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September 10, 2010

Take Off -->Touch Down - The Beginning Of An Adventure

Somewhere over northern Africa (Photo: Jason Schwary) 
Boarding the airplane can be one of the greatest experiences of any trip! The rush you feel is practically indescribable. All at once every single preparation you’ve made up until that point is quickly pushed to the past and all that lies ahead is the present future, actually check that, all that lies ahead is the singular moment in which you’re living in. 
Yes, you read that right (Photo: Jason Schwary) 
Taking off from Paris I arrived in Cairo, Egypt some 5 hours later. Despite the 2,000 mile jaunt my wristwatch hadn’t changed a single time zone. Between Ramadan in the north east of Africa and some large gaps in the time zone system, I arrived on time. Strolling around the Cairo airport can be a mini trip in itself. Most notably, the attire of a complete muslim country can be shocking. Woman covered from head to toe in what appeared to be a queen sized bed sheet, the relative absence of beer at the local TGI Fridays (as if they actually had a TGI Friday, but something distinctly  familiar), signs displayed for a “Prayer Room” - worthy to note displayed as if separate restrooms for woman and men, and of course the atypical english airport signage like “Baggage Return” and “Restrooms”, however accompanied with a beautiful cursive arabic from which what I was told, was originally invented or intended to be a form of praise and respect to the great and all mighty Ala.
Pulp Fiction with a twist (Photo: Jason Schwary) 
After a cultural flip like that getting on the plane and taking off from Cairo would be way too simple. What kind of dramatic flare would that be in leaving an airport that ranks among the most interesting of its kind? Not very much indeed! Rather, after waiting on the tarmac for what seemed an solid hour we were told to deboard the plan with all our belongings. Off we went. And back on I came to scurry frantically around the general vicinity in which i sat to look for something rather important which I believed to have lost, something called my passport. Grrr, I always do that! Once that was squared away we were unanimously consoled with free refreshments to pacify the intense somber that blatantly expressed itself on the faces of every passenger.  After an hour or so, and being hollered and jostled at to wake up...we all marched back onto the exact same plane plane we were asked to abandon.  Prior to take off we were politely explained that there was a minor chip malfunction on the portal to the aircraft  that now was apparently fixed and capable of sustaining 600 miles/hour for no a half a day (12 hours!).  During take off I was mindful of the door, hoping to God, or Ala, actually both that the door would remain shut until we touched ground in Kuala Lumpur.  And that it did. Thank you God, and Ala!
Red hot city (Photo: Jason Schwary) 
Finally! After traveling for the better part of a year outside of my home country I deboarded the plane and walked out onto the grounds of an entirely new country. Despite spending 4 months apiece in Mexico and France and a couple weeks in Italy; Malaysia was the first country out of almost 9 months of travel that I had yet to make its acquaintance.  Within one meter of parting the threshold of Malaysia’s capital airport I was met with a stern slap that will most likely come to dominate my everyday experience for the next 6 months of my adventure...The omnipresent weather.  The humidity and heat was boggling.  It is my educated guess that this component of being in South East Asia will play a major role to come in almost everything we do.  More on that subject later.
452 Meters of architectural perfection (Photo: Jason Schwary)
Beyond the mundanity of talking about the weather we boarded a cab and headed straight to the capital city of Malaysia, home to a country which wasn’t any older than 20 years since the date I was born (more history to come on this colorful piece of the planet...stay tuned).  Despite providing a legitimate address to the cab driver, one who had a modern GPS installed just over the speedometer, we meandered through the capital for a solid hour looking for our hotel. Trust me, I did not mind this one bit! In fact, it gave us time to take in the capital, free of charge. The most brilliant singular aspect of the ride into the city was my first opportunity to lay eyes on a structure, a building, that I had been dying to see for over 10 years...The world famous, Petronas Towers. At one point it stood the tallest structure in the world (subsequently passed by a building in Taiwan and later in Dubai), but still holds the distinction as the tallest “twin towers” in the world...Funny I have a mixed emotions regarding this distinction as being a former employee of the Wall Street district during the dog-days of September 11th.  Regardless, I was floored. I felt like a child on Christmas running down to discover my favorite toy, the one I’d been coveting in the Sears catalogue for the past eternity.  Wow! It was amazing (and since the actual writing of this entry I have spent a solid 6 hours in it’s mesmerizing presence, photographing but mostly gawking with a mouth wide open [pics to follow momentarily])!  So, back to what I was trying to get at. Despite the  cab driver’s enthusiasm in describing the city, one he was obviously unfamiliar with, we got dropped off at our hotel's identical twin brother, the one which lied within the China town, not Indian town . As we tried to check in we quickly realized we needed the service of yet another taxi to take us to our final destination and officially be able to pronounce, “Arrived”!
Malay Dazz (Photo: Jason Schwary)
After 23 hours & 35 minutes of travel time, we were at the hotel we had set out to encounter. We dropped off our bags and quickly fled to the bustling nightlife of a city we were booked to spend the next 4 days...

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