mr Smith wouldn’t be thrilled to know his internal moniker. Though I am curious to know what term Starwood uses to describe me in their system.

After trying for 10 minutes they were unable to make any headway and the manager sent us off for breakfast, promising to send the keys along as soon as possible.

That was just fine with me, because the breakfast spread was easily one of the best on the trip so far (although the competition so far had been very lackluster- Sheraton Sao Paulo and Sheraton Los Angeles Gateway are two particularly egregious offenders)

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After about 20 minutes the keys came along. I received an upgrade to an executive club room on the 6th floor, the top floor of the property.

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I use the term “upgrade” loosely because it’s the same room as all the basic rooms, just that I get club access. And I’d already have club access by virtue of my Hilton Diamond membership.

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Therein lies another worry about the SPG-Marriott merger- the bigger chains don’t do suite upgrades the way smaller ones like Starwood or Hyatt do. It remains to be seen if the merged SPG-Marriott entity will be as suite-friendly.

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The room was standard Hilton. Nothing particularly noteworthy and you wouldn’t be able to identify it from any of the other hundred Hiltons you’ve been to.

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I cannot understand why business hotels cannot all offer universal plugs. And these annoying three big hole outlets won’t even take your standard travel adapter

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The minibar had one of those you break it you buy it seals, but it’s more psychological than anything else because the seal pealed off and stuck back on just fine.

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The bathroom was also standard Hilton.  A lone painting hung on the wall, between the loo and the shower. In the bottom right corner, the artist had signed his name. I wonder what he tells his family when they ask him the places where his artwork now hangs. Does he, perhaps, in his most fleeting of daydreams, envision that one day his creations will grace a Westin, a JW Marriott or perhaps even a St Regis?

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As I mentioned, there was an executive lounge on my floor. You access it with your keycard

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There’s a reception area just infront of it, and as I walked past the employee greeted me. I wished him back, but apparently he must not have heard it because I heard him grumble under his breath as I walked past. My key ended up not working so I needed his help to fix it, to which he said, very passive aggressively “It’s because you didn’t wish me back.”

Now, even if that really did happen (which it didn’t), it’s not very professional for the staff to take that sort of tone with guests. If the customer’s an asshole, you just grin and bare it. Maybe pee in his room service later. I thought that was quite jarring and was, fortunately, the only negative interaction with the staff. The others I met were very helpful and friendly.

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This is happy hour in the lounge. I never saw the lounge more than half full the whole time I was there.

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When I got back to my room I found that someone had left my Diamond welcome gift inside.

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It came with a drinks voucher too, though unfortunately it only covered selected red and white wines, and nothing sparkling. It must be the carbonation I seek, because white wine just tastes like cat pee to me.

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I didn’t spend much time in the room or in the hotel for that matter, but I did wander outside after breakfast to snap a quick photo of the pool. It was winter in South Africa, however, and too cold to swim.

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It’s safe to say that the property didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but I think that’s what Hiltons are designed to do. My next hotel stay, however, showed me why boutique hotels will always have their place among the majors…