Sunday 18 August – We always knew from before we set off there had to be alternate method of transport between India and Thailand, as of yet no one has been able to travel across Burma (Myanmar) in their own vehicle, though the restrictions look as if they are finally going to be lifted within the next few years. The only other option would be through Tibet/China which requires a 24 guide, Chinese number plates and numerous permits, average cost we have heard can be around $1000 a day if you don’t manage to find others to cross with, so this was never really an option. So unfortunately it will be a flight to meet the bike that would already be there by now.
The plane flight was fine, just under 4 hours and we were in Bangkok. At the other end we changed our rupees that were the deposit for the Royal Enfield. Changing in Thailand was a massive mistake. We definitely should have changed into dollars before we left India. Nobody wants Indian rupees and just in the last few days it lost 10% of its value and we lost about £60.
We had a bit of a dilemma when we arrived it was the 19th but 1am in the morning and we couldn’t check-in until 14.00pm. It was either sleep in the airport or go over and see if we can book an extra night for a quality sleep. We took a taxi to the apartment my mum and dad had booked as a treat but they were full, it was 2am. We decided to go and find somewhere cheap near Khao San.
On the way over we got stopped in the Taxi by a group of police who wanted to search us. Surrounded by multiple Mr Chow impersonators we were separated. They were all quite animated and friendly but you know they could karate chop us to the floor in an instant. Paul was body searched and I had to empty out my bag on the back of the taxi. I had all the electronics with me like Laptop, camera and hard drive which looked pretty odd, but they didn’t seem that concerned so I assumed they were looking for drugs. Pleased we had nothing they let us back into the car but took the Taxi driver aside, he was smoking and at first they looked like friends, but then we were told to get out and hail another Taxi, there was some issue with his license or something.
So off we went in a new taxi, the driver had mistaken the clear roads for a race track and drove insanely fast through the streets of Bangkok. Khao San was still very much awake at 2am in the morning which made it feeling a lot earlier than it was. The food stall outside the 7 eleven was heaving and every plastic table was full. We checked in at the first hotel we saw and went to sleep.
We know the motorbike is in Bangkok customs already but we checked last night so know that the Carnet De Passage has not yet been delivered from Dubai. We can’t get the bike without the Carnet [we later discovered a Carnet is not actually needed in Thailand] So headed back to Sukhumvit to check into the apartment and spent the rest of the day in Silom on a mini shopping spree at MBK. Having been wearing the same 3 t-shirts for nearly 4 months Paul very much wanted new ones, so went all out at £3 per t-shirt and now has a whole new wardrobe. MBK is basically all the street market stalls in one building, spread over 5 levels. Pretty good if you’re ever in need of anything as they literally sell almost everything.
Between us we have visited Thailand quite a lot and have always thought it was a bit behind the UK. But not anymore. We were both surprised at just how advanced it was, the streets are clean and there is lots of wealth. We’re also finding it more expensive than we remember but that’s more to do with the poor pound.
Even the supermarkets are more advanced. They are pristine, the fruit glistens on the fully stocked shelves, the salad bar actually looks appealing rather than the pasta mayonnaise stodge you’d find in Sainsbury’s and the ‘cafe’ is a whole selection of Asian food stalls serving good freshly cooked food, rather than frozen, greasy fodder dished up in the UK. We ate in the supermarket a few times.
Back at our apartment, which is quickly feeling like home, we emailed Rochde [the guy we met in Turkey who is now backpacking in Asia with his girlfriend] to arrange to meet up at some point as he is in Bangkok too and then got an early night all the shopping exhausted us. Oh yea, the Carnet had arrived whilst we were on a spending spree, yayy.
Tuesday 20 August – Bike collection Day. After reading on more than one other motorbike blog that Bangkok customs was a breeze we were expecting it to be a little easier than normal. Armed with a step by step process list we thought we were one step ahead.
