arrive in Thailand via the Friendship Bridge from Vientiane and there is a lot of traffic at the border . We once again have no idea how to proceed with the formalities here so we just stop with
our vehicles at the end of the queue and wonder what is next.. After a while we register that everyone else gets out of their cars and walks down to the front so we decide to park the bikes and
do the same. There are several huts each with a long queue in front of it and we cannot figure out quite what we have to do now so we just join any one of the queues - of course it turns out to
be the wrong one –but this we find out when we get to the front and now we are sent to the next hut - this queue is a little shorter and here we get
our passports stamped and our entry is secured. Now we just need to find out where the line for importing our bikes is ....
Of course this one is long again and in the end when we get the customs documents someone seems to have made a mistake - our visa is valid for 2 months, the vehicles get only four weeks - that can’t be right. After we finally find someone who understands English we are told this is no mistake – vehicles always just get 4 weeks and if you want to stay longer you can have the customs documents extended when in the country (of course subject to a surcharge and running around ) what a stupid regulation. After collecting all stamps and the paperwork we can fetch our bikes and ride past all the waiting vehicles and across the border. No one is interested in us anymore no further customs checks or another passport control and now we just have to remember to stay on the left. The first country with left-hand traffic is upon us now and our first goal is Bangkok - in the big bad city. Johan urgently needs a new passport as all the pages of his temporary one from Beijing are full now and there is an SA embassy in Bangkok.
As soon as we are on the other side of the border Johan’s Suzuki goes on strike - she just goes out and won’t start again. We are in the sweltering heat and after checking everything we can think off with no result we run out of ideas so we make up a tow rope once again and pull the Suzy the next petrol station . What can I say after putting some cool fuel in the tank the motorcycle starts as if nothing had happened - was probably just a little overheated and some sensor or thermostat has decided to shut down. We drive a little further - and find that even though the east of this country has the reputation of being the poorer side you can still clearly see that the people here are much more prosperous than in Laos - but I’m already missing the beautiful colonial-style. Houses here are more concrete and just functional rather than good looking. The road is four lanes and to us like a race track. We are stopped by a festive procession with loud music get gifts of flowers and sweets and many people shake hands as they dance by . In the next major city we look for a place to stay for the night - the border crossing has cost us quite a lot of time and it’s getting too late to travel any further now. Next to the town sign – well in fact next to every town shield at each bridge and where ever else you can find some room for it there are huge pictures of King Bhumibol and his wife Sirikid (the older ones perhaps still can remember that she was once touted as the most beautiful woman in the world ) the King himself is not really a beau - a small thin man with wing nut ears and since he had an accident at a young age he also has a glass eye but he is extremely popular and loved in his country and he seems to have a great personality. Thai people will not suffer any bad word towards their king - lese majeste is law in Thailand –to insult the king is a crime that can be punished with up to 15 years in prison and the subjects are very sensitive to it - the fierce loyalty of the subjects to their king can even be used as a political weapon as even the rumor that someone is not loyal to the king can destroy political careers in this country. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej himself makes no claim to infallibility, but according to the law even criticism of one of his many projects is a punishable offence.
ride all day the next day and make it to about 150 kilometers from Bangkok. We are fed up and really hot now but for the first time since Slovakia we
find a proper campsite with functioning toilets and showers. It is actually quite expensive 150 Baht per person (for comparison , the night before we were in a hotel and that cost 220 baht for
the room) but the owner asked us how much we would pay in dollars and somehow I am getting right confuddeled with working out all these different currencies. What do I know of dollars? I 'm
barely keep up with the Euros. In Laos we have spent up to half a million Kip just for fueling up and now we have baht ! Of which I only know that about 40 of them are one Euro.
But the people are really nice and have immediately got the mower out for us and made us a campfire and put us a bowl of delicious fresh fruit on the veranda ...... So you just have to really feel good.
Kev gets up at the crack of dawn the next morning because there is a fish pond here and last night he had no chance to go fishing before dark so he must of course make up for that today. I stay in the tent for a little bit longer. It is still pleasantly cool here, so I 'm listening to roosters cock-a-doodeling everywhere and the birds singing and enjoy to be able to doze a little longer all by myself.
It is 8 clock when I torture myself out of the tent and Kevin and Johan are scaring away the fish (well they certainly are not catching any) .
After my wake-up coffee I try to have a shower but cannot figure out how to get hot water, so I give up after a while and decide I 'm going to sweat so much today anyway that it makes more sense to take a shower in the evening and too many showers are not at all good for the skin anyway ...
Today we even have scrambled eggs for breakfast, which we bought last night , there was just no bread to be found just some sweet pastry (you should really have an iron stomach on a trip like this).
