Katamarino's Round the World flight

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Katamarino, May 6, 2019.

  1. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    (Yes, this continues to be entertaining and informative! Thank you!)
    Any particular reason you avoided Qatar so carefully?
     
  2. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    Just because we didn't have an overflight permit. Easier to fly around than go through the permit process!
     
  3. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I'll be running back to Dubai/Abu Dhabi and Saudi in November. I don't think I've seen any small GA activity in the 3-4 weeks I've been there prior, except from the skydiver crews running to the drop zones.
     
  4. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    The next flight was a bit of a long one. The only available AVGAS was in Nagpur, right in the center of India; a 1,350nm distance away.

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    We were up absurdly early and headed to the airport, adding 600 liters of fuel in the relative cool before dawn.
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    We took off to fly the assigned departure procedure and it was soon obvious we were nowhere near being able to meet the climb gradient. ATC vectored us out wide over Al Ain before turning us back on course for Oman. I was a little worried about the high mountains ahead.

    Ready to go
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    Long slow climb-out over Al Ain
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    Smile, the sun is coming up!
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    As it turns out, Oman ATC were very accommodating; as well they might be, charging us $180 for the privilege of crossing their airspace. They cleared us direct to the edge of their FIR over 400nm away, neatly avoiding the mountains on the originally assigned route. We cruised over Oman in the dawn light, and headed on out to sea.

    Oman mountains at dawn
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    A long way to go...
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    Approaching the coast of Oman
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    Shipping seen through the haze over the Gulf of Oman
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    Good cruising conditions over the Gulf of Oman
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    Time for a snack. The hotel had been unable to offer anything at all, so Gavin had noisily emptied the vending machine at the airport, attracting the ire of the policeman that was trying to sleep next to it.
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    After many long hours over the sea, occasionally passing position reports through airliners overhead, we crossed over the coast of India.
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    ATC, for some reason, would assign us a waypoint to fly to and then have to be reminded a couple of miles from it that we'd really need to know the next waypoint in order to continue. They drip-fed us our route for hours this way.
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    The last couple of hours into Nagpur were uncontrolled, as they lost interest in us.
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    The tower controller cleared us for the DME arc to the ILS approach, referring to us as a "Citation 182". He probably wondered why we were going so slowly. We touched down after 11 hours in the air.
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    Our handler showed up, and started extracting money right away for fuel and airport fees. He hadn't thought to tell us in advance that payment could only be made using pristine, latest series US bills, with not even the tiniest mark or tear. He didn't have an answer for how he expected people to obtain this kind of currency without being any prior warning.

    We made it through the airport much quicker than tales from other pilots had led us to expect, a win for the handlers, and headed to the hotel for a much-needed rest; and, of course, a curry!

    Airport dog
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    Very limited hours if you want a sandwich
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    Genuine curry!
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    Distance so far: 11,570nm
    Hours so far: 100

    Full write-up, and lots more pictures, at https://katamarino.co.uk/index.php/2019/08/02/round-the-world-eurasia-days-17-and-18/
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
  5. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Man, I bet it felt good to stretch the legs and see a real toilet.....
     
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  6. Skywalker

    Skywalker Line Up and Wait

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    This is such an awesome trip!
     
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  7. AKBill

    AKBill En-Route

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    600 liters is about 158 gallons, 948 pounds... What is you max fuel load? As far as the menu for hours to buy a sandwich, I guess folks don't like sandwich's, maybe they are to expensive or some local code restricting sales..:rolleyes: Safe flying Ross take care...:)
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  8. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    Max fuel capacity is 260 gallons!
     
  9. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    They told me it was an am/pm typo :D:p
     
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  10. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    We spent a day resting in Nagpur. I went out for the afternoon to see some of the sights, while Gavin stayed in the bathroom regretting his choice of lunchtime curry. I visited the zoo, where the most interesting animal seemed to be me; I was asked for a lot of selfies. I agreed, as long as I could take one too.

    Arrival at the zoo
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    Making new friends
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    One of the very small selection of animals
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    Visiting the Lata Mangeshkar gardens
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    More new friends at the Temple of Ganesh
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    Yet more new friends at the Deeksha Bhoomi
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    The Deeksha Bhoomi
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    That evening we regrouped. Gavin had decided to head home due to problems at work, so I'd be continuing alone.

    ==================

    We were both up and at the airport just after 2am. Gavin headed to his Qatar airways flight and I headed out to supervise fueling. We got finished early and I hung around watching airliners come and go, waiting for my flight planned time.

    Preparing for departure
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    Pilots must always wear sunglasses.
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    I taxied out just ahead of Gavin's flight, and set off south in the darkness for my 1,000 mile flight to Sri Lanka
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    Approaching the eastern coast of India
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    Arrival over Sri Lanka
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    Sri Lanka
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    Gratuitous selfie
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    Final approach to Ratmalana airport, Colombo
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    At just 7 hours, the flight had been quite short! Arrival was smooth, with a big welcoming committee organised by the amazing Captain Anil who was coordinating my visit. He knew everyone in Sri Lankan aviation, from the mechanic at the flight school up to the CAA director, and was doing my handling himself.

    A cool truck in the airport carpark
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    He had arranged for me to stay at the Hilton where, naturally, he was good friends with the director of sales!
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    Evening in Sri Lanka
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    Distance so far: 12,450nm
    Hours so far: 107

    Much more detailed write-up and lots of pictures at https://katamarino.co.uk/index.php/2019/08/07/round-the-world-eurasia-days-19-and-20/
     
  11. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    Great stuff, especially the pictures. Love the selfies, the "pilot in sunglasses," and the steely-eyed look of the "gratuitous selfie."
    Hope you are having even more fun than this all appears - it's a lot easier to read this in ten minutes than live it full-time, digestive adventures and all.
    Thank you for continuing to share this with us!
     
