Written by Toby Barton
Arriving in Khao San Road Bangkok on Songkran, the Thai new year, is not advisable on old motorcycles, especially ones that seem to have their own opinion on the right time to start.
We covered 1000km in three days to get to Bangkok in time to catch up with a friend of mine from France, Stepha. We agree to meet at the police station at the end of Khao San Road. Unfortunately this is the opposite end to the one we arrive at.
We had spent the last day and a half riding along the highways, dodging buckets of water and plumes of talcum powder. This, apparently, is how you celebrate the new year in Thailand. Along the highway we had kept reasonably dry and un-talced. All due of course to our excellent reflex skills. Khao San road though? Well, if you were judging us on our survival skills, we failed before we even arrived. 20 meters off the entrance to the road we were soaked, covered in talc and I was at-least happy that Willba knew where the fuck we were going. We meet up with Stepha, get drunk, party all night.
Bangkok’s been busy. We’ve been organising our Indian visas. They have this amazing system whereby you go in to apply and they request an oversized passport photo. Conveniently enough they have their own in house centre where it can be done for you for a small fee… monopolising bastards!
Willba’s been quite sick and not just of me. So of course true to form this is when we need to get 10 million things done. Off we trot to Trans Air Cargo. It’s somewhat offensive the traffic here, it makes lots of noise, blows smoke at you and worst of all, barely moves. So we duck and weave to get ahead for fear of the motors turning to a molten pile of metal between our legs. Somewhere between a duck and a weave, I lose Will. Feeling sorry for him as I know he was feeling terrible that day and this, the last thing he needed, I wait. But after an hour I continue onto the office.
Kittima is the lady who we are to meet. She will take lots of money off us to put our antiquated machinery in the bowels of a modern one and send it through the sky to Nepal. Unfortunately we don’t think that Myanmar is happy with the idea of us riding though it.
I arrive at the office, she is on lunch, 1 hour. So I head back to the hotel in the hope that Will’s there. We regroup and return to the office to find that Kittima, is not in fact on a lunch break, but on holiday. Day 1, what a waste. I’ve dragged poor old Will across the city twice, for nothing. Except to worsen his state.
The next morning we head first to the Australian embassy to get an introduction letter (we want as much paperwork as possible). They’re unaware of such a thing and refuse. I think the real reason is they have only ever filled out one form. That being certification of marriage, judging by all the large Aussie men waiting in line with what should be their daughters suffocating under their arms.
After this our last little bit of hope for Myanmar is quashed. We tell a man from the consulate as he is walking back inside after lunch what we want to do. He laughs, "Impossible!". For all the hopefuls though, I don’t think it is that far off. Maybe a year or so.
At last we meet Kittma, $2400 for the air freight. Ouch! We don’t really have a choice. We book in for the tenth. A flight to Nepal on the 14th $600, via India. Let’s hope for no major breakdowns!
We have done our first 3000km so it’s time to treat the bikes to a service. My back tyre was completely bald so I found another. Let’s hope it lasts longer than the previous one!
Willba’s had some oil leaks that as I fixed, I create some in mine. I think everyone should service their vehicles in the street. I managed to meet a man who worked for the UN. He has now retired and is going to be the first person to ride through Myanmar - he knows the transport minister. I met another who has a 1975 Minsk - the bike I rode in Asia last time. I also met several other people who couldn’t communicate with me as I am such an Australian and speak nothing other than some fucked up form of English.
Oh and last of all - Mum you’ll love this! - I got hit by my first taxi! I was looking for a new front brake leaver as the last one was broken. I became tapped by a lovely taxi driver. Putting my feet down to keep the bike up I was then unable to brake and I went careering off into a barrier which in turn hit a parked bike. I went over, bruised my leg and we ended up doing a runner as the finger was pointed at me.