When the eggs are ready Kevin finally gives up and joins us for breakfast and then we really need to pack and get going - but everything is a mission and takes forever until we finally pull ourselves together and it's already after eleven when we are ready to go - the sun is scorching hot again and Liza will not start ...
Since yesterday we have to push-start her every time and at first we thought the soldered rotor of the alternator had given up it’s gost again but somehow the symptoms do not fit because if this really was the case we would have long been left without a spark. It seems as if we produce enough current to keep going so it will probably now be the battery which has been so often fully discharged and then crammed full again on quick charge that it is probably so worn out that it won’t hold any more charge ( we also have lost the lid of one cell and replaced it with one that does not quite fit so it seems likely that eventually the distilled water from the cell has now evaporated) .
Today we want to reach Bangkok which is still about 150 Km to ride and then we have to find an affordable place in the big bad city.
The roads here are loads better than they have been for a long time. No pot holes an incredible number of lanes and even if we get to see a lot of strange vehicles and loads on the road (once we see a complete wooden house with table and bench on the porch , once a truck that has an elephant loaded) we make good progress. The traffic in Bangkok when we arrive is quite mad but it is actually not too bad and you could call it even fairly relaxed: no honking , no jostling and when you start indicating someone will definitely let you in.. The problem is the signage or rather the lack it. Well, Johan thankfully does have a GPS , so we get least in the vicinity of the hotel - the last few meters we keep getting into cul de sacs and finally ask for help from a motorcycle taxi to find the place and sure enough she gets us there. We take a room for three - this is the cheapest option . We are now traveling together since Ulan Bator and it is not the first time that we take a triple room for savings.
We have at least Internet and after showers, a cool down and dinner around the corner we spend (that is Johan and I ) the rest of the evening with emails and research because we have to drop the idea of storing the bikes in Thailand and fly to Vietnam from here after Johan has applied for a new passport –the initial plan has been to fly to Hanoi and the to buy two old bikes and ride around the country until we eventually get to Ho Chi Minh City, but now the Thai customs have thrown a spanner in the works by not allowing for the motorcycles to be longer in the country than we do. We are working on plan B now and it looks as if we can go to Cambodia and leave the bikes in PhnomPhen for a that time. This wants researching a bit more though but before that we do hope to have a good look around Bangkok as well.
It is a huge city so we first work out the public transport and while Johan is on the way to his embassy to apply for a new passport we both throw ourselves into the big city life . Of course, we are ripped off immediately by being talked into a boat tour which with a bit of a better look into the matter we could have had for half the price but we are country bumpkins and not so wise to all the wealings and dealings, and since we had planned the boat ride anyway and it is also rather pleasant as well as it helps to tick off some of the main attractions we decide not to be too upset and enjoy the trip. With the help of free maps which you can pick up everywhere here we then find the nearest Skytrain station and go back into the center - we want to go to MBK, a huge department store, in which you are supposed to find anything and everything. On the way there we get into a demonstration - Politically this country does not come to rest. The last prime minister of the country was forced to leave because of corruption scandals and now his sister is prime minister and has tried to push through a law that would not only allow him to return but it would also guarantee impunity. This has upset people somewhat - the problem is just that nothing would change in the event of new elections , because the current system ensures that no other party can get to power - at least I'm impressed by the peaceful giant demo managing to paralyze the whole city center but with lots of laughing joking and dancing going on.
MBK presents itself as a monster of a department store - we wander around aimlessly and of the things that we are looking for such as a new charging cable for the computer and / or a charging station for the motorcycle we cannot find anything and also nothing edible that appeals to us in some form. So we get on the arduous journey back on the cram packed skytrain because at our hotel there are plenty of food stalls that are palatable and affordable. Along the way I try to draw some money at every ATM along the way and I want to get as many baht as possible for each individual transaction as a lot costs the same in bank charges as a little but there are only few machines that take our Maestro card and do not want to give me as much as I want – I get rather peed off and have to give in in the end and take at least 2000 Baht as otherwise we have no money left ....
Back at the hotel we meet Johan, who has not accomplished much today because his embassy was already closed when he got there - that means that we have to spend at least one more day in Bangkok –it really is not quite our world.
The next day Johan manages to get to the embassy on time and we try to find a new battery and we finally ask the motorbike taxis for help - they bring Kevin with his battery to a repair shop where they would have a new one for him, but Kevin likes to save on batteries ( I once had to push start our bike on each stop of our way to Austria because Kevin said an 8 -year-old battery cannot be broken and he has only charged it overnight which resulted in one proper start in the morning and then nothing anymore as well as having to pay twice as much for a new battery as that is what they cost in Austria) and he only has the old one filled with battery acid and charged and the next day we can finally leave the city , at least for a while, because it will take almost a week until Johan can pick up his new temporary passport and we definitely do not want to wait here for all that time - this is too expensive.. Liza starts - reluctantly but she 's doing it and so we start the next day on our way towards Pattaya and we have to ride all the way across the big bad city - with an area of 1,569 km ² Bangkok is almost as large as the Berlin and Hamburg together - so we leave our trust in Johans GPS and make pretty good progress until we have to stop before the toll station of the express highway. Motorcycles (even large ones ) are not permitted here , and so we try to figure out how we can get out of this one when someone comes and just as he opens a big gate for us to bring us back on track an important man in uniform comes along and commands him to stop and demands the driving licenses. Then we have to follow him to a desk - he wants 2000 Baht as punishment for the attempt to use the highway or he will take us to the police - we have a short discussion and decide that as we are aware of no wrong doing to take the offer of going to the police. Now the man gets a little unsure but he gives it another go by trying to scare us of the police and what they will do but we still stick to our decision and then he lowers the price by half, but now he has lost, we are no longer willing to negotiate and finally he tries to devide us by asking Johan into an office while we wait at the desk to propose Johan to give him 1000 baht for the two licenses. Now however, we have the upper hand and Johan tells him that he now will go to his motorcycle get the camera and take a picture of the hapless Highwayofficer and his badge and then we all go together to the police. Now we get our licenses back very quickly and are guided through the side into the through traffic – it’s amazing how fast things can change sometimes. There is a stagnant to slow-moving traffic but eventually we make it and the city spits us out at the opposite end again and we get on our way - the initial goal was Pattaya but when we get there we find only a high-rise building fairground full of brothels , karaoke bars and sex tourists - not really for us and so we continue along the coast to the east and end up in Bang Sarey - a somewhat sleepy seaside place and for 2500 baht we get a whole apartment for a week . For the first time since we are traveling we are at the sea and enjoy a few days on the beach, I get a little bit of my blog done although I now suffer from a overdose of vitamins because we buy a load of fresh fruit every day on the market and make fruit salads until it runs out of our ears. After Ukrainian stews, Russian vodka and Chinese food , this is one thing that will never be the same again in life for me - fresh bananas, pineapples and mangos , rambutan and tangerines just taste different than at home after several weeks in the cold storage.
After a week at the beach we come back to Bangkok and Johan’s passport is ready for collection and although the battery continues to play sillies we decide to immediately get back on the road. We have found a nature reserve in the Internet where we can camp for a few cents on a real campsite after payment of 400 baht entrance fee - with real toilets and showers and plenty of flora and fauna. In Khao Yai there should still be herds of wild elephants , lots of waterfalls and all kinds of original tropical forest –and we can finally sleep in our tent again. You can hire tents with everything else you need here which is where they make their money – it’s not cheap but convenient and there are very many people who make use of this offer. Newcomers will be greeted by the resident wildlife and tested how hard or easy it is to get to their food supplies Our tent is only just put up when I find myself in a wrestling match with a stag each of us pulling one corner of a packet of cheese slices
this battle but a brief lapse of vigilance a few minutes later results in a monkey snatching a packet of pasta which he quickly rips open stuffing handfuls in its mouth and I can only watch
helplessly as a large part of our supper ends up on the next palm tree.
Most of the wildlife that we get to see in the Nature Park lives on our campsite: lots of monkeys, a herd of deer, porcupines, water monitor lizards , toucans and lots of colorful butterflies. We visit some of the waterfalls, hike through the jungle and every now and again we see a big elephant pile. The gray giants however, hide well from us and so I eventually come to suspect the gamekeepers to place the fresh droppings for us tourists on the roadside at night so we do not lose faith in getting a chance of eventually seeing a herd of wild elephants - but even without this experience it is beautiful here especially as it is a little cooler thanks to the jungle and the altitude. When we come back from our first day trip our tent is open , the contents of bags are scattered evenly over the lawn and all food is gone - the monkeys have ravaged everything they could lay hands on and after they have found and stolen my last Riccolas, all the fruit , bread and 2 packs of instant noodles they had their teeth in my painkillers and Kevin's blood pressure medication and then tore them out of the packages and spread them across the field then they tested the washing up sponge on its edibility bit a big mouthful of it. I cannot find the little devils so comical anymore and the idea that the cheeky critters might have distributed their fleas on our sleeping bag gives me a restless night .
The next day we invest in a catapult obviously this weapon is known to the monkeys - you only have to show it to them and they are gone (which explains why they are sold in every store here).
After 5 days in Khao Yai Nature Reserve it is time that we make our way to Cambodia because we have to be in Phnom Penh in a few days to pick up Johan's girl friend from the airport. She is going to spend 2 weeks of her holidays with us there. Thailand - at least the part that we have have seen so far has not necessarily overwhelmed us but confirms the experience that we have made in all previous countries : no country was as we imagined it to be .