844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Viet-f***ing-nam!!! (Hanoi Airport, Vietnam)

Oct 12th, 2009 - My departure from Vietnam segued nicely with my overall Vietnam experience. Nothing like a near fistfight with a cab driver before getting on a plane to put your mind at ease. The hotel arranged my cab at the normal $14 US rate. However, on the way to the airport the driver picked up a Japanese gentleman. He initially misunderstood the driver and heard $50 US as opposed to $15 US. As he was walking away I exited the vehicle and set him straight so he returned and hopped in. I thought to myself, ‘Cooool. Two people. Now I only pay $7.’

I am a moron. As soon as the Japanese gentleman acquired his bag from the trunk he paid the driver and split like a friggin ninja. I did not even have a chance to ask how much he had given.

Then the fun began. I asked the driver how much the ride was. This immediately triggered incessant babbling in Vietnamese. To say I had a bewildered look upon my face would be a colossal understatement. As I stood there I was presented with, ‘blahbahblaaahblahbaahblah-hotel-blahbah-[head nod]-blahblahblah-[hand gesture]-blaaaaahblaBLAAAAAAAHblah.’ I then repeated my question as to price which was followed by another unintelligible anger sodden burst. He grabbed my bag and started dragging it towards the car. I resisted. So he grabbed my wrist and began pulling harder. Now Richie angry. Richie resist forcefully and consider bitch-slapping irate cabby man. An airport employee came to see what the fuss was about and proved himself utterly useless. He stood. He smiled. He left. Much obliged.

I start repeating the word ‘Police’ at increasing decibel levels. Then I came to my senses and realized that even if I win I lose. I paid the f***er. I walked away with my blood pressure at firehose proportions. You see, what he was going on about was the fact that I made the deal with the hotel and the price I agreed upon was $14. Therefore I owe him $14. If he turned his cab into a clown car and stuffed a soccer team inside I would owe $14. He charged the other guy $15 which I pointed out (he tried to conceal this fact but dropped the money on the floor of the cab accidentally). It mattered not. Keep in mind that if not for me Team Japan would have kept walking along. I earned the little bastard an extra $15 US, a gesture he repaid by bending me over sideways! I am ashamed to admit that I really wanted to open hand slap this guy across the face and scream, ‘STICK THAT IN YOUR ASS!!!’ Thankfully, I internalized it and moved along. Tick…tick…tick….

I made it past the counter without checking my bag but was stopped and forced to weigh it on the way to immigration. Rebuffed again. The woman that did the rebuffing was as pleasant as you might expect. She may have been related to the cabby. I marched back to the check-in counter in defeat. In Bangkok I did not even try. I hadn’t the strength. I am now 7 for 10.

So I am now in Kathmandu and two things are abundantly clear: I am going to like it here and I will probably go bankrupt. Tomorrow I am off on a short 4-day trek, a warm up of sorts. After that a 9-day rafting trip followed by (if I am frisky enough) a 15-21 day trek. Yeah, there is shit to do here. I hardly know where to begin.

My arrival at the airport was christened with a two hour wait for a visa. That is what happens when two planes of gore-tex toting tourists arrive simultaneously. Kathmandu is not so pretty and you can actually taste the pollution in the air but it does have a certain allure (It'll probably wear off).

My visa is good for three months but I am not sure this is going to cut it. Hell, I already got a month blocked off without even scratching the surface. Trekking, rafting, paragliding, parahawking (i.e. shadowing a hawk in the air while paragliding), bungee jumping, canyoning, tigers, rhinos, snow leopards, yetis (i.e. abominable snowmen), stupas, temples, Tibet, Bhutan, so on and so forth. You get the idea. Time to batten down the hatches.

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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim