Thursday, June 28, 2012

Starwood Culinary Sweepstakes

Looks like all of the hotel chains are getting in on the summer sweepstakes action. Starwood has a culinary sweepstakes open here at the moment which ends tomorrow. The grand prize is a 10 day trip for two to the five Starwood restaurants selected for your entry.  Good luck!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fairmont Sweepstakes & Promotions

Fairmont Hotels is running a couple of summer social media promotions lately. The first is a chance to win a seven night stay for 2 at a Fairmont Hotel and a $400 gift card for spa, golf or dining. Just simply like Fairmont's facebook page and sign up for an entry daily on their facebook page here for a chance to win. I suppose this is very similar to the Seven Tickets to your paradise sweepstakes currently being run by Hilton described here.

The second promotion is the Fairmont Social Media Day on June 30. Just for spending $20 at one of the participating Fairmont location restaurants, you get a complimentary appetizer from 3pm to closing. And if you revisit that restaurant before August 31st, you'll get a one-time 25% discount so sign up today!

Monday, June 25, 2012

US Airways Dividend Miles 100% Bonus Ending Soon

Just a reminder that the US Airways Dividend Miles 100% Bonus on all purchase miles is ending on June 30, 2012. While not exactly cheap, their 100% bonus on up to 50k miles is quite decent, especially if you're looking to top up on miles or perhaps trying to get a business class flight. US Airways offers probably one of the best redemption options for Star Alliance partners requiring just 60k miles to fly to North Asia from North America and 60k miles to Europe from North America. They also allow Star Alliance upgrades with miles on purchased tickets. To purchase, visit their website here and you should see the 100% bonus show up automatically.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shinzanmono Review (2010)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Shinzanmono tells of a transferred detective, Kaga Kyoichiro, newly arrived in the Ningyo-cho precinct of Tokyo to investigate the murder of another shinzanmono (newcomer-to-the-town), Mitsui Mineko. Detective Kaga has to weave through the numerous lies, mysteries and complex relationships between the residents of this town in order to find the true criminal.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The King and the Clown Review (2005)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Loved it!

The King and the Clown recounts the story of King Yeonsan, one of the more tyrannical of Joseon's rulers, who takes in a travelling troupe of street performers to provide him with occasional entertainment. However, the King gradually begins to take a liking for the effeminate Gonggil, much to the dismay of Jangsaeng, who has been trying to protect his friend. In court, their performances take on darker and more questionable topics as the unstable King appears to become consumed with wrath, exhibiting highly erratic behaviour.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card

It sometimes feels so unfair that Chase has a such a large share of the best travel credit cards in the industry (or at least those with the biggest starting bonuses) so that I can never figure out which to get. The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card has been around for a while and has been floating around for the past while with a 40k United miles bonus. Recently though, there's been a new link which offers a potential 65k (55k easy) United miles bonus as long as you log in to your United Mileage Plus account in some other tab. To top that off, you also get $50 in cold hard cash applied to your statement.

Given the value of United miles, this is definitely a great deal since you can claim a flight to Europe for 60k miles and a flight to North Asia for 65k on any Star Alliance partner meaning you just need to accumulate a tad more or fly a few more times for that free transatlantic or transpacific flight. On top of that, you get a number of privileges such as priority boarding, free checked bag and 2 United Club passes each year.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sheraton LaGuardia East

The Sheraton LaGuardia East hotel is located in the bustling Queens Chinatown area and a very close 2 minute walk from the Flushing Main St Metro station. While it is about a 35 minute train ride into downtown Manhattan, it is surrounded by plenty of shops and restaurants in case you need anything.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Triomphe is a bit of a discreet gem hidden in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Located in the theater district near Times Square, this restaurant is a regular haunt of theatergoers and definitely deserves a try if you're looking for a fancy (but pricey) French restaurant to try while in town in NYC. The ceiling fresco and ambient lighting gives off a very warm and cozy atmosphere and it would be the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion with a refined dining experience like this one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sachiko's on Clinton

Although I'm already too late to refer anyone to this restaurant (as it's now unfortunately closed down), nevertheless I have to say that the Sachiko Kaiseki set we had here was probably among the best sushi I've ever had.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jean Georges' Nougatine

