Greetings from Seattle!
I’ve just kicked off my second major trip of 2023, and it’s one that I’ve been looking forward to for years. This trip will bring me and my wife Ashley to some of the tallest mountains in the world, before we head right back down to sea level for some much-needed downtime.
After a sprint to the finish line to get everything ready for our trip, which required us to pack for two completely different destinations, we’re toasting our departure with a glass of sparkling wine at the new Centurion Lounge and anticipating the many adventures ahead.
As someone who is fortunate to travel quite frequently, I’m often asked about my favourite destinations in the world. Without fail, one of the several that I list (it’s impossible to choose just one) is Nepal.
The former kingdom nestled in the majestic Himalayan mountains has been a place that I’ve wanted to return to ever since my first trip there back in 2008. Back then, my friends and I felt as though we were transported to a different world, and while I’m sure a lot has changed in the past 15 years, I have a slight feeling that some things haven’t.
My previous trip was with a group of friends when we were all in our early 20s, and we had an absolute blast finding our way through the Annapurna mountains and searching for yetis high above the alpine line. As I’ve gotten older, I know that this trip will have a bit of a different vibe, but I’m very thrilled to be heading back this time with Ashley, who will be experiencing Nepal’s majesty for the first time.
It’s been a long time since I’ve brought my backpack on a trip, having long since swapped it out for a set of rolling luggage. As I was packing it up for this trip, it brought me back to when I was setting out on my first-ever international trip back in 2005.
After a few days acclimatizing and exploring the streets in Kathmandu, we’ll embark on a journey into the Langtang region of the Himalayas to do a trek. If the Langtang sounds familiar, it might be because it was one of the regions of Nepal that was most affected by the devastating earthquake that shook the country in 2015.
We opted for this region of Nepal due to its relative proximity to Kathmandu, since we had a bit of a short timeline to work with. A friend of mine has also trekked in the area many times, and suggested that the area is a bit less trodden than other popular trekking routes, such as the Annapurna area and, of course, Everest Base Camp.
Anyone heading out for a trek is now required to have a guide with them. This recent development didn’t affect us, though, as we’d opted to arrange for one anyway, using the same outfitter, First Environmental Trekking, that assisted us back in 2008.
I’ll be writing a very detailed article about the trek, but briefly, we’ll make our way up to a maximum altitude of around 5,000 metres over the course of nine days. The trek will bring us through a host of different settings, and if it’s anything like my last visit to Nepal, we’ll struggle to take a bad picture.
After settling back in Kathmandu for a few more days of momos (Nepali dumplings) and masala chai, we make our way to Mumbai via Delhi. We’re using Mumbai as a pit stop as we make our way to an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean for the second major part of our trip.
After thoroughly enjoying our stay at Le Méridien Maldives last year, we’re aiming to visit an island far away from everything as often as we can. This time, we’ll find ourselves in Mauritius for some much-needed downtime at sea level after hiking way up into the clouds.
As it turns out, there are a few hikes that we’re looking forward to on the island, and we hope to catch a glimpse of the famous “underwater waterfall” illusion from Le Morne Brabant, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For this part of the trip, we’ve rented a car, and will wind up doing an entire lap around the island over the course of eight days. Our goal is to have a nice mix of activity and leisure, as we’ll be staying at some properties that appear to be absolutely lovely.
At the tail end of the trip, we’ll hop around the world to get back to Vancouver in time for the Prince of Travel Signature Event, Vancouver 2023. I’m looking forward to another weekend with my colleagues on the Prince of Travel team and the many guests in attendance for a day of all things Miles & Points.
We began planning this trip towards the end of our visit to Australia last fall. As I was poking around for some interesting destinations and flights, I found a relatively direct routing for both parts of the trip, and we decided to give it a shot.
For the first part, we have a quick positioning flight from Vancouver to Seattle with Air Canada, and then continue onwards to Kathmandu with a single connection in Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.
We’ll be on the 787 Dreamliner from Seattle to Istanbul, and then on the Airbus A330 from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Of the two, the first flight will have a superior hard product, but the soft product on both flights should be excellent, as is typically the case with Turkish Airlines.
In Istanbul, our connection time is long enough to qualify for a nap room, which is a feature that I really appreciate. After some rest and a piping hot shower, my plan is to hover around the pide station and enjoy the many culinary delights that can be found in the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Istanbul.
After the trek, we have a flight from Kathmandu to Delhi with Air India in economy, and then fly onward to Mumbai with Vistara’s regional business class product. Flights to India tend to be quite difficult to come by these days in any class of service, and while it would have been ideal to have business class for both flights, we’re fine with economy for a shorter-haul flight.
After our stay in Mumbai, I’m very excited to see what one of Aeroplan‘s most unique partners, Air Mauritius, is all about. The airline joined forces with Aeroplan back in 2022, and by all means, it appears to have an attractive product.
From Mumbai to Mauritius, we’ll be on the Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which features a 2-2-2 configuration.
As we begin our long journey home, we’ll fly from Mauritius to London on the airline’s flagship Airbus A350-900 business class product. At a length of over 12 hours, having a lie-flat seat will make a world of difference.
