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IHG Introduces The Big Nguyen

Hot on the heels of its wildly successful The Big Win promotion, IHG recently announced a new promotion for its Southeast Asia properties titled “The Big Nguyen.” The idea is that, in a global hotel chain with a more or less universally sterile approach to booking and customer service, local flavor can be added in more ways than just outfitting rooms with mass-manufactured Asian-themed decor and hiring all-Asian staff.

The terms of the promotion are intentionally vague, but the gist is that customers can book rooms by negotiating a price (in points, of course) with IHG properties in the region. Anyone who has purchased anything in Saigon, Bangkok, Phnom Penh or any other major city in Southeast Asia is already surely familiar with this process. In further keeping with local traditions, many hotels, like the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake, will employ pushy taxi drivers and various touts to greet travelers at airports and train stations.

big_nguyen_web

IHG’s new and potentially lucrative promotion kicks off this Friday, coinciding with the Lunar New Year celebrated throughout Asia. This is great timing, as we’ve always felt those red envelopes are the perfect size for room keys.

We at Points Envy have been looking forward to The Big Nguyen for some time, though we were frankly very concerned about the prospect of economy-class travelers haggling their way from their Holiday Inn Expresses into our luxury hotels. Our fears were somewhat allayed, however, after we managed to deftly negotiate a three-week stay at the InterContinental: Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort for only 888 points per night, a pretty decent redemption value.

We look forward to seeing if any of our dear readers can beat that, though we of course know they will not.

Chúc mừng năm mới!

Tokyo Trip Report Part Two: V Gates?

Part One: The Initial Introduction
Part Two: V Gates?
Part Three: The Hajj on Lufthansa First
Part Four: There’s No Place Like Home (When Home is the First Class Terminal)
Part Five: Axis to Axis, Busts to Busts
Part Six: The Rising Sun, The Setting Fun
Part Seven: Turning Japanese in JAL First
Part Eight: Mormon-ey, More Party (at the SkyClub)
Part Nine: What’s Next?


Our first memory of this trip, as with most trips, is arriving at the First Class counter right around the time when we arrived at sobriety. After checking us in, the gate purser, sensing our urgent need for refreshment, escorted us to an “Expedited” security lane that took an unacceptable two minutes to clear. Once through, we quickly made our way to the Lufthansa Senator lounge.

A pathetic attempt at red carpet.

Upon arrival, the lounge purser informed us that the First Class restaurant upstairs would not open until 2 pm, a huge blow not at all softened by the Business Class “champagne” on offer. Rather than resort to eating the fresh fruit, sandwiches, and salads set out for Business Class passengers, we staved off our hunger by downing six or seven glasses of the poor man’s sparkling wine. We also took the opportunity to check out some of the business cubicles, just to see what it feels like to look like you’re working. Frankly, we don’t see what these “businessmen” are on about, but at least it gave us the opportunity to leave numerous brilliant comments on our rivals’ blogs.

Borderline insulting.

We were also able to check our points balances, but just as we started verifying them to everyone within earshot a lounge employee informed us that the First Class restaurant had finally opened. Once upstairs, alone but for an ethnic server and peering down on the Business Class prison we had escaped, we felt in our element once again.

More like “it.”

Our meal began with a bit of salad, a couple smallish prawns and several glasses of champagne, enough to ready us for the entree. Since we were in Maryland, we figured the crab cake would be excellent. Unfortunately for us and for the unimportant person on whom our partially-eaten crab cake landed, we were terribly wrong. Shortly thereafter, we remembered that we were in New York.

More like drab cake.

During the remainder of our brief stay we sampled each of the digestifs and dessert wines available, finding them universally awful. Fortunately we had time for a couple more glasses of champagne before our waiter led us to the gate, though we had to insist at least three times that he do so. After enduring the nausea and depression that always comes with walking through an American airport, we were ready for a nap.

Stay tuned for the next installment, detailing our in-flight experience in Lufthansa First Class from New York to Frankfurt!

Tokyo Trip Report Part One: The Initial Introduction

Part One: The Initial Introduction
Part Two: V Gates?
Part Three: The Hajj on Lufthansa First
Part Four: There’s No Place Like Home (When Home is the First Class Terminal)
Part Five: Axis to Axis, Busts to Busts
Part Six: The Rising Sun, The Setting Fun
Part Seven: Turning Japanese in JAL First
Part Eight: Mormon-ey, More Party (at the SkyClub)
Part Nine: What’s Next?



