Asian Air Safari

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Cross Country III, Part 3

June 24 ’10

Our next destination will be another study of history — Petra, Jordan. On our way, it was interesting to see the change in landscape again as we flew further east. We landed in Aqaba (OAJQ) and drove up to Petra.

The drive was just as interesting especially seeing the rock formation in the dessert. We stayed at Marriot simply to marvel the view of Petra from a distance. I always imagined myself being ‘Indiana Joy’ so this is the type of place I should explore. The haze was bad but the brown shade of the landscape and a camel or donkey in the middle of the road made me feel I am there for an adventurous stay. Petra is another world heritage site. Visitors have to walk to the Nabataean tombs. At our age, not counting all the partying and feasting we did the past weeks, the heat, and time constraints, the horse driven cart or horseback was the way to go. However, the ride stops at the Kazneh point and from there, you have no other choice but to take a camel ride. If you want to go up the hills, it would be the mules. The Kazneh or The Treasury became known because of the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. Getting into Petra through the gorge was very dramatic and seeing the Kazneh at the end was absolutely stunning.

Can you imagine this place existed more than 2,000 years ago? To be able to walk through this place and see a bit of how life was during that period made my day. There is so much to see and learn about the heritage and history of this place. Airplanes indeed made the world smaller for us but learning and understanding fully how people lived in the past, their beliefs and aspirations, their philosophies, and how they looked at life after death may take a whole lifetime of study.

Our next leg will be OJAQ – Riyad (OERK refueling stop) and an overnight stay in Dubai (OMDB). Dubai is always a nice stop and a good break in the Middle East. We stayed at Burj Al Arab, the tallest all-suite hotel in the world. It is a class on its own and has become a landmark in Dubai. For a moment, I considered getting a Rolls Phantom for our pick up but I couldn’t accept paying so much for the same service that the 7-series BMW can offer. Burj is really something else! I think I had the warmest welcome because the hotel’s staff and front liners were mostly Filipinos. They were only too happy to see a countryman visiting this magnificent hotel. The room rates are out of this world! But after considering the living space, its amenities, the great service, and of course, the facilities of the hotel, I think it is worth it. It’s something everyone should try.

Dinner was of course at the Al Mahara. Seeing the different species of fish in the aquarium while having one of the best seafood dishes made me feel like Neptune. Good thing I did not see any mermaids. I was getting too fat and that would be too embarrassing. We had time for a little shopping and so we indulged. Mostly though, we wanted to enjoy our room and get our much-needed sleep. We got room service for breakfast since we wanted to depart early for Delhi (VIDP).

The next leg (off to India) will require us for a refueling stop in Muscat, Oman (OOMS) and another in Ahmedabad (VAAH). Whew! It’s another long day for us, and India is not exactly a place where one can make a quick turn around. They computed fuel remaining for taxes and needed every detail of everything. Sometimes you wonder if having a ground handler will help. I can see now that the Mustang will be the favorite of Indian Aviation Authorities. With its short range, it will definitely have to stop at least twice in an Indian airport for refueling. We arrived in New Delhi almost sunset. It is amazing to see how active and progressive both General Aviation and the airline industry are in India. Definitely a big change from the last time I was there. Low cost airlines were just all over the tarmac.

Immigration in India required us to leave our passports if we were staying for more than one night since we did not have a visa. It was a bit scary and this was the first time we heard of this. But we wanted to see the Taj Majal so all we could do is keep our fingers crossed until we depart. The aviation authorities also did not give us any clearance to land in Agra. They said it takes about 30 days to get one so we had no option except to drive. The Oberoi Hotel driver was a bit late but he was there to pick us up. Interesting drive it was. Delhi was a real super busy city but the real charm of India comes to you only when you are out of the city proper. It took us more than four hours to get to our hotel. The Oberoi is located close to another world heritage site – The Taj Majal. We arrived late at night so off to bed we went. As the sun rose, we could now see our surroundings so we started to enjoy it. This hotel is one of our favorites in this part of the world.

I was off to the Taj as soon as I woke up. I did not wait for Supap since he was still trying to wake up from his sleeping pills. I did not realize that the Taj authorities did not allow tripods in the area. After getting into the main gate, they tell me video cameras are not allowed. Okay then, only still cameras. I decided to wait for Supap who was the expert photographer. I asked my guide to bring me to the other side of the river so I can take some good videos with a tripod. We drove around town and when we got to the other monument, again, no tripods allowed. Very frustrating but the drive allowed me to see the other side of this small town called Agra.

I was starving and decided to go back to the hotel and meet up with Supap. After a plate of good fruits and good Indian yoghurt, it was time for us to do the Taj Majal together with his still cameras. By the time we got there, there was a heavy downpour of rain but the haze was gone. We enjoyed taking photos and made it inside this monument. The whole place was built with white marble while all the artworks were carved and placed with precious stones from all over the world. Everything else in this monument was symmetrical except the tomb of the Shah that was placed next to the tomb of the Queen. There is no argument about this monument being one of the wonders of the world. It was made out of love so this makes it even more unique. While tourism is still one of the main livelihoods of Agra, farming and handicraft keeps the locals busy.

With a bit of nap in between honking of horns and sudden brake stops, the trip back to Delhi in the car was not so bad. We slept in Delhi to prepare for the final leg of our trip and mostly to avoid delays. We decided to leave the hotel at 4:30 in the morning so we can depart by six. Unfortunately, there was still a two-hour wait at the airport by the time we got our passports, fuel, and flight plan. We called Kolkotta (VEEC) for a very quick refueling stop. As expected, when we got there (VEEC), we still had to wait for about an hour and a half.

We can hardly wait to get to Bangkok, the new home of the Mustang. Despite the political issues in Thailand, we still had a big welcome from Supap’s friends. The food was great but more important was the presence of all his friends. N6202W will now be HS-IOO in its new home. I was very happy for Supap to fulfill his dream. Supap has accomplished another first in Thailand.

As for me, flying thru the three continents of the earth made me see the unique balance in this world. As we fly past the changing landscape and topography I see the different changes and think…where there are airplanes and financial capability of acquiring material things, it lacked in diversity, culture, and personal time. Where, there are so much forest and lakes, there are no inhabitants to develop them. Where there are fantastic views and unique wildlife, winter will be hostile living. Where they have the sophistication, the culture and the Mediterranean beaches, cost of living will surely be very expensive. Where there is oil and money, there is no water and just sand. Where there is poverty, it is rich with culture, world heritage sites, and love for the family. And just when you think the place has very good people, is almost perfect, and like paradise, it will surely be taken advantage of by selfish and greedy government officials. Although the whole world is perfectly balanced, we cannot be everywhere at the same time and can only choose one place to be our home.

Luckily, airplanes were invented so we get to taste the good side of everything even for just a while.

Supap took the nice photos and the rest were mine. Our actual trip was 11,984 nautical miles and we flew for 40 hours and 54 minutes.