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RTW #1: A Globetrotter is Born

Day One of my 1st Trip Around the World!

Posted by on Jan 2, 2006 | 0 comments

Day One of my 1st Trip Around the World!

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Miami, Florida (One Year Ago)

Fittingly, it all began in a hotel. In Miami on business, I breezed out my hotel room door that morning, absently grabbing the Miami Herald underfoot. It wasn’t until much later that day when I had time to finally read that newspaper – travel section first, as usual – that I stumbled upon the story of Elliott Hester (aka, the “Continental Drifter”). After taking a leave of absence from his job and giving up all his worldly possessions, Hester was about to embark on an open-ended trip around the world.

I quickly became obsessed by the possibilities of such a trip. If you had all the time in the world, where would you go? What would you see? What life-long dreams would you make a reality? But in today’s hectic world, could one really just give it all up and hit the road? I wasn’t so sure. Certainly, it’s not a practical option for most. But I couldn’t get the globe-trotting daydreams out of my head and in a matter of days, a new plan had begun to take shape.

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Buenos Aires – Dog Lover’s Paradise

Posted by on Jan 3, 2006 | 0 comments

Buenos Aires – Dog Lover’s Paradise

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I did indeed land in Buenos Aires this morning but without the hoped for sleep. Not sure why but I’ve never been able to sleep on a plane, I have high hopes that this trip will eventually cure me of that.

Got off the plane, breezed through immigration and customs and found the cab stand. I arrived at my hotel, the Park Tower, and my room was not ready yet – no surprise, as it’s still only 9:45am.

I decide to go for a run to familiarize myself with the city a bit. I hit the gym to change into my running clothes, get directions from the concierge to the city’s best park and head out into traffic.

Though the park seems close on the map, it turns out to be further away than I thought so a quick 3-4 mile run soon turns into 7-8 miles roundtrip. (It is cute that the concierge thought I could run this far – sure, I’ve run a couple of marathons but does he know that??)

Eventually, I get there and it was worth the distance. Palermo Park is beautiful and even better, it’s packed with dogs enjoying some afternoon leisure time. Apparently, dogs are big here in Argentina and dog walking is a real job.

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Freezing in Berlin

Posted by on Jan 8, 2006 | 0 comments

Freezing in Berlin

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Central Europe in January? Yeah, that was a brilliant idea.

Before I move on to my day in Berlin, I must take a moment to gush about the overnight flight from Buenos Aires to Paris on Air France.  Most of you know I booked my RTW ticket with Delta’s Skyteam by cashing in my miles for a First Class ticket. (In the spirit of the “once in a lifetime trip” theory).  For the first two weeks of my trip almost all of my flights are on Delta partner Air France.

This means I will be spending a lot of time in Paris at Charles de Gaulle airport with connections (like this afternoon’s connection to Berlin). I have flown Air France in business class before but never in first. So, let me tell you about my experience on my 14 ½ hour flight last night…

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Cape Town, Fabulous Cape Town

Posted by on Jan 11, 2006 | 0 comments

Cape Town, Fabulous Cape Town

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I should probably begin by admitting that I have had a permanent smile on my face since I got my first view of Table Mountain on approach to landing in Cape Town. So, since I have clearly lost all sense of objectivity, I can only say that Cape Town is simply fabulous. Simply, utterly fabulous.

I landed a little after 3pm today after connecting through Johannesburg on South African Airways. When we landed in Cape Town, I could see that the top of Table Mountain was crystal clear – not a cloud in the sky. Not only was this a welcome relief after the jarring cold of Berlin, but it was especially notable because from everything I had read, this is unusual. 

Normally, there is a persistent blanket of clouds that touches just the top of the mountain, known locally as the “tablecloth.” When the tablecloth is present, the top of the mountain is closed and you can’t hike or take the cable car up.

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Cairo on Camel Back

Posted by on Jan 13, 2006 | 1 comment

Cairo on Camel Back

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Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris – In transit, again:  My overnight flight from South Africa was the best one yet, first class was almost empty. In fact, it was just me, a French businessman and – oh, right – supermodel Karolina Kurkova (who boarded shortly before takeoff – sorry guys, I didn’t take a picture of her). 

Finally, fewer people at the Air France pajama party. It was a great flight, I again got a decent night’s sleep and when we landed in Paris I went to the Air France arrivals lounge and even took a hot shower and had some breakfast. I had about 4 hours to kill before my flight to Cairo.

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Sharm el Sheikh – Sinai Peninsula

Posted by on Jan 16, 2006 | 2 comments

Sharm el Sheikh – Sinai Peninsula

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When you arrive at the airport in Cairo, you are immediately descended upon by airport “entrepreneurs” determined to carry your bags to the counter in exchange for a tip whether you want them to or not. Since I have only one small rolling bag, this is completely unnecessary and a bit absurd. 

No less than 4 men quizzed me as I walked through the door, “Madame, which flight is yours? What time does your flight leave?” All reaching for my bag and trying to show me the way to the check-in counter. Unfortunately for them, I don’t want to be separated from my bag (even by a few feet) and I can, of course, read signs.

The signs clearly pointed me to the Egypt Air check-in for the Sharm el Sheikh flight, no assistance required but thanks very much. One especially persistent man actually continued to walk right alongside me (as if he was showing me the way) even after I politely told him I did not need his help. When I got to the counter he had the nerve to hold his hand out for a tip. He didn’t get one.

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Decadence in Dubai: The Burj Al Arab Hotel

Posted by on Jan 18, 2006 | 0 comments

Decadence in Dubai: The Burj Al Arab Hotel

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After a long flight from Cape Town, I had a nice evening layover in Paris and squeezed in a visit with old friends in the city. That night, I headed back to the airport for my last flight of the trip on Air France. It was another great flight with only two people in my cabin (no supermodels this time). 

I landed in Dubai around 8:30am this morning. The airport cab routine was getting a little old so I was thrilled that The Burj Al Arab, my hotel here in Dubai, was sending a driver to meet me at the airport. I expected to see the driver once I cleared customs but was pleasantly surprised to find him waiting for me just after I stepped off the plane (still not sure how he managed that).

He escorted me through passport control and customs in 5 minutes flat and next thing I knew I was cocooned in the plush leather seats of the Burj Al Arab’s Rolls Royce and on my way to the hotel. The driver offered me a cold towel, a bottle of water and even a music list so I could make a selection for the ride to the hotel – very smooth.

And this was just the beginning of the exceptional service the Burj would provide during my brief stay.

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Nothing Prepares you for India

Posted by on Jan 20, 2006 | 2 comments

Nothing Prepares you for India

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The sole purpose of my quick stop in India is to see the Taj Mahal. Perhaps someday I will come back to see more, but for now, the Taj is my goal.

I am arriving on the red-eye flight from Dubai and then leaving later that same night on the red-eye to Bangkok. I knew this would be a trying part of my journey since it involves 3 overnight flights in a span of 4 nights. The timing is especially crucial as I’m told it is a 4-5 hour drive to Agra (where the Taj is located) and then another 4-5 back to the airport in Delhi. 

So this leaves me with only a few hours to see the Taj and the Agra Fort, the other top attraction in Agra, before heading back to the airport. 

A few days before I departed from the US, I happened to stumble across an important bit of information regarding my stop in India while reading a fellow RTW traveler’s blog. Turns out, the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. My lone day is India is scheduled for a Friday. 

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Bedtime in Bangkok

Posted by on Jan 21, 2006 | 0 comments

Bedtime in Bangkok

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We land in Bangkok at 5:30am and I am sleepwalking through the blissfully clean airport. I got maybe two hours sleep on the flight from India and I’m just praying by some miracle that I’ll be able to check into the hotel this early. 

I am still wearing the clothes I put on in Dubai two days ago and I’m desperately in need of some sleep. I make my way to the train station and purchase a ticket into town for 100 Baht (roughly $2 US), I think I’m gonna like this town.

When I finally arrive at the hotel, it is almost 7:30am and the hotel was kind enough to actually have a room ready for me (thank you, Royal Orchid Sheraton). When I got up to the room, I immediately dropped everything, stripped down and got in the shower.

I briefly considered burning the clothes I wore in India but decided that might be a bit dramatic – however, they could really use a good washing. The shower was divine. I felt much better when I got out but it was still so early that I thought I should probably lie down for just a little while before rallying to go take in the sights. You know, perhaps just rest my eyes a bit.

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Back to the Beach…Phuket Thailand

Posted by on Jan 23, 2006 | 0 comments

Back to the Beach…Phuket Thailand

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This morning I packed up in Bangkok (again) and headed to the airport for my flight to the island of Phuket Thailand. When I arrived at the airport at 7:30am for my 9:00am flight, the agent with Thai Air asked me if I would like to catch the 8am flight instead…well, of course! 

That would give me an extra hour of beach time. Everyone is so friendly and helpful here in Thailand!

The flight was a little over an hour and once again, a very pleasant experience with Thai Air – nice airline. When I arrived in Phuket, I was surprised to learn that my hotel was almost an hour from the airport! 

I guess I assumed it was a smaller island than it actually is. Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the South‘ by the tourist industry, Phuket is Thailand’s largest, most populous and most visited island. Long a popular European vacation destination, most Americans only became familiar with Phuket after last year’s tsunami. 

