Firstly, I'd like to extend our thoughts and prayers for those in The Abacos and Grand Bahama. It will be a long road back, but Puerto Rico has just made it after their 2017 trauma, and in a few years we will again be sending guests to these gorgeous islands.
Don't forget them in the meantime.
Thanks to everyone who wished me well after my back issues last week. I really can't explain it, but somehow I made a dramatic recovery on Saturday and I passed myself fit to travel. With Helen enjoying French Polynesia (blog post to follow on her return!) and our children now in different US cities, it's the most distance we've ever had between our family and it's both exciting and a little scary all at the same time.
Top 5 - Mileage Run and Bro Love in Delhi 2019
1. CLT to LAX to DOH to DEL
Via the lovely little tool at milecalc.com I know that just one-way this is 12,021 miles flown. Add in the 50% cabin bonus for business class and the return legs the same way and this will achieve 36,064 EQMs in one trip, which is a healthy number and gets me a lot closer to my end of year goal in one fell swoop. The trick is to find a very good value business class fare as the math just doesn't work if you are paying regular fares of say $5,000+. I am always on the alert for discounted fares both for ourselves and our clients, and for me, at just over $2,000 this was a bargain, especially as the Q-Suite on Qatar (above) is just so good. As their pillow says - Love, Work, Travel, Repeat - just about sums up my life. Please don't forget, J5Travel will help you incorporate your hard earned award miles into your itineraries and our top tip remains the same...plan as early as you possibly can.
2. Al Mourjan Business Lounge, Doha (above)
When you've just flown for over 15 hours, and have the prospect of another 3 1/2 hours to go, plus you've organized a tour straight from the airport in Delhi on arrival, then a top quality airport lounge is really a must. It is another reason to fly with Qatar for sure, as the facilities of the Al Mourjan business class lounge at Doha Airport are pretty amazing. There are 4 dining areas, all complimentary where you can explore flavours from around the world on the spacious mezzanine floor, choosing between a continental or oriental brasserie, a global deli and a patisserie. The shower facilities (below) are similar to a 5-star hotels bathrooms and there are so many of them that there is barely ever any wait. Doha remains our top pick for a luxury stopover on the way to Asia even if you don't leave the airport!
3. Taj Mahal (above)
I had an ambitious plan to head straight to Agra from the airport after landing at 2.45am and it worked out well. With enough sleep on my flights, I felt pretty good by the time I met my driver at the airport. Note: Indian immigration was incredibly swift and efficient. In the early hours of the morning there must have been 70 kiosks, every one manned by an officer.
To arrive at Taj Mahal just after sunrise allowed me to explore the grounds with my guide, Modh, and enjoy some time before the heavy crowds arrive later in the morning. This mausoleum was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who had died giving birth to their 14th child.
Honestly, I've experienced grander temples and palaces, and more colorful gardens, but there is a unique, mystical quality here that you can feel in the air and if you walk along some of the side paths where no-one else is heading, the glimpses of the marble edifice through the trees are magical.
4. Bro Love in Delhi
It's been a great year for family reunions. My bro (Rob, above) has met us in New York City with his daughter Maddie back in April, and Thailand in July with the rest of the family, Ren and Jack. If I tell you they live in Melbourne, Australia, then you'll start to understand that the Rees family is not afraid to travel!
By coincidence this week, he had business in Delhi, and lo and behold we are bunking up together for the first time maybe since we were teens. I've never really bragged on him but I should. He has an MBE from the Queen. He has his own charity back in UK which creates opportunities for the underprivileged and mentally ill through practical experiences and challenges in the world of food. He is an amazing chef, and his current projects in Australia, New Zealand and maybe soon India are revolutionizing team building practices. He is an accomplished public speaker, including a TED Talk and I am very proud of him.
5. Agra Red Fort (above and below)
Though not quite as iconic as the Taj Mahal which can be seen just across the Yamuna River, don't miss this place if you are coming to Agra. More like a complete walled city , than a fort, it was completed in 1573 and is the only fort in India where all early Mughal emperors lived. The scale of it combined with the attention to detail is awe inducing, and it covers over 94 acres.
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