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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Around the world in 50 days

The Discreet Traveler and companion are going around the world in 50 days. It would not normally be discreet of me to publish in advance that I’m going, but in this case, we have someone staying to look after our house (no, really) and you don't want to mess with her. Do you know the expression "shoot you soon as look at you"?

This is mainly a trip to Australia, which The Discreet Traveler has never visited before. It is Round-the-World in the sense that there are five main flight legs: from Europe to the Middle East (just changing planes), to southeast Asia, to Australia, to the west coast of North America, and finally back to Europe. It's a long way to go, which is partly why we're breaking it up; but don't be put off. Just in the past couple of weeks I've heard of two different women over 80 years old having a jaunt out to Australia, and that's from Britain, a brutal distance away. Let me remind you: If you have an opportunity, take it. Don't think you'll come back and get it later. Man, I'm still mourning a laptop case on that principle...

So: Day 0-1: London to Singapore via Dubai

This morning The Discreet Traveler was further east than I had ever been before. In British pronunciation Dubai sounds like "Jew-bai," which is ironic, because Jews are banned from the United Arab Emirates. Oh wait--so are homosexuals. We had to change planes there because Qantas, the Australian airline, has sold its soul to Emirates, so we got out of Dubai airport as fast as we could, consoling ourselves with the reputation of Emirates as a first-class airline. Nothing special about it at all, in fact. I haven't been served so little food and drink since the lately departed "Ted," United's "express" airline that would fly you three hours across the U.S.A. with nothing. There were metal utensils and real napkins, though, and an actual glass on Qantas, which did remind me of a more civilized era of air travel.

The flight from London was a reminder of just how small Europe is, as we crossed almost all of it in a couple of hours. Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania, then across the Black Sea, Turkey and Iraq. Having made our connection, we breathed a sigh of relief as we crossed the Gulf of Oman and over to India, and down the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. This is also TDT's first visit to Asia, and, while male homosexuality is still illegal in Singapore, female is not even acknowledged (both a British Empire legacy). It was a bit of a throwback to the 1980s coming out to the front desk clerk; fortunately, Singapore hoteliers are as discreet as the traveler!

I don't know about Judaism, either, but the other major world religions are well represented in Singapore, with mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples, and various churches all cheek by jowl (in fact I saw a Catholic church that could have been a mosque for its white minarets--you could only tell by the small crosses rather than crescents). I have never gotten through an airport so quickly and efficiently as at Changi, even much smaller ones; nor have I seen more Christmas decorations anywhere. Singapore is Malay, Indian, Chinese, and English, and the reindeer and ornaments together with palm trees and orchids make for a rather surreal tropical combination.

Could not complain about the trip, other than jet lag, but enjoyed a local meal at Pin Wei Xuan, involving chili crab and something called "God Bless You," which I think was a play on its three main ingredients in Chinese. Potato, capsicums, and what I only told T. later was eggplant (aubergine), once she'd safely enjoyed it!

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