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  12. StevieTimes

    StevieTimes Line Up and Wait

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    "latest series US bills" I think

    Dude this trip shows tremendous courage. I keep thinking about me being in your place; hanging out at an airport at night, in a foreign and unfamiliar land, about to take off into the dark skies. I think about how scared I'd be overflying the ocean for two hours. I was nervous flying over the lake by OshKosh!

    Nicely done, man; nicely done.
     
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  13. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    Correct on the typo, thanks!

    Before doing this trip, I'd flown myself to more than 40 countries, including all the way from London to Cape Town, and up through the arctic to 80 degrees north. Despite all that this is still a massive learning experience and before these early start, long flights, I'm usually pretty apprehensive and going over everything again and again in my head. Especially the next flight, below; more than 1,000 miles of open ocean, no en-route weather data. I can't deny it's daunting. It's so worth it, though.
     
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  14. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    I spent a relaxed morning, most of it asleep, with a short walk around the sea front near the Galle Face hotel. The first aircraft to ever land in Sri Lanka had touched down on the large green in front of it.

    A temple near the hotel
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    The Galle Face Hotel, and landing site of the first flight to land in Sri Lanka
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    A windy day in Colombo. Luckily, the wind is going in my direction.
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    That afternoon Captain Anil and I returned to the airport to fuel the aircraft, and take care of all the other formalities to ensure a speedy departure the following morning.

    With Captain Anil and the fueling crew (and assorted hangers-on!) at Ratmalana! I gave away Gavin's hat to the maintenance chief.
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    ===============

    This was the final long flight of this section of the trip. From Colombo, Sri Lanka to Surat Thani in Thailand this 1,250 nautical mile flight would take me about 9 hours. Almost 8 of that would be over the Bay of Bengal, with no diversion airports until Indonesia; and if I landed there without a permit I may well end up in jail, emergency or no emergency.

    Before departure, Captain Anil took me to meet the Colombo air traffic controllers, and told them all about my flight. It was cool to meet the guys who'd be on the other end of the radio as I set off over the ocean.
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    Replete with fuel, I climbed out over the windswept coast, and turned inland, climbing slowly to clear the mountains of the interior.
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    Conditions were good, with a bit of a tailwind and clear skies, at least for the first part of the journey.
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    An hour in, approaching the east coast of Sri Lanka
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    This is it; time to cross the Bay of Bengal. Scattered storms were forecast along sections of the route.
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    Not much land along my route
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    Gavin was meant to be on the other end of the communicator looking at weather, but hadn't set his alarm.
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    Conditions at times became a little daunting, but never felt dangerous.
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    I watched my ADS-B in screen on the Aera 660, and could see airliners pass overhead now and then, with their callsign displayed.I called some of them on guard, and the ones who were listening were happy to tell me what they could about the weather ahead. A Gulfstream even dipped his radar down at my request to check out the weather ahead of me.

    Finally, the Thai coast was in view.
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    Most of the mountains were hidden by cloud, but it was still astonishingly beautiful.
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    Fish farms (or traps?) near Surat Thani
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    I was directed in to land number 3 behind a couple of airliners. It was 9 hours since I had taken off from Colombo.
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    Parked up in Surat Thani
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    As usual, I was out of the airport quickly and off to my hotel.
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    The room was...most welcoming.
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    Distance so far: 13,682nm
    Hours so far: 116
     
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  15. Arbiter419

    Arbiter419 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Fascinating, and truly awe inspiring as always!
     
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  16. Thunderbird83

    Thunderbird83 Filing Flight Plan

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    Do you have the option of flying any of these legs VFR? Or is everything IFR under the direction of ATC?
     
  17. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    VFR is an option in some places. However, VFR charts are often hard to find, and airspace can be quite confusing and complex. In a lot of these places if you stray into the wrong restricted area you could genuinely be shot down. I prefer to stay IFR as much as possible, as they then look after that for you, and procedures are generally much more consistent from country to country.

    However, on the long routes I'm usually out of radio and radar range of ATC anyway, so it can be fairly free!
     
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  18. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    The next day was the final flight of Round-The-World, Section 2! It would also be a major milestone, where I passed exactly 180 degrees of longitude from my starting point in western Pennsylvania. At only 290 nautical miles, and with good weather, it would be a short and relaxing flight as well.

    I was given a ride back to the airport by the hotel, in a pick-up truck. I was given the coveted front seat, they rode in the bed, despite my offers to let the mum go in front instead!

    Back at the airport for the final flight
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    Getting through the airport was even quicker than normal, as this would for once be a domestic flight. I had looked at parking the airplane up in a hangar at Don Mueng, the small international airport near Bangkok, but they wanted more than $10,000 for a month of parking. In the Middle East and Asia, even more than elsewhere, aviation is viewed as a massive cash cow for people in monopoly positions to milk. It gets pretty tiresome.

    Other traffic on the ramp at Surat Thani
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    Refueling, as was the norm since Europe, was from drums. However, these drums were teeny tiny at only 50 liters each, instead of the normal 200. The price was OK though, at just under $2/liter.
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    With the Surat Thani airport crew before departure
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    The weather all along the route was forecast to be sunny with scattered cloud. Ideal. I lifted off for the last leg.
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    Heading north towards the eastern shore of southern Thailand
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    Cruising offshore towards Bangkok
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    The route was a straight shot up the coast, and then hang a right to Bang Phra
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    A lovely day to be up in the air!
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    The big milestone; exactly half way around the earth. From here, the quickest way back to Pittsburgh was to keep heading east.
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    A beautiful national park, somewhere south of Hua Hin.
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    Descending towards Bang Phra
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    Pattaya
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    Coasting in to land at Bang Phra. The approach is challenging, with a turn onto final at about 300ft, close in to the runway to avoid hills. A foreign round the world pilot had crashed and died arriving here a few months earlier, so they were a bit tense about another foreigner arriving.
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    On the ground at the friendly and welcoming Thai Flying Club! Straight in to an oil change and spark plug maintenance.
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    Monkey!
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    Measuring out the oil to refill. As in Turkey, I filled up with Aeroshell W120. You need a heavy oil in these temperatures. A little surprisingly, the engine temps had actually been behaving themselves nicely, never exceeding the low 390s in the climb.
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    Tucked away, ready for a month's rest. For me, it was time to head back to Iraq and spend another 4 weeks trying to pull my natural gas project over the finish line.
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    Distance so far: 13,971 nautical miles
    Hours so far: 118.5

    Half done - half to go!
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    Full write-up of this section with lots more pictures: https://katamarino.co.uk/index.php/2019/08/13/round-the-world-eurasia-days-23-to-27/
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  19. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    No updates since August 24. You've got us hanging...
     
  20. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    IIRC, Katamarino works something like 30 days on 30 days off in Iraq. Don't hold me to the details, but I think it's a work cycle now.
     
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  21. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    Well then, due to popular demand...

    After something of a hiatus, the write-up continues with section 3, from Thailand onward through SE Asia! I returned to Bangkok after another month in Iraq, ready to fly again.

    We had a day in Bangkok to recover from our respective flights before setting off again on the next section of the trip. We spent a fairly lazy day, visiting the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (which was excellent) and the Siam Museum (which was not).

    A very big cat
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    At the Temple of the Reclining Buddha
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    Outside the Siam Museum
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    We rounded the day off with a visit to The Animal Cafe, where one can enjoy a light meal in the company of a multitude of cats, chinchillas, a possum, a raccoon, and even a skunk.

    At the Animal Cafe - he spent most of his time freely running about, but was in the cage so other animals could have dinner unmolested!
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    This cat seemed to be stuck and spent the whole evening trying to get out. It had extremely short legs.
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    I think there was something wrong with this cat
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    ======================================================

    August in Thailand is deep within the rainy season, so we elected to set off early to try and beat any afternoon storms. It was a 90 minute taxi ride back the Thai Flying Club, who had kindly opened the airport on a Monday just for us. They had really been extremely friendly and helpful overall; I can strongly recommend them to anybody flying in the area.

    Planey was sitting safely under the overhang of the office building, exactly as I had left him. After a thorough pre-flight I hopped in and turned the key; and he fired straight up without a moment’s hesitation. The club staff marshaled us through the gate and out of the club parking area, and then took up positions at the roads that cross the runway, to ensure no traffic got in the way of take-off. We completed the engine run-up, waited for the GPS to finally locate its position (it takes much longer than usual after a month off), and away we went.

    The route to Nok Airfield, Chiang Mai
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    Departure from Bang Phra
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    Bangkok Control turned us straight onto a north-easterly heading, far off our planned route, and kept us well clear of the Bangkok area on a wide detour around the city. Eventually we were allowed to resume our planned route. It never became entirely clear whether we were being treated as a VFR or IFR flight (I had filed IFR), and we were asked to nominate our own squawk code rather than being assigned one, which was a first for me!

    Looking out towards Bangkok
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    Flooded fields in central Thailand
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    We headed north across flooded agricultural land and swollen rivers. ATC handed us from approach controller to approach controller as we headed up the country at 8,000ft, and were always very helpful when I needed a deviation left or right to avoid a particularly large and bumpy looking cumulus cloud. As we continued north, the wide flat country north of Bangkok started to merge into imposing hills and mountains, studded with villages and divided by rivers. After a few hours we received our final hand-off to Chiang Mai approach, who cleared us to descend straight to Nok airfield, where we were to be hosted by the lovely Mike (we’d been put in touch by the equally helpful Eduardo!)

    Approaching Nok
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    Military traffic training at Nok
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    Nok airfield is located directly next to another airfield; Nok has a north-south runway and the other an east-west. Apparently they used to be combined, until some kind of disagreement led to the present situation. We landed at the correct airport and were met by Mike, as well as the local gentleman who takes care of the airfield (I believe his name was “Soi”), and Mike’s friendly black Labrador. They set straight to work and we refilled the tanks to the brim with a barrel of AVGAS, before spending a little time with Mike and his wife before Soi drove us into town.

    One of Mike's projects
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    After a long day, and fighting jet leg, we had an early dinner and a short walk through the night market before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel.

    A prodigious dinner!
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    =======================================================

    The next day was relaxed, and spent seeing a little of Chiang Mai. The hotel minibus took us first to the temple of Doi Suthep. Our driver fought his way through stop-and-start traffic out of the city, and we then ground our way up a tightly winding mountain road, west of Chiang Mai. It was obvious when we’d arrived at the temple; the lush greenery suddenly gave way to food and souvenir stalls, hordes of taxis and other vehicles, and a throng of Chinese tourists!

    Exploring temples in Chiang Mai
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    Not much of a view from up here
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    We chose to forgo the elevator up to the temple, and instead took the 300+ stairs. Entry was $1 each. We spent an hour exploring the temple and surroundings; it is perched on top of one of the highest mountains in Thailand, but we were in “solid IMC” and could see nothing but cloud and the very occasional glimpse of the valley floor through gaps! We made our way back down the steps, and the driver took us back into town, dropping us off in the middle of the old walled city at the temple of Wat Phra Singh.

