October 1997: I arrived in Beijing for the first time, and promptly fell in love with Asia. With the people, the colors, the sounds, the tastes, the history and the sense of urgency. After that trip, I dreamt of going back, and of following the Silk Road west from Xi'an.
August 2001: The dream became reality, and I arrived in Beijing for the second time, at the start of a trip across Asia that had grown to include Bhutan and India.
I traveled with a budget tour company, a high-end tour company, and on my own. I slept in yurts and on trains; in backpacker hotels and on the executive floor of the Amari Airport Hotel in Bangkok. I teetered across suspension bridges over the Hunza River and lazed on a beach in Goa; ate fried crabs in Beijing and dubious mutton kebabs in Xinjiang province. And I arrived in Pakistan on September 13 to hear about September 11 for the first time.
At various times I was too hot, too cold, too hassled, in pain or even scared, but I never regretted going. After 30 years as a software engineer I was delighted to swap my computer for a backpack -- and a digital camera. (I hate having my own photo taken, but a young couple at the Taj Mahal insisted.)
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