So yesterday Plodd left Thailand for the very last time and we drove into Laos, the Laos border authorities would not let us use our passports that have our Chinese visa’s in, saying that they could only put a Laos visa in the passport that we have a Thai exit stamp in, so I do not know what the Chinese will say when we arrive at there border tomorrow without a Laos entry stamp.
The journey from Pattaya to the Laos border was pretty un-eventful then after we crossed into Laos the roads were not great and at one point we had to stop because our front disc brake pads were smoking, however, we arrived at Lauang Namtha at about 4.30pm and met up with the 2 guy’s Sylvan and Baptiste that we are going to drive in convoy through China with. They are driving an ex-French army vehicle that is 35 years old, and it looks 35 years old, when we agreed to share the Chinese guide with the French people it started out as Les and I and a married couple and 1 child however, that has now changed to 2 blokes.
So tomorrow is the big day and we have planned to start as soon as the border opens (8am), we will enter China together and it may not be possible to post on plodd.net, as we are told that the Chinese authorities sometimes block web sites. The info was correct the Chinese Authorities had blocked Plodd.net, Hotmail, Google, facebook and many other western sites so that is why no one has heard from us.
Problems started as soon as we all tried to exit through Laos customs at 8am, the French vehicle documents for exiting Laos were not in order so the authorities held the French guys up about 1 hour then we all carried on into” no man’s land” and parked there overnight. We had dinner in a small restaurant. Lesley had to throw away the cheese and lots of other things out of our fridge as it had stopped cooling. The next morning we all set off for the Laos immigration, another problem, the Laos customs had taken the French guys green paper that they needed to complete exiting Laos, so they had to go back 7km to the customs to retreive the paper, in the meantime Les and I continued to the Chinese border control, our guide was not there so we waited 30 mins for her to turn up, she then informed us that we could not go through into China without the French people as we were a team, so we waited another 45 mins and then they turned up.
We cleared Customs and then headed for a town called Mengua to collect our paperwork for the vehicles, the lunch time for the Chinese office is 11.30 am to 3pm so we had to wait until 3.00pm (15.00) our guide organised Sim cards for us and we bought bread and salad to use for our evening meal.
At 3.30pm we got our driving licences and then headed to another place to have the vehicles tested (like a m.o.t) Plodd first the examiner set off as fast has he could in Plodd and then slammed the brakes on, I thought Plodd was going to tip up, anyway Plodd past the brake test first time and Lesley went inside Plodd and swept up the broken wine glasses! Next the French vehicle’s test, well it failed, so they retested and retested and retested it, 7 times in total, each time in-between tests the 2 French guys would get under it and adjust something or other, the retest’s took about 2 hours and eventually it passed, so we collected our Chinese number plates and set off at about 5.30pm (17.30). The driving was pathetic the French vehicle was averaging about 45mph (67km), it was 8pm (20.00) when we stopped driving and parked up for the night in a large deserted area in the time we were driving we had covered about 100km.
Les made a corn beef salad with cheese and crackers, had a couple of beers and went to bed, this was day 7 of the trip.
Thursday 15th June 2017.
Up at 6.30am we had a cup of tea and then we set off at 8am filled up with fuel, what a bad day! Before we agreed to allow the French couple to join our party they told us and told the Guide agency that their vehicle would travel between 80km and 90km depending on the road conditions this was not the case, so we called a meeting and it ended with everybody shouting and the French guy Sylvan doing a lot of swearing in English it was ridiculous, not a holiday atmosphere.
Green our guide took Les and I in to a crappy café ordered the food and then disappeared without telling us or eating what she had ordered.
We went back to Plodd and discussed the next day.
Friday 16th June 2017
It was decided that the French vehicle would leave at 6.30am and we would leave at 8am, we actually left at 7.45am but got lost in Kunming until about 10am because of all the height restrictions around the city, it was hard work as we knew that we had 530km to cover, we stopped for a quick toilet stop had a sandwich and threw the rest of the food and milk from the fridge out as it was still not working, we meet up with the other vehicle 67km from our planned overnight stop Xichang then drove together to Xichang.
When we arrived at yet another shitty car park that our guide had chosen we had another meeting at which I pointed out that we and the guide company had been told lies about the speed that the French vehicle could travel at and that NAVO the guide company should do something about the problem as they had given us an itinerary that said that for this day we should have reached our destination in 7 hours and instead it had take us 11 hours, the guide by this time had been traveling with them for 11 hours and had taken their side 100% saying if we wanted another guide we should pay for it!
So I spoke to the girl in NAVO’s office that we first booked the trip with and she agreed that we should travel at 80km and they must keep up (no chance).
Les and I walked to the lake and found a restaurant and had dinner, slow cooked beef and shrimp with Sechuan sauce with string potatoes, it was nice, then we went back to Plodd and sat in the cab and had a beer before going to bed.
