Solo trip around the world

By: Jack Efird
This item appears on page 30 of the July 2018 issue.

An 85-year-old on a solo trip around the world, I left Dallas on Jan. 4, 2017, and returned Jan. 28. I traveled 30,000 miles, spent 100 hours in airplanes and visited eight new countries.

I took 11 different flights, one of which was with Buddha Air over the Himalayas, including a look at Mount Everest.

I flew with some of the top airlines: Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines. I didn’t have extra knee room, but I did have better meals than I’ve had on US airlines. Thai Air actually had an extra inch more ofroom and was not fully booked, as were the others.

I booked my airline tickets first, then my hotels (with four nights in each city) and, finally, my day trips. To do all this, I used kayak.com, expedia.com, hotels.com, booking.com, trivago.com and viator.com.

Initially flying Dallas-San Francisco-Hong Kong-Singapore-Bangkok took a total of 32 hours. My Singapore Airlines airfare for that route was $652.80.

In Bangkok, I stayed at the Montien Riverside Hotel (372 Rama 3 Rd., Bang Khlo; www.montienhotel-riverside.com) for $72.36 per night plus taxes, booked through Expedia. It was a beautiful, 5-star hotel!

I took an excursion by train to the bridge on the River Kwai and went on a trip to the floating markets. Both day trips were booked through Viator.

My next flight, to Kathmandu, Nepal, on Thai Air, cost $335. I stayed in the Thamel area of Kathmandu (with dirt roads) at the Kathmandu Grand Hotel (Chakshibani Marga, Thamel; www.kathmandugrandhotel.com) for $30 per night, with breakfast.

I took a $200 flight over the Himalayas that I booked through Mountain King Adventure (www.mountainkingadventure.com). I also booked trips to Bhaktapur, in Kathmandu Valley, and Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.

My next stop was New Delhi. The cost of my Jet Airways flight from Nepal to India was $250. I stayed at the Sheraton New Delhi (District Center Saket; www.itchotels.in/hotels/new-delhi/sheratonnewdelhi.html) for $88 plus 20% tax.

To get to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, for $100 I reserved a seat on what I had seen listed online as a 100 mph train. My mistake. It was not a super-train but simply a crowded train that went 100 mph. If I’d known, I would have taken a private van instead, knowing that from 2009 to 2015, there were 803 accidents involving Indian Railways, with 620 killed and 1,855 injured.

The train left New Delhi at 6 a.m., and I arrived safely in Agra two hours later. An Indian breakfast and dinner were served on board, but I didn’t care for the food; I prefer American-style breakfasts.

Getting off the train, I fell (weak right leg), sustaining leg wounds. My guide, who met me at the station, took me to his friend’s tourist store, where the owner used antiseptic on my wounds and bandaged me up.

I missed going inside the Taj Mahal and spent a couple of hours in a coffee shop across from the entrance. I didn’t leave Agra until 6 p.m., so I had a lot of time to kill. I had booked the train and guide on Viator.

My New Delhi-Dubai flight, also with Jet Airways, cost $250. While in Dubai, I stayed at the Atana Hotel Dubai (Barsha Heights, Hessa Street; www.atanahotel.com), at a cost of $93 per night plus 20% tax. A bigbreakfast was included. During my stay there, I visited Abu Dhabi.

With my injured legs, I didn’t do much sightseeing. The hotel’s nurse bandaged my legs every night.

My Arabian wooden dhow cruise was canceled by the tour company, since they had lost the copy of my passport they said I needed to get into Oman.

I continued on Emirates to Casablanca and Marrakesh for $560. In Marrakesh, I stayed at the Riad Dar Asdika (20 Derb Erramad, Blvd. Fatima Zahra; www.riad-darasdika.com) for $41 a night. In the middle of the Medina, it was located near the Jemaa el-Fnaa marketplace, where there were many snake charmers.

I took a hot-air balloon ride ($241) over the Moroccan desert with seven young backpackers. I needed their help to get into and out of the basket. I also took a full-day trip to Ouarzazate and Aït Benhaddou.

The trip home, on Qatar Airways, took 32 hours. At a total cost of $573.49 in economy class, I flew from Marrakesh to Dallas-Fort Worth, with a change of planes in Qatar, my 102nd country visited.

JACK EFIRD

North Richland Hills, TX