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(Reprint from News:  July 6, 2008)

 


Around the World in Eight Days 

 

 

The Journey Begins

If you've been reading my website, you know that I've always loved traveling, which is the main reason I studied geography in college and am now doing GIS (that is, computer mapping) for a living.  I love maps and, as a geographer, one of my lifelong goals has been to someday travel around the world, a fascination that began when I was 10 and read the Jules Verne novel, "Around the World in Eighty Days," a book that's still one of my favorites with its wondrous and inspiring tales of exotic places.  The only person I personally know who has traveled around the world was my Dad, who was an educational planner and, in his work in the 1960s, circumnavigated the world twice via Pan Am.  For many years, I told myself that someday I was also going to travel around the world, and this year it finally happened. 

 

My company, Otak, won a large computer mapping contract in early 2008 for the government of Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), a small, bustling oil-rich country in the Middle East.  As the lead computer mapper with Otak, my first task was to visit Abu Dhabi, meet with the client and start collecting data.  My company booked my travel arrangements for me, a round-trip plane ticket from Portland to Abu Dhabi via Europe, and then back to Portland via Europe the same way.  But my jaw dropped when I saw my itinerary because my ticket cost over $10,000.  I've always traveled frugally and felt that any round trip plane ticket costing more than about $500 was expensive, so spending $10,000 for a plane ticket -- any plane ticket -- was just plain ridiculous and a waste of money, because I wasn't worth that much and neither was anyone else.  Then I realized why the ticket was so expensive:  it was in Business Class, which apparently was the norm for such travel, since our client wanted to ensure that we traveled comfortably.  That was a nice gesture for an 18-hour flight, but I still thought it was a ridiculous waste of money.  What my company would be spending for my 18-hour flight would be more than what most people in the world earn in an entire year, and to me that was ridiculous.

 

You might understand my minimalist thinking if you knew that every day for the past five years while my Otak colleagues went out to lunch at fancy restaurants, I brown-bagged it and ate an apple and a bagel.  As the joke goes, I'm not cheap, just thrifty.  Well, o.k., I'm cheap, too.

 

I talked to my manager about the ticket and asked him if, instead flying in Business Class over and back via Europe, I could fly in Coach and go around the world.  After explaining that it would cost only $3,000 to do that instead of $10,000, my manager agreed, so I pored over Travelocity that afternoon, figuring out where in the world I wanted to visit after Abu Dhabi on my way back to Portland.  Like I say, I'm a frugal traveler so looking at a map of the world and knowing that I could go anywhere was a very strange (yet pleasurable) feeling, and probably the only time that will ever happen to me.  I finally decided on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I'm not sure why I picked Kuala Lumpur, but it was probably because of its funny name, and because I'd see it on the CBS television show, "The Amazing Race," a few years earlier.  But even with an around-the-world ticket and a stop in Malaysia, I'd still be saving my company over $7,000.


I packed my bags a few weeks later and drove to the Portland airport.  I had only eight days, not eighty, to circle the globe, but I was going to make the most of it.  My plane left Portland in the late afternoon and by 10 p.m. I was flying over Hudson Bay.  From looking outside, you couldn't tell it was late at night because this was June and the sun was still shining brightly.  Most of the other passengers were either dozing or watching the movie, but I stared intently at the landscapes below and at one point could make out the coast of Hudson Bay.  A few hours later, at around midnight, I saw the ice-bound and craggy coast of Greenland, which was a real thrill, then several hours later we landed at Amsterdam.  A few hours after that -- I think it was about noon, but my internal clock was so messed up by then that it didn't really matter -- I boarded a plane for Abu Dhabi and landed there late at night after a brief stop in Qatar.


I gathered my luggage, went through customs, walked outside the air-conditioned Abu Dhabi airport and instantly hit a brick wall.  Even though it was late at night, it was about 95 degrees outside and very humid and I gasped.  After finding a taxi, I made my way into town and got settled.  Yes, this was going to be an interesting trip.
 

       

Above left:  Leaving Portland.  Only 10 more hours until Amsterdam, then an 8-hour flight to Abu Dhabi.

Above center:  The best part of the 18-hour flight to the U.A.E, was looking at the interactive map on the back of the seat.  Sorry, it's the geographer in me!

Above right:  This is Greenland at midnight.  Finally seeing Greenland was one of the highlights of my round-the-world flight.

 

 

       

Above left:  I spent four hours in Amsterdam, enough time to load up on Dutch chocolate and souvenirs.

Above center:  And here's the next morning in Abu Dhabi.  This is the Corniche, or waterfront.

Above right:  Abu Dhabi is a bustling city and the pace of growth is frenetic. It's like the Las Vegas Strip, but times 100.

      

Above left:  The United Arab Emirates is about the size of Indiana and has the sixth-largest reserves of oil in the world.  The largest cities are the capital, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, both on the coast.

Above center:  Here are some historic photos of Abu Dhabi so you can see how much it's grown.  This is the Corniche about 50 years ago.  Of course, this was before oil was discovered.

Above right:  This is the Al Hosn Fort, the only historic building in Abu Dhabi that's been preserved.  I believe this was taken in the 1950s.

 

     

Above left:  Here's the Al Hosn Fort today, totally surrounded by skyscrapers and developments.  You can see how oil changes everything.

Above center:  The fort and "downtown" Abu Dhabi in the 1960s.

Above right:  This is an undated photo of the Zayed Bridge, linking Abu Dhabi Island (left) with the mainland.  Almost everything you see is now developed with resorts and high-rise buildings.  The village of Abu Dhabi is on the horizon, top left, at the end of the island.

 

Life in the U.A.E.

I spent about a week in Abu Dhabi and the first thing that struck me was how enormous this city was. Skyscrapers 20 or 30 stories high line the avenues and even in the midst of the summer heat, the city was buzzing with life.  That's all because of oil, of course.  The United Arab Emirates is only about the size of the state of Indiana but has the sixth largest reserves of oil in the world.  There are seven emirates, which are something like states in the U.S. but the confederation is much looser than the U.S. states.  The most famous -- some would say egregious -- city in the U.A.E. is Dubai, which is about 100 miles north of Abu Dhabi and has grown tremendously in the last decade, due mostly to finance and trade, not oil, since the Dubai emirate has virtually no oil.  Almost all of the oil in the U.A.E. is in the Abu Dhabi emirate, making it the wealthiest of the seven emirates, by far.


Winters in the U.A.E., from what they told me, were pleasant with high temperatures in the 70's, but summers, as I was discovering first-hand, were blistering hot, with daytime highs often exceeding 100 or even 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  And even though Abu Dhabi is in the desert, there's no escape from humidity because the city is right on the Arabian Gulf, which is what Americans call the "Persian Gulf."  If you're in the U.A.E., though, you don't call it the Persian Gulf because Emiratis (natives of the U.A.E.) don't like that name.  I had learned this a few months earlier after I made my first map for this project and ignorantly labeled it the Persian Gulf instead of the Arabian Gulf.  The client politely but firmly corrected my mistake. 

 

Culturally, the U.A.E. is unlike any place I've ever been.  First of all, it's a Muslim country of course, and over the next week I learned a lot about Muslims.  There's a lot of fear-mongering in the U.S. about Muslims, almost all of which was totally dispelled for me during the week I was in Abu Dhabi.  The religion of Islam is totally ingrained in every aspect of life here and is constantly evident, unlike religion in the U.S. which is often practiced only on Sunday, if then.  For example, the call to prayer is broadcast over loudspeakers throughout the city five times a day, starting at sunrise with the final call well past sunset.  You can clearly hear the call inside your hotel room, and there are small, directional arrows inside the rooms pointing to Mecca, in case you're not sure which direction to pray.

 

It took me a while to adjust to being in a Muslim country, and while there's only so much a foreigner can learn or absorb in a week, I think I did pretty well and assimilated fairly easily.  Like every place in the world, if you show respect to the local culture and customs, you'll be fine.

       

Above left:  My favorite hangout in Abu Dhabi was the Marina Mall.  Uh... just kidding.  But seriously, because of the summer heat, the air-conditioned mall is one of the most popular places in the city.

Above center:  There really are Starbucks everywhere.

Above right:  Walking along the Corniche after work.  It's cooled down to 105 degrees (seriously) with very high humidity.  Can you say "steam bath"?

 

       

Above left:  My cab drivers didn't speak much English but were very friendly and curious.

Above center:  Here's an Indian market.  Because the U.A.E. is such a wealthy country, there are many more foreigners than nationals here, and many of them are from India and Pakistan.

Above right:  I walked around for four hours one night and didn't see one other Caucasian.

