Samosa’s and tea, very British India! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM!!!
Today we need to post the two new motorbike tyres we have to Amristar, on the Pakistan border, so we can pick them up as we exit India ready for Central Asia leg of the trip. Big bikes and tyranny es are pretty much impossible to find here apparently so Dean bought these in Thailand.
After a trip to DHL who said the package was too big we went to the post office and lined up… Well that was a mistake…Everyone huddles around the window and speaks at once so we did the same. We were told that we needed to get the tyres put in a box, wrapped and then we need to go to a tailor to get then stitched with material!
What a mission that has become! In a big busy city with one way streets and not knowing where the hell we are going to find all this it is making us feel like we are not going to make it out of here today. It has taken us about 2 hours already and we have only just found a box which Dean is currently reshaping to fit the tyres. How we are going to get them back to the post office once they are wrapped and IF the post office is even open by the time we get there (as it is a Saturday) are still the questions we have ahead of us!
Betsy draws a crowd wherever we stop. Here she seems so draw a bigger crowd and people feel comfortable to touch her too which doesn’t usually happen elsewhere. It’s not too bad yet (as I still don’t feel like we are in real India) but from what we have heard it is only a matter of time before people start to get on her and fiddle with buttons! Joy!
A guy has just been shouting questions in broken English at me about the bike (mainly asking how much it is worth which seems to be the main question here) and when I asked him to repeat what he had said, he asked if I speak English…?!
We have spent the night in Kohima which was supposed to be a ‘pleasent town to spend some time’ according to something I read… Well… We may have to change our definition of ‘pleasent’! It’s ok but it’s busy and dusty and sooooo cold. We were literally in bed under the blankets at 5.30 last night and then proceeded to watch three movies and skip dinner because it was to cold to leave the room… the room isn’t heated… And there is no shower just a bucket…and this state is a dry zone… Living the life! We were imagining everyone at home imagining us (maybe!) having this crazy, fun, adventurous time and there we were there in bed watching movies at 5.30pm on a Friday night!
As I said we are hoping to make it out of here today to somewhere less cold as we know that if we stay here (which we may still have to), what we will be doing and I just can’t face another 6 hours of TV 😳
After what feels like months of ‘hanging out’ in south east Asia, waiting for the right time to pass into India for the next leg of our trip we have finally made it!
We found it a bit hard to break away from the comfortable routine we found ourselves in in Chiang Mai and get back on the road but we are once again well and truely back into it!
Due to the expense of the guide we had to have to cross Myanmar we did it in the shortest time possible, 3 nights and 4 very long days. It was such a shame to rush it as it is a beautiful place to visit but luckily we have been there before.
We were accompanied across Myanmar by a guide, a government official and a driver. Like all the people in Myanmar they were super friendly and bent over backwards to help us. They met us at our hotel lobby every morning and told us our destination and we would arrange where to meet for lunch and then we were off!
The travel company prearranged the hotels for us and despite us insisting on the cheapest hotel in town to try to minimise the cost we found ourselves pulling up at the flashiest most expensive place in town every night. It felt wrong and almost dirty being in such a flashy place in such poor towns!
The guys also took us out to dinner every night so we could try the local food, which was delicious! Very different from Thai and more similar to Indian food. Lots of curries and spices. One night we were taken to a restaurant where the staff brought out about 20 little plates of different food and we were free to try as much or as little as we liked with a $5 cost per person. The food was amazing but unfortunately Dean and I both had ‘issues’ during the night which led us to not getting much sleep and feeling pretty crap the following day. Dean pulled up a bit better than me thankfully as I was unable to get on the bike without feeling like I was going to be sick in my helmet! I slept in the guides van for the first part of the journey and when I felt that the travel sickness was overriding the food poisoning I got on the back of the bike! It was a long very hard day but we made it… And I have to say that it was nice to arrive at a nice hotel with clean sheets on this occasion!
Having heard so many negative things about India from all overlanders we have met, we have both been a little apprehensive about India. Still we are keen to see it for ourselves and like to think that we have travelled to enough places to be prepared for what it throws at us!
Upon crossing the border today to Moreh (one of the easiest, quickest, friendliest ever) and riding 100 kms through the mountains to arrive at the town we stopped in tonight, we have been pleasently surprised!
I know we are still in a little corner of India that feels more like a big mountain town than India but the people are friendly, smiley and welcoming. That being said, the town we are staying in tonight is a busy ugly dust bowl. It is frezing cold and we are fighting with the (expensive) hotel to get the hot shower that was promised to us…and nobody sells beer 🙂
I lost most of this post mid way through writing it last time, so have reposted the whole thing anew, sorry for the repeated bit at the top xoxo
The middle aged man in the tired black immigration suit with just one stripe on his shoulder has now told me the same thing four times
“You can not enter”
So I switch tactic and tell him I can, because I always do it this way (lie)
“Many times I do this way, many times”
This is news to him, and prompts a phone call, more waiting and then more of the same.
By now there are ten people lined up behind me, I’m getting anxious (freaking out!).
We’ve paid $2160 to cross Myanmar, and now the Thais won’t let me leave Thailand!
More calls and eventually the boss arrives, a 25 year old guy in a smart suit and dark glasses.
“You can not enter”
“Yes I can, I have a visa, so I am allowed to enter” I insist while trying to remain polite.
“No your thai visa is in this passport so you need to…”
“That is no problem” I interrupt. “Please just stamp me out. I will enter with the other one”
Another call, then both my passports are handed to a mignon who runs over the ‘friendship bridge’ to see if the Myanmar authorities will admit me.
More waiting, but eventually he returns with a thumbs up. Ok then, now the young boss of immigration asks me for my paperwork to enter Myanmar. For fucks sake!
“My agent has it all, he is meeting me on that side” I point to the other side of the friendship bridge (now feeling like the hate bridge).
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure”
“Because without the papers you can not enter”
“I know, I have them, over there”
“Ok then you walk over, find your papers and show them to me, then you can go” he’s not really being very helpful.
It’s a fifteen min walk there in my motocross boots, and I can’t find anyone…
So I resort to just yelling out in the chaos on the street “Burma senses! … Burma senses anyone?!”
A man points at a car, and two other men appear, they smile broadly and shake my hand introducing themselves as Ni and Hey. Ni and Hey seem nice, they have a backpack full of paperwork, this is highly calming. They seems to have it all under control.
Ni tells me to return to Thailand and he’ll meet me there in ten minutes.
I walk back over the Hate bridge expecting to find an irate girlfriend on the other side, but Sal hasn’t been dealing with all this so is only mildly bored…
On the other side I’m greeted by Ni again as if my magic, I’m confused but he explains that he drove across, thanks for the lift I think, but ok now we’re getting somewhere. Ni and I knock at Unhelpful Man’s door and let ourselves in. Ni gives him all the paperwork, (which he cant read as it’s in Burmese), so he just flicks it to one side and now asks me for my conveyance documents… A little light bulb in my head is flickering with recognition, but i tell him I don’t know what a conveyance document is… “conveyance document conveyance doicument…” he’s one of these guys who just has to have the last say. Then the dimly flickering bulb goes to full power and I remember this form, it’s the form I gave to another guy an hour ago at a different window, in return for 15 baht and a dodgy receipt. At the time I smelled a rat, so asked for the receipt, which i now unfold and give to Mr Unhelpful, pointing to the previous cubicle saying “I pay already”
He looks at this receipt in disgust, I suspect because this means one of his guys is corrupt, or because he cant ask me for money, and now he cant argue with me anymore either. Either way, he screws it up and tells me to get out of there.
Excellent. We load the 4 tyres, one chain and a rear tube into Ni’s van and get ready to ride across the Hateful bridge, Ni takes off and we follow but I’m interecepted by another man asking for customs forms… FFS!!
“We do already customs!”
“No no no, customs forms window 12”
He insists that I park the bike out of the way again, probably meaning he’s expecting us to be a while. Sal gets off swearing, I push the bike back and wander over to the window, where they wave another form at me, which like magic I produce from my document wallet.
“yes yes, good good, passport please, please wait, we make copy… sign here… and here… ok all finished”
Unbeknown to me at the time, Ni has tried to return to help us out, but the Thai’s wont let him come back into the processing area, apparently his pass is only valid once – crazy. FINALLY we get moving again and ride over the now not only slightly angry bridge and park in front of the Myanmar customs point.
This side goes like clockwork, mainly because of Ni’s help, and we’re ready to leave in ten minutes. But not before the Tourist police come over to say hello, take a picture, and welcome us to Myanmar. We love the Burmese. Most friendly people on the planet.
We ask Ni if we can eat something before we leave, and he says of course, there’s a restaurant just across the street. I walk back to the bike to put back all my docs and see a puddle of oil under it.
Today has not started well.
The sight glass has fallen out of my rear brake master cylinder, and it’s lost all the fluid. This means the rear brakes don’t work. The sight glass is clear (like glass!) and the size of a 5 cent piece, it would need to be special ordered from somewhere not here, so I go looking for it.
Walking back over the bridge again it seems like a futile effort, I have terrible eyes and it’s tiny, but i spot a freshly leaked drip of oil, so I follow it, all the way back to Thailand!! Approcaching the Thai border the authorities try to usher me to the appropriate window for immigration, but i manage to explain that i’ve dropped something, they relax and I go back to looking.