    Wat Phra Singh
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    Wat Phra Singh dates back to the 1300s, and houses one of the most famous Buddha statues in Thailand. It’s co-located with a school and hospital. The main hall was unfortunately closed for a year for renovation, but there was still plenty to see. We were, by this stage, getting a little overdosed on temples so we headed for lunch at the beautiful Fern Forest Cafe, and then wandered back through the city to the hotel.

    Relaxing at the hotel
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    =======================================================

    On our last day in Chiang Mai, we headed 90 minutes north of town to the Asian Elephant Projects, a collection of more than 30 elephant sanctuaries. Our chosen destination was the Karen Elephant Project, with 4 adult females and one baby. We were given Karen clothes to wear on arrival; I initially thought this was for rather tacky tourist purposes, but apparently it also helps the elephants feel more at ease because they’re used to the clothes; and it keeps your own clothes clean, particularly important in the elephant mud bathing at the end of the day!

    Feeding the elephants
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    That evening I filed both the flight plans for the following day, printed Gen-Decs, and prepared everything else I could think of. The next day we’d arrive in Laos, the 25th country of the trip so far.

    Full write-up with lots more pictures on the website: https://katamarino.co.uk/index.php/2019/08/30/round-the-world-se-asia-days-1-2-and-3/

    Hours so far: 121.7
    Distance so far: 14,431nm
     
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  22. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    We left the hotel at 0730, and were back at Nok airfield a little after 0800. There was more activity today; a Light Sport Aircraft had been pulled out to go flying (and then cancelled due to avionic failure), and what looked like a large kite with a couple of seats strapped on was doing circuits to the neighbouring airfield (an aircraft type known as a “Breezy”). I called Chiang Mai Approach to get permission to depart and, in a first for me, I was asked to nominate my own squawk code. I wasn’t expecting that, so just said “7000” – in future I’ll have to think of something more meaningful.

    Ready to go from Nok
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    Downwind departure from Nok
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    Our first flight was only 90 nautical miles northeast to the city of Chiang Rai, where we had arranged to clear customs and immigration outbound. Conditions were typical, cumulus clouds dotted around over a sodden landscape. Within an hour, we were touching down from a straight-in approach to Chiang Rai International.

    Arrival into Chiang Rai
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    We were parked at one end of the main apron, and met by BAGS Ground Handling Services who would be leading us through the immigration process. As usual, the marshaller approached our wheels, and realised that his chocks were far too big to fit under the wheel pants. I placed my own small ones, and off we went through the airport. First stop was the airport office to pay those fees (just $40), and then to pay BAGS ($110). Overall it was a very cheap stop for this part of the world, and extremely quick as well; we were back at the aircraft within 40 minutes, ready to set off early on the 130 nautical mile flight to Luang Prabang in Laos.

    Leicester City football club, for some reason
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    Crossing the mountains of Laos
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    We climbed up to 9,000ft through fluffy clouds, passing the mountains that run along the border of Thailand and Laos. One of the first landmarks once in the country was the famous Mekong River, brown and swollen from the seasonal rains. At our altitude it was difficult to contact air traffic control so we cruised along for 30 minutes untroubled by the radio, until we managed to get in touch with Luang Prabang Approach and were cleared to start our descent. We touched down off the visual approach to runway 05, coming in over the city, where we had great views of the boat racing going on below; it was apparently a celebration, with people coming from all the surrounding provinces to race 30+ person canoes, all decked out in their own bright team colours.

    Approaching Luang Prabang
    [​IMG]

    Boat racing
    [​IMG]

    Final approach to Luang Prabang
    [​IMG]

    ATC directed us to park on the apron in front of the old terminal, now abandoned. Pleasantly, nobody at all met us so we had all the time we wanted to sort out luggage and get the cover on to the aircraft. We walked along towards the new terminal, and discovered that somebody had left the gate open and we could just walk into Laos, bypassing immigration and customs. This would probably have been a bad idea so we headed into the terminal to report our arrival, and that’s where the trouble began.

    Parked up in Luang Prabang
    [​IMG]

    We first met with the company who’d organised our permit, Asia Flight Services, and paid for that and also the arrival visas. It’s worth noting that we’d asked them to quote for handling the flight, but the prices were so high that we’d elected to self-handle, instead. Unfortunately it turned out that the airport seems to be very corrupt; the rep returned with immigration officials who claimed that as we’d not given them 5 days advance notice (our approved permit was apparently not enough), we would not be allowed into the country. This “requirement” is not listed anywhere in Laos law that we could find, and certainly not in the regulations covering arrival by air. Some discussions commenced and it was then decided that a payment of $500 would resolve the issue.

    This was by no means the end of the saga, but that would come in the days ahead. Eventually we made it out of the airport, and into the car to the lovely Sofitel Luang Prabang. Tucked away behind high walls near the center of the town, the hotel is incredibly quiet and peaceful; every room is a little garden suite with outside bathtub, and no adjoining walls to neighbours. Heaven! For dinner we walked to the river, through the lingering festivities of the day’s racing, to “Utopia”, an open air bar and restaurant overlooking the river. Nothing was too busy, as it was the low season, but still 90% of the clientele were young, hip westerners on gap years. The food was forgettable, but the views over the river as the sun set were fabulous.

    =====================================================

    On our first day in Luang Prabang, we had arranged to take a tour to two of the main tourist sites. We were collected from the hotel at 0830, and after a short drive through the town arrived at the dock on the Mekong River where we were to board our boat. A slender, roofed motor vessel of about 30 feet, there was more than enough space for 2 tourists and a guide! We set off upriver towards our first destination for the day, the Pak Ou Caves. First, though, there was the mandatory stop in a "local village" (suspiciously well set up for tourists) with huge quantities of local whisky and weaving for sale. Before long we escaped and were back on the boat heading up river.