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Kuala Lumpur Malaysia – City on the Rise

Posted by on Jan 25, 2006 | 0 comments

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia – City on the Rise

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Arrival into Kuala Lumpur International Airport couldn’t be easier. The airport is modern and sparkling clean and there is a hi-speed train that connects you to the KL-Central Station in only 28 minutes for about $9 US. My hotel was right across the street from the Central Station where all of the city’s metro links converge. The metro was a real steal at about 30 cents a ride and ridiculously easy to navigate. It’s so nice to be back in a modern city!

The Hilton Kuala Lumpur was one of the great deals of this trip. The room itself was beautiful at only $75 US per night, but even better, upon check-in I was upgraded to an Executive Level room with access to the Executive Lounge on the top floor. The Lounge has a full buffet breakfast every morning, an evening Malay cuisine buffet (which was fantastic), free drinks, and live entertainment every evening…all gratis. Not to mention it has free wi-fi which has become the perk of all perks on this trip. But my favorite thing about this hotel was the complimentary laundry service, up to 4 pieces per day. (This may not sound exciting to you but if you could see my suitcase right now, you would understand.) I took full advantage of the laundry service both days of my stay and am happy to report that my suitcase is back in good standing, “aromatically” speaking, that is.

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Singapore Sling

Posted by on Jan 26, 2006 | 0 comments

Singapore Sling

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I arrived in Singapore at 10am and was immediately impressed with Changi Airport. Not only is it clean and beautiful, it is easily navigable and everything is clearly labeled in English, Chinese, Thai, Malay and Japanese – and for the first time in a while, English is listed first.

I easily made my way to the MRT train station inside the airport where a helpful attendant was waiting next to the automatic ticket machines to assist visitors in purchasing a ticket to the right destination. (This is a nice touch since usually you’re on your own with these machines – I typically end up using the ticket window to ensure I’m buying the right ticket.) 

Though the trip to my hotel on Orchard Road required two train changes, I was thoroughly prepped by the helpful ticket person so I had no problems getting to the Orchard Road Station situated only 2 blocks from my hotel.

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Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

Posted by on Jan 29, 2006 | 0 comments

Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

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Note to self: 6am international flights are NOT the cure for jetlag. By the time I got back to the hotel in Singapore and settled into bed, it was almost 1am and of course I could not fall asleep for fear that I was too tired to wake up in time for my flight to Hong Kong in the morning.

I worried about this despite the fact that I had set a wake-up call, set the alarm clock I bought at the airport before leaving Atlanta and set the hotel alarm clock next to the bed – what I normally refer to as a “3-alarm morning.”

There comes a point when you know you are tired and the possibility exists (however small) that you will sleep right through a wake-up call – or more likely hang it up and go right back to sleep. Thus the 3-alarm theory, anyone can sleep through one alarm or even two, but three? Not a chance.

Let me stress here that I can’t recall ever over-sleeping in my entire adult life but I am of the firm belief that just because something has never happened, does not mean you shouldn’t worry about it.

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Beijing and the Great Wall of China

Posted by on Jan 31, 2006 | 0 comments

Beijing and the Great Wall of China

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Let me first say how impressed I was with my Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong. Their lounge in HK is probably the best one I have ever been in, it was enormous and even had a Noodle Bar (fun!). The in-flight service was fantastic and the cabin was almost empty which was nice. After a lovely three hours, we landed in Beijing.

The Beijing airport is nice enough, nothing like the last 3 airports I’ve been in but certainly up to the standards of the better American airports. It looked pretty new so I’m guessing it’s been recently upgraded for the upcoming Olympics. 

I passed easily through passport control since I had arranged for my visa back in the US a few months ago and headed out to find a taxi (the one thing they don’t have here is a rail link to the city).

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Touring Tokyo

Posted by on Feb 1, 2006 | 0 comments

Touring Tokyo

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It is cold and raining heavily when I land in Tokyo around 2pm. The first thing I learn upon landing is that downtown Tokyo is FAR from Narita Airport. 

The train gets you there in one hour for about $26 US. Not cheap, but I don’t even want to think about what a cab would cost. I take the train to Tokyo Station in the middle of town. I know that my hotel is in the Ginza neighborhood and from my map it looks like that is fairly close to Tokyo Station. 

Being the adventurous type, I decide to strike out on my own (in the rain) to find my hotel on foot. Of course, I could have taken a cab but I hadn’t gotten any local currency yet and besides, I was feeling lucky. How hard could a 30-story building be to find?

As it turned out, harder than you might think. I made it to the Ginza neighborhood without any trouble but the actual street my hotel was on was not listed on my map. 

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