4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure

4th Jan 2006
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 1/13 by Jenny McIver
Inside the Burj Al Arab, Dubai
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 2/13 by Jenny McIver
The Burl Al Arab, Dubai
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 3/13 by Jenny McIver
The Great Wall, China
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 4/13 by Jenny McIver
Berlin, Germany
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 5/13 by Jenny McIver
Seoul, South Korea
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 6/13 by Jenny McIver
Cape Town, South Africa
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 7/13 by Jenny McIver
The Pyramids of GIza
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 8/13 by Jenny McIver
The Great Wall of China
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 9/13 by Jenny McIver
Hong Kong
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 10/13 by Jenny McIver
Camel ride around the Pyramids
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 11/13 by Jenny McIver
The Taj Mahal
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 12/13 by Jenny McIver
Bangkok, Thailand
Photo of 4 Weeks 4 Continents: My Solo RTW Adventure 13/13 by Jenny McIver
Buenos Aires, Argentina

This was my first trip "Around the World in 30 Days" in 2006. Destinations included: Argentina, Germany, Egypt, South Africa, Dubai, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, South Korea and Japan. I used frequent flier miles for the RTW ticket (which covered the long-haul flights) but purchased a number of short-hop flights to round out the itinerary.

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. In the year that followed, I spent so many hours planning that it became like a second job. The best part was buying a huge foldout map of the world and plotting out where I would go. Others were welcome for a stop here and there but the trip was a personal quest to me and I wanted to conquer the world on my own.

