We were so excited to escape Panama City, and more importantly, Central America, that I was thrilled to depart for almost 40 hours straight of travel. In economy. What was wrong with me? I was flying to Southeast Asia!
This was easily the craziest itinerary we ever have taken – it even beat the last minute Madrid-Frankfurt-Bangkok-Bali trip we took in 2010 to end our first RTW. This itinerary was Panama City-Miami-Zurich-Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur – a total of 34 hours and 47 minutes, according to United.
Layover in Miami
We left the Sheraton Panama City at 8:30am Eastern Time. We flew from Panama City to Miami (3 hours), where we had a 4+ hour layover. We were sprung from the airport for a few hours, to have drinks with our friends Bob and Steve. It was a welcome respite, although we felt rushed back at the airport after they dropped us off. We tried to make our way through a painfully slow security line only 45 minutes before our flight, while both of us had bladders filled with pitchers of beer.
It was also time for me to start transitioning from my reflex Spanish speak. As we arrived at the top of the security line I thought to myself how do I request the premier security line in Spanish? I remembered I was safely back in the good ‘ol USA and there was no need to speak Spanish.
Then, the TSA lady asked me for my boarding pass – in Spanish. That was when I realized the default language at MIA seemed to be Spanish. I was desperate, at that point, to purge my brain of Spanish and MIA was not helping!
We finally got to the other side of security to learn: 1) our flight was at 7:45pm, and not 7:05pm, as we initially thought, so no need for the rush; 2) our flight was 30 minutes delayed; and 3) thankfully there were bathrooms just on the other side of security. No missed connection, and bladders happily emptied.
Inching Closer – Flying to Southeast Asia
After waiting for our delayed flight in Miami, we flew Swiss Air to Zurich (19 hours). It was nice and cold in Zurich – 1 degree Celsius. And, it was snowing. It was, admittedly, nice to see the snowy landscape from the airplane window. It was also nice to see the perfectly white, fresh snow from inside the airport, warm and toasty, while wearing flip flops and no socks. We said goodbye to snow, wondering when the next time would be that we would see the stuff (hopefully not for a while), and boarded our next flight.
The third flight was Thai Air to Bangkok (another 10 1/2 hours). We already started to experience Asia – in the Thai hospitality of the beautiful orchid wearing flight attendants, the Chang Beer, and the pork green curry (even airplane food tasted pretty decent at that point).
We were surprisingly still “alive” when landing in Bangkok, just running on pure adrenaline. Despite the fact that we were not hungry when we arrived in Bangkok, we downed a couple of noodle soups at the Airport. We were just thrilled to start enjoying good food. I wandered the concourse seeing flights bound for Hanoi, New Delhi, Hong Kong – all places I can’t wait to visit while based on this side of the world. Even the fruit and trinkets sold at Duty Free appealed to me.
Finally, we boarded our final Thai Air flight to Kuala Lumpur (2 hours). We actually arrived in Kuala Lumpur within 2 minutes of our scheduled arrival time. In all, 35 hours of travel time, plus a few hours before our Panama flight at the airport, and the taxi from the airport in Kuala Lumpur.
Our total journey – roughly 39 hours flying to Southeast Asia. In economy. We were so excited we did not care. Most of the flights were not too bad due in part to: extra leg room, or empty seats allowing us stretch out, or merely the fact that we did not fly a single flight on an American airline. We watched movies non-stop (high expectations for Lincoln, not met, but Argo was very good. . .)
But, after all the travel and all the time zones we traversed. We were, finally, in Asia! Ready for a shower, a nap, and then, some great food in Kuala Lumpur!
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