By now the trail has literally gone dry, i resign myself to finding another solution and head back, but then, just a little way across the Now Quite Friendly Bridge i see a big splotch of oil, hmmmm. Then a little further on, FUCK YEAH!! It’s sitting in some sand in the gutter, I pick it up laughing and head back to Myannar 🙂
Meanwhile the Tourist Policeman who’d introduced himself earlier, along with another 4 guys have followed me across the bridge to try to find the sight glass too. One of them got all the way to Thailand before turning back, i cant think of another place in the world where that would happen. I meet Sal halfway across, and give her the thumbs up, she cant believe it either, we return to find Ni laughing.
It takes 5 mins and a zip tie to get the brakes working again, then we finally go eat breakfast. By the time we leave the border post it’s 10:30am, and we’re really happy to be moving.
In many ways our journey actually starts here, this is the part of the trip that we really wanted to do, and was the seed for the idea of riding all the way to Europe. It went like this.
“It would be great to ride around India, Nepal and Myanmar”
“Yeah so how do we get the bike there?”
“Why dont we ride it?”
“Well if we do that we should just keep going all the way to Europe”
and so we are 🙂
So here I am at the Majesty Hotel in somewhere or other (Myanmar), waiting for our guide to arrive so I can fit new tyres to Betsy.
Yesterday we made 670km to get from Yangon to past Mandalay, today another 350km to arrive within striking distance of the Indian border for tomorrow.
I’m pretty tired – would be an understatement. Last night after an already long day Sal and I both got bad food poisoning, vomiting and diarrhea, for me it lasted until 6am, Sal’s hit this morning so she spent part of the day in the guides car. I think I’ve slept less than two hours 🙁
As soon as we arrived here I parked the bike and stripped the front tyre, only to be told by Sal that we were at the wrong hotel! Fantastic.
So it all went back together for the 400m drive down the road, where I currently sit waiting patiently… Not.
Aside from being beyond tired, today was a nice enough ride, very bumpy but tar road the whole day, fields of sunflowers and rice plantations, flanked by sugar palms as far as you can see.
Very narrow road though, so we had to continually leave the road at speed to avoid hitting buses or trucks, sounds bad but you get used to it after a while 🙂
Tomorrow we cross the border to India, I have mixed feelings about that, somewhere between dread and excited.
EVERYONE we have met so far who has come through India on a bike has hated it, and tried to find the fastest way out. We on the other hand, are planning two months there, riding the full length and breadth of the place. But that plan may change 🙂
Well holy cow we’re here, but not without some drama!
2.5 hours at the border where I heard the words
“No you can not enter Myanmar” at least ten times from seemingly everyone in immigration. Undaunted (quite daunted actually!) I pressed on…
“Just keep smiling dean, keep smiling fuck it!!”
Long story which I’ll write another day, for now it’s a cold beer and some dinner!
We finally left Riders Corner this morning, very sad to say goodbye to Dotti and Nana, we hope to see you again one day!
When I went downstairs with our bags Dotti looked at me and then the bags and then buried her face in her hands like a little kid crying 🙁
It was a really nice place to take a pause, but now we’re off again, direction India.
Today we rode 370km to Mae Sot, the Thai side of the border, and in the morning we meet our guide for Myanmar at 8am in no man’s land.
Fortunately the 4 tyres I sent here on a bus a few days ago were waiting at the bus company office when we got here in the afternoon, so tomorrow I ferry Sal and two tyres to the border and then come back for the other two. Should be an interesting day…
The second most tedious thing about travel is getting visas, especially in this part of the world where it all needs to be done in advance, or worse still needs to be done before you leave home, but is only valid for a few months (which is not long enough).
In the order that we got them…
Our passports were sent home with Paul who printed forms and sent them to the embassy in Canberra, then Dhl’d them back to us in Thailand. Technically this is not allowed so don’t tell anyone!
We were nervous about this last one as we needed proof of residence in Thailand to apply for it here. Which just means a copy of our Thai visa, but as these passports were in Aus when we arrived here, we used our EU passports to enter Thailand, so the Thai visa was in a different passport…
“Maybe you need apply in other passport”
“But our Pakistan visa is in this one, so we’ll be using this one for China too”
“Ahhh I see…” Long pause, followed by a non committal “OK then, come back Friday”
So that’s it for a while, we still need Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran but they will need to wait until we reach New Delhi.
Nothing too amazing to add right now, we’re just passing our days here in Chiang Mai, soaking up the great food and hospitality of the locals, and counting down the days to entering Mynmar, which we have booked for the 25th of January.