 

Things are Different Here

The demographic situation here is interesting.  The native Emirati population is small, less than a million, so the government imports large numbers of foreigners, mostly single men, to do much of the work.  About 90% of the population are foreigners and they do most of the menial labor, such as construction and service work.  Due to the large number of imported workers, men in the U.A.E. outnumber women by more than 2-to-1, the largest gender disparity of any country in the world.  As I learned, there's a stratification or "pecking order," with Emiratis at the top of the pile followed by Caucasians, many of whom are consultants or contractors from Europe, mostly from England, then Indians who often have technical knowledge, Pakistanis and so on down the line.  I've never liked class boundaries so this very apparent stratification made me uncomfortable and I never got used to it.

 

The class system was apparent both on the streets and in the office.  A few times during the week, I saw a senior engineer at Otak, a Caucasian, publicly berate a co-worker who was younger and from India, something that would never happen in the U.S.  One morning, I met with my client, an Arab woman dressed in a long, black robe, in a large and well-appointed conference room, when a young fellow wearing a white shirt entered the room.  I stood up, introduced myself to him and extended my hand -- then I realized that he was a servant and was wondering if I wanted anything to drink.  I sat down sheepishly, but being an American, I'm not used to being served by anyone except waiters in restaurants. 

 

I was often treated with deference and respect simply because I was white, which I was uncomfortable with, but on the other hand, my American egalitarian attitude also ingratiated me with the locals at times. As I approached the entrance to an office building one day, I noticed how foreigners walking behind me moved to open the door for me, but instead I opened the door for them.  They looked at me first quizzically and then smiled with appreciation, apparently not being used to Caucasians opening doors for them.  Each night after work, I walked alone around Abu Dhabi in the steamy heat with my camera amidst the throngs of Indians, Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians, and Filipinos.  Many of them looked at me with curiousity and shyness, apparently not used to seeing a Caucasian alone on the street at night.  The U.A.E. is a rich country and there's definitely a snootiness among some of the Emiratis I met, with their extravagant oil wealth and the perks (for Emiratis, at least) that come along with that, such as guaranteed jobs, free education and free housing, along with no taxes.  Because of that, I felt much more comfortable among the working class than among the elite Emiratis. And by the way, Abu Dhabi is a very safe city.  I meandered each night through the streets and back alleys with my camera taking pictures, but I never once felt in danger because personal crime in the U.A.E. is virtually non-existent. 

 

Another thing that was different here was the political framework.  In the U.A.E. and in many Arab countries, political power is based on family relationships or someone's heritage or tribe, not a political party.  The leader of the U.A.E. is Sheikh Khalifa (pronounced "Shake Ha-LEEF-a)" and his likeness is everywhere.  It's a largely benevolent leadership relative to other countries in the Middle East, and most locals I talked to thought favorably of the sheikh.  But what the sheikh wants, the sheikh gets.  A colleague told me a story that made me laugh.  The sheikh's limousine, with him inside, pulled into a petrol (gas) station one day and waited to fuel up.  The sheikh asked, "Why are we waiting?" and the driver told him that several cars were ahead of them, also waiting for petrol, so the sheikh said, "Well then, let's build more petrol stations." So that's what they did. 

 

As you can probably guess, there aren't a lot of environmental regulations in the U.A.E. limiting development, like there are in the U.S.  If someone here wants to build something and they have political power, they build it.  But that being said, the government of Abu Dhabi is also striving to become a world-class city and a role model for the rest of the world, especially the Arab world.  They're taking steps, like developing mass transit, creating sustainable systems and developing a detailed comprehensive plan, to create for themselves a city unlike any other in the world, and they apparently have the will to make it happen.  And that's exactly why I was there. 

 

       

Above left:  Michelle, a friend from Portland who moved to Abu Dhabi and is and now a client.  She's holding a Portland magnet that I'd sent her a year earlier for her birthday.

Above center:  Easy riders.

Above right:  In the U.S., they play baseball in the streets, but here in the U.A.E., the Indians and Pakistanis play cricket.

           

Above left:  My buddy, Bee, in the Otak office.

Above center:  Here's Mohammed, a computer mapping colleague.  Men in Arab countries frequently wear white robes while women wear black.

Above right:  Having dinner on Friday at the Al Raha Resort.  Friday is prayer day and most restaurants, except those in resorts catering to Westerners, are closed.  By the way, I have no idea why I'm holding a pineapple.

