Round the World – SE Asia Days 9 and 10

Round the World – SE Asia Days 9 and 10

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.

I was excited to discover that 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 airport tasks 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.

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.

Heading south to Malaysia

2 hours later, the island of Koh Samui came into view, and behind it the shore of southern Thailand. There were the usual 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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