Despite having travelled around the world for more than twenty years, we don’t generally like to leave the comfort of our first class cabin, lounge or hotel suite. Having lost our parents to the dangers of the “outside world” at a very young age, we remain wary of taking too many risks with foreign cultures, particularly those that various IFE programs have shown to be threatening, namely Russians, Sicilians, Chinese, Iranians, Arabians, most types of Africans, Asians, the Welsh, Hindoos, North Vietnamese, Kali-worshippers, Colombians, Ukrainians, Mongols, Jews, Cubans, Eastern Germans, Mexicans/Aztecs, the French, Moslems, the Gypsies, Hispanics, Nazis, Palestinians, Catholics, the Romans, Egyptians, the Visigoths, people from certain parts of New Jersey, Vikings, the Polish, Algerian youths, 16th-century Dutchmen, most Christians, Persians, Martians, Apaches, Spaniards, (British) Columbians, the British, Israelis, Somalians, those assholes who killed Gandhi, and the North Irishmen. Also Greeks and Turks; almost forgot about them.

Our well-warranted fears notwithstanding, we decided after a recent incident that it was time to see more of the world. Not quite sure where to start, we settled on Japan, as in the past we have enjoyed said country’s delicious noodles, sushi, and pornographic movies with the nasty parts blurred out (as G-d intended). Like the Chinese of Old, we hoped the Land of the Rising Sun would serve as a stepping stone to further worldly conquests.

In terms of trip planning, we decided to do a classic “Axis of Greatness” tour, booking Lufthansa First Class from New York to Osaka (via Frankfurt), with a return flight from Tokyo to Chicago on Japan Airlines. We still aren’t quite sure how we got from Osaka to Tokyo; we initially thought they were the same place. Perhaps we will figure that out as we dive back into our pictures for this report.

TurkishPlane

Planes at JFK. Some people swear by DO&CO, but we’ve never tried that Business Class garbage.

Needless to say, we were a bit under the influence when we booked our trip and throughout its entirety, so we can’t remember much about the booking process, other than the surliness of several phone agents. In any case, we’ll assume we used 70,000 United miles for the outbound and 62,500 American miles for the return. So, a mere drop in the metaphorical champagne bucket that is our actual swimming pool full of miles, points and champagne.

Stay tuned for Part Two, in which we will detail the trials and tribulations faced and overcome while visiting Lufthansa’s “First Class” lounge at JFK. Auf Wiedersehen!

Reader Question: Advanced Champagne Techniques?

Yesterday was apparently Sunday, which means nothing to us, but some bloggers tend to field reader questions on said day of the week. One of our confused followers, who for some reason thought we cared about our dear readers, posed to us this important query:

Sometimes I get so drunk and/or lazy, that I don’t even feel like lifting and tilting back my champagne glass, even though I want to keep drinking. Do you have any suggestions?

Anonymous Points Envy fan, you came to the right place. This question comes up constantly, and it breaks our heart to hear that people aren’t better informed in this area. Thankfully, we have a tried-and-true solution to your woes, the key to which is literally right at your fingertips.

In our experience, all airlines outside of North America have modern, motorized seats in their first class cabins. For our method, simply bring the champagne to your lips and use the seat controls to lean back and cause the champagne to pour into your mouth. Unfortunately, this only eliminates the tilting portion of drinking champagne, but we are currently at work on a method that will also allow you to avoid having to lift the glass to your lips.

One of our longtime readers, DeShawndre Chen, submitted this video to us a few weeks ago to see if he was doing it correctly. Have a look:

While he is doing fairly well, he clearly should have consumed more champagne in a single sip. We therefore rate his performance 4/10, as he seems to be missing much of the point.

So there you have it! With a little practice you can perfect this method as we have; all you need is a first class seat. If you find that you do not have a motorized seat, make sure there has not been a terrible mistake (as has happened to us) or immediately switch to hard liquor in the hope that you will not have to remember the sad excuse for a flight you are on.

We hope all of our readers will make good use of this technique, as it makes us feel better about ourselves to know that we are improving others’ lives. Please send more reader questions our way at info@pointsenvy.com or hit us up on Twitter.

BREAKING NEWS: Points Envy Fails Suicide Attempt

As it turns out, crafting a proper noose is rather difficult. The parents we never had never taught us things like how to tie knots or even shoelaces, though the latter skill is of course useless when all you ever wear are airline slippers. Really, the only knots we’re familiar with are those in the pretzels in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal. And so with suicide, as with all things in life, we simply gave up after our first couple attempts failed.


The only knots we know

Since the “incident,” we’ve had a lot of time to reflect. Last night, as we gazed at the sky through what is now a giant hole where we tried to hang ourselves from our trailer’s roof vent, we realized that this was G-d’s way of telling us that we should choose life. So what if we aren’t the only game in town when it comes to blogging about points and miles? We are clearly the best. And maybe it’s not so bad to spend our days flying around the world in first class and writing a trip report every year or so.

We’ve made mistakes along the way, perhaps a billion of them. But there is still some good in this world, like the new quarter of Chase Freedom bonuses that will net us at least 150,000 Ultimate Rewards points. We also recently realized that the oft-shat-upon United devaluation was really a blessing in disguise, as it will mean less riff-raff crowding our Star Alliance first class cabins, unsure of when exactly to change into their pajamas or whether it is appropriate to hit the call button before you even finish your current glass of champagne.

With eyes reopened and liver miraculously intact, our intention is to move forward with the vigor of a GE90. We may not always have fodder for posts or be sober enough to write, but our work here is patently bigger than us; it just might save the world.

After all, this is Points Envy, motherfuckers. Time to get some new assistants.

P.S. We are currently accepting applications for new assistants. Anyone ready to apply should be aware that virtually all qualified current Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Korean Air, Emirates, Etihad, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Asiana, and ANA stewardesses have already submitted applications.

Goodbye Cruel World

Dear Dear Readers,

When we previously wrote that we were back, we truly believed it. But we now have a confession to make: for once, we were wrong. We have been out of the blogosphere for months, and this time it’s not because we were in prison or too busy flying first class (although there was a lot of that). Instead, we simply ran out of stuff to write about. It surprises us and crushes the soul a little to admit this, but writing about drinking champagne in first class and drinking champagne in lounges and fancy suites eventually gets old. Of course, not having anything original to contribute doesn’t stop some people, or others, or others, but we have always held ourselves to a higher standard.

So, entirely lacking in productivity, our lives became worthless. What would you have us do – get a job? That sounds dreadful and is simply not feasible for classics majors at any rate. As any reasonable person can see, our only remaining option is to leave this world. We still have a few hundred Home Improvement Gift Cards, which we believe should be enough to buy sufficient rope for a noose. We also believe that getting stuck with these gift cards was not a coincidence but a sign from G-d that it is time to go, particularly when seen in combination with the United devaluation.

And so dear friends, after all the ups and downs we have faced together, we bid you farewell. We tried to bequeath our points to our friend Ronnie, but it turns out we don’t technically own them. When we’re gone, those billions will vanish into thin air, like so many legacy carriers. Yet we prefer to just look at it like we are redeeming these final points for a one-way award ticket to heaven. Hopefully the first class arrival lounge up there meets our standards.

Yours truly,

Points Envy

Points Envy Returns (Again)

Well dear readers, it has been an interesting few months here at Points Envy. The harsh reality is that we have spent most of the last hundred days or so in a not-quite-first class prison camp somewhere outside of Pyongyang, Korea. Thankfully, it seems we have not missed anything exciting in the points world, with the exception of another unexciting cash back card from Barclays that has the usual suspects in the blogosphere all hot between the loins.

By way of background, we point you to a revolutionary points-earning strategy we pioneered in December of last year. Given how well this method was working in “the States,” we decided to expand our operation overseas, confident that human physiology and DNA everywhere dictate that drugs are awesome. Coincidentally, we had been eager to try Asiana’s new first class suites, so we decided on Korea as our first stop and booked a ticket from ORD to ICN in late December.

Asiana’s new suite, with some gibberish.

Given that it was our inaugural trip, we kept things simple and only took along five pounds of “points.” The flight was predictably luxurious and boring, aside from a few nice views of Siberia. Maybe it’s just us, but we find few things in life more comforting than sipping a nice Scotch in a cozy suite while peering down on an icy wasteland.

Siberia

The only Scotch on the rocks we tolerate.

Upon arrival in Seoul we grabbed our bags and headed towards the Priority Lane at customs. On the way, we stopped by the Priority Information Desk and asked the agent where we might find the Koreans most in need of medicine. She mentioned a place in northern Korea called Pyongyang, so we began to look into flights while still at Incheon. We quickly found space in Air Koryo’s premium cabin direct to Pyongyang, and we were even able to redeem some old Cubana miles we had lying around from our “Hemingway years.”

Our flight was strange in that it lacked champagne and had only a single channel of IFE starring a pudgy but likeable Chinese man, but ultimately it was rather uneventful. Upon arrival in Pyongyang we searched for the Priority Lane for roughly an hour before finally relegating ourselves to waiting behind a couple people in the normal customs line. Although the customs official did address us as “sir,” he did not seem to otherwise recognize that we were first class passengers and people. More importantly, it seems they have never heard of The Constitution in Korea, as these corrupt officials felt free to invade our G-d-given privacy rights by searching through our designer luggage.

Unlike in most other world countries, Korean officials apparently cannot be bribed with points, and we were summarily sentenced to thirty years in prison because of our desire to help the sick and needy. With our one phone call we naturally dialed the American Express Platinum Card Concierge line. Apparently Platinum Card benefits are not limited to just getting reimbursed for airline gift certificates and replacing “broken” electronics, because within a few months our new best friend Jennifer had secured our release and also booked us a return flight in Cathay first class via Hong Kong. We would have been home sooner, but there was no first class award space available, and while we have yet to experience economy class, we imagine it to be a far worse place than prison.


The Korean prison’s kimchi was surprisingly delicate and fragrant.

The flight home was slightly less pleasant than the flight to Seoul, but we were overjoyed to be back in our natural element, and particularly pleased to see our favorite Cathay purser onboard (shout out to Grace!). After our awful experience, we realized we should focus our efforts in areas where people better understand service, so our next expansion will be to Singapore. In the meantime, we hope to be more productive here on the site, though that is probably too much to ask.

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