After a short layover in London, we’ll head to Denver in United Polaris business class, which will be my first encounter with the US carrier’s product.
To wrap things up, we’ll fly in Air Canada economy from Denver to Vancouver, although I’ve applied eUpgrades to the booking and hope that they’ll come through.
Given our origin and destinations, I knew that flights using Aeroplan points wouldn’t be cheap. In fact, we’d be hitting the second-highest price point for business class redemptions, as our total distance flown worked out to be in the fourth distance band on the “Between North America and Atlantic zones” chart.
Rather than a total of just over 460,000 Aeroplan points between the two of us, our cost dropped down to 233,300 points. I’m quite pleased with the value I got from the Priority Rewards on this booking, which I earned last year on a mileage run and paying cash for a premium economy flight to Europe.
One interesting aspect of this redemption is the whopping amount of taxes and fees we’ve incurred. We were dinged around $413 (CAD) each, which came as a result of a number of airport improvement fees, tourist fees, security fees, user fees, and so on and so forth.
Unfortunately, taxes and fees are part and parcel with adding a number of destinations to a single booking, and to be fair, at least we’re not just paying a bunch of fuel surcharges.
We’re covering over 25,000 flown miles on this trip across four continents at a fraction of what the cost would have been if we were to have paid cash.
The first part of our trip doesn’t have anything too exciting on the aspirational hotel front. When we arrive in Kathmandu, we’ll spend a night paid with cash on an industry rate at the Kathmandu Marriott Hotel as we rest up from the 13 hour and 45 minute time difference (Nepal has an odd time zone).
For our next two nights in Kathmandu, we’ll base out of the Aloft Kathmandu Thamel, which we booked with cash on an industry rate. We’ll be out and about exploring the fascinating city, and were looking for a place that was a bit closer to the action while saving a bit of cash along the way.
In the mountains, we’ll be doing teahouse trekking, which is a wonderful way to travel. Each night, we’ll stay at a lodge at some point along the way, usually in the same place where you have dinner.
The accommodation is simple and rustic, and quite affordable, too. In my opinion, it sure beats camping, and we’ll especially appreciate the warm fires as we gain altitude along the way.
Back in Kathmandu, we have a couple of nights at the Fairfield by Marriott Kathmandu, again booked with cash on an industry rate.
At this point in the trip, the hotels start to become much more interesting.
We’ve booked two nights at the JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, paid for with Marriott Bonvoy points for 39,000 points per night. This will be both of our first time visiting Mumbai, and the hotel’s location right by Juhu Beach appears to be a perfect spot to relax for a few days.
Our first stop in Mauritius will be at the southwest corner of the island, where we’ll spend two nights at the JW Marriott Mauritius. I booked this stay through an unconventional industry rate, and I’m curious to see how it works out.
Fortunately, the hotel is located close to the trailhead for Le Morne Brabant, and I’ve read many good reports of the hotel’s quality in general.
From there, we head up island for two nights at Le Méridien Ile Maurice, booked with points for 32,000 points per night. My wife and I appreciate the Le Méridien brand, and I hope to continue my hot streak of memorable stays.
We’ll make a short drive up to the Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa for a single night. This hotel has a great reputation, and I’ll be curious to compare the property with the other Marriott hotels in the area.
I booked our stay on a Marriott Luminous rate for $390 (USD). A redemption currently prices out at around 62,000 points, and I wanted to conserve my Bonvoy balance for some stays later on this year.
The rate comes with a number of value-added inclusions, such as breakfast (which we already enjoy with my Platinum Elite status), a $100 (USD) resort credit (which we’ll use to pay for dinner), and a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine to enjoy during dinner.
It’s also worth noting that this property has a Stay for 3, Pay for 2 and a Stay for 8, Pay for 6 promotion. If you’re planning a trip to Mauritius, be sure to get in touch with us for access to this deal.
We’ll wrap up the trip with a delightful stay at the Four Seasons Mauritius, over on the east coast of the island. We were generously offered two nights on the house by the property in support of our travel agency, which doesn’t affect the autonomy of my review.
This will be my first taste with the exquisite Four Seasons brand, and after hearing from Ricky about his stays at various properties thus far, I’m pretty sure we’re in for a treat.
While there won’t be an overwater villa this time around, I’m curious to see how an experience in Mauritius compares with the Maldives. Both are absolutely stunning, aspirational destinations with plenty of natural beauty, but they’re also quite different.
In any event, Mauritius will be our island-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean stay for the year, which will be a wonderful way to decompress after climbing up towards the sky in Nepal.
We’re off to some far away lands for a nice mix of mountains, cities, and beaches. We’re covering a lot of ground in a relatively short period of four weeks, but it shouldn’t be too packed to feel rushed.
I’m always excited to fly with Turkish Airlines, and it will be nice to also check out what Air Mauritius is all about as one of Aeroplan’s more unique partners.
Our accommodation on this trip ranges from bare-bones to oozing with luxury, which is a nice mix. I’m looking forward to sharing the experience through some reviews and guides that cover some of the unique activities we’ll be taking part in during this adventure.