My Thai 18-25/12/10

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Thailand

Sorry it’s been a while folks, lots to talk about this time as well so go and get a cup of tea, perhaps even a hob knob or jaffa cake if you prefer and let’s get back into it…

Thailand! Country number ten (yes Vatican city counts!) and another border crossing. The Malaysia side of things went very smoothly; passports stamped and Carnet’s signed within 20 minutes. Then a short drive though no-man’s land to the Thailand side, where organized chaos awaited us. Unlike the Malaysia side there were no drive though booths and we had to park the truck and join an hour-long mass (there was no discernable queue) to get our entry visas stamped- we had already picked up our tourist visas in Kuala Lumpur so that we could get 60 days at the border for us and our car, rather than the normal 15 days. Thailand does not recognize the carnet system so you have to get a separate import license at the border, which is free, but requires another hour or so of queuing. We got the 60 days for ourselves but customs would only give us 30 days on the car, which was a massive problem as we had planned to keep the car in Thailand whilst we flew to India. This would have been over the 30 day license and would have resulted in a massive fine. No amount of pleading with the customs chaps would fix the problem, however they did say that we could go to Bangkok and ask at the customs headquarters there for an extension on the visa for the car. Ummm… we thought, what are the chances of that?? but having no choice we drove on and spent our first day in Thailand.

One of the most notable things about crossing the border is how clean Thailand is, a very English thing to notice but all the same quite a stark contrast from other countries. The south of Thailand has a bit of a reputation for being slightly less safe than the rest of the country but as we stuck to the main roads we saw nothing but friendly faces and the occasion wave.

The next three days were spent driving and stopping at cheap £10 a night hotels, slowly making our way towards Bangkok. I was amazed at just how big Thailand is, far bigger than Malaysia- it’s actually the 50th largest country in the world, which now I type it doesn’t sound as impressive as I wanted it to sound. It’s actually the size of France….no, that’s still no better, what about it occupies the northern two-thirds of the Malay Peninsula? There we go, that sounds pretty darn impressive.

Once we were just one day’s drive from Bangkok we stopped at the ‘Bamboo Guest House,’ a lovely little resort just off the coast run by Rudi the friendly German. It was an amazing place consisting of 5 luxury huts, a small bar and a swimming pool. Who could ask for anything more? We were mildly concerned upon arriving and seeing a lot of nakedness by the pool but luckily it was not compulsory, a fact that I have to say Megan looked disappointed about. On our second evening we were lucky enough to have timed our visit with Rudi’s annual party and got free beer and food, cash back!

On the 23rd we pushed the final 200km to Bangkok with a slight knot in our little (beer filled) tummies as we were going to have stop at the Customs House to see if we could extend the car’s visa. If we could not then we were going to have a big problem, and there was no plan B in the wings! We found the place easy enough and after driving around the building looking for somewhere to park for the 8th time a guard finally took pity on us and let me park in a roped off area. Megan had jumped out whilst I was parking and had nailed the Royal Thai Customs paperwork for an extension of a non-duty importation of a private car and was out again before I had chance to lock the car doors! It turns out it’s not that big of a deal to extend the license and now the car’s visa is in line with our own.

Off to our hotel, which was in the heart of Bangkok and considering it only cost £35 a night was very posh by our standards. Once the issue of parking was sorted (we were too tall to for the car park so we got pride of place outside the hotel) we checked in and had a little snooze. My good friend Ian and his friend David had flown to Bangkok to meet us for Christmas (he was the only one mind, none of you others have put in the effort) which was really nice, as conversation between Megan and myself had dried up in the last few days of Malaysia so it was good to get some ‘fresh blood’ so to speak (even though he didn’t bring any cheerios). It was great to catch up and we can only hope we did not bore them too much with our stories.

Christmas eve was spent shopping for presents in the morning- we had a budget of £20 each, and then meeting up with Ian and David to wonder the sights of Bangkok in the afternoon……..maybe wondering is a little bit of an understatement: a full-blown hike/march in 30 degrees and 104% humidity would be a more accurate description. We walked miles that day but actually saw very little of the major sights as they were closed by the time we reached them, but I really enjoyed wondering the streets and after trying four taxi drivers to get home we gave up and finally managed to convince a tuk-tuk driver to take us back to the metro station. Traffic in Bangkok is scary in a four tonne Land Rover, in a three-wheeled tuk-tuk it’s bloodcurdling, terrifying, and any other adjectives you can think of that result in the need for new undergarments. So many near misses, so many ignored traffic lights, so many massive lorry wheels inches from our faces. We all shared a special bond that day and looking around at the white, drawn faces in the three wheeled chariot from hell I could tell that none of us would ever speak of the experience again for fear of the flashbacks.

Christmas morning we opened the presents we had bought each other and I even gave Megan a stocking, well, a sock I had stuffed with little treats. (Note to self: wash sock before using it as a stocking next year). We then made our way via a rather posh Benz courtesy of Ian’s 7* hotel to an English pub where we had a great proper Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, it was awesome. We had the normal Christmas afternoon that I imagine most of you had: lying by the pool while the staff tended to our every need with cocktails, mineral water and fresh towels every 5 minutes. In the evening we went up to a roof top bar atop of one of the highest buildings in Bangkok and drank cocktails until things started to look a bit fuzzy and Megan took me home, pretty standard stuff.

We had a great Christmas and we can’t thank Ian and David enough for their kindness and generosity and for coming out and giving us another highlight of our trip.

I think that’s enough for now, still lots more to tell though… Coming up in the next installment: flights get cancelled, Simon finds true happiness in GAP and Megan cooks the best meal ever.

  1. Dermot says:

    Season’s Greetings to you both from the O’Neills. Still stalking yous via the blog and still meaning to properly reply to your message regarding my coping with fatherhood! Briefly: coping well but not much time for emailing!

    Rock on!

  2. julie westerby says:

    Hi, I’ve only just logged on to your diary, but am really enjoying your stories. What is life if you dont have stories to tell?
    Happy New Year to you both and I look forward to the next installment.
    In fact I’m going to try find the beginninig of your trip.
    Happy Travelling.

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