Located just next to Central Park is the towering Trump International Hotel & Tower where you can find probably one of the best prix fixe lunches in New York at Jean Georges' Nougatine cafe. As we were situated at a table next to the window, you can see a nice pleasant view of Central Park.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Enroute to Deoksugung, there appeared to be a Sunday market of sorts on the grounds of City Hall so I stopped to check things out when I heard some clanging and fanfare accompanied by the sight of these marchers wearing traditional Korean garments. Apparently, they troop around between the palaces probably as a tourist attraction/curiosity to give a 'live demonstration' of their culture and history.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hilton Seven Tickets to Paradise Sweepstakes

Hilton is currently running a sweepstakes with seven different dream getaways (with one new one unlocking every two weeks) until August 31st, 2012.  From relaxing to golfing to dining to shopping, there's something for everyone!  So sign up now for the Hilton Sweepstakes here (you can get additional entries via stays at Hilton properties from now until the end of the contest as well) and the best of luck to everyone!

As mentioned here, Hilton points are among the most useful especially if redeemed at their top end aspirational properties like the Conrad Tokyo which typically easily go for $500 USD per night. Those 500,000 Hilton HHonors points that come along with the prizes could certainly come in handy there!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hotel Loyalty Overall Program Comparison

For easier reading, I decided to create one overall post focusing on the loyalty programs of four of the bigger mid-upscale hotel players in the travel business - Starwood, Hilton, Marriott & Hyatt.  As Priority Club, Accor, Best Western, Choice, Club Carlson, Fairmont operate in a slightly less standardized fashion, I'll likely address those separately at some point in the future.

*Last updated in 2012 prior to 2013 program changes. Look for updates soon!*

Property Categories - Hyatt ( Coming soon! )
Free Night Redemptions - Hyatt (See analysis here)
Room/Suite Upgrades/Redemptions - SPG / Hyatt (See analysis here)
Cash & Point Redemptions - SPG / Hilton (See analysis here)
Earning points with hotel stays - Marriott / Hilton (See analysis here)
Point Conversion Partners - Hilton (See analysis here)
Airline Transfer Partners - SPG (See analysis here)
Credit Card Earnings Partners - Hyatt / Hilton HHonors (Coming soon!)
Membership Levels and Benefits - Marriott/Hilton (See analysis here)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Win a pair of first class tickets on American Airlines

American Airlines is running a sweepstakes to give away a pair of free first-class airline tickets on American Airlines. Watch the videos here and register to win!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Embassy Suites' 366 Days of More Sweepstakes

Just wanted to give a heads up to those who don't already know about the Embassy Suites 366 Days of More Sweepstakes which gives you a chance to win 2 free nights at any Embassy Suites every single day. The sweepstakes will continue until 2/28/2013.

The Gardens and Pools of Hearst Castle

After the Grand Rooms Tour, we ended up back outside of Hearst Castle. Here's another closeup view of the front facade which has quite a Spanish flair.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hearst Castle

If you take the scenic drive along the California 1 coast highway, you should definitely stop by Hearst Castle, one of the larger attractions near San Simeon. Built for William Randolph Hearst in the early to mid 1900s, Hearst Castle was originally named La Cuesta Encatada (The Enchanted Hill) and features a Spanish Revival exterior as seen from this banner of the towers.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tales from the Alhambra

Spain is an amazing country with a colorful and vibrant history. It was too bad I had so little time to explore but even so, there was no way I was going to miss the Alhambra in Granada.  It is worth noting for first-time visitors that you will most likely not be able to get a same-day ticket to the Palace in Alhambra.  Be sure to book your tickets early online here in advance otherwise your trip there may be a dud. If you are informed that you can pick up the tickets when you arrive onsite, don't worry as you will be able to pick them up at the machines near the entrance of the complex.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Review (2011)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Loved It!

Prosecutor Min Tae Yeon leads a small team at the Seoul Prosecutor's office to investigate murders and prosecute suspects for their crimes. Incidentally, he is also a vampire, with a special ability to detect the last few seconds of the victim's life - this often gives the team a head start on their investigations. While digging into these crimes, he follows a trail of clues to reveal more details about an incident that happened 7 years ago in which he seemed to be involved. Who else was there and what actually happened at the time?