    Temples in the tourist village
    [​IMG]

    On the boat, up the Mekong
    [​IMG]

    Along the way we passed a new bridge, under construction. This dramatic concrete structure is being built to take a new railway, from China to the Lao capital of Vientiane. It's funded, and being constructed, by the Chinese. The concept of driving a new rail route through the mountains, rivers, and jungle of Laos really appealed to the civil engineer in me. After a total journey of about 90 minutes, we pulled in to the dock at the Pak Ou caves.

    The new Chinese rail bridge
    [​IMG]

    Named for the mouth of the tributary river the caves sit opposite, the Pak Ou caves are made up of an upper and lower cave. They are a religious site, known for the hundreds (claimed to be 4,000+ but I was not fully convinced) of Buddha figures places on every possible surface within the caves. This tradition was apparently started, or at least became much more popular, after the Thai King visited in the early 1900s. We spent a while viewing the Buddhas, with a gentle accompaniment of children trying to sell us small birds in cages; apparently you buy and release these for good luck.

    Lower Pak Ou cave
    [​IMG]

    A coconut for lunch!
    [​IMG]

    The return journey on the boat took a little less time. We were going downriver now, and the captain throttled back to save on fuel. After lunch at the Coconut Garden in Luang Prabang's small main street it was back in to the bus, and off to visit the Kuang Si waterfall. This (or rather these, as it's an extensive series of falls) are located 25km outside of town and are a major tourist attraction for both foreigners and locals. They are co-located with a bear sanctuary (hooray!), and have several swimming areas; located sensibly at the bottom of the falls, rather than the top.

    Rescued bear
    [​IMG]

    At the waterfalls
    [​IMG]

    That evening we ate at Manda de Laos, a beautiful open air restaurant serving Laotian cuisine at tables overlooking three beautiful lily ponds, registered as a UNESCO world heritage site. The flowers of the lilies open up in darkness, so we sat and enjoyed our meal while watching the flowers slowly reveal themselves under the steady rain of the Laotian wet season.

    ===================================================

    On our last day in Laos, we decided to explore the city a little. After a slow morning, meeting with a flying friend and enjoying a Korean lunch, we headed to the Royal Palace, now a museum about the last Lao monarch.

    Korean lunch for one
    [​IMG]

    Colonial buildings in Luang Prabang
    [​IMG]

    The museum showcases the old royal living quarters and reception rooms, gifts received from various other countries dignitaries, and a selection of the monarch's cars. This included his "Jeep" - actually a Toyota! The royal temple was also open for viewing; sadly no photographs were allowed, as it was the most impressive we'd seen so far!

    The royal temple
    [​IMG]

    After visiting the museum, we crossed the road and climbed Phousi Hill, a 100m high hill in the center of Luang Prabang's old town. The Buddhist temple of Wat Chom Si sits at the top, and amazing views of Luang Prabang are to be had from every side.

    It was drizzling steadily throughout the afternoon, so after Phousi Hill we headed back to the hotel. That evening we met my flying friend at dinner on Luang Prabang's main street, before turning in early. We'd be leaving the hotel at 0630 to take on chapter 2 of the Luang Prabang airport saga!
     
  23. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    We were back at Luang Prabang airport by 7am. The agent that we had used for our permit, “Asia Flight Services” (also known as “Indochina Aviation Centre”) had given us a quote in advance that featured a number of very high third party “overtime” charges; such as $500 for Air Navigation overtime. These had seemed odd to me, with nothing mentioned in the AIP, so I had emailed the Laos Department of Civil Aviation to check. They responded, to say that there was no such charge, and requesting full information to investigate what they referred to as a “scam”. It wasn’t clear exactly who at the airport was or wasn’t in on it, but in the end we managed to stay under the radar and get back out to the aircraft without incident.

    Time to leave Laos
    [​IMG]

    We loaded up the aircraft and pre-flighted. When trying to sump the fuel drain under the engine (drain some fuel and check to ensure there’s no water in it) I found that no fuel would come out at all; there must be a blockage, or an issue with the linkage. I removed the top cowl and had Elsa activate the sumping lever while I watched; nothing. After a while it became clear that instead of the sumping lever, Elsa was in fact pulling the oil dipstick in and out. We eventually established that the issue was in fact a blocked drain tube; when I unscrewed the tube, fuel came out fine. An attempt to fix it by poking wire through failed, so it was added to the “things to do later” list; I had after all been able to confirm the fuel was safe!

    I put the aircraft back together and called for clearance. It took an inordinately long time to receive clearance, which had me worried that we were going to be called back for another attempted shake-down, but eventually we were given the go-ahead to back-taxi down the runway, and took off with a slight left turn on course. We climbed through cloud, paying close attention to the terrain on the GPS, and were soon cruising south on top of a fluffy cloud layer, in bright sunshine.

    Departing Luang Prabang
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Entering cloud over Luang Prabang
    [​IMG]

    We’d departed a little early, so I kept the power low and flew slowly to Bangkok to try and pull a little closer to our planned arrival time. We droned down Thailand on autopilot, enjoying the views and some music over the intercom.

    In the cruise over Laos
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Appropriate socks for our afternoon appointment
    [​IMG]

    Clearer weather over Thailand
    [​IMG]

    Our route from Luang Prabang to Bangkok
    [​IMG]

    Approaching Bangkok
    [​IMG]

    Holding north of Bangkok
    [​IMG]

    Inbound to Don Meuang
    [​IMG]

    Approach to Bangkok
    [​IMG]

    Large civic structures north of Bangkok
    [​IMG]

    Final approach
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Our destination airport, Don Mueang, was one of the busiest in Thailand. We were put into a holding pattern for 10 minutes while a parade of B737s and A320s from low cost carriers landed, before being vectored to the approach for runway 21L. We taxied past ranks of regional airliners, parking up on stand 4 opposite one of the M-Jets hangars.

