52.5 Flight Hours
Over the next few days I'll post the details along with photos from each country, but a summary post is definitely in order...this was a big trip.
I started in Salt Lake on August 13th and was able to get business class on the Delta Tokyo flight. We left Salt Lake over 3 hours late which caused me to miss the Singapore flight so I spent about 22 hours in Japan, which was quite fortuitous as I had wanted to visit Japan and just had never found the time. As most of the passengers missed connecting flights, the information counter at the airport suggested a hotel nearby for a decent price and most of us went there. Early the next morning I was up and out the door for a quick tour of the city. I visited a temple, ate great food, bought a few souvenirs and got back to the airport in time for the 6:35 pm Singapore flight. You will love the photos from Japan!
Early evening on the 15th (I crossed the International Date Line, causing me to lose a day) I made it on the Delta Singapore flight and we arrived in Singapore just after midnight on the 16th. As I didn't have a ticket to Kuala Lumpur (I traveled standby from SLC all the way to SIN so purchasing a ticket seemed pointless until I knew for sure when I would actually be in Singapore.) I had to wait until I could reach someone by telephone (the information desk in the SIN airport assisted with this).and once I finally got someone on the phone I was able to get a confirmation # and was quoted a price of $110 for a one way ticket to Kuala Lumpur on a Malaysia Airlines flight leaving at 6:45 a.m., in just a few hours. When the ticket counter opened at 4:45 a.m., I was told I had to wait until 5:30 am, when a supervisor would arrive to approve my last minute purchase of a ticket. The actual ticket office didn't open until 8:00 am. I waited patiently and returned at 5:30 to meet the supervisor who told me I could buy the ticket but it was going to cost me over $300. To cut to the chase, I explained my situation as sweetly as I could and finally got the ticket at my quoted price of $110. Getting frustrated would have only hurt my cause...it definitely pays to be nice to those who have the power to alter my travel plans! A few hours later I was in Kuala Lumpur and waiting for MaryAnne's Gulf Air flight from Bahrain. She landed at 9:40 am and was surprised to see me at the gate waiting for her. We had been unable to communicate since I had left Salt Lake so she had no idea where I was.
We spent 5 days in beautiful Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and had a great time relaxing and getting caught up. We visited the Batu Caves, just outside of the city, we went to the Bird Park and the Butterfly Park, saw the Royal Palace and spent time shopping in Little India. Kuala Lumpur is also where MaryAnne took the MCAT and one entire day was devoted to that. I used the time she was away to get in a workout in the hotel gym. We spent so much time in KL and visited so many different places that there will be more than one entry for that city.
The morning of the 21st we took an Air Asia flight to Denpasar, Bali and spent two days at the Mara River Safari Lodge where we rode elephants, fed lions, zebras and tame deer, held a baby orangutan, posed with a huge snake, went to the theatre twice, lounged in the resort pool with a pool-side bar that had bar stools actually in the pool, went on a night safari and fed the lions and went on a day safari and saw lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, orangutans, orynx, cows (yes, they had cows on the property!) and assorted other animals. This place was a lot of fun and we were sorry to leave.
A few days later we flew a prop plane on Lion Air to Lombok and spent 2 days lounging on the beach and doing almost nothing. After the frantic schedule we had been keeping it was really nice to have some down time. One of our days in Lombok we went with some locals to a remote beach to do some snorkeling, The mode of transportation over there is primarily motorbike and so, MaryAnne and I each got on the back of a motorbike driven by one of our new friends and took off along the coast in search of great snorkeling! It was a complete blast and when we arrived at one of the remote beaches we visited, there was a family of monkeys playing in the surf. That is something those of us who live in the United States do not see everyday!
Back in Bali we spent our remaining days in Ubud, an art village in the center of the island. Ubud is fantastic and we spent both days browsing the shops, eating in amazing restaurants and visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest. I LOVED Ubud and the Sacred Monkey Forest; you'll love the photos and hearing about this place. The monkeys were very brave and they climbed all over us looking for the bananas we had purchased at the entrance to the forest. Ubud is also where we found NAT, a 2 1/2 foot tall stone statue for sale in one of the antique stores. Genuine antiques are forbidden to leave the country so we were given documentation he is only 80 years old. Regardless of how old he is, I had to have him but waited an entire day, with three visits to the shop before we actually purchased him. Getting him home was the next dilemma as he was much too heavy to carry. The local DHL office assisted in packing him up and he ended up arriving in Salt Lake City before I did. (DHL had attempted delivering him the day before I left Dubai and he was finally delivered the day I arrived home.)
We spent half a day traveling Gulf Air to Bahrain and arrived after 10:30 pm. We had less than 24 hours in this country and packed in a lot before we had to get back to the airport for our flight to Dubai. After a short night in a hotel near the airport, we took a cab to some of the places we wanted to see. Our cab driver, Abdullah, thought it would be cool if we got to see Saudi Arabia so he took us over the King Fahd Causeway to the border crossing which allowed us to see the Persian Gulf, too. Abdullah was really great and wanted very much to communicate with us. His English wasn't quite altogether there and our Arabic was non-existent but we had a great time with him and have some great photos with him, too. We visited the National Museum and finally a souq before heading back to our hotel to get ready for the airport.
We flew Gulf Air to Dubai and we met up with a friend and the three of us spent an entire day together shopping and going to dinner. One does not wear casual attire in fancy restaurants in Dubai so the three of us purchased new suits, dresses and shoes to wear to dinner. We had a great time, we all looked amazing and dinner was fantastic. Our remaining time in Dubai was spent visiting the city and on our last full day in Dubai, Ramadan had officially ended and we were finally allowed to eat and drink in public. Experiencing Ramadan in a Muslim country is quite an experience and I hope to try to miss it the next time I travel.
MaryAnne rode with me to the airport in Dubai (she had another day before she was to leave for Afghanistan) and it was hard to finally say goodbye. I won't get to see her until December, which seems forever from now...but kids grow up and go off into the world to live their own lives and I guess I'm lucky I get to see her as much as I do.
We flew a 777 on Delta from Dubai to Atlanta and I was fortunate enough to get business class. Business class on a 777 makes the hours speed by and 15 hours later we landed in Atlanta. I had spent a good portion of the flight trying to sleep as I was hoping to get back on my own time-zone as quickly as possible, but even with a fully reclining bed to sleep in, sleep was difficult. I watched a lot of movies.
Once out of customs in Atlanta, I went straight to the Salt Lake gate and took one of the last seats available...a middle seat in the back of the plane, but after 15 hours in business class I was not about to complain. Sometimes it's just your turn to take the middle seat.
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