The first stop on my round-the-world trip is Buenos Aires, Argentina. My two days here were spent running in Palermo Park, walking around the Harbor Area, visiting the Recolta Cemetery, and the Obelisk (the city's biggest landmark) that sits in the Plaza de la Republica.
Photo of Buenos Aires, Argentina by Jenny McIver
I reached Berlin after a long haul flight from Buenos Aires, stopping in Paris for a changeover. The first thing that stung me was the incredible cold. I just wasn't expecting it. I tried going for a run, but I didn't last long before I was back at the hotel for a hot shower. The next day I left to explore Berlin on my own and covered spots like the Brandenburg Gate, Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe, Potsdamer Platz, parts of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Reichstag Dome.
Photo of Berlin, Germany by Jenny McIver
Loved an afternoon hike up Table Mountain to arrive just in time for a perfect sunset. I finished the day with a dinner in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Area. The next day I went to see the Robben Island Museum (the most visited monument in S.A.) where Nelson Mandela was held captive for 18 years. A visit to Camps Bay Beach and Clifton Beach on the last day wrapped up my stay in Cape Town. Next stop: Cairo!
Photo of Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa by Jenny McIver
In Cairo, I hired an Egyptologist as my guide for the day. It was inexpensive and an excellent way to learn a lot about the city in a short time. We visited the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Cairo Museum, the Mosque of Muhammad Ali and the Khan al Khalili market all in one day.
Photo of Cairo, Egypt by Jenny McIver
This was my biggest splurge on the trip. I'd seen pictures of this sail-shaped hotel in Dubai for years and always dreamed of staying there. At USD 1,000 for a single night it was a budget-buster but the two-story suite, private butler service and "princess for-a-day" experience made it well worth the expense.
Photo of Burj Al Arab - Jumeirah - Dubai - United Arab Emirates by Jenny McIver
This stop was my one planning mistake of the trip. I only had one day to see the Taj Mahal and it was a Friday. I found out a few weeks prior to departure that the Taj is closed on Fridays. Since the trip was scheduled so tightly, there was no way to change the date without screwing up the rest of the itinerary so I had to settle for viewing the Taj Mahal from across the river. Still worth the trip.
Photo of Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India by Jenny McIver
Favorite thing to do in Bangkok is to ride the commuter boats down the Chao Phraya River. It's insanely inexpensive and a great way to beat the Bangkok traffic while seeing all the local sights. Fortunately, most of the major sightseeing spots are situated close to each other, making it easy to cover a lot of ground without wasting much time in transit. Spots on my list were Wat Phra Kaeo, The Grand Palace, Wat Pho (reclining Buddha), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Photo of Bangkok Thailand by Jenny McIver
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 the tsunami in 2004. When I finally arrived at the hotel around 10:30am they had a room ready for me so I changed and headed down to check out the beaches. It was so hot and humid today that I didn’t last much more than an hour on the beach before retreating to the cold water of the pool where I spent the rest of the day being perfectly lazy. Tomorrow it’s on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but I really enjoyed my time here in Thailand and hope to come back sometime soon.
Photo of Phuket Thailand by Jenny McIver
For my one full day in KL, I decided to take in the city’s architectural sights followed by an afternoon of the #1 tourist activity here – shopping. Kuala Lumpur, also known as the “Garden City of Lights”, is the capital city of Malaysia. It’s a rapidly-evolving, modern city, with a goal of catapulting Malaysia into “fully industrialized nation” status by the year 2020. After a morning of walking around the city, through the parks and taking about 50 pictures of the Petronas Towers (they are so impressive, it’s hard to stop – though equally hard to get a good picture with all of them in it) I headed into the KLCC Shopping Center. I spent some quality time there and actually did buy a few things before catching an adventurous wave and taking the train down to Chinatown to the well-known Petaling Market. The market was loud, colorful and aromatic with smells from the many street vendors wafting through the stands. I tested my haggling skills with the street vendors and eventually bought a couple of very reasonably priced souvenirs.
Photo of Petronas Twin Towers Kuala Lumpur City Centre Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia by Jenny McIver
Singapore is tiny as far as world capitals go. The island city-state’s population is made up mostly of Chinese (3/4 of the city’s population), then Malays and small percentage of Indians. Every aspect of life in Singapore is carefully controlled and monitored by a government determined to strengthen its position as Asia’s premier financial center and manufacturing and shipping hub. I spent most of the afternoon perusing the countless shops along Orchard Road and, after walking around for about 4 hours, retired back to my hotel. After an enjoyable morning at the zoo the next day, I took a taxi back to the city to see the famous Raffles Hotel and have a Singapore Sling in the bar where they were invented – the Long Bar. Stopped in Singapore for a Singapore Sling from the famous Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel.
Photo of The Long Bar Singapore by Jenny McIver
After checking-in, I headed out of the lobby and asked the doorman the best way to get down to the Star Ferry terminal. The Star Ferry is actually a system of ferry boats that take you across the harbor from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon on the mainland of China with the most spectacular views of Victoria Harbor between the two. Once I got across to Kowloon, I got my first great views of Hong Kong. Though it was still very overcast and foggy, it was nonetheless a view to love. I walked along the Kowloon waterfront and down to the Avenue of the Stars where all of China’s greatest film stars including Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are immortalized with a star and their handprints along the walkway. And then the most unbelievable thing happened. In a span of about 30 minutes, the clouds totally cleared and the sun finally shone through in all its glory. As soon as I realized the sun was here to stay (at least for a while), I practically ran to the ferry to get back to Hong Kong Island and find the Victoria Peak tram station. I quickly found the tram station and was disappointed to see there was a very long line. I wasn’t the only one who’d made the sprint to the peak. Fortunately, the line moved quickly and I was on the tram and on my way up the side of the mountain in less than 40 minutes. The views were well worth the efforts involved in getting to the peak. I finished my day with a drink and dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel with some beautiful sunset views of the island.
Photo of Hong Kong by Jenny McIver
Hired a taxi for the early morning drive out to the Great Wall. If you leave Beijing early enough, you can get there before the tourist buses and have the entire wall all to yourself. It was incredible. Though there was a cable car at this point along the wall, I decided to make the hike up. When I got up to one of the garrison towers and climbed up onto the actual wall, the sun was just starting to break through the clouds. Surreal! After spending a couple of hours I got back to the bottom headed back into town. I had the driver drop me off at Tian’anmen Square so I could wander around and visit the Forbidden City nearby for the rest of the afternoon. I spent the rest of the day exploring downtown Beijing. My first stop was Tian’anmen Square, the world’s largest square. Just across from the square sits the historic Tian’anmen Gate. When China was under imperial rule, the gate formed the entrance to the Forbidden City. At the center of the gate is a large portrait of Chairman Mao, to his left the inscription reads “Long Live the People’s Republic of China” and to his right it reads “Long live the unity of the people of the world.” My final stop for the day was Beijing’s largest park, Beihai Park.
Photo of Beijing, China by Jenny McIver
I woke up early on my first morning in Tokyo and went for a run in Chiyoda Park. The Imperial Palace lies within the park. After I got back to the hotel and had a shower, I headed back out to explore the city. With a little advice from the concierge, I made my way to a nearby train station to take the train to the Shinjuku neighborhood where the 150-acre Shinjuku National Garden is located. After leaving the park, I wanted to check out the Harajuku neighborhood. The market street scene in this quirky area is known for its bizarre parade of teenagers (and older) in miniskirts and platform shoes. After hanging around for a bit I grabbed some dinner along the walk back to the hotel, did a little shopping and headed back for the night. Last day in Tokyo I wanted to check out Tokyo Tower, Japan’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. Though it is 30ft taller than the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower is not nearly as impressive architecturally. It has two observation decks and they say that on a clear day you can see all the way to Mt. Fuji.
Photo of Tokyo, Japan by Jenny McIver
Seoul was my last stop on this trip and I had no intention of spending my last night sleeping in. As soon as I checked into my hotel I headed out to check out the 24-hrs South Gate market. After braving the cold and wandering around the market for over an hour I decide to head back. The next day I’m out the door a little before 9am after having breakfast and in a taxi on my way to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is literally impossible for me to stay outside longer than an hour, so after visiting the Palace, I hop in a cab back to the hotel to thaw out for a few minutes before visiting Namsan Park and the Seoul Tower across the street from the hotel. After I’ve warmed up a little, I walk across to the park and begin climbing the many, many stairs up to the top (how many times have I climbed stairs on this trip now??). The view is great but I’m having trouble focusing on anything but how unbelievably cold it is up here. I last about 30 minutes before heading back down the hill to the hotel to pack (for the last time).
Photo of Seoul, South Korea by Jenny McIver