Trip to Brisbane & Gold Coast on Emirates Y

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  1. calvinoeh
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    The wife and I have been "grounded" for the last two months and this trip in the next couple of days kicks start another round of flying for us for the next couple of weeks with the holidays around the corner. The main reason for the trip to Brisbane was to attend the wedding of a close cousin of mine who I grew up who now resides in Brisbane.

    We were pretty limited with the options on getting to Brisbane for a number of reason. We had waited until quite late to finalize the trip as I wasn't sure if I could still get days off with all the holidays I already took this year. We had enough BMI miles for a business class redemption on Singapore or Thai which I was actually saving for a trip to Bora Bora. Even though it would have cost the same number of miles to Brisbane and Bora Bora, we could not "tag on" the trip to Bora Bora as we couldn't take that many days off. In addition, my sister was coming a long as well and finding 3 seats during this time of the year would be difficult if not impossible.

    The cheapest option after searching for a couple of days ended being Singapore to Brisbane on Emirates for about ~$550 USD in Economy. (There was actually a Etihad mistake for the same flight that allowed routing via Abu Dhabi but I couldn't find availability for the dates I needed). Singapore, Thai, Malaysian and even Air Asia was more expensive. We've only flown Emirates once before but that I was in first class so it'll personally be something new for both us and should be interesting to compare with our recent experience with Qatar. The loads seem pretty high right now and here's hoping to some op-ups. As usual, we would be flying Air Asia from Penang to Singapore.


    The current plan is to drive to Gold Coast when we get in for 2 days and then spend the last 3 days in Brisbane. We were too cheap to book a hotel for the first night since we would only get in at around midnight and with the driving to Gold Coast, would only be there around 2-3am. Figured we just kill him and hit the casinos before checking into the hotel. Anyone have better ideas? We would be staying at Hiltons at both Gold Coast and Brisbane to earn some free nights thanks for the Q4 Hilton Promo.

    As usual, the trip report will be on my blog with installments below:


    • To Brisbane
      Review of Hilton Surfer's Paradise
      Exploring Gold Coast
      Review of Hilton Brisbane
      Exploring Brisbane
      Back to Penang
     
  2. calvinoeh
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    The trip didn't get of to a good start as our Air Asia flight to Singapore was delayed for an hour because of late incoming aircraft. We had to sit and wait for another 15 minutes for a couple of flights to land before we had clearance to take off. Typical of our Air Asia flight experience, the flight itself was uneventful and thankfully went by pretty quick.

    We met our sister at baggage claim who had arrived on an earlier Air Asia flight from Kuching and by now, had waited for about 2 hours for us thanks to the delay. We proceeded to check-in and drop our bags off at the Emirates counter upstairs in departure. I was quoted a price of about $1500 SGD when I inquired on paying for a cash upgrade to business which we thought was not worth the money for a 7 hour flight. Would rather suffer in coach and use that money on other stuff.

    By now we were starving and only had about an hour and a half before departure. Instead using one of the Priority Pass lounges, we just had lunch at one of the Chinese Restaurant in Terminal 1. The food was surprisingly not bad but it might have just been because we were famish. Almost everything taste good when you're hungry.




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    A Hungry Lydia​

    We headed straight to the departure gate after lunch. I was surprised to see that the aircraft had not arrived yet and the cabin crew waiting at the departure gate. Another delay but a good one since we were not in a rush to arrive in Brisbane. We were scheduled to arrive at an odd time of one in the morning and we were just going to go cheap without a hotel room for that half a night. The longer the flight was the delayed, the shorter the time would be before we could check-in to the hotel.


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    The plane still had not arrived at the scheduled departure time of 3.15pm. There were no delay announcement made by the gate agents. I guess the delay pretty normal for this flight for no announcements to be made? The plane finally arrived and we were on-board an hour after for our first economy experience on Emirates.


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  3. calvinoeh
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    Hilton Surfers Paradise
    I was deciding between the Sofitel or the Hilton for this trip and opted for the Hilton mainly due to Hilton Q4 free night promo and better overall reviews of the Hilton and it's location on flyertalk and tripadvisor. The decision to stay at the Hilton in Surfers Paradise turned out to be the right one as this is one of the nicer places we have stayed in before.



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    The "Tiny" Hotel Entrance​
    The Hilton at Surfers Paradise is unique in that it is both a hotel and also a high end condo that you can purchase or rent. In addition to the "normal" hotel rooms, it also offers apartment style rooms equipped with a fully equipped kitchen and laundry facilities. We decided to book a one bedroom apartment thinking it would be fun (and possibly cheaper) to cook some of our meals during the stay.

    We were checked in even though we arrived super early at 6 am. During check-in, I was informed that I had access to the executive lounge which serve continental breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails and internet would be complimentary as well since I was a Gold member. The Hilton consists of 2 buildings and I was assigned to the Orchid Tower which was the same building as check-in. The executive lounge was also located in the same building but was only accessible via different elevators so we had to come down to the lobby and back up again if we wanted to go to the executive lounge. I believe the building itself is split between the "normal" hotel rooms and the apartment style ones which explain the different elevators.

    We were pleasantly surprised that we were upgraded to a two bed room apartment since there were three of us. My sister was already planning to sleep on the couch. The apartment was nice, new and clean. Felt like we might have been the first ones staying here before!

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  4. calvinoeh
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    Exploring Gold Coast
    Gold Coast was surprisingly quiet when we visited. Guess it was not quite yet the peak season yet. We spent a good part of one of the days just driving along the beach and stopping at various highlights a long the way. I was impressed that Gold Coast was so well planned - the roads were relatively wide, the clean beaches on one side and the modern and some high rise buildings on the other. Kinda reminded me of Miami.

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  5. calvinoeh
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    Exploring Brisbane

    We were only in Brisbane for 2 nights and with my cousin's wedding to attend, we didn't have much time to Brisbane. Brisbane city itself was pretty compact and easy to get around which allowed us to cover the major attractions like Queen Street Mall, Brisbane Square, Mount Coot-Tha lookout and Southbank.



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    View of city from Mount Coot-Tha​

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  6. calvinoeh
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    Return & Conclusion

    Our Emirates flight to Singapore was scheduled to depart at around three in the morning. This has got to be one of the inhumane flight time since you have got to stay awake really late before getting the change to catch some shut eye on the plane. My cousin dropped us off at the airport around midnight where there was already a long line in economy waiting to be checked in. The line was much shorter for those who have already checked-in online and we didn't have to wait long before we were checked-in by the First Class desk. How I wish I was flying in first today instead of just being checked in by the desk!

    We made our way through immigration where there was very little wait before proceeding to get our shopping tax refund. Brisbane airport was virtually dead at this time with the Emirates flight being the last flight to depart. There was no Priority Pass lounges so we just had to wait it out on one of the benches next to the Cathay flight that was about to leave. I hoped on the wireless from the nearby Qantas lounge and caught up on email where as my sister actually managed to get some sleep.

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