In April 2014, I made one of the best decisions of my life. I decided to buy a plane ticket to Bangkok, and backpack through parts of Cambodia and Vietnam in the December of 2014.
I had never been overseas before, so I had no idea of the scale of culture shock I would experience. Everything was different, the smells, the air, the food. Everything. Luckily I had brought along with me all my photographic gear with which to document all the strange and exotic things we would see and do while on this amazing journey.
Being an action video fanatic, I had only purchased my DJI Phantom 2 three months before we left for Bangkok, as I was sure I would regret not having one while touring through beautiful and ancient South-East Asia. This left little time for learning the in’s and out’s of the drone, not to mention learning how to fly it adequately. I spent countless afternoons practicing flying my drone in the back yard, only crashing a couple of times with minimal damage. Pilot status – achieved!
Eventually, we were sitting on the cramped plane, making our way to South East Asia. I was ecstatic, looking forward to flying my drone whenever an opportunity presented itself. As it turned out, hundreds of opportunities presented themselves, however there were some complications. To cut a long story short, I got arrested. By the Vietnamese Military. While flying my drone over Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay.
So yeah, here are some tips for making sure this doesn’t happen to you:
- Do your research. Make sure you know your story, so as to know when and when not to fly your drone.
- Visit the local authorities. After my incident, I was informed that the correct procedure for flying a drone was to visit the local police office and obtain a permit to fly in designated areas. Running in head first with the attitude “Ask for Forgiveness, not Permission” didn’t prove to be all that effective.
- Ask. If the above two steps seem too difficult or too much effort, you can always haul your drone along with you wherever you go, with the hope that the local security will allow you to fly your drone. People aren’t as harsh as you think they are.
So I was arrested and yes, I did spend five hours convincing the military officers not to incinerate my drone along with my GoPro and all its accessories. But I took a chance, and got what I deserved. To my relief, they didn’t incinerate my drone. They returned everything to me, except the memory stick upon which all the day’s footage was stored. I had been extremely tired and exhausted by the time we were done, so I relinquished the memory stick rather begrudgingly.
Even when you are a stranger in a strange land, you will always find good people along your path. When I went back to the military office the next day, I spoke to the military officer (which was a horribly difficult task using only Google Translate) and he offered to copy all the footage onto a memory stick and hand it over to me. He even offered me some tea, and we sat around a small table quietly while the footage was being copied onto the stick. After the footage was safely on the memory stick, I bid the friendly officer farewell and continued on with the final days of my stay on Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay.
Regarding the equipment I used to take some of the most amazing footage of my life, here’s a short list for you:
- DJI Phantom 2 Backpack – This item really makes life much easier when travelling with a drone.
- Worrying about your drone being damaged while in transit can ruin an otherwise great holiday.
- Additional Phantom 2 Battery – A must have.
- GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition.
- Kata Bumblebee 210 Dlight Backpack – for carrying the GoPro and all its accessories, as well as our laptop and passports.
- Extra pair of Allan keys, for attaching the GoPro to the 3D-Gymbal of the Drone – Trust me, these small items magically disappear right when you need them most, so carrying a couple of extras just makes life easier.
- Sunglasses – For when your drone flies in front of the sun, and you would still like to see where your expensive toy is flying about.
That’s just a short list of the many things we lugged around while on our trip, but if you want to take your drone along with you to a foreign land, these few items will definitely come in handy.
So would I recommend taking your drone along with you while backpacking through South East Asia? Definitely!