From East to East (Africa to Orient)

A number of you have been asking about my upcoming travel plans and it occurred to me that I never quite laid them out in full. So, here’s what’s happening:

My cousin is getting married in November, so I was looking around for travel options from Addis to Taipei in November. In the spirit of slow travel, I thought I’d make a few stops along the way. The question: How can one jet set from Africa to Asia in a cost-effective way? 

I found my answer in a trusty website: Flightfox. Many of you have heard me talk about this before. It’s essentially a crowd-sourcing platform for travelers to request multiple flight quotes at once, letting agents compete against one another for a “finder’s fee” or award. I’ve used this previously for a $480 roundtrip ticket from Baltimore to Taipei, a $2.60 one-way ticket from Baltimore to Addis, and now a $595 one-way ticket from Addis to Colombo to Bangkok to Shanghai to Taipei. (Disclaimer: I used additional airline miles for many of those tickets, which is why the final quotes on the pages don’t match up with my listed numbers.) 

Thanks to FlightFox, here is where I’ll be in the next two months:

  • September 15 – October 8:  Sri Lanka (West, South, Hill Country, North)
  • October 8 – 13: Bangkok, Thailand
  • October 13 – 28: Shanghai, China
  • October 29 – ???: Taipei, Taiwan
  • November 8 – 10: Hong Kong (wedding!)

If you decide to use FlightFox, you can use this link for 25% off your first contest. Let me know how it works out!


Last weekend, I bid my farewells and boarded a plane heading East. I had arrived in Addis with a suitcase filled with sunscreen, rain boots, insect repellent, and sanitizer supplies. Now, as I made my way home, I carried instead five kilos of Ethiopian coffee and spices, a precious painting gifted by a talented Ethiopian artist and friend, and plenty of reminders of love and friendship. I felt like a modern day silk road tradesman, transporting the exotic coffee and spices of Africa across thousands of kilometers to the Asian continent. I wondered if those tradesmen, too, left their hearts behind somewhere along the way.

A journey that once took months on the road was now a 17 hour itinerary connecting through Saudi Arabia. Stepping off the plane in Jeddah, my first moments ever on Middle Eastern soil were marked by an unexpectedly thick humidity that permeated the air. Nighttime was approaching and the airlines had generously given everyone meal vouchers for dinner. Of course, there were the usual plane and airport encounters…Yes, it’s very kind of you to invite me to the city, but your government does not allow me–or any other solo female, for that matter– to exit the airport unless I am accompanied by a male relative. So much for last minute adventures…

And then there were the wonderful Arab hospitality and vibrant personalities. It all started with a brief inquiry about upgrade options at the “Upgrade Counter”. (You would think this would imply some sort of established procedure regarding upgrades, but it was soon clear that this was not the case.) The man at the desk introduced himself as the manager. “You know you would have to pay, right?” “Yes, of course, I just wanted to see how much it would be, and if I could use my miles.” More exchanges about me, where I’m from, what I’m doing, etc. ensued. I was told to check back once boarding began.

Hours later, I showed up as instructed. What happened next is not something I can explain. Before I knew it, one thing led to another and I found myself surrounded by seven airline employees chattering excitedly in Arabic as I stood there, half bemused but mostly confused. A flutter of phone calls were made and the men dispersed. The manager personally led me through the check in gate, reassured me that I would definitely get an upgrade, and then saw me off on the airport shuttle.

I was the last passenger to board. Once planeside, I was approached by another employee, who seemed to recognize me. As before, I was surrounded by five chattering attendants, presumably trying to confirm if there was a seat. Ten minutes of waiting passed by before the pilot finally nixed the idea. Tightened inspections of procedures, I was told.

In the end, I didn’t get the upgrade, but it was funny and amazing that more than a dozen people had tried to help a random Taiwanese girl get into a more comfortable seat. I made a mental note to put Arab countries on the next travel plan.

But, for now, adventures in Sri Lanka await.


One response to “From East to East (Africa to Orient)

  1. Pingback: 3 Weeks in Sri Lanka: A Comprehensive Trip Report | Where the Wild Ferng Grows·

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