 

An Amazing Week in the Desert

I spent a week in Abu Dhabi and was mesmerized by everything I saw and experienced:  the frenetic growth, the oppressive heat, the kindness of the locals.  Being in a Muslim and multi-ethic country was a fascinating experience and I soaked in as much as I could, and the people I worked with were incredibly kind, which wasn't surprising because Emiratis, and Arabs in general, consider guests with high esteem and treat them with a great deal of honor and respect.

 

At the end of the week, Colin, a colleague in Otak's Abu Dhabi office, was kind enough to drive us around for several hours so we could get a better feel for the area.  The city of Abu Dhabi sits at the end of a large, sandy island many miles long, but Colin drove us over to the mainland, with its large expanses of sand and desert, dotted with settlements and occasional resorts.  This remote area was a world away from the high-rises and fast paced lifestyle of Abu Dhabi, but vast expanses of the desert here would soon be developed.  Looking at miles of sand, it was hard to imagine that much of it would soon be filled with communities, golf courses, and swimming pools, but I suppose they said the same thing about Abu Dhabi 50 years ago and look what's happened there.

 

It was a fascinating visit and Abu Dhabi was unlike any place I've ever been.  I wouldn't want to live in Abu Dhabi because it's just too different, but I was grateful for the time I had here.  It had been an incredible week, but now I was heading back to Portland.

 

 

       

Above left:  In Abu Dhabi, with its frantic pace of modernization, they tear down one building only to build another. 

Above center:  Hamdan Street is the heart of Abu Dhabi.  There are white taxis everywhere, including four in this photo. 

Above right: Just relax...

 

       

Above left:  It's 100 degrees now with high humidity and I'm sweating like a pig.  But I'm having a great time exploring.

Above center:  They're sweating like pigs, too.  I'm strolling along the Corniche on Friday afternoon.  Weekends in the U.A.E. and in most of the Muslim world are on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is the first day of work.

Above right:  I was the only Caucasian walking around and, with my SLR camera, got lots of curious smiles.  This sedate looking fellow pulled at my shirt and insisted on having his picture taken with me.  I guess I'm a star, just like Paris Hilton -- but with a sweaty shirt and no chihuahua.

 

The Journey Continues

After working for about a week in Abu Dhabi, it was time to head back to Portland -- except, of course, instead of going back via Europe, I was continuing on my eastward voyage.  I got a taxi Friday night to the airport, which is on the mainland and about 30 miles from Abu Dhabi.  My driver was a young Arab who was in a hurry to pick up someone, so it was a white-knuckle ride at 100 miles an hour on the desert freeway, and I arrived at the airport a bit shaken (but not stirred, as James Bond would say).  I had called the airline a few days earlier to reschedule my flight, pushing it back a day, but due to a mix-up at the airport I almost didn't make my flight. The helpful fellow at the ticket counter was sweating as he intently stared at his computer screen, trying to find my reservation while nervously glancing at the clock, but he finally found my reservation and printed my ticket, which I grabbed and then ran to the gate.  Yes, I literally ran but -- whew! -- I just made it.
 

I settled back in my seat for a five-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.  Malaysia has a large Muslim population, so most of the folks on the plane were Muslims, with men dressed in their white robes and women wearing black.  Of course, I didn't sleep during the flight -- I can't sleep on planes -- but it was a comfortable flight and at 2 p.m. the next day, the plane touched down at the Kuala Lumpur airport, one of the most beautiful and modern airports I've ever seen.
 

I got a taxi and headed into Kuala Lumpur, or just "KL" as it's known, stopping at a hotel on the outskirts of town that I'd found on the Internet a few nights before.  It was a pretty nice place, only $60 a night, and with its open-air lobby and large rotating fans hanging from the ceilings, it had a distinctly British colonial feel, which isn't too surprising considering that Malaysia used to be a British colony, including the little island at the end of peninsula nearby called Singapore.  KL is almost on the equator so it was pretty warm and humid, but nothing like the heat and humidity I'd endured in Abu Dhabi, and after eating a nice buffet dinner outside by the pool, I retired to my room and planned the next day's adventure.
 

       

Above left:  The Abu Dhabi airport during a relaxed moment between the white-knuckle ride to the airport and the drama of my lost reservation. 

Above center:  But after I got on the plane, I settled down and enjoyed the five-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur.

Above right:  Flying into Kuala Lumpur on Saturday afternoon. 

       

Above left:  The Kuala Lumpur airport is ultra-modern, once of the nicest I've ever seen.  And it has shiny floors!

Above center:  Here's my hotel in KL.  The open air lobby and large, hanging fans were a bonus.

Above right:  I had a great, cheap dinner that night.  The beer, though, cost me 9 bucks (yikes!)  It was definitely the most expensive beer I've ever had, but it was worth it.

 

Kuala Lumpur in 24 Hours

I had only one day to spend in KL, so the next morning, Sunday, I got up early and hired a taxi for several hours to take me around the city.  I didn't know much about Kuala Lumpur except for two things: the Petronas Towers, which had been the world's tallest buildings up until a few years ago, and the Batu Caves, which I'd seen a few years earlier on the CBS television series, "The Amazing Race."  By the way, that's one of my favorite shows, which shouldn't come as a surprise, considering that it's about traveling and an around-the-world race -- kind of like what I was doing right now.

 

My driver's name was Nathan, though being from India, he pronounced it "Nodden," and he was about my age and seemed quite jovial.  Over the next five hours, Nathan and I talked a lot and became good acquaintances.  I simply asked him to show me around the city, or as much as he could in only five hours and he first took me to a park and war memorial called Tugu Peringatan Negara, where I hopped out and shot some pictures.  My father, who was one of the first Navy SEALs, had been in this area during World War II and was one of the first American soldiers to re-open the Burma Road, a critical supply line from India to America's ally, China.  And KL is only a few hundred miles up the road from Singapore, which fell early in WWII to the Japanese, another important conflict.  Continuing on my tour, Nathan drove me into downtown Kuala Lumpur to the KL Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, which has an observation floor at the top providing visitors with an astounding view of Kuala Lumpur.  There were hundreds of tourists in the tower and lots of souvenir stores, where I got lots of souvenirs.  As I realized from the top of the tower, KL is a huge city with developments sprawling off into the jungles in all directions.
 

When I got back into the taxi, Nathan told me that the city's population of 1.5 million is about evenly divided between the Muslims and Hindus, with Muslims living on one side of the river that divides the city and Hindus living on the other.  I asked Nathan how often he drove a taxi and he said every single day, seven days a week, so he can provide for his wife and several children.  That was a sobering thought, that this fellow worked every day of the year without a break, without vacation or health insurance, doing all of this to make a living and support his family.  It was especially striking to me after seeing the gaudy opulence in Abu Dhabi and it made me grateful for what I have, and more compassionate and understanding to those who don't.
 

Speaking of money, I needed to get some cash, which I'd tried doing at an ATM at the KL Tower but the machine wouldn't take my card, so I asked Nathan to stop at a bank.  I tried the ATM there but it also rejected my card.  Yikes!  Fortunately I had about a hundred dollars in American currency in my wallet so it wasn't a big problem, but as I later found out, my bank had put a hold on my transactions since I'd been making withdrawals during the past week in several foreign countries.  So here's a tip: If you're going overseas, even just for a week, contact your bank beforehand to let them know you'll be traveling so they don't freeze your ATM card.
 

My next stop in Kuala Lumpur was the Batu Caves.  Of course, Nathan had never seen "The Amazing Race" on CBS but he knew where the caves were, because it's one of the most popular destinations in KL.  The caves are on the side of a cliff, so instead of walking down into the caves, you walk up an outdoor flight of 272 numbered steps to reach them.  The Batu Caves are a sacred place for Hindus and there was a large mixture of Hindus and tourists there, but not a single Muslim, the only place during the past week where I didn't see any Muslims.  After hiking up the 272 steps, I visited the caves for a bit, which is staffed full-time by an uninhibited group of monkeys, then headed back down to Nathan's taxi.  Then it was back to the hotel for a quick shower and change, then off to the airport. 

 

At the airport, I said goodbye to my new friend Nathan, paid him the fare and gave him a large tip, then walked into the terminal and got my ticket.  I had a few hours to kill before the China Airlines flight to Taiwan and spotted my favorite restaurant, Burger King (yes, I know that's a big disappointment to some of you), so I couldn't resist, especially since I hadn't had a whopper in months.  Besides, I was curious to know what Burger King tasted like in Malaysia.  If you're wondering, it tastes exactly like Burger King in America, so now you know.  My plane left Kuala Lumpur at 2 p.m., so I had been in KL for exactly 24 hours.  I packed in a lot during that time and learned that KL is a fascinating city with an interesting colonial history and a multi-cultural population that seems to blend together well.  Will I ever come back to Malaysia?  Definitely.  But now it was on to Taiwan.

