When you compare the longitude of Bangkok with that of Florida, there is 180 degrees difference. Therefore, we have come exactly halfway around the world--and have only halfway to go. Certainly there will be challenges ahead but, if we can continue to obtain Avgas and the engines keep running, I think this thing is doable. It definitely has been fun!
After totally clear skies in the Arab countries, we have had a pleasant change of pace flying with clouds again on the last two legs. It is fun to play tag with them, to try to slice through with one wing but not the whole aircraft. In late morning and early afternoon, you can watch them build. They actually appear to be boiling. As they change shape, you can imagine their resemblance to various objects or animals.
It has been amazing how accurate the weather briefings have been. When we arrive for each flight, they give us a weather package consisting of several pages. Included is the forecast for winds at various altitudes. Superimposed on a map of the area, there are arrows showing the wind direction with the number of tails depicting intensity. On another page is a map with a sketch of any weather fronts along our intended flight path. Finally, there are sheets containing the current and forecast weather for our destination, alternate and any other airports along the route.
On this flight, for example, a tailwind was forecast initially, then crosswinds turning to headwinds later in the flight and finally, a tailwind going into Bangkok. The graphics page showed a large frontal area to the south of our course which we hoped would not drift northward by the time we arrived a few hours later. The winds turned out exactly as forecast and the front was right where they said it would be. Although it looked dark and ominous, it never touched us as we skirted along its north side very nicely. It is great when things turn out that way.
A Pachyderm encounter
Thailand is a delightful country. The people are extremely polite. The service is exceptional and they bow when thanking you. You almost never hear the honking of a horn although there is an abundance of traffic in Bangkok, a city of 14 million people. It is very green and more like Florida than any of the countries we have visited so far--except for the service, bowing and honking.
The economy is really cooking here. Values are high and costs are very low.
There is new highrise construction almost everywhere. Tourism is definitely their number one industry but it is also balanced with rice, tapioca, fruit, flowers, silk and sugar cane. We had thought taxi fares in Athens were excellent. They are less than half of that here. All the cabs have meters that start at a little under a dollar but don't increase for at least 10 minutes. There are also Tuk-Tuks, little 3 wheeled motor scooter-like open sided taxis, but without meters so you have to settle the fare before boarding or pay the penalty. They received their name from the sound they make.
We have seen photos of long-tailed speedboats for many years and could not wait for a ride. They are amazing! Their prop is connected directly to a 12 foot long shaft which extends directly from a large, loud V8 engine with a control handle attached to the front of the engine. It is steered by moving the entire engine, shaft, prop mechanism. To change direction at slow speed, the prop is lifted out of the water and moved to the new direction while adding power. There is always an an abundance of spray. They are really neat to watch--and to ride in.
The Red Bearon remembered this country as Siam and wanted us to take him to see the king. Unfortunately, we had to explain that the name was changed in 1949 when it emerged from the British colonies. He was also extremely disappointed to learn that Yul Brenner no longer was king. However, he happily settled for an elephant ride. At least there is some stability.
Each of us rubbed the head of an elephant so, according to folklore, we will all return to Thailand some day. Sherry hugged the elephants trunk. I think that means we will take it home with us.
Long-tailed speedboats as seen from the Bridge on the River Kwai