    M-Jets collected us and drove us all the way down to the other end of the airport, where their “Private Jet Terminal” is. An immigration officer was there on site, and we breezed through and into a taxi in record time. Very easy, and also very good value considering the location; M-Jets are recommended!

    Yet another coconut!
    [​IMG]

    We were in a hurry to get downtown, as we had two tickets to “Truelove @ Neverland”. Despite sounding like some sort of Michael Jackson seemed brothel, this is in fact an animal cafe; with 20+ Siberian Huskies to meet and play with. We arrived early enough to walk to a local restaurant for lunch before our scheduled “playtime”. The facility was very impressive, with a large air-conditioned house for all the dogs to live in, and they were all beautifully groomed and healthy. The cafe has quite strict rules about how to interact with the dogs, for their safety (and of course that of the visitors). We spent a happy hour or so meeting the dogs before heading through the heavy Bangkok traffic to our hotel, out near the main airport, and a Dominos delivery for dinner!

    Husky time
    [​IMG]

    Meeting the huskies
    [​IMG]

    ==============================================================

    We left the hotel at 0630, to see Elsa off on her flight back to the US, after which I returned to the hotel and enjoyed another few hours of sleep. At check-out time I took a taxi to the Furama hotel, the same one I’d been staying at before, to be closer to Don Mueang airport for my 1030am departure the next day. The rest of the day was taken up by some flight planning, and dinner and shopping at the nearby Terminal 21 mall. The following day, I’d be heading south again, making ground once more on the route around the world.
     
  24. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    With Don Mueang airport’s busy schedule, it was important for me to be ready to go in time for my scheduled departure slot at 10:25am. After breakfast at my hotel in Asoke I took a “Grab” (southeast Asia’s version of Uber) to the airport. Things nearly fell apart at that stage as my driver got entirely lost, and spent about 30 minutes driving around trying to find the jet center. Luckily, after arrival, M-Jets were as quick and efficient as before and in minutes I was through immigration and in the van, heading back to the aircraft.

    Crew transport by MJets
    [​IMG]

    Fueling at Don Mueang
    [​IMG]

    By way of a change, fuel here came from a truck, instead of drums. What a luxury! I topped off all the wing tanks, and added a final 100 liters to the ferry tank to make sure that I’d have plenty of reserves for the next section of the trip; to minimise hassle through Malaysia I planned to have my next refueling in Singapore. I called for start-up, right on cue, and ended up waiting for ten minutes before being given start clearance as traffic was already heavy. I eventually joined the queue of 737s and A320s, as well as a single Thai Air Force C130, waiting for take-off; and just 30 minutes later than scheduled, I was off and headed south.

    In the queue for takeoff
    [​IMG]

    Leicester city again, for some reason.
    [​IMG]

    Departure from Bangkok
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Air Traffic Control immediately vectored me off of my flight-planned route, which had led straight over Bangkok, and instead took me out on a long loop to the west of the city before turning me back on course over the sea. I set the autopilot to follow the GPS route, and off I went across the water for a couple of hours towards Koh Samui.

    Coasting out south of Bangkok
    [​IMG]

    The route
    [​IMG]

    2 hours later, the island of Koh Samui came into view, and behind it the shore of southern Thailand. There were the usually afternoon cumulus clouds building over the land, but nothing troublesome. The biggest bother was the haze, making it difficult to get any clear photographs as I crossed the narrow neck of southern Thailand and started my descent towards Langkawi. The body of the island was covered in cloud, but as I circled round to the west to line up for final approach I was able to catch glimpses of huts on stilts along the waters’ edge, clearly a nice hotel of some description!

    Coasting in south of Koh Samui
    [​IMG]

    Crossing southern Thailand
    [​IMG]

    Final views of Thailand
    [​IMG]

    Langkawi is nominally a “one way in, one way out” airport as there is steeply rising terrain off the northern end of the runway. I landed on runway 03 and taxied into position on stand 13, where my handling agent Mr Musa and his colleague were waiting for me. I covered the aircraft, and after a brief hunt for the keys to the car which had somehow been lost, they drove me to immigration. This was incredibly quick and easy, and just minutes after landing Mr Musa was dropping me off at the Cenang Plaza hotel for my 2 night stay.

    Approach to Langkawi
    [​IMG]

    First things first, I planned my day off, booking a morning boat tour in the mangroves. This done I strolled the few meters to the beach and took a table at the “Huggin Hippo” restaurant, which served a delicious chicken satay pizza and chocolate brownie dessert! It may not have been very traditional, but it was just what I needed after a day of flying.

    Dinner by the beach
    [​IMG]

    ==================================================================

    After a quick breakfast at the Starbucks across the road from the hotel, I was collected at 0850 by the tour company, and off we went to the north of the island and the UNESCO-designated Kilim Geoforest Park. Kilim is one of the sections of the wider Langkawi Geopark, which encompasses the entire island of Langkawi. Langkawi was endorsed as the 52nd Global Geopark by UNESCO on 1st June 2007, making it the 1st geopark in Malaysia and the South East Asia region. It was designated due to its significant geoheritage features like caves, sea arches and sea stacks, dropstones and fossils. Managed by the local community, there are all kinds of boat tours and kayak tours to be had, led by knowledgeable guides who explain the flora, fauna, and geological features.

