We departed Ahmedadbad, India (VAAH) with “NO AVGAS” as reported by the airport manager and we’re off to Nagpur, India (VANP) where fuel had been reported. After fueling in Nagpur and a night sleeping in the Mooney, we were off to Kolkata, India (VECC). Our arrival into Kolkata proved the need for patience and six copies of all documents with a sealed aircraft by customs before we deemed no threat to the population of India. Our ten mile ride to the nearest hotel took two and a half hours due to unbelievably bad traffic. We collapsed in clean beds at 11:00 pm.
We were up and out at 5:30 am through customs and immigration by 8:00 am and feeling fairly giddy at the prospect for immediate departure. CarolAnn called ATC for engine start and was told to wait for further response.
After numerous calls, ATC finally confirmed our delay was due to current visibility below minimums for non-scheduled flights, which was our classification. We resolved, although within our minimums, we were not going to change the India ATC system so we patiently waited for engine start.
At 10:20 am we heard our call and couldn’t taxi soon enough for departure!
Flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand (VTCC) – December 21st
Our delayed departure due to low visibilities from Kolkata did not detract from the beautiful flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Once above the fog, smoke, and haze of Kolkata, we had severe clear for our six hour flight.
Once we were handed off to Bangkok it became very difficult to understand the Thai accent which added to the challenge of the poor radio reception. We briefed the Chiang Mai approach for ILS 36 with mountains to the west and the city to the east. We were cleared for the visual. Our assigned slot on the ramp was a respectable fifteen. An airport vehicle awaited us with a young man offering tie-downs, a ride to immigrations, and insisting on helping with our bags.
Once inside the clean building, the immigration officer smiled, bowed and asked us to please complete forms. Within a very short time, the young line man guided us to currency exchange and we paid fees before he accompanied us to the domestic side where we called a taxi.
The taxi wait was the longest part of our entry process. The Thailand traffic was subdued compared to India with the always blaring horn honking and vehicles filling in wherever there might be space with a complete disregard for lanes.
We were in our hotel room by 6:30pm and shared our amazement over dinner regarding the smooth Thai entry and gracious people. We were sound asleep by 10:00 pm!
Next Morning – December 22nd
After a leisurely breakfast we decided to walk using a local Chiang Mai map. The city seemed to be half parks and half open markets. The people were full of smiles with lots of hands clasped in front and head bowing. The smiles were contagious and we bowed with hands clasped in return.
The openness of retail was amazing with stores that had the entire store-front exposed from the street. The market had vendors with mixed smells of vegetables, fish, chicken, and greens. The parks were filled with flowers and various athletic activities, tourists, and book readers sitting on the grass under trees. CarolAnn and I enjoyed an evening and dinner at the night market. In spite of still having its head, I bought a deliciously well-cooked blackened fish. CarolAnn decided on spring rolls and fried rice. When we returned to the hotel with full bellies we fell into bed and slept well!
Elephants, Oh My! – December 23rd
Chiang Mai is world-renown for its elephant sanctuaries so we reviewed the brochures and chose the one day adventure package that would provide experiencing a little of everything offered by the tour company.