Bizarre Travel: Summits & equations! Stranded on United! Museum of Instant Noodles!

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(SFX: Wind)

Anyone who wonders if Mother Nature has a sense of humor need only consider the tallest mountain in the world. Go a step further and consider this: How many of the top 100 tallest mountains above sea level are in Asia? Answer: All of them.

So which one of those is the tallest mountain in the world? Answer: None of them. 

Yes, Everest, which is a lofty 29,029 feet at its summit, is indeed “the highest point above global mean sea level—the average level for the ocean surface from which elevations are measured,” according to the nice folks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But is it tallest from base to summit? Not by a long shot.  

Thanks to the same volcanic hot spot in the middle of the Pacific that formed the Hawaiian island chain, Mauna Kea on the Big Island is the tallest mountain from base to summit. Sure, it’s only 13,803 feet above sea level, but the base of the volcanic peak is 19,700 feet below sea level, giving it a total rise of about 33,500 feet — more than twice the base-to-summit height of Everest. Sorry big guy. 

At least Everest fans can be satisfied that it pokes farther out into space than anything else on Earth. Actually, sorry, that’s wrong too. Because the Earth is not truly a sphere it, like most middle-aged men, has a bulge around the equator. A planetary spare tire. So the summit of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo is 20,564 feet above sea level, say the folks at NOAA, but because of the bulge, Chimborazo’s top is about 6,800 feet farther from the center of the Earth than Everest’s peak.

Everest does continue to hold at least two records, however: First it’s the site of the World’s Longest Conga Line, made up mostly of tech CEOs with too much money and too little climbing experience. The second record is that Everest has more dead bodies on it than any other mountain. 

Say, you don’t suppose there’s a connection? Probably just Mother Nature’s sense of humor again.


(SFX: plane landing)

Anyone who flies a lot has no doubt left something behind on the plane. You’re so happy to be on the ground and leaving the cattle pen of a seat, that you might not remember that you might need those glasses or iPad when you get home.

The items most often left behind, according to Business Traveller online, include Kindles and iPads, mobile phones, neck pillows, water bottles, clothing, glasses, scarves, cameras and passports. Fortunately, there’s one thing that isn’t left behind very often: a passenger. 

But it happens.

In April 2010, British Columbia resident Jessica Cabot was on a United flight from Vancouver that landed at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and was unloading. Cabot had a connecting flight to Jacksonville, Fla., so she could meet up with her fiance, but she was instructed to stay in her seat a bit while other passengers disembarked.

Eventually, the plane door closed and she realized she was alone. Which would have been unsettling even if Jessica Cabot wasn’t blind. She is. The 18-year old had flown by herself several times before, so it wasn’t her first time disembarking. It was the first time, however, that the flight attendant who told her to wait never came back. 

“I was instructed by the flight attendant to wait until everybody else got off the plane. That’s what they tell me every time so I didn’t think anything of it,” Cabot told CBC News. “And then, just complete silence. And I started calling out with no response.”

After 10 scary minutes that most likely felt like a lot longer to Cabot, a maintenance crew happened to come on board and find her, and she made the connecting flight. For her trouble, the folks at United gave her a $250 voucher for future air travel and issued a statement: “We apologized to Ms. Cabot … and have taken action (etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) to ensure this does not happen again.” Sorry, I might have been paraphrasing.

In their defense, United transports a lot of people around. Including an 80-year-old Salvadoran woman in February 2018 who is partially blind and doesn’t speak English. They transported her fine, just to the wrong airport. Instead of flying from Houston to Raleigh-Durham airport, she was given a boarding pass for Denver and put on a plane. Eventually, United found her in Denver and sent her to North Carolina.

Mikki Paradis, the woman’s son-in-law, said “She cannot read or write even in her own language. She can’t speak English at all. So when you hand her a boarding pass, she’s trusting that it’s the right boarding pass.” 

But it’s OK, because the family got a refund, a voucher and a nice statement from United: “We are also investigating … to better understand what happened  (etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) to prevent this from happening again.” Well, you get the picture. 

Just please remember to check the seatback pocket for any passengers you might have forgotten.


(SFX: boiling water into a cup)

Legend has it that Momofuku Ando was inspired while walking past a food line in post-war Japan of people waiting in the cold to buy fresh noodles. It was the moment that would eventually earn Ando the love and adoration (consciously or not) of entire generations of broke college students, backpackers and couch surfers around the world. 

Seriously. How can you not love the guy who invented Top Ramen.

In 1958, after years of trial and error, Ando unveiled the world’s first instant noodle product, Chicken Ramen. He went on in 1971 to invent CupNoodles, earning the gratitude of anyone who only owns a tea kettle.

Everything you could want to know (and more) about Ando and his inventions can be found at the !!!CupNoodles Museum in Osaka, a monument to pre-cooked instant noodles and the culture it created. The museum offers a surprising number of ways to talk about reheated noodles in a cup including the MyCupNoodles Factory, where you can design your own cup, packaging and noodle combinations; the Chicken Ramen Factory, where you make your own batch of instant noodles; the Instant Noodles Exhibition; the Instant Noodles Tunnel (a display of more than 800 kinds of instant noodles); a re-creation of the shack in which Ando was living when he invented instant noodles; and the CupNoodles Drama Theater, an interactive video experience inside a theater shaped like a (wait for it) instant noodles cup.

It all seems extravagant for something as simple as instant noodles, although in 2013, consumers purchased more than 105 billion servings (packages and cups) of instant noodles, according to the World Instant Noodle Association. About 15 servings for every human on the planet in 2013.

According to Nissin, the company he founded, Ando believed that “peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat.”

In 1970, the company introduced the Top Ramen brand to the United States, and in 2005, the Japan Times reported, he introduced noodles to space by developing a “vacuum packed instant noodle specially designed for Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to eat during a mission aboard the U.S. space shuttle Discovery.”

Supposedly, Ando continued to eat his signature Chicken Ramen the rest of his life until he died in 2007 at the age of 96. The myth that he was buried with a foil flavor packet is probably untrue.

END BUMPER: The Bizarre Travel Tales podcast is part of the Inappropriate Traveler Podcast Network. Find this and other podcasts at, and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @DeathByJetlag. Enjoy the flight.

(Writing, recording and engineering: Spud Hilton. Photos and illustrations: Spud Hilton. Site and its contents are property of the Inappropriate Traveler Podcast Network and Spud Hilton.)