|Meeting the boss at AP Honda!|
Bangkok felt very different to my last visit 11 years ago. I am still undecided as to wether it is Bangkok that has changed or me! It certainly felt more modern and the Taxi service from the airport, where I had expected to get ripped off, had got themselves organised and above board. Get in line, record your destination at the desk, pick up your slip, taxi assigned and away you go. Meter all the way! I was impressed!
After 2 days in a very cheap, but surprisingly modern, clean and friendly hostel in the centre of Bangkok (Glur Hostel and coffee shop) waiting for Rhonda to arrive, I headed back to the airport where I was informed that I would have to come back on Wednesday as it was the Queens birthday and a two day holiday. I was not at all impressed! Everyone I spoke to just said the same thing "Holiday. No customs". Unwilling to head back without Rhonda, I decided to give it my best shot and see if I could find a way around this. As with India, I was willing to try anything but would start with gentle persuasion! I pulled out my now dogged Sunday Times article that I had so far found useful on these occasions, and showed them what I was doing. I then said I had to have the bike today as I had a press conference the next day. Actually I had a meeting with Honda Thailand's Head office and an interview with Two Wheels magazine so it was actually, kind of true!
After speaking with several people and waiting around a lot, I was told that the customs boss was going
to come in on his day off to sort it all out for me! Result!!! I couldn't believe it to be honest. I had not actually expected it to work, especially after seeing for myself the rows of empty desks and the quiet offices.
I cannot fault Thai customs for their efforts but the amount of times they, and the agent driving me between buildings tried to rip me off for hundreds was tiring and extremely irritating. Had I not questioned and challenged everything, I would have been out of pocket by more than £300 that afternoon. I also would have paid £4,000 guarantee on the bike instead of having my Carnet stamped. However, on refusing to pay, eventually we found a way around this. The Carnet was not stamped but the relevant paperwork was produced eventually with a copy of my passport as guarantee!!! Many people had paid this money as I was shown their paperwork. It seems though there was never any need for them to do so! It pays to question everything and take nothing at face value when dealing with Thai customs!
|The Honda Surgeons|
It was a great day with AP Honda. They looked after me and Rhonda very well. Rhonda was given full service and check over and after 13,000 miles she was still holding out with all her original parts. They did however find a leak in the water pump and so a small repair was required. The mechanics looked like surgeons as they worked on her, in their amazingly white uniforms! How do they keep them clean I wonder? I was interviewed, fed and lavished with gifts from the team. They even sorted my insurance out and all at their expense. I was honoured and extremely grateful for their support. Any problems with me or Rhonda during my stay in Thailand and I have been instructed to call them and they will help using any one of their network of 900 dealers dotted around the country. Now that is what I call support! Hopefully we won't need it but it is very reassuring to know they are on hand if the worst happens.
Tomorrow I hit the road again and start my ride up to Northern Thailand and eventually over to Laos.
I have now also set up a GOFUNDME page after several people have asked how they can contribute. The support on this trip has been overwhelming and I cannot thank everyone enough. The contributions from this page with go towards getting me to Antarctica and 20% will be donated to Rally4Life. In the first day you have already raised over £500. That is amazing! THANK YOU. The target for this leg of the journey is £6,000.
Let's see if we can't make a little bit of British history together and get on that elusive 7th continent.
Please visit gofundme.com/onestephbeyond to make a contribution or just share the page with your friends.
Lots of love
Steph and Rhonda