We took a taxi to the cargo terminal and proceeded to step one – go to the ‘free zone’ and get a security pass. This was our first fail. We walked around the building called ‘free zone’ and were immediately approached by guys lingering outside that were obviously ‘agents’ so walked past them. Once inside we were pointed in various directions, no-one spoke English and all signs are in Thai but they all seemingly knew what we wanted – or so we thought. We walked past offices or animals and fisheries but no security. They didn’t know what we wanted after all as we were in the wrong building.
The taxi driver dropped us here but we needed to go back to the very first office/porta-cabin at the security gate and pay 30 baht each for a pass. The forms are in Thai so we couldn’t fill them in but a lady emerged from the back office and filled it in on our behalf and off we went.
Second step was to get everything photocopied twice by the lady positioned with a photocopier next to 7 eleven.Then onto find customs, there were 4 large rooms on the lower floor to search. Again everything is in Thai and no-one was looking up from their desk to point in the right direction. Then we saw a customs officer waving at us, there was our guy. He was very nice and spoke very good English but told us we needed originals not photocopy of the Airway bill from the airline which we hadn’t collected yet – we didn’t know we had to.
Thai airways cargo was located at some other place in the terminal so off we went armed with a map but again all signs in Thai so not a clue. Luckily just before we walked out of our way, two guys in a pick-up offered us a lift. They dropped us at a security gate which is the area we needed our passes for. It was then a 15 minute walk to find the correct Thai airways office to get the paperwork. We asked in about 7 different offices before finding the right one which is almost as far as you can get from customs which we needed to return to once we had the ‘originals.’ The two-three hours someone else had reported must have been bullshit as we then had to wait for the customs officer whilst he took an hour’s lunch break. So we did the same, using the staff canteen, though the food wasn’t very nice.
We handed him in the stack of photocopies, he passed it around and we waited. Here we met another motorcyclist trying to get his bike out of customs too. Only this wasn’t the first time he’d been here. His bike had not been sent from Kyrgyzstan on the due date and therefore he’d been stuck in Bangkok a few days. He was heading for Singapore as quickly as possible as he was studying there and his class started on Monday [it was a Tuesday when we saw him] he’d driven to china only to discover he couldn’t cross with huge expense. Not exactly sure how he’d got all the way from France [he was actually Spanish] far and not looked into that. I thought it was common knowledge for anyone on this sort of trip that China is only for the rich or large groups as you have to babysit a guide and pay him $1000 a day for the privilege plus cover all his expenses.
Our chat was interrupted when our paperwork was ready and we could head back into the secured area to collect the bike, but first we had to pay for storage. At first we went straight to the cashier as per our instructions list. But that was another fail, we had to go to the office below first and have them stamp some of the papers in the big pile then we had to pay.
Annoyingly the bike had been in Bangkok since the 17th despite asking for it to arrive the 19/20 which meant it’s been in the Cargo area three days now. That meant three days storage charge at 1000 baht a day – thanks Shiju another bloody charge you have caused us. Using Rainbow Cargo to ship from Dubai has been a bit bittersweet. The bike has arrived in Bangkok as planned, granted a little earlier than we wanted but that’s better than being late I suppose. It cost us more than originally quoted but it’s here and in perfect condition. So overall a win for us.
It was a little like Christmas when we saw the bike. That same feeling you get when you look beneath the tree to see that santa has been kind and delivered lots of presents.
Except the happiness soon faded when we were confronted with the challenge of breaking the crate apart with no tools. Three customs had marched down from their office and wanted to see the VIN and engine number, the latter of which didn’t know where to locate, I’d geniously left the Haynes manual back at the apartment.
Keen to get out of the heat of the tin warehouse the customs officers sourced a hammer and then got on with breaking it open. It was about 16:30pm by this point. When it came to wheeling it off the create base we immediately realised there was a flat tyre. It turned out just to be flat rather than a puncture thankfully. Despite removing relatively little to ship it, it still took about an hour to get everything set up again, the heat making it take longer than it should.
