So, it turns out Air China don’t do much to mark New Year’s Eve. We *think* we crossed into 2015 somewhere over Russia but can’t be sure. By midnight GMT most of the plane are snoozing and Rachel and I are struggling to stay awake. We manage a toast using two empty beer cans, then fall into an uncomfortable half-sleep for the next 4 hrs.
A few hours later we arrive tired and frazzled in Bangkok and head nervously to the oversize baggage desk. This is our first time travelling on a plane with bikes and we’ve used the CTC transparent bags to do the job. The Air China man looked like he’d never seen anything so absurd, and made us sign a damages waiver (along with a 90 quid fee) before he’d accept them. We have no idea if our bikes will have even managed the short transit in Beijing (we almost didn’t), let alone turn up in one piece in Bangkok.
Imagine our relief, then, to see both bikes sat awaiting us! Our panniers made it too. Before we crack open the belated bubbly, we inspect the bikes. Both have damaged front mudguards but apart from this look basically OK. Since we took the front tires off in a bit of a rush, then left the mudguards on with no protection, it’s perhaps not surprising they both got damaged. Lesson number one learnt.
We quickly learn lesson number two: don’t try and put your pedals back onto the bike while bike is upside down. We take about an hour to figure out that we’ve put them back on the wrong way, and are lucky not to damage the threads.
Bikes re-assembled (three hours after getting off plane, and much to the entertainment of the oversize baggage staff), we head to the train station, where a huge queue looks ominous. We are told only one line is running and that bikes can’t be taken on board. Taxi it is then.
The taxi queue is even worse (and full of fumes and irate people) so it’s a relief when a kind lady gives me a ticket to jump the queue in order to get an extra large taxi. It’s still only large enough to take one bike though, so the driver straps Rachel’s to the roof with a couple of bungee cords. We then have a nervous ride into town hoping the bike will still be on the roof-rack when we get there. It is. We’re so relieved that we give him a huge tip and later realise that we were pretty generous with the fare too (1,500 bhat – more than our sleeper train to Chiang Mai will cost), but hell, he saved our bacon big time and was a nice guy. We get the bikes into the hotel room and crash; it’s been a long day but we all – people and bikes – just about made it in one piece.
Happy New Year from Bangkok!