Saturday 17th June 2017
After securing everything we set off with our guide in Plodd at 8am stopped at 10am for a quick toilet stop etc., We decided not to have a lunch break, but to soldier on to Ya-an, our guide wanted to stop for the toilet so we stopped and the other vehicle surprisingly decided to stop for lunch, when we arrived at Ya-an we were looking for the West Tea Hotel I spotted it and we found that it was now fully booked so we found another hotel in the city called Yu Du Hotel it was £55 per night. We booked in and the others said they would go and wild camp, however, the guide spoke to the receptionist at our hotel telling them that we were staying in the hotel and would it be ok for the other car to park and sleep in the car park, the receptionist said yes and then told me that our room rate included breakfast I said Ok, then turned to the guide and said Les and I don’t eat breakfast so she then said would it be OK if she came to the hotel from her guesthouse and had our breakfast I said yes that would be ok.
The room in the hotel was huge and nice,Les washed our bit of washing.
We went out and had a look round and found a little restaurant by the river and sat and ordered a couple of beers, the owner showed us a menu but we could not understand a word of it then out of the blue Phoebe turned up, it was the owners teenage daughter her mum had called her to speak to us in English, she was very very good, she was lovely she helped us with the menu and added something that was not on the menu for us to try, her mum cooked the food. Phoebe sat with us and had a little food but mostly talked to us, we had a nice night all down to Phoebe and her family, her dad called us a bicycle taxi and paid the taxi before we left for our hotel.
We managed to speak to Natalie and she said everything was ok at home.
Sunday 18th June 2017
Our guide took the French guys and had our breakfast in the restaurant, we then left the hotel at 9am. It had been raining all night and in Plodd there was water coming in from somewhere on the roof, we refuelled and booked a nice hotel in Xian for 2 nights the Unikue hotel we stayed there last time we were in Xian with our guide Spring (our guide in 2014). In the evening we went first to watch the dancing then found a nice restaurant and had dinner before returning to the outside dancing, we had only been there 5 minutes when a guy called Spencer asked us to join him and his party of friends (all Chinese) they made us so welcome and we sat and had a few drinks with them before returning to our hotel. The owners wife gave Les a jar of her homemade Sechuan sauce which is really spicy she will use it in Thailand for her and Natalie (count me out!)
Monday 19th June 2017
We left the hotel with our guide Green to meet up with the other vehicle at the Panda base and wait for Abby and other NAVO staff to say hello, take publicity photos and chat and bring the radio’s (Walkie Talkies) that the guide should have had with her from the start of the trip. These would enable us to talk from one vehicle to the other. One of NAVO’s staff was 40 minutes late so we had to hang around until she arrived which annoyed us as we had a long way to travel and we was averaging about 50 to 55 km per hour because of the French vehicle. Abby from NAVO’s office told us that a vehicle from one of the other tours had been involved in an accident and it turned out that it was in fact our friends Robyn and Tristran that had stopped at Plodd Stop earlier in the year. We had made arrangements to meet in Mongolia, so I asked our guide and then the NAVO office if they could give me a contact number for our friends or there guide so we could speak to them and ask if there was anything we could help with. They said that the company policy was not to give personal telephone numbers out and I said then could you get your guide to ask them to call me the answer was no, end of conversation, I also asked for one of the managers from NAVO or directors to call me. It never happened, I called Natalie in Thailand from China and asked her to try to make contact with Robyn. She managed to contact Robyn and asked Robyn to call me, which she did after a few days, they and their car was ok but the other car had suffered.
That night we wild camped yet again on another bloody car park we had lots of Chinese people come to look inside and outside of Plodd, Les made dinner in Plodd and we went to bed at 9.30pm (21.30)
Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st June 2017
Firstly I would like to say sorry to anybody reading this Plodd.net as all I have gone on about is driving, our problem is that because of the other truck being so slow we are getting to see nothing, we get up early in the morning and drive all day then stop in the evening have dinner then go to bed.
Anyway today we started at 7am, we are driving to Xian, the plan it to stay 2 nights (great) in a hotel in Xian. When we arrived the hotel staff had blocked off space for Plodd as promised and before arriving at the hotel we dropped off the French truck and its contents in a car park somewhere outside the city, so they did not have to pay for a hotel, now the party should start! We went to an area in the city called Defu Street where there are lots of drinking bars with music playing, had a couple of drinks there then found a very nice Chinese restaurant, the price of a small beer in Defu street was 20 yuan (about £5 each) and the price of a large beer in the restaurant was 6 yuan a little confusing but never mind, we had great food a good night then went back to the hotel.
Next day I got up at 7am and spent 2 hours walking the streets of the city and found a Walmart (Asda in the UK) so later that day we went to re-stock the refrigerator as it had decided to start working again. I had great fun trying to tell the butcher how I wanted the meat cutting into pork chops and beef steaks etc., later that day we visited the Muslum market that sells every kind of food imaginable, from Kebabs to Scorpions on sticks! Then in the evening we had a great Chinese hotpot at a restaurant opposites our hotel before going to bed early ready for another full day of driving.
Thursday 22nd June 2017
We got up at 6am as we had unfortunately arranged to meet up with the contents and the French truck at 7am, