Wet and Wild 04-19/02/11

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Laos, Thailand

What up peeps! (I’m going ‘gangster’ in order to appeal to the younger readers, I want to top 50,000 hits you see, it’s all about the numbers these days.) Right off the bat I’d like to make a thousand apologies for the delay in the blog, I know a lot of you have come to rely on our blogs as a shining light in these bleak winter days, but after you find out about the week we have just had I hope you will find it in your hearts to forgive our tardiness.

We last left you in the Luang Prabang in Laos, and from there we drove further south to Vang Vieng. Oh my goodness was that a sleazy nightmare of a place! The town is located on a river in a stunning limestone cliff landscape, which has unfortunately been ruined by an activity known as tubing. This essentially involves hundreds of drunk tourists, (many from the UK it has to be said), hiring rubber inner tubes and floating down the river, stopping at many of the loud bars that litter the river bank and pollute the environment by pumping out very loud music 13 hours a day! Add in a lot of drug taking as well and ‘horrendous’ is the only word you can use to describe it! How the locals put up with it I don’t know! To make matters worse, we had booked three nights there, doh!

There was a saving grace though… everyday we headed out of the cesspit, (can you tell that I really didn’t like it?) and headed for the hills. There were many small and interesting tracks that led out of the town and into the surrounding countryside. We spent all day just exploring the outlying villages, attending injured Americans after they had fallen off their motorbikes, paddling in rivers and driving through water crossings (more than once in order to get that perfect shot!) So what could have been three days of hell actually turned out to be a blessing and a really enjoyable couple of days!

The road from Vang Vieng to the Laos capital, Vientianne was in a lot better condition than the roads further to the north and it took us no time getting there and finding our hotel. Vientianne is my kind of capital; small, relaxed and laid back. It’s full of coffee shops, NGO personel driving large white 4x4s, and tour companies promising you that theirs is the cheapest bus to Thailand. After the first day wandering the city, drinking coffee and yep, you’ve guessed it, people watching we got an email from our mate Austrian Tom (www.look4tom.com), who we last saw in Bandar Abbas just before we got the ferry to Dubai. He had taken his car to India but left it there and continued his journey on his KTM motorbike though Asia. It turned out that he was in Vientianne as well and we met up with him and his friend Klaus for more coffee, a few beers and a good old story swap.

Our decision not to take the car to India seems to have been the right one listening to the nightmare/ horror stories Austrian Tom told us of getting his car there, through customs and driving on the roads. It also turns out that Tom (we can drop the Austrian bit now, you know who he is) will be in Perth when we are, yeah! We have a friend in Australia! He also promised to teach us windsurfing while we wait for the car to turn up. Personally I doubt I’ll need many lessons, as I have a feeling I’m a natural but Megan will take a lot of work. Look out for photos of me in a wetsuit in the near future… I strongly suggest you finish any large meals first- there will be a parental warning (probably  PG15) as well on that particular blog so not to worry, you’ll have plenty of notice.

After bidding farewell to Laos we then started the drive back into Thailand and continued doing battle with the shippers. We had started making enquires into shipping the car to Perth about a month ago but had got nowhere. Emails went unanswered, the quotes we did receive were either crazy high or ridiculously cheap and therefore not inclusive of all the costs. It got to the stage where we seriously considered taking the Land Rover apart and carrying it on the plane as excess baggage. Then all of a sudden Megan had a breakthrough! Following another stupid email from a shipping agent asking the same question I had answered ten days before and suggesting a date for shipping which would have required us to drive at an average speed of 107.5mph in 24 hours in order to get there I finally had a little cry and gave up. Megan however took over, and within thirteen minutes found an English guy on the web who could not only help us but also had somewhere we could clean the car and get it serviced before he shipped it. It made me sick, five weeks, five weeks it had taken me, 38 emails to three different shippers, and she nailed it thirteen bloody minutes!?! I had another little cry and lost all the man points I had gained over the last few weeks.

So we left for the border with a plan, me in a sulk and Megan looking a little bit too chuffed with herself. The car would be shipped in ten days, which would give us enough time to get to Bangkok and get Harriet looking her best for the customs inspection in Fremantle. The border crossing went smoothly. Well, there was the mandatory run around- I think we visited five different offices in order to get the Carnet stamped, but as we are so relaxed about it all now we both commented on the fact that only two hours for a signature and a bit of paper was ‘quite good actually’.

We finally arrived in Bangkok and after a night in the most expensive hostel in the world we went off to meet the English guy who could arrange our shipping. The English guy had a name, Tim, and Tim is our hero. He owns a company called Siam Motor World (www.siammotorworld.com) and without him we would not have been able to get the car packed and off to Australia. He sorted out all the shipping and let use his garage for a week for free. What a guy.

Now we get to the reason why this blog was so long in coming. In order to get any car into Australia you have to make sure it is spotlessly clean, inside and out and it must not contain any mud, seeds or anything that could endanger the eco-systems of our Australia cousins. Initially I didn’t think it would take too long to clean the Land Rover however, after the first couple of hours it became obvious just how long this was going to take us. Laos had coved everything, and I mean everything in the back of the car in a fine film of dust, and the underside of the car was still covered in tar from Turkey, with mud mixed into it for good measure.

Basically we took the car apart, cleaned it, and put it back together. It took a total of 96 man-hours, nine separate arguments between us, four ruined T-shirts, one pair of crocs,  and lost three fingernails. At one stage I actually threw the scraper I was using to chip tar off the bottom of the car across the garage in a proper bloke fit! More last man points. I took care of the underside of the car and the engine, taking the wheels off and scraping off the tar in the wheel wells, taking the radiator out and power washing the engine. Megan emptied all our boxes, cleaned all our equipment, repacked it all, and cleaned the inside of the car. They were long days, 7am till 7pm, in temperatures no sane Englishman should work in.

However, come Thursday afternoon we had done the best we could. Will it be good enough? We will all have to wait and see…. We really can’t thank Tim enough, he went above a beyond to help us and if anyone is shipping out of or into Thailand or needs anything car related in Thailand he is the only man to see.

So that’s it, the car is again in a container, making its way to Oz and we are off to Singapore to visit some friends. We miss her and the freedom she gives us…sniff sniff…..damn it Simon, no tears!

  1. robin welch says:

    Hi Guys

    Another great update, how do you feel towards journey’s end?

    Best Wishes


  2. Lloyd says:

    Those overalls suit you down to a T!

    Your written English has improved significantly since school. Or, as I suspect, is Megan your secret literary genius? Sounds like you should just take a back seat fella 😉


  3. Richard says:

    So now I know why you have the Dyson. Can we have a picture of it please. Be nice to see it again!!


  4. Paul and Cathy says:

    Looking forwards to the next installment chaps … 96 hours of cleaning sounds like your living the dream!

    Seriously looks lime your having fun …

    Paul and Cath

  5. Isle Of Inishmore says:

    Hmm, nice boiler suit !!

  6. Nick says:

    Having read your lastblog especially the landy cleaning section, don’t be surprised if it gets steam cleaned on arrival as it appears to be the norm whatever the appearance. We have “Winnie” in transit now to Adelaide and only gave her a normal clean externally based on the recommendation of the shippers and just incur the one lot of cleaning fees. Will let you know if this was a good move or not!

  7. Paul says:

    Just In case you don’t get sky sports…. Knew you’d want to know straight away…. Ireland beat England I’n the cricket world cup yesterday…. Oh yeah.

    Nice boilersuit by the way…. And why’s my car still not I’n readers drives?

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