From Sir Edmund Hillary's historic ascent up Mount Everest in 1953 to the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule at the end of the millennium, Welsh writer Morris not only documents locales but captures history in her remarkable 458-page collection (culled from her 18 travel books). Morris maintains a wonderfully descriptive writing style throughout, but the latter pieces are more fully realized. Chalk it up to experience and a change of perspective (the erstwhile James Morris underwent a sex change operation in Casablanca in the '70s). ''Feng shui, the ancient Chinese geomancy which envisaged a mystic meaning to the form of everything, is banned from the People's Republic,'' she writes. ''And dear God, it shows, it shows.'' While ending on a dour note, ''The World'' is an entertaining, unapologetic tour from a witness who has never forgotten to enjoy her brief and privileged moment in it.