Upper Tier Hotels: Millennium Hilton (Bangkok, Thailand)

Towering over the river, you have an amazing view of the city from nearly every room. And particularly at the Executive Lounge at the top and the adjacent bar. Rooms are clean, the lobby is well-restored and the staff is top-notch (very attentive in helping send a parcel on my behalf). It’s a bit far from things as it’s on the west bank of the river. But there’s a fast ferry they run right from the hotel across to a prime part of the city, near the popular Silom district and another BTS station. Very reasonable prices, probably due to the hotel getting passed by newer, fresher and “hipper” hotels. But it’s as good as it gets with the Hilton main brand and a nice place for respite from the endless parade of hawkers and touts who try to sell you on things every second of every day around hotels in the middle of the city.

Verdict: Can’t Miss (9/10)

Upper Tier Hotels: Aloft Sukhumvit (Bangkok, Thailand)

There is no better location than this one on Soi 13 in Sukhumvit for access to bars (both naughty and classy) and the shopping scene around Siam. It’s a bit obnoxious getting in and out - cars are completely gridlocked on the Soi and you’ll have to walk a few minutes out if you need a car ride or Grab (Thailand’s version of Uber). But there’s also a great BTS Skytrain station at the intersection with Sukhumvit, so you can jump around the city pretty well from there.

Rooms are cool and trendy as you expect from Aloft, with a good breakfast if you can ignore the few ants spotted around the drinks station. Won’t deduct too many points since it’s Bangkok and there are always some creepy crawlies to be spotted. Only real issue is that it’s ground zero for the old white men who are in town for nothing but plowing Thai women. And/or Thai ladyboys - to each their own on that account. They leave you alone and you don’t have to talk to them, but they are all over the place - more so than most places in the city - and it can be jarring.

All in all. It’s a super-well priced brand hotel in a great location with safety, comfort and all you can expect from the fast-growing Aloft brand.

Verdict: Solid choice (8.5/10)

Luxury Hotels: Le Meridien (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

Clearly one of the best hotels in the city (and tallest), the Le Meridien does not disappoint with very nice rooms and an excellent Club Level Executive Lounge - the food and alcohol selection were quite good. It’s also located very close to the Night Bazaar, the nightlife scene and Tapae Gate (eastside entrance to the Old City). Personally, I like the Nimman’s trendy hotels a bit more, which are also far less pricey. But for old mainstays earning and burning on Marriott, this is a great value for a great hotel. Service is excellent as expected too.

Verdict: Good but there’s better value & cooler local style elsewhere (8 / 10)

Upper Tier Hotels: The Hongta (Shanghai, China)

Part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, the Hongta is what I consider a “luxury-adjacent” brand hotel.  It’s far nicer than a traditional chain hotel but you don’t get quite the same refined experience as a Waldorf, Ritz, St. Regis, etc.  

Rooms were spacious (upgraded to a suite on the 15th floor as a Platinum member) with very well-appointed rooms.  It does need a refresh - the carpets are beat - but the lobby is quite beautiful, the facilities are very maintained well and you have to consider fancy/luxury hotels in comparison to the big big big names in the industry. You aren’t living like a true A-lister at a place like this, but it’s darn good enough to impress someone special to you.

Service is great - good English-speaking staff.  With breakfast and Executive Lounge bar happy hour (over an amazing view from the 40th floor), it was well worth the $100 or so per night. The happy hour at the Executive Lounge is truly an amazing perk as a top member with Marriott (and when I stay with Hiltons too). It’s really worth using your credit cards and spend right to ensure you get these benefits. Free meals add up quickly when reviewing your travel budget over the course of a year.

The location in Pudong was so-so, a bit far from the action but in a safe spot with a close Metro stop nearby.  Not in the prime part of Pudong by Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower, but the only hotels there are super pricey.  Only caveat:  if you’re a snowflake, avoid walking close to the Holiday Inn Express across the street.  The hotel looks nice enough but it’s hooker central.  You cannot walk near the hotel without being approached by many many overeager street walkers.  It was safe and didn’t bother me.  But for snowflakes, it may be a bit too appalling to handle.  Frankly, there is something uncouth to be found in the nicest parts of every city - all of SF is a demilitarized zone of poverty, crack and mental health issues - but it was more a fun observation than anything.

The price, quality, easy location to the fantastic Metro and very nice style - they all make it a great place to go for any type of audience (business, bleisure, family, romantic).

Verdict: Solid enough (7.5 / 10)

Digital Nomad Economics: Register for Every Airline & Hotel Loyalty Program

Even if you don’t travel very often, you must be a “member” or “guest” in all the major airline and hotel loyalty programs. They have dozens of factors to rank your merit as a customer and those who are unaffiliated rank dead last. Even an infrequent traveler gets a little more recognition, leading to better boarding zones when flying or better rooms when staying at a hotel.

And if you’re not making sure you get points for EVERY leg of your travel, you are missing out big time. Points and miles add up. It takes time. Be patient. But every lit bit counts. And there are always offers to get freebies or double or triple points for certain trips.

So go spend 30 minutes and register for the following:

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

British Airways



United Airlines




Marriott/SPG/Ritz Carlton

There are plenty of others around the world, and some left off intentionally that we don’t suggest using (Frontier, Southwest, Spirit). You have to start somewhere, so get going and make sure you’re on the list with all these big companies. When you finally fly one in three years, trust me when I say you’re likely to do better if they see the “member since 2018” instead of nothing. Granted, airlines generally treat all humans like cattle (or worse). But that’s why you have to fight for every little bit of recognition.

Luxury Hotels: Ritz-Carlton (Beijing, China)

Ritz-Carlton is a leading name in luxury travel and you have to be a dumb dumb to not enjoy a stay at one of their properties. While this one wasn’t the best, it still was a pleasant stay made all the better by a Marriott Pointsaver deal - a rarity for Ritz - that only set me back 80,000 points for five nights.

In this high-end brand in the Marriott portfolio, hotels are either super classy or super modern/sleek. This falls into the former. Everything is nice and ornate, if a bit dated. The facilities are top notch, especially the breakfast, which has a huge selection of Chinese and global cuisine that really makes your day start off right.

The real downside to this trip was a conference that had taken over the hotel and forced military-style security precautions. While going through a metal detector on every entry to the hotel can get annoying, the tiny lobby felt a bit oppressive with all the security guards and hotel staff. And with the constant redirection (“go this way, sir”) and holding of elevators for others, it really didn’t feel like this Platinum member mattered much.

More disturbingly, we arrived to our room 15 minutes before our 4pm late checkout to find three staffers inside moving items around and getting ready to pull our stuff out. It’s not cool to plan on ejecting guests like this and jumping the gun on the agreed upon 4pm checkout time. Fortunately, we were mostly packed and we walked in before they could rifle through things.

That mishap at the end and the eerie security-state atmosphere were obnoxious but not worth raising a ruckus over. More importantly, the hotel just seemed to be living off its name, which is more than evident when you check out the St. Regis closer into the Forbidden City. That hotel is far cheaper, far nicer and better in virtually every way…that review is up next.

Verdict: Acceptable but overpriced (6.5 / 10)