 

       

Above left:  Here's Nathan (or "Nodden" as he pronounces it), my taxi driver / tour guide on Sunday. He drove me around KL for five hours and I had a great time with him seeing the city.

Above center:  Nathan's taxi filling up with gas.  He said "gas" but actually meant "compressed gas" instead of petrol (or gasoline), which his taxi also runs on.  Natural gas is a lot cheaper than gasoline.

Above right:  Malaysia used to be a British colony and KL still has a colonial feel.  It's a fascinating city.

 

       

Above left:  The Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004.  I'm shooting this from the KL Tower, also one of the world's tallest buildings.

Above center:  Another view of Kuala Lumpur with endless developments sprawling off into the jungles.  About 1.5 million folks live in KL.

Above right:  I first saw the Batu Caves a few years ago on the CBS television show, "The Amazing Race" and I've wanted to visit them ever since.  The caves are at the top.

      

Above left:  Climbing up 272 steps was a better workout than a stair-master.  The Batu Caves are sacred for Hindus and it was the only place in the past week where I didn't see any Muslims.

Above center:  The inside of the caves is interesting, but beware of the monkeys.

Above right:  Nathan dropped me off at the airport, where I took this self-portrait.  I have to stop taking pictures of myself in airport restrooms!

 

Completing the Circle

The flight to Taiwan lasted only four hours.  Normally a four hour flight is something I mentally prepare for, or at least think about beforehand, but at this point in my around-the-world journey, it was just a short hop, nothing to even consider.  I flew into the Taipei airport at about 8 p.m. and it was dark and stormy outside, so I decided to spend my four-hour layover in the airport instead of venturing out and then coming back in through customs.
 

Nathan had asked me how long I was going to be in Taipei and I told him about four hours, but that I was planning to make the most of it, and he replied, "I bet you will."  And I did, by walking the entire length of the very large and multi-storied airport and taking lots of pictures.  I even had Chinese food at a little cafe, figuring I couldn't visit China without having Chinese food, but after four hours, I boarded my China Airlines flight to Seattle.  And it's a good thing we left when we did because a typhoon (or hurricane as they say in America) was rolling in and an hour later, the airport was shut down for 24 hours.  Now that wouldn't have been fun, sitting in the Taipei airport for 24 hours, but my plane scooted out just in time. 

 

It was a 12-hour flight from Taiwan to Seattle, something that would've made me cringe a few months earlier, but I was eager to get home and by this point I'd gotten used to it, so it wasn't a big deal.  Then I took one more short flight, which brought me back to Portland, arriving there around 8 p.m.  I can't sleep on planes so after waking up that morning in Kuala Lumpur, I'd taken a tour of that city, eaten Chinese food in China, toured the Seattle airport, and was now in Portland.  And because I'd crossed the International Date Line on the flight across the Pacific, it was still the same day as when I'd left Malaysia, similar to the situation in the book "Around the World in 80 Days," the inspiration for this trip.
 

The past week had been an amazing and humbling experience.  I accomplished one of my life's goals, traveling completely around the world, and during the journey I realized how incredibly diverse this world is and yet how small it is and how similar people are everywhere.  Indeed, those things that separate us are much less significant than the bonds and similarities we all share.  Yes, I was exhausted but I was ready to do it all over again.  And I still am.

 

       

Above left:  Yep, the Burger Kings in Malaysia taste exactly like the Burger Kings in America.

Above center:  Flying to Taiwan on Sunday evening.  This flight was really short, only 4 hours, and at this point in my journey, a 4-hour flight was just a puddle jump.

Above right:  Spending a few hours in the Taipei airport.  Oooh, more shiny floors!

 

 

       

Above left:  I made it out of Taipei just in time.  A typhoon was rolling in and in a few hours, it would close the airport for a day.

Above center:  After a 12-hour flight over the Pacific, I saw clear skies over Seattle and there was only one more plane to catch.  Due to the International Date Line, I landed in Seattle on Sunday afternoon four hours before I'd left Taiwan.

Above right:  After a 41-hour round-the-world flight, I got back to the Portland airport and proved that, yes, the world really IS round!