    Boats at the geopark
    [​IMG]

    The four hour tour, in a group of 8, was enjoyable and interesting, stopping at a bat-cave (insect-eating rather than crime-fighting), an eagle nesting area, a floating restaurant, and a sail-through sea cave, as well as a short visit to a beach. Sadly there was rather a lot of floating rubbish offshore, as well as on the beach. A tidy-up is seriously needed.

    In the bat cave
    [​IMG]

    At the geopark
    [​IMG]

    Beach in the geopark
    [​IMG]

    Monkey lunch time
    [​IMG]

    After the tour our guide gave me a lift to the “crocodile adventure park”, just down the road from his house. Billed as the “Largest crocodile adventureland in Malaysia”, the park is apparently home to more than 4,000 crocodiles of various species including one of the largest in captivity worldwide, weighing in at over 1 ton. After a brief, slightly tacky crocodile show (with the standard “putting a hand in the crocodile’s mouth” and so on), I and a number of the other guests were given a pretty good guided tour of the park, culminating with feeding chicken to baby crocodiles. We were assured that, despite the presence of so many crocodiles in the park, there were none at large in Langkawi; although our guide from the morning had told us a number escaped early on in the park’s history!

    The crocodile show
    [​IMG]

    Sunset on the beach
    [​IMG]
     
  25. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    I took a “Grab” back to the Langkawi airport, where my handling agent Mr Musa was waiting to meet me. He had filed the flight plan I sent him the night before, so all that was left to do was take a quick walk through security (no immigration needed for this next domestic leg), and walk down to the aircraft. With no need to fuel, it didn’t take long to remove the covers and pre-flight the aircraft. I called for start-up and clearance, and was on my way, taking off away from the hills in the opposite direction to that which I’d arrived from.

    Saying goodbye to the great handlers
    [​IMG]

    Waiting on arriving traffic
    [​IMG]

    Take-off from Langkawi
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Far from land...
    [​IMG]

    The day’s flight was to be a short one, a little over 100 nautical miles to the city of Ipoh. This city, of about 700,000 people, is the third largest in Malaysia. The city is best know for its cuisine, and the many temples built into the caves that thread through the dramatic limestone peaks all around. It’s also known for being one of the cleanest cities in Malaysia, which is nice!

    Passing Penang
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As I turned inland it became hillier
    [​IMG]

    Ipoh is beyond those hills
    [​IMG]

    Final approach
    [​IMG]

    The flight was straightforward, down the coast under control of “Butterworth approach”, past the city of Penang, and then heading inland for a dogleg to line up on approach to Ipoh, another “one-way” airport. As usual, I was the only one in General Aviation parking. Most Malaysian airports permit self-handling, so there was nobody there to meet me. This was quite pleasant, as it meant I could take my time to prepare my bag for the overnight stop, and secure the aircraft, without feeling rushed. This done I found my way into the domestic arrivals door and out into the main concourse without seeing a soul.

    The day's route
    [​IMG]

    Parked up in Ipoh
    [​IMG]

    Before leaving the airport I located the administration office, so that I’d know where to go the following day to pay my fees for departure. They also let me know how to file my flight plan; email it to the control tower’s “yahoo.com” email address! I hopped into a “Grab”, and headed into town, and the centrally located “WEIL” hotel. Room costs were much, much more reasonable than we’re used to in the USA or Europe, and for less than $100 I had a great room on the top floor. A comfortable night helps a lot to rest from the stresses of flying!

    A short flight meant that I had plenty of time on arrival, so I took a car south to “Kellie’s Castle”, one of the major local tourist attractions. Construction on this stately-home style castle was begun in 1915 by Scottish businessman William Kellie-Smith, who’d arrived in Malaysia aged 20 in 1890 as a civil engineer. Sadly he died of pneumonia during a trip to Lisbon in 1926, and the unfinished structure fell into disrepair and was swallowed by the jungle. Many years later it was uncovered, and is now opened up to the public.

    Visiting Kellie's Castle
    [​IMG]

    How it would have looked
    [​IMG]

    The castle is certainly impressive, with parts of it furnished to show what it might have looked like. Kellie-Smith also had a love of secret passages, and several of these can be explored around the castle. Had it been finished, it would have been an incredible place to live! The once vast grounds and estate around the castle have now been mostly sold off, and all that’s left are a couple of small lawns surrounding the ruins of the old house, and the unfinished structure.

    Ruined back quarters
    [​IMG]

    The view from the tower
    [​IMG]

    That evening I walked around the town a little to explore, as well as the vast mall that the hotel was connected to, and took full advantage of the incredibly cheap sushi prices available for some reason in Ipoh! Luckily, cheap inland sushi was a gamble that paid off, digestively speaking.

    Around Ipoh
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Is anyone still reading these....?
     
  26. Skywalker

    Skywalker Line Up and Wait

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    I do and love your reports!​
     
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  27. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Heck yeah! And loving it!
     
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  28. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    Yep. Keep going!
     
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  29. jonvcaples

    jonvcaples Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thank you for sharing, much success on the rest of your trip!
     
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  30. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    High adventure.
     
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  31. charheep

    charheep Line Up and Wait

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    I certainly am! I just dont want to clutter up the thread with my inane comments. But I am reading and re-reading them all.
     
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  32. Thunderbird83

    Thunderbird83 Filing Flight Plan

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    Every. Single. Word. Keep it coming!
     
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  33. Badger

    Badger Pattern Altitude

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    Keep them coming...
     
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  34. Skip Miller

    Skip Miller Final Approach

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    Yes! I am reading and waiting for the next one with bated breath!

    =Skip
     
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  35. jallen0

    jallen0 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Very cool trip...setting the standard.
     
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  36. AGLyme

    AGLyme Pre-takeoff checklist

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    After reading this account of the most epic flight imaginable... I shelved plans for showing off my flight from Connecticut to New Jersey and back...; )
    Nice work and thank you for spending the time to post.
     
  37. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    Reading and enjoying tremendously!
     
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  38. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Been reading and studying every pic! Living vicariously through you, lol.
     
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  39. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    Good to know, I shall keep going then!

    I had planned my departure from Ipoh for lunch time, giving me some time in the morning to go and visit one of the city’s famous cave temples. The Kek Lok Tong cave temple was not far south of the hotel, reached through small back-roads in a housing area, but well developed and clearly host to many visitors in peak season. Luckily for me, this was not peak season and things were fairly quiet.

    Entrance to Kek Lok Tong
    [​IMG]

    Inside Kek Lok Tong
    [​IMG]

    An interesting feature of this cave temple, which was opened to visitors in the 1970s, is that it runs all the way through the limestone formation. One enters at the front, and wanders deeper enjoying the beautiful statues and dramatic cave geology, and then rounds a corner to find an exit onto a large area of gardens and lily ponds. I had bought some fish food from a stand at the entrance (and had then wandered through the cave wondering if I’d been stitched up, as there were clearly no fish) so spent a while sitting by the main pond, throwing pellets to the fish and turtles thronging below me.

    Gardens out the back of Kek Lok Tong
    [​IMG]

    Not a big fan of the cake name, to be honest
    [​IMG]

    It was a short drive back to the airport. I went straight to the administration office and paid my landing and parking fees for the 1 day visit. $5! This was much more like it, and really demonstrates how countries such as Laos, India, and others needlessly penalise General Aviation and all but eliminate it. The people making these policies don’t think about the lost tourism, hotel, and other income for the area; only about the money they can skim off, or the bribes they can take.

    Preparing for departure at Malacca
    [​IMG]

    The airport police escorted me through security, and I prepared the aircraft for departure. Calling for engine start and clearance, I discovered one of the disadvantages of a procedural-based airport with no radar. Two commercial flights were due in the next 30 minutes, and with no radar, ATC couldn’t guarantee separation; so I’d be waiting until they both arrived! I could probably have asked to leave VFR and been responsible for my own separation, but I wasn’t in any real hurry so I was happy to relax and watch the jet and turboprop arrive and disgorge their passengers into the terminal. I was given taxi clearance as the second aircraft pulled in, and was soon on my way.

    Arriving traffic about to clear the runway
    [​IMG]

    My route to Malacca
    [​IMG]

    Crossing the south of peninsular Malaysia
    [​IMG]

    Today’s flight was another short one, to the city of Malacca. I set out along the continuation of the same airway that I’d followed the day before. To the left, the central mountains of Malaysia, and to my right, the sea. I flew at 7,000ft, and even at that relatively low altitude, the ground was almost invisible in the haze. I flew over Kuala Lumpur without catching more than a glimpse of the city below, although views of the main international airport were rather clearer.

    Kuala Lumpur International
    [​IMG]

    Boats of Malacca, in the haze
    [​IMG]

    There was quite a lot of traffic into Malacca. Air Traffic Control were very professional, and took each aircraft in turn; in a lot of places they’d have just kept the little Cessna waiting until the end of the line. I kept my speed up to the absolute maximum as I flew the approach to runway 03, touched down, and back-taxied to the apron. Malacca has a small, four-place GA parking apron next to the main apron. I shut down in my assigned space, and secured the cover; time to head in to town!

    Coasting in near Malacca
    [​IMG]

    I was staying at “The Majestic” hotel, which had a very colonial-era theme going on. I was served tea in my room on arrival, before setting out to walk around the city a little before the light faded. My first stop was the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. This Chinese temple was founded in 1645, and is the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia. From here I continued through China Town, where the main street had been blocked off from vehicles and was filling up with stalls and pedestrians.

    The Majestic
    [​IMG]

    Out and about in Malacca
    [​IMG]

    Cheng Hoon Teng
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    Chinatown
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    At the end, I came to a roundabout where a selection of colourful “trishaws” were parked up. Malacca is known for these pedal-powered rickshaws, which are decorated by the drivers with a selection of toys, souvenirs, and flashing lights. Hello Kitty, Disney Movies, and Spiderman were all popular themes. They were parked near the Stadhuys, thought to be the oldest remaining Dutch building in the Orient, and now the museum of History and Ethnography.

    Trishaws
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    The Stadhuys
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    I climbed the stairs past this old, red building and continued up the hill to St Paul’s Church. Continuing the “oldest building” theme of my walk, this church is the oldest church building in Malaysia and southeast Asia, having been built in 1521. These days the church is no longer active as a place of worship given that it has no windows or roof; it does, however, have a commanding view over the city and port of Malacca and was clearly a popular place for people to come and watch the sunset. A group of high-school girls asked to take a picture with me, apparently for a school project on the Arabic language; it was not clear how I fitted in to that, but I was happy to oblige all the same.

    New friends in St Paul's
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    A bit of aviation in the nearby square
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    I took advantage of Malaysia’s apparently very low sushi prices once again before walking back through the now post-sunset streets to the hotel. The trishaws, colourful before dark, had now blossomed further and were festooned with flashing and dancing lights, and all playing loud upbeat music as they cruised around. I contemplated riding a Hello Kitty cart back to the hotel but eventually decided against it; after as much salmon as I had eaten, I needed the walk.

    Trishaws at night!
    [​IMG]

    Distance so far: 15,797 nautical miles
    Hours so far: 135.6
     
  40. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
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    Display name:
    iMooniac
    Wow. Beautiful sights (I'm speaking mostly of the cave temple and the scenery around the garden, but the other stuff too!)
     
    Katamarino likes this.