Cyber Museum Navigation Bar
Featured Exhibit

Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part Three: Asia

Wednesday, November 14

Moulmein to Bangkok LAND TACHIN. (Flying time 4 hours, 4 minutes).

Moulmein to Bangkok included a long flight over the worst jungle I have ever seen. It makes the Isthmus of Tehuantepec look like a fairway . . . Overloaded at takeoff, and it was the old story; difficulty to get on the step, and only made it after rocking until my arms really ached; then a long fast run at 70-75, the ship being loath to leave the water. Several times pulled the stick back hard, doing 75, and she only surged but didn't break loose. This trick worked finally, but it brought memories of Basrah and Calcutta. The next trip is going to be made with more power! "The old Moulmein Pagoda" was a bewitching sight, straddling a low hill crest. It lay just west of the Ellen Mitchell Memorial Hospital, and consisted of a jumble of green and golden spires and turrets around a central cone. Too bad we didn't pay it a visit this morning, but our Chinese guide never seemed to take his Chevy anywhere near it, though we hinted strongly enough. It must be the rooftops that make these towns so pretty from the air, as well as the numerous pagodas, of which Moulmein has at least a dozen. Then too, the city trees are mostly tall bamboo or cocanuts, and they permit open areas through which you can actually see the houses - not like our middle western towns, buried under yard maples and elms. I should confess perhaps that our regard for "flying altitude" has long since gone by the board (when there is something interesting), and even 200 feet is often too high! A dip of the wings to the old Moulmein-Rangoon steamer, and then out to the coast. Suddenly I noticed on the chart that Bangkok is only about 4 different from Moulmein; 4 x 60 = 240 miles. "Where did you find out that Bangkok was 560 miles away, Bob?" he didn't know, and any how the mistake was unimportant except that we had worked harder than necessary on the take-off, and had radioed the time of arrival as 6 hours after leaving Moulmein. That was easily corrected by setting it forward 2 hours, and we promptly forgot what time we had arranged. Good Lord, what does it matter whether you are there at 2:07 or 2:57. There are no trains to catch. But Bangkok kept asking, so we told them . . . The flying problem again centered on crossing a mountain range somewhere along its length, in order to gain a big river on the other side. Should we go across at Ye or continue to Tavoy? I began to climb opposite Foul Island, but being on the western side of a ridge down which the east wind was pouring, ascent was slow. Looked around to find a slope, and went up to 4,000' on its rising currents but this was far from enough. To the east lay the range, which our coast chart of course left a nice white blank, and of which the 64 mile-to-the-inch map gave very few details. It was covered with cumulus clouds, many of the banners licking over toward the west. I started inland just about at the headwaters of the Tenesserim River, but soon found that wide open throttle pushed the rate of climb meter only as far up as this: Twice more I had to seek the assisting ridge, and finally caught 8500' which was boosted to 9000' at the top. The mountains were probably no more than about 6000', but the clouds over them were pretty solidly packed. (Once I almost ran smack into some hills north of Purto Mexico, that were labelled 2000' on those Navy coastal strip maps; - I was flying at 6000' topside of some soft looking clouds. Suddenly a peak loomed up straight ahead and we dodged and checked to find it was just 4100' higher than the naval tridents had measured it). Openings in the clouds were scarce, and they showed only the solid green jungle. After some time, we judged that the chief range was astern and began to look for the river, or any river, for they all flow south here. One turned up about the time that holes began to appear regularly in the clouds, and I dove to get beneath and have a look.

What a thrilling sight! A winding, deep, swift jungle river, engorged with heavy rains, fighting back the vegetation that threatened to overwhelm its very banks. It was lost in jungle in a dozen places as I peered toward the south and Bangkok, but surely it would not be swallowed up completely. I kept the nose down, ran through a rainstorm, and fetched up level at 2500 feet. Even so, it was a long time before we spotted any signs of humans. I think it was first a raft of teak logs, then another, and then a small hut built on the river's bank. There were no woods trails, or if any existed no trace could be seen of them, even at the river's edge. The rafts were soon run in tandem, and steered by an oar at each end. There were many rapids, and on the turns they went round like a train of cars . . . The hills were still about 3000' and the river frequently dodged around bumps in its path. We followed this way for about a hundred miles before reaching level land and towns. Long before this, the rafts increased in numbers, and villages of 6 or 8 houses were found, small rice patches standing nearby. We had been as much thrilled by this jungle as by anything since the Swiss Alps. But the details of it I cannot give, because of ignorance of the growth to be expected. We saw no animals, and very few birds.

The delta was big and lazy, and we loafed along downstream until reaching a railroad which was followed to Bangkok. We made a dutiful detour around the fascinating pagoda at Nakon Pathom, and popped along to Bangkok. Bob was talking with the Aeradio Station at Don Muang the airdrome, most of the time and, if he left the job for a few minutes of sight seeing, they called him. They kept asking for our next intentions and, having none, we had to make them up. For one thing, even before landing, they wanted departure dates and schedules, which are hard to figure on. Bangkok was an inspiring sight, but chiefly because of its many brightly ornamented temples or "wats". There was a good deal of small boat shipping on the river, which runs into the sea 20 miles below, and a new lift bridge. We circled twice, and turned back across the swamps to Tachin or Tacheen, which is a thriving town near the mouth of the river of the same name, about 2 miles above its bar. A boat stood in the middle of a sharp bend, with a large white "tee" to show the wind direction, and the rest of the river had been pretty much cleared of native craft. However, the water was sprinkled heavily with Java weed. Without thinking, I landed in the curve beside the boat, trying ineffectively to turn and land and dodge seaweed all at once. It was practically Chinese fashion, and plain lousy.

Tacheen lies 20 miles from Bangkok and is connected to it only by railroad, there being no roads in Siam. We fueled up hurriedly from waiting sampans; and then started on foot for the station. Mr. Ericsson, the Swedish manager of the railroad, invited us to stop at his house long enough to take some beer, holding up the train meanwhile. This welcome refreshment over, we stepped into the passenger compartment of a small coach which took us along to Bangkok in just over an hour. The Aeronautical Department had sent down Chert Tevidya, who is to be our guide and mentor while in Bangkok. He is an amusing fellow with a good sense of humor. He was full of questions about the flight, particularly on technical details of the equipment of which he seemed to know a good deal. Lynch, one of the Vice-Consuls, called this evening and drove me over to the home of a chap named Andrews who is a recent Harvard graduate sent here to study Siamese anthropology. He has been traveling all over Siam, taking measurements for the comparison of racial types. It was rather a good opportunity to inquire about the development of these peninsular stocks . . .Great luck! Virginia and Herbert Fredericks are here and not in Singapore as I had thought. They were sent up to straighten out the bookkeeping methods of the local (Chinese) agent of Texaco. Meeting them made me think we had not left home; I bumped into Virginia in the corridor and after a brief greeting she hurried along with the excuse "I am late for a bridge party" . . . Bob has been suffering with a cold for three days and now I think I have it too.

Previous Page Next Page