Myanmar doesnt allow foreigners to travel independently with their own vehicle, so you need to engage a tour operator to accompany (babysit) you on your travels. As we’re on a bike, this means we need someone in a car to meet us at the border, help us get into the country and then travel with us for the 4 days we have to cross the county. The destinations for each night are set in advance, and the schedule is pretty tight. It’s a shame because if it weren’t for this we’d stay much longer, but it is what it is. Hopefully with the new government things may change for the better. As it stands we have about 2-300km to ride each day we’re there, and one day of 670km! Which may not seem so far in a first world highway sense, but in Myanmar that’s going to be a very long day. So the 25th… that’s another 6 days…
Once we returned from the Little Motorbiker Tour (as I’ve since named it, Sally being the “good little motorbiker”), we worked out that we could also apply for our Chinese visas here in Chiang Mai, which is a bit of a bonus, because everything here is really easy. For example, we went to the Myanmar embassy in the afternoon to apply for those, and the friendly security guard told us that the embassy was closed after 12pm, but he gave us two application forms, and also told us we needed photos, a copy of our passport, some money and that it would take three days. So the next morning we returned with those things, no lineup, no rude embassy staff, no corruption, just give the forms to the nice lady at the counter and come back in three days. Lovely.
Contrast this with my experiences applying for visas in other Asian countries, that usually involve big crowds jostling for position, people yelling and screaming, hours in lines, rude officials, endless paperwork and no guarantee of actually getting the visa. Not lovely.
The Chinese one was more or less the same as Myanmar, we went to see if the embassy was actually where google said it was (you can never be sure!), and were geetted by a nice security guard who gave us the forms and some instructions. Next day we returned, took a number from the ticket machine (such a great idea at an embassy!) and waited our turn. 5 minutes later our number was called (in 5 different languages!), we went to the counter (and were actually asked for the ticket), where the polite girl at the counter told us we also needed hotel bookings and a detailed daily itinerary typed on a letter… OK, so back to the guest house, email the tour company (China is the other country that doesnt allow independent travellers with their own vehicle without an escort), who then sent us hotel bookings (in Chinese so we couldnt read them). I typed up a couple of letters and we went down the road to a camera place to print it all off. This morning we returned at 9am with fingers crossed that all would be ok (as we only have until friday here so today is the last day we can apply), and it all went smoothly. Hopefully on friday it’s just as easy.
Other than that I’ve been working on the bike, and organising tyres and other spare parts for the rest of the trip. It turns out that tyres for stupidly big offroad bikes are not available anywhere else we’re going until we reach Turkey (about another 20,000km from here). So… I have 2 sets coming from Bangkok, (hopefully arriving here today), along with a new chain, inner tube and front sprocket. All that will be put on a bus to the Myanmar border (Mae Sot) where we’ll collect them and somehow get it all across the border and into the guides vehicle to take them across Myanmar to India – at least the guide will be useful for something, but a US$2160 courier service is pretty steep!!
Once at the India border we may fit one pair and carry the other pair across, or we might get both sets across to India and courier one set to a hotel on the other side of India, then carry the second pair as far as the current tyres will last before putting them on… are you keeping up? It’s a bit complicated. Anyway, the important part is that we will have good tyres for all the offroad parts of the journey.
Last Friday I did the long overdue major service on Betsy, this includes : flush and replace fork oil, change engine oil and filter, set valve clearances (actually just checked them this time as they were all fine), rebuild the rear brake master cylinder, replace a banjo bolt in the rear brakes, wash and reoil the air filters, change spark plugs, change passenger grips, and bleed the front and rear brakes. All that took about 10 hours.
Still to do is : replace front sprocket and chain, replace the front headlight plug, try to fix the fuel warning light (which no longer lights, hence running out of fuel a week ago), beat dents out of the panniers after Sally fell of the bike twice,(oh yeah?! And where were you when this happened Dean?!) and possibly get a crack in one pannier tig welded (again!). None of this is very pressing so it may or may not actually happen.
10:38am now, so I need to run. Happy birthday to my mate Dave back home, hope you had a good one, and aren’t too hungover today!!
We have ridden about 1000 kms on roads ranging from three lane highways with high speed traffic and country lanes with various suicidal animals, to tight windy roads with hair pin turns up and down steep hills. The people were lovely, the scenery has been beautiful and I feel, the drivers have been very accommodating considering my obvious lack of experience!
There was a close call with a cat that ran in to me and also a bad gear change that reminded me of an accident where I wrote off my Torana in 1995, but all is well! Despite being agnostic, I still found myself thanking someone or something every night I made it safe, unscathed and alive at our destination 😬