OK, so it's not a classical London-Rome-Cairo-Bombay-Tokyo thing, but Doha, The Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Bangkok, Seoul and home across the Pacific IS in fact around the world, and I'm pleased to say that with the exception of two $135 coach tickets from Male, in the Maldives, to Colombo, we've done the whole thing in Bidness Class on miles, without shelling out the whole 400k per ticket RTW tariff, by stringing together stopovers on three one way tickets totaling about 210k apiece. I *knew* that I would get the last laugh for all the bullsh*t I've put up with from United and it's brethren flying Sfo-Lax. We mixed and matched UA with Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Thai, plus Trans-Maldivian (whoops: now these guys got their ounce of flesh. $900 for the two of us to fly from the Male airport round trip to the south of the island chain, maybe 100 miles in a seaplane. Can't have everything). Qatar was interesting, a whole new city rising up, on the foundation of two previous booms (70s oil money, and 80s oil and investments). Now they are in the midst of a third boom, bigger than the others with grand, grand building taking place. We sought out the old Souk and went and had dinner and explored. It was a great evening out, and we finished off by drinks at the W hotel bar--- a gorgeous night, balmy and pleasant.Uploaded with ImageShack.usHeading off the next morning from the Doha "Premium VIP terminal": a really nice, big terminal with lounges for the few First passengers (most QR flights have Business only), and Biz. Excellent food, pleasant surroundings, comfy chairs. My shower was decent. QR was, as usual, on time and the flight was perfect.The Maldives is this gorgeous chain of about 2000 islands in a 500 mile long chain of atolls averaging about 2 feet above high tide, with a hIghpoint of less than 8 feet. Talk about getting while the getting is good--- global warming will make this a memory in 50 years if things don't change. We could see all these pristine islands, each with turquoise water in a lagoon (surrounded by coral reefs and white sand) and the occasional resort, as we flew over. Sighting Male, the capital, is like a shock: a little island, no lagoon, with tall 15 story buildings of shabby Asian 70s quality, chockablock and jammed up to the edge, clearly bursting at the seams as all the people from the outer islands (?) go to the main city for work, leaving the remainder to fish, work at resorts, or have a humble existence. It is, I guess, ugly and there's no shining it except to say I haven't been there, and though I'm looking forward to it some time, it will be for less than a day as I leave for an appropriate hotel. And the amazing islets and atolls are lovely!My god, water so clear you can see blocks out into the sea to reefs, and filled with amazing fish and coral. Our particular resort, the Conrad Rangali Island, is composed of two islands about 1000' apart, with a footbridge across the lagoon between them, and a little boat service between them too. They have both beach villas and over-water villas, about 8 restaurants, and nothing else on the islands. The staff were pleasant, immensely friendly, and the digs were first class. We were upgraded to an overwater villa, one of four at this west-facing walkway, and had a dead-on sunset view, with no one else able to see into our place, or to our deck, which featured a jacuzzi. It was near the adults-only beach called The Quiet Zone, with a dedicated pool out over the water. Had afternoon complimentary tea and sandwiches several times, a special dinner twice, and daily happy hour overlooking the lagoon. Saw three or four types of Rays, including the cutest little one (dangerous, I understand) along the beach, maybe 2' out. Big, big ones at night. There was a delightful little shark (2.5 ft), cute as hell, who swam around the bungalow area, along with hundreds of reef fish and a veritable aquarium store full of colorful ones! I delighted in hanging off the deck in the evening and watching the action. We had a spotlight to provide a lighted area of the water on the unit. I forgot how much fun it is exploring the reef with a snorkel.The bungalow itself was beautifully done, and the dead on sunset view was great.So sand and sun and fun, and a couple of great experiences, too. There is an underwater restaurant, where we sat and had a drink and watched much wildlife in action, including predators who masquerade as coral, but suck in small stuff and occasionally close their mouths. Wild. A spa dinner that featured me drinking still, cold water (what?), and great light cuisine. We ate wonderful Maldivian Indian curries, grilled fish, and had a special fondue dinner with the chef and sommelier one night in the 65-degree wine cellar. The snorkeling was excellent, almost up to the standards of Bora Bora, along the north end of the main island. Our reef, off the bungalow, was also filled with fish but it was a good swim out to where it was really teeming. Near our bungalow, small beautifully colored fish and larger reef fish, along with the occasional big fellow swam day and night. I actually began to recognize some of the regulars, and also noted that the tide moves perhaps 3' up and down. Uploaded with ImageShack.usWe ate breakfast at Vilu, the excellent restuarant on our island, most days, and it was quiet, the food was good, and the staff very helpful. To say that we got enough to eat at breakfasts is the understatement of the year. In all, the Conrad was a great experience: Even with $29 burgers, we found meal-sharing reduced the gigantic portions of everything to a healthier, better repast, and mixing Indian vegetarian food in brought the bill down significantly, even at the Rangali Bar. Cocktails and wine were free in the afternoon at Vilu; we didn't pay to drink much except the occasional beer at the pool. The gym at the resort is excellent. Snorkeling equipment was on loan for free. The days sped by, with each evening featuring a new sunset display that amazed. Romantic, relaxing, and top-notch. I suspect we will be back.We slept well and long each night, and the trip to Sri Lanka came too quickly for everything but my wallet, and off we went to yet another vestige of the old Empire, which will be continued in Part Two when I get a chance.