This is part of the eleventh section of my around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from the Philippines or read our previous visit to Thailand
19/12/04 Having had the budget effectively halved with Kay's departure I had caught the 11 pm flight, the cheapest, arriving Bangkok at 2 am. Dozed at the airport till the first shuttle bus at 5.30 am and was asleep at a $US 5.00 hotel by 6.30 am. I had chosen the area off Soi Ngam Duphli which had been popular in the 70's and 80's when Bangkok was being discovered. The cheap accommodation still exists but is more filled with foreign workers and those avoiding the more crowded and sex driven areas of the city. My choice was not so altruistic but it's location is both near the harbour and the shipping agent. Seemingly quiet compared to Manila, although it's Sunday, I dozed and walked the narrow streets adjusting to the new culture and my new lifestyle.
20/12/04 At the shipping agent at opening. There was not much they could do till the boat arrives in two days except inform me of the container handling and opening costs this end at $US 130.00. The downside to having a container to yourself, you cop all the charges. Customs next and entering the main doorway I was directed to the Privilege Goods Division, where there was not much english spoken but enough understood. They guided me through the paperwork including writing a letter, copied from other previous temporary vehicle imports, using my carnet, although not all the previous vehicles paperwork had carnets, and informed me there should be no duty, no charges and to come back to finalize the paperwork once the bike had arrived, all completed by 10 am. To the Cambodian Embassy, visa could be collected today 5 pm $US 20.00. To the Emporium shopping complex and collected 6 new Lonely Planet guides. I have decided to combine the remainder of this trip and the next one. This one was to finish in March, a bit early for me to feel comfortable returning to Australia. The conjoined trips should finish in the Middle East in about 12 months. I have not planned a trip whilst travelling before, normally returning to Australia for visas and information, motorcycle parts and basic necessities. I was pleased to find all the guide books, usually my starting point for information, readily available.
21/12/04 Dunlop has again come good with a rear tyre. Sitting waiting at their distributor in Chinatown. The old one is not fully worn so I may have to carry the new one for a while. Whilst SCUBA diving in the philippines a month ago I felt some pain in a tooth, it turned black, an abscess formed and a course of antibiotics followed. A friend, who flies from the US to Thailand regularly, for dental work, the price saving paying for the trip, recommended a dentist. An hour in the chair today, tomorrow, and two days later should give me a root canal, post and porcelain crown, all for $US 250.00. After today's thorough job the work seemed very professional by the lady dentist. The rest of the day wandering the popular backpackers area of Khao San Rd, still amazed by the lack of security guards after the Philippines.
22/12/04 Bangkok traffic is notorious. It can however be partially avoided by the sky train or the new subway which I have been using. Taxi's are also inexpensive at $US 1.00 for about 2.5 km. There are times I enjoy walking city streets but it would be hard to make a living walking to save the taxi fares. Accommodation $US 5.00 or 12.5 km, food another 12.5 km, a beer 5 km. I caught half a dozen taxi rides today. Dentist appointment, shipping agent and customs. Despite earlier prepared paperwork at customs it still took two hours, plus lunch break. A trip to the port revealed the container was still being unloaded and would not be available till tomorrow, more taxi rides.
23/12/04 Whilst the Thai's are Buddhists and don't celebrate Christmas they do have many of the western trimmings of the occasion with a New Year theme. The gold tinsel, red and white colours, and fairy lights dress up areas of the city. Christmas trees are also appearing, both at the customs building and the port authority. Small ones, decorated, part of a larger New Year display. It seems ironic that some states in the USA have just banned Christmas trees in public buildings because of sectarian issues yet in Thailand they are not seen as denoting any religious overtones, or representing any particular religion. Which country has the greater freedoms? Port authority fees paid and I could collect the motorcycle by 10.30 am happily riding it out of the port. Within a few minutes I had made a wrong turn. The back seat navigator not there reading maps and directing me. One of Kay's major roles in our biking partnership. Clearing customs in hindsight.
24/12/04 Pet hates enter our lives occasionally and if we let them grow sometimes they become out of proportion to their actual significance. One of mine is people directing traffic with a whistle, whether it be a police or a parking attendant. It must be right on my aggravation frequency. A popular tool of small man authority in Thailand, it is used incessantly, a sharp shrill trying to pierce the traffic noise. Back to the dentist and the porcelain crown fitted, three days start to finish and no time spent in the waiting room each time I was at the surgery. I doubt I will ever get dental work done in Australia again, flying to Thailand for a holiday on the savings. Christmas eve in Khao San Road, lost in the busyness of the place.
25/12/04 A quiet day, phoned home, relatives, children and Kay. Took some street scene photos and enjoyed an evening meal with a friend.
26/12/04 Trudie, a Canadian of similar age, actually a bit older than me but who is telling, working in Japan as an English teacher, in Thailand on holidays and at a bit of a loose end as her girlfriend had to return home, accepted a ride to Laos on the motorcycle. We left Bangkok early, before the traffic, or so we thought, coincidentally meeting up with three riders at a set of traffic lights, riding from Singapore to Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. We followed them out of town towards Ayuthaya, the original Thai capital, now an open air museum of Wat's, Chedi and Buddha, spending some time there before heading further up the road towards Khao Yai national park for the night.
27/12/04 Thailand's first and premier monsoon forest Kao Yai contains elephants and unfortunately now only three remaining tigers. We walked a trail getting a lucky, magnificent sighting of two gibbon monkeys slowly moving through trees above, feeding. A couple of deer and plenty of forest. Elephants in Thailand have been traditionally used in logging and agriculture, now unemployed, some are offered as rides for tourists. In Ayuthaya they dress them up traditionally and here it is a ride through forest. I was allowed to ride bareback, right behind the ears, acting as the mahout, with the real mahout walked behind the elephant. Despite using leg signals behind its ears with my knees most commands for direction still came from the mahout by way of grunts in encouragement. Only half an hour but my legs felt like jelly, using normally unused muscles.
28/12/04 450 km to Nong Khai on the Laos border. The road all the way from Bangkok at least four lanes and at times up to ten, with the parallel service roads through town. By far the best constructed road this trip but not the best riding as highways never are. The smallish town currently has a festival with local foods and streetside massage. A meal in the closed off street and a pummelling Thai massage. The solid male masseur, for an hour, leaned and squeezed away tight muscles hardened by hours on the motorcycle, $US 3.00, such is Thailand.
29/12/04 Our accommodation is situated right alongside the Mekong River, fast flowing and wide even in this the dry season. Laos just the other side. My pounded muscles still sore from last nights massage we rented bicycles to visit a sculpture garden. I never made it, opting to miss the concrete structures in favour of protecting my rear end on a non ergonomically designed seat. All the talk at our hostel, mostly tourists, is on the tsunami, its effects world wide but more locally its effects on their holiday plans and storied of near misses. Daily the full scale is slowly unfolding. Friends and relatives emailing wanting to know holiday makers whereabouts, phone lines busy the other direction. Trudie marvelling at her out of character decision to ride on a the back of a motorcycle rather than continuing with her original plan of going south to the beach area where the Tsunami struck. Her cancelled train ticket would have had her arriving in the area just as the Tsunami hit.
30/12/04 Left Thailand to cross the friendship bridge into Laos. I was here eight years ago and was not permitted to cross with the motorcycle. Today easy immigration out of Thailand, no customs check.
Move with me to Laos or go to my next visit to Thailand
Story and photos copyright ©