The sweat poured off us as we set the bike up, we were big sweaty messes. The weight of the boxes did not bring instant fond memories back as carrying them just a few hundred metres is a massive effort. We were made to remove all the fuel from the tank in Dubai, in hindsight we should have insisted 1litre be left as this caused us problems. Once out of the warehouse there was nothing in the reserve to get it started. Asking around in a vain attempt to find fuel we ended up pushing. We should have also stopped en-route to the airport to get a canister of fuel, but we didn’t as decided it would be easy to pilfer some from a moped. No mopeds around in this part – lots of trucks, no mopeds. Paul spotted the guys BMW we met earlier so we stopped to see if we could take some from the 3 litres he’d been allowed to leave in his tank. First attempt with the turkey baster was a fail, we thought it was too short to get to the bottom of the tank. No problem, he had a hose and suggested we suck it out. Having spoke to a couple in Iran who had to suck petrol out of their diesel 4×4, I naively thought it was a good idea and offered to be the sucker. A sharp inhalation of petrol fumes is not advisable. The young Thai guy stood watching, who was possibly excited at the thought of getting high, offered to have ago but he too was also overcome by the fumes. Second fail to get petrol. The same guy then set off in pursuit of petrol and came back with a small water bottle full – but it still wasn’t enough to even get it started. It was nearing 17.00pm now and in fear we wouldn’t get out of customs before they closed we pushed the bike over the customs finishing line. They started to challenge our paperwork and ripped out the import paper we know we need to keep to get the bike back out, they also asked for the carnet which they didn’t need they were just being nosey. Whilst this last comedy sketch was going on, some entrepreneur must have seen our dilemma and came over and offered to get us petrol toting a large canister. Once agreed he went off to get his moped, I got on the back and he took me the petrol station down the road. He popped open his seat and announced ‘me bring, you pay tank full’ fair enough. We’d already discussed paying him anyway, so if this what he wanted so be it.
It was 17:30pm, we were stinky and sweaty but we were clear of customs and were heading into one of the world’s most congested cities without out of clue to where we go. Motorbikes are not allowed to whizz down the traffic free highway so we had to join the masses. We went wrong at first, and eventually pulled over at a service station to ask directions. A guy there kindly offered to be our guide to the road that leads straight onto Sukhumvit.
Congestion started immediately and traffic lights stay red for what feels like a lifetime in the heat. Having previously visited Bangkok we anticipated chaotic driving as that was what we thought it was at the time but it was the exact opposite. It was so orderly compared to Iran/India/Nepal. All drivers stick to their own lanes, road rules are abided and the roads are in excellent condition. The cars are new and the rickshaws look like moving palaces rather than the ramshackles you find in India. There were boy racers with flashy LEDs but barely any other large motorbikes, lots of scooters, and no bicycles. Most importantly – no beeping and no smelly polluting trucks.
We followed the road in and things got gradually busier and busier, a jungle of skyscrapers, cars, people and… just lots of stuff. The bike was getting really hot, so hot my arse was practically on fire and the overheating light kept appearing. Consequences of sitting in stationary traffic. The huge traffic jams are horrendous in Bangkok and by far the worst we have encountered anywhere. Sitting not able to move for 30 minutes is crazy. Paul cursed me more than once for finding an apartment right in centre, but later apologised as he actually lover our second home. We reached the apartment at around 20.30pm, we’d broke our own rule of never driving in the dark, but made it back unscathed.
So we made it to Bangkok and have the bike. We stayed for four nights. Originally only planned three but unwilling to give up the comfortable surroundings and our enjoyment we booked an additional night. We tried but failed to meet up with Rochde, a fellow motorcyclist now backpacking with his girlfriend in south east asia as the Bangkok traffic meant we sat in a taxi which took 45 minutes but only managed to creep a few hundred metres down the road. We paid and got out.