We were up by 07h30, but spent a proportion of the morning doing odd jobs (which wasn't originally our plan). We settled our bill and got on the road around lunchtime. The road was pretty poor especially considering it is such a high traffic route between Thailand and Cambodia. It was bone-jarring and dusty, so we had to keep the windows shut for about 100km which made it incredibly hot!
Exiting the Cambodian side wasn't too much trouble. Immigration was swift and organised and for customs they just wanted to inspect our vehicle, so Michael drove it back the 500m from the border to the customs office, where after stamping our carnet and sticking his head out the window to check we had a vehicle, the customs officer said we could go. While we were waiting for customs I saw a load of polystyrene boxes of titanic proportions being pushed along on a cart by a team of men from Thailand across to Cambodia.
The Thai side was a little slower, understandably for entry. A young guy showed us where to go for passport processing and he gave us some immigration forms for the vehicle and then we had to go to customs for further forms. They were very friendly and methodical and one of the officers kindly gave us two bottles of cold water to help combat the midday heat.
It was a pleasure to be back on Thai roads. The people drive a little more sanely and the condition of the roads is excellent - tarred and often dual carriageway. We stopped at a little town where they were having their weekly market and I bought some ice cold drinks and some fresh vegetables to make a tuna salad for dinner. I did not relish the idea of cooking when it would still be in the thirties into the late evening.
We spotted a cleared piece of land surrounded by trees next to someone's house and asked if we could sleep there for the night. They said it was fine and that was the last we heard of them as they kept a very respectable distance, only watching us every now and again from their veranda. We called Beth and Reid to let them know roughly when we are going to arrive tomorrow in Bangkok and after a tasty dinner, settled down to sleep.
Friday, 18th - We were on the road by 08h00 after a very good night's sleep. I didn't get the chance to do much journal writing as we made excellent time and were on the outskirts of Bangkok by 09h30. By 10h30 we hadpulled off at a fuel station which I estimated to be close to Beth and Reid's home and we called Reid who gave me easy directions to their apartment complex.
It was lovely to see them both and they have a fabulous little place. It was great to have access to all the luxuries including air conditioning, hot (not that you need it) shower, internet access and a swimming pool!
I phoned a couple of shipping lines and agents which proved to be rather frustrating as language was quite a barrier, especially trying to spell over the phone! Nevertheless I did get somewhere... It turns out shipping from SE Asia is an expensive exercise and we have to use an agent (according to Thai port authorities). Freight estimates alone are around the $1,800 mark, whereas we paid under $700 from the USA.
In the evening Beth and Reid had invited some friends over for dinner. Reid made a delicious Greek dinner and we drank lots of red wine and thoroughly enjoyed all the company. A little later another friend arrived who demonstrated to Reid the fine art of Burmese sarong tying. It was, needless to say, a lot more amusing for the onlookers...
Saturday, 19th - We slept really well and were up and about by 08h30, which was quite impressive. We went to the weekend market (Chatuchak). Michael chicken out within the first half hour and decided to go to the IT market instead. I spent the entire day wandering about looking at the myriad things on offer. It really was quite overwhelming. There are over 9,000 stalls selling just about anything you can imagine. I succeeded in spending $150 and caught the sky train back home at 18h30. Beth says she doesn't know anyone else who has ever done such a marathon shopping session there. In the evening we ate the tasty left overs from last night and chatted and relaxed.
Sunday, 20th - A relatively lazy day today. We went to fill Nyathi up with diesel before the proposed hike in prices, because for 450 litres it makes a big difference. Then we went to Tesco to stock up on drinks and a few dry food items for Europe. We also bought some cheese, pea crisps and a few other things for Beth and Reid's. I ate some furiously hot phad thai for just 10 baht from a stall in the Tesco centre. I had to down two cans of Sprite afterwards. Michael dropped me at the weekend market on the way back and I swapped out some clothing I'd bought which was too small. I also go some silver jewellery for myself and only got back home after 19h00! We went out for dinner to a local Isarn restaurant where we got excellent food and exceptional service - a great end to the day.
Monday, 21st - I spent the morning dealing with shipping agents and printing up our requirements ready for our face to face meetings. First we went to UPS Air Sea Service who were extremely professional and helpful. We had a scare at first, thinking we had the incorrect customs papers and were going to have to sort that out first, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Michael then made the suggestion that I should get flights to go and spend Easter with my sister in Australia and he would wait and et Nyathi on the ship. It was so good of him and I was so excited. We went along to find out about tickets and after enquiring at two places we got an open jaw ticket Bangkok, Brisbane, Sydney, Bangkok for just 21,000 baht ($560) for Thursday, 24th March - in just three days! We had lunch at a food stall along with loads of other local office workers and then we caught the sky train back home. We asked Beth and Reid if we could stay tomorrow night, so we could get all our packing done tomorrow and they said it was OK. I had a swim in the pool which was wonderfully refreshing and good exercise, which I haven't had for too long!
Tuesday, 22nd - We had a very busy day and tried to stay out of Reid's way as much as possible as we knew he was meant to be working and we should have left yesterday! We did two loads of washing, which was very convenient (thanks Beth & Reid) and in the intense heat it all dried in no time. It was incredibly hot work getting all our travelling clothing out of the tent compartments even with the fan working I found it hard to keep the sweat at bay. To add to the displeasure of the task there were lots of fierce mosquitoes thirsty for our blood. Interspersed with all the manual work were phone calls and emails to shipping people, which was proving a little frustrating. In the evening I went for a swim, which once again, was terrific.
Wednesday, 23rd - We were up early and had to dig in the deep trunks for a few items we couldn't find yesterday. By 09h00 we went to Khaosan Road to look for accommodation and an internet cafe to keep abreast of shipping developments. After lots of searching I found a clean, but noisy and room with shared showers etc. for 180 baht. The bed was incredibly hard and lumpy, but accommodation was really scarce and it was cleaner than the other room I almost got for 370 baht. The nicer places we found for 380 baht were all full. Michael went with Reid to the IT mall in the afternoon and I stayed in the Khaosan area. Something I ate gave me bad stomach pains so I went for a sleep on the awful bed. Still no confirmation on shipping, but it is clear we will not make this Sunday and who knows beyond that? We were meant to go out for drinks with Beth, Reid, Caroline and Scott, but as it is the last time they'll all be getting together for a while (and I wasn't feeling so great) we decided to opt out and let them enjoy the evening together.
Thursday, 24th - The bad news is that both the agents we have had quotes from are now battling to find availability on the ships. Apparently prices go up in April, so demand is high now, but I think we are going to have to settle for a departure on the 3rd April and pay an extra $200 for the pleasure! It is very frustrating as it cuts our journey time down in Europe and delays Michael's departure for Australia. On the up side, I leave for Brisbane tonight and am very excited. I spent part of the morning shopping and the afternoon using an electrical point at the (air conditioned) internet cafe to get the website up to speed. Michael went to Sukhumvit Road to find accommodation which is closer to the sky train route which gives easier access to the shipping contacts and Nyathi (still parked at Beth & Reid's place).
We met up near Khaosan Road and had a little wander together and then we caught a taxi out to Nyathi. Sadly Beth and Reid weren't there for me to say goodbye to, but I am sure we'll meet again. I packed everything up and then we went to a local restaurant to grab a bite to eat. Then we hailed a taxi on the way back to Nyathi. Michael and I said a quick goodbye and I left him feeling a bit guilty that he had to finalise the shipping while I was off on a jolly. When I got to the airport I had a bit of a scare as the check-in guy asked me if I had another passport and then asked where my visa was. I told him that as a British Citizen I did not need a visa for Australia, but he insisted I did (and wasn't too friendly about it). I told him I had been before and did not need a visa. He disagreed and wandered off to speak to his manager while I asked some Australian passengers and they said that as both countries are part of the Commonwealth, it wasn't necessary to have a visa. That was what I thought, however, I discovered I was wrong! What I required was an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). The manager at Thai Airways explained that everyone needs one and they can be bought over the internet for A$20. She kindly went into her own system and printed one out for me at no cost. So much for the experienced traveller - that little escapade certainly got my adrenalin going. Then I loitered for ages to make sure the somewhat bolshy check-in guy did in fact put my luggage on the flight. I paid my 500 baht departure tax and legged it for the gate.
Michael had an incredibly frustrating time trying to finalise all the shipping arrangements and flights out to Australia. First of all there were no ships with space available before the end of March and on the 1st April the freight rates went up by US$200. The original agents who we had dealt with (UPS) were unable to find us any space and in the end Michael dealt with Samrerng at RTW Logistics Thailand who was incredibly helpful and managed to find us space on a ship departing on the 2nd April for the pre-April freight rate.
Then there were no reasonably priced flights available and Michael ended up flying out to Brisbane on 6th April with Singapore Airlines for just over US$500 (open-jaw return from Sydney).