Success! Turned out the tricky part for me was getting the bike back in BKK but only because it arrived late Friday evening.
Here is what happened with me:
Emailed around lots of places to get prices. Was contacted again by Suraj and Isowar from New World who were both enthusiastic for business but in the end was offered a fantastic deal from Suraj. Reading what’s written here I wasn't certain about this but as it turned out Suraj provided and excellent service, was friendly and professional.
Meeting him at his office close to the Katmandu guest house he asked his carpenter to come and we measured the bike, then re-measured it trying hard to get it as tight as possible to save on weight and their advice on this was helpful.
The following day the crate was built and on the next day I went to the office, got various documents photocopied then rode to the airport with Suraj's brother who had his own bike. Everything was ready when we arrived, rode onto the palate and with a whole team of people (possibly a couple to many) we used my tools to disassemble the handle bar assembly, remove the front wheel, wind shield etc. Then we tied and ratchet strapped (bring your own) bike and boxes down. Next the sides where nailed on the box and thick metal straps bound it together. Was solidly and professionally done and I was quite happy the crate was tough enough but as light as they could have made it.
Next the crate was x-rayed (got a sneaky photo) and Suraj's brother began running around doing the paper work. I wandered with him being interested in how the whole process works. Then he rode me back into town on his bike and went off to the Thai Airways Office to do more paper work. The whole process was smooth, efficient and with minimum hassle.
The only 'mishap' in the whole process was when I realised how much a crate is likely to weigh. When asking for quotes I had told each courier my Transalp weighed about 202kg plus panniers, tent etc should be about 240ish. All had quoted me with the correct Thai Airways prices for this weight but no one mentioned that a crate would come it at around 50kg on its own. Although it wasn't mentioned by email Suraj did tell me on my first visit to his office and was assiduous in his efforts to maintain transparency in the whole procedure afterwards.
I had a couple of lovely meals with Suraj and on my last evening in Katmandu he took me to his house for a meal. I had a great time paying with his kids, eating Thali and talking life, politics and worries in Nepal. All in all it was a lovely way to finish off my time in a beautiful country
Lessons learnt: Shop around, fly by weight and don't forget the weight of a crate!
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