Day 39, June 18: Chiang Mai, Thailand to Langkawi, Malaysia (810 NM)

Leaving our lovely Rachawedee residence at the Four Seasons Resort in Chaing Mai.

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Many rice paddies on property manage to be self-sustaining. The grounds crew is constantly working to keep the vegetation is ideal condition. Beautiful!
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Arnold fit right in at the residence pool….always photo-bombing!

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Fresh daily, the floating flower arrangements are exquisite! Just as the hospitality: the Thai people do so with a labor of true caring for others.

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Flying pretty much straight south we fly over Bangkok, the Gulf of Thailand and landed in Maylaysia and staying at the Four Seasons which is on the Strait of Malacca in the Andaman Sea.  Relaxing and enjoying the ocean side villa on the Malaysian archipelagos.

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Storm build up we avoided….
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South to Malaysia
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Red and white glideslope…looking good! At Langkawi 03 – 21 runway, traffic always lands on 03 and take-offs are on 21 (due to mountainous terrain).
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Fields and settlement on our approach.

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Day 36 & 37, June 15 & June 16: Leisure in a tropical paradise. Next: Chiang Dao Young Elephant Camp

The Four Seasons Resort affords us a wonderfully tranquil existence. It sits on 20 breathtaking acres of tropical gardens and rice paddies in the Mae Rim Valley. It is hard to drag yourself away from your polished teak floors, double vanity, oversized bathtub and spacious veranda….save for a meal or the ultimate spa experence (therapeutic massage).

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One of the local water buffalo at resort….helps with rice patty work! And amusing tourists.

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Second day in Chiang Mai, we departed the hotel for the Chiang Dao Young Elephants Training Camp, 56 km/35 miles from Chiang Mai. The elephants took their morning bath in the running stream before we enjoyed the amazing presentation on the Elephant skills. We experienced a 1½  hour elephant ride into the thick forest surrounding the camp. In the midst of the cude buildings, under a roof  “restaurant”, we enjoyed our delisious picnic lunch (catered by the Four Seasons).

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Actual art piece done by elephant…Tom’s purchase. Just to help feed the wonderful, noble elephants.
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Bathing time at the Elephant Camp.

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Water buffalo greeting us along our rafting adventure.

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Another exposure to the wild: rafting down the Mae Ping River on the simple bamboo raft. Beautiful!

Day 34, June 13: Taj Mahal

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Walking toward the entry of property…you eye first gets a glimpse of the magnificent Taj Mahal.

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Located just five minutes from the hotel, we visited the Taj Mahal – probably the most extravagant monument ever built for love. Constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, this striking mausoleum has become the de facto tourist emblem of India.  Photos tell the story.

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One of two balancing buildings aside the Taj — to balance weight and give balance. This one operates as a Mosque for Friday services by the few Muslims in Agra.
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The four minarets are actually tilted slightly, designed to fall outward in the event of a severe earthquake. One of the amazing engineering details here.
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Our group on Air Journey Around the World 2015.

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Many of  the stones have been robbed and yet the majority remain in place.

Later we visited a Marble Factory which gave us a deepened appreciation of the marble carving, the shaping of the semi-precious stones and inlay work done by the articians who decorated the Taj.  This factory replicated the artwork of Taj Mahal into various beautiful and useful pieces of art. The glue used as adhesive for the stones is a secret formula and hoped to be as durable as that used 400 years ago.    Sorry, no photos in show room! But you might see my 18″ marble inlay tray one day.

Day 33–June 12: Agra, India — Tour of Fort Agra

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Memories of last night trip through the streets of Agra (the happy partying in the streets amide the chaotic and difficult movement of vehicles) faded slightly while we rested from our hectic aviation adventure the day before.  Relaxing in the beautiful hotel, Oberoi Amarvilas, with every person passing onto us a peaceful sense of being.  The grounds are exquisite: the pool’s delightful outdoor and shaded space, the poolside lunch was the perfect scenario while recovering from our long and late flying day. Topping it off we enjoyed our private view of the Taj Mahal right from our window!

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View from our window!
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Entry way into the Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel

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One of two elephant statues greeting us–fresh flowers every day.
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Peaceful pond near entry of hotel.

Hoping for less intensity of heat our directors gathered us at 4 pm to tour Fort Agra. This fort is 70% occupied by India military. It is so massive that we had an ample amount to appreciate the architural design and structure. It is constructed of bricks on the inner core with red sand stone on the outer and took five years to complete: 1565-1573. Positioned just by the River Jamuna Agra Fort is the most important of India, it is a brick port built by the Great Mughals who governed from here.

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Golf course…seen enroute to Fort.

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Our youngest tall blond pilot was stopped MANY times to pose with the other tourists. Clearly the tallest most beautiful blond they have ever seen.
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Amazing inlay artwork lasting over 400 years!
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From Agra Fort, across the river is Taj Mahal
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Exterior of Fort.


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Agra was the capital 1558.  It contained the highest dignitaries who participated in the making of medieval history of India. This location has a lengthy history including the Saga of Sieges and plunder. The Brittish captured ot frp, tje Marathas in 1803 and converted it into an arsenal.  The Agra Fort is conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The huge court yard’s interior circumferance has purposeful booth-like petitions designed for merchants to be comfortable and wait for their audience with the governor.

And then there were the “street monkeys”…driving through Agra to get to and from our Fort tour was itself an eye opening event.  At first it seem so cute to see the little monkeys in the street, gutters, on top of roofs—EVERYWHERE!  Soon it seems as they are rats living in the gutters, scrounging for food.  The people feed them regularly because, much like the cow, monkeys are revered animals.  The bus driver opened the door (thinking we wanted totake more photos) and the stench was aweful!!  Sorry I sat in the first row seat!!

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Day 32, June 11: Dubai to Ahmedabad, India (985 NM); Ahmadabad, India to Agra, India (380 NM ++)

Today was a long travel day, the first flight took us across the Gulf of Oman into Pakistani airspace and then onto Ahmedabad, India, where we cleared customs and  re-fueled. This was the India method: slow, multiple paper forms (remember carbon paper?),  repetitive (scanned luggage in and out), and ended up a 3 hour stop.

One highlight of this first flight came when the jet in our group had a moment of concern with Pakistan ATC.  Pakistan ATC: “Sir, we have no clearance for you to enter India. Please turn around and go to Oman.”   Jet Pilot: “Um, say again?”  Pakistan ATC: “Sir, turn around and return to Muscat, Oman.”   After a long pause…..Jet Pilot: “We cannot turn around. If we do, we will not have enought fuel to make it back to Oman. We will land in the ocean.”  Of course our director solved this dilemma: thanks to the use of his satellite phone, awakening his colleague in USA and managing the conflict with logistics by obtaining the proper permit number.   Once Pakistan ATC was given the permit number, he cleared them to enter India.

Next: Agra (planned 1 1/2 hour flight 380 NM) became a two hour flight at about 500 + NM.  The thrill of darkness approaching, dodging storm clouds that exhibited electrical activity and the difficulty of getting ATC (air-traffic control) to acknowledge and clear us to decend morphed into a STRESSFUL experience.  Tom’s aviator skills and decision making brought us through landing in darkness. Once our fourth airplane landed: Praise God and “It’s Miller Time!!”  Or in India, Kingfisher time!

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Flight: Dubai to Amedabad  Course up, North left
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Today’s long journey to Agra, India…north up, course L to R

Our transfer to The Hotel Oberoi Amarvilas was an experience not to be believed!  About 9 PM we were transferred via white Audi SUV and introduced to India’s night life. Following extreme daytime heat of 106 degrees the locals were ready to socialize after sundown in cooler 100 degrees. This wedding season in India: we passed four wedding processions including marching bands, 8-12 men carrying large decorated lanterns and multiple cheering, dancing participants. Tiny cars (“Tuk-Tuks) or auto-rikshaw, bicycles of all kinds (some with flatbed cargo capacity) and motor bikes filled the streets. Every moblilty was loaded with twice as many people or items than it was designed.  Navigating the streets requires experience, our driver says three things are needed: good horn, good brakes and good luck! Animals everywhere: cows and monkeys (held as sacred); goats, dogs and even a random pig or two!

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Aproaching Ahmedabad, India.
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Building cumulus clouds.
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Our TBM on the ramp in Ahmedabad.

Our hotel: The Oberoi Amarvilas was a welcomed oasis from the hustle and bustle of the day. All of the Indian hosts were the most gracious and welcoming with bows and peaceful calm.

Days 29, 30 & 31 — June 8, 9, & 10: Dubai, rest & restoration, Sand Dune Bashing & SNOW SKI!

First day in Dubai was our resting and adjusting to the 108 degree weather.

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Balcony views from our room.

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Second day in Dubai: most expensive hair experience for Diann and skiing on Dubai’s man-made mountain for Tom.  The ski moutain is built within the HUGE shopping mall. Tom clearly was the best skier there!  It was amazing to see some of the”locals” dressed in long ski coats and others who just got a thrill out of riding the ski lift up AND down!  Snow clearly fascinates them.

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These are some of the “locals” enjoying the ride up and down.

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Later we boarded a Toyota 4 wheel drive SUV, drove about 45 minutes to “enjoy” a thrilling ride: Sand Dune Bashing!  Tom & I selected the trailing car (mildest ride).  Diann was definitely queasy by the time we reached the “camp” for drinks and snacks. Coca Cola worked wonders to settle the stomach.  Diann was ready to ride a camel.

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Sand Dune Bashing!
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Desert, looking for water.
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Drivers release tire pressure for better traction in sand.
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Fittting in with the locals??
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Almost melting….

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Sun setting in the desert.
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Saddled up, ready to ride my camel!

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Flight to Oman cancelled due to weather (cyclone Ashobaa in the Arabian Sea changed our plans).  Decided to skip Oman and head to India one day early.  Our Air Journey group stayed an additional night in Dubai at Kempinski Hotel, adjacent to the Emeritus Mall. Not interested in making purchases—Tom and I kept a good pace for a walking work-out.  We planned for reaching our destination: Agara, India the next day.

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Human sized monoply game (fund raising for housing).

Day 28, June 7: Flights Luxor, Egypt to Bahrain (855 NM) and Bahrain to Dubai (260 NM)

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Leaving Egypt, crossing Red Sea.  First stop Bahrain. 855 NM
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Captian Tom, opening cowling–to cool engine.
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Bahrain control tower.
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Our TBM next to two Pilatus in Bahrain.

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Bahrain: just visable in the intense haze.

Dubai: IFR approach to final…last minute visual of RAIL lights (at 400 ft.).  No photos of final approach, but it was a perfect landing!  Following taxi directions to parking is another challenge — great system of green lights to direct us.

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Turn on the taxi guidence lighting system!

Originally a small fishing village, Dubai created the busiest souks on the Persian Gulf coast.

The Hotel: Burj Al Arab  Designed to resemble a billowing sail, the hotel soars to a height of 321 meters, dominating the Dubai coastline. At night, it offers an unforgettable sight, surrounded by choreographed color sculptures of water and fire (it would be better without the current dust storm-like intense haze).

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Captain Tom and Lady Di (co-captain) are greeted with flowers and escorted into the white Rolls Royce for transfer to Burj Al Arab
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Harbor
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One of many amazing views of our suite (two floors!)
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Partical view of beach from our window. Still very hazy today.

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Suspension bridge-like supports, from our window.

Day 27, June, 6: Luxor, Second Day

Early morning we continued our exploration of Luxor. We crossed the Nile by motor boat as we began a visit to the West Bank to see the Valley of the Kings and Queens and Tombs of the Nobles. We were able to go inside four of these amazing feats of excavation! There are 44 of the 46 tombs discovered and explored.  Many of the tombs had previously been robbed of the treasures buried with the kings.

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We crossed back over to the East Bank for a visit to the Luxor Museum. This elegant modern museum boasts a fabulous collection of artifacts from ancient Thebes. The collection includes pottery, jewelry, furniture and other artifacts from the ancient city, as well as a group of magnificent New Kingdom statues found in 1989 buried beneath Luxor Temple. We stopped for lunch in the village of Karnak at a modern Hilton hotel on the Nile. Then a few hours to cool down and rest.

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Three of our Arnolds and little Amy enjoy the heat on our little balcony.
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The mountain and Valley of the Kings is lighted every night. this photo is from our window.

After dinner we were transported by horse and carriage to the Karnak Temple. Where we experienced the Sound and Light Show at Karnak Temple, a fascinating walking tour through the history of the world’s largest-ever temple complex. No photos were allowed.

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Tom did catch one photo…
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Last night in Winter Palace…housekeeping’s message.

A very long day — we are ready for pilot briefing and to repack for our next flight to Dubai.

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First night’s message.

Day 26, June 5: Bodrum to Luxor, Egypt (780 NM)

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Leaving Turkey….over Mediterranean

On our flight to Luxor we were over the Mediterranean, the stark desert landscape and the green pathway of the Nile. In hazy conditions and at 31,000 feet we were unable to see the pyramids near Cairo on our way to Luxor. IMG_1013 IMG_1018 IMG_1021 IMG_1019

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Winter Palace (circa 1907) Europeans’ escape harsh winters.
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Our sailing vessel on the Nile

We soon were at the Winter Palace overlooking the Nile River.  In the hot 108 degree weather, a slight breeze helped slightly and drinking plenty of water was critical.  A relaxing one hour sail on a felucca, the traditional sail boat in Egypt, we drifted towards Banana Island and Crocodile Island a few miles upriver. Sailing on the Nile gave an interesting view of the city.  Our tour guide, Bahaa was most informative as we learned of ancient history. As an Egyptologist, Bahaa, was the director for the Tutankhamun Exhibit for the Pacific Science Center, in Seattle, WA. 2012-13.

Security is important here…as we sailed we first noticed our tourist armed security who actually accompanited us everywhere since our arrival. Plus, two 2-manned military zodiac boats trailed our sailboat on the Nile. Sa’id, our security man, was wearing a vest which nearly concealed his MP4-submachine pistol. (For added measure he carries a 30 round spare clip in his left rear pocket).

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Our security guard.
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Military security on the Nile
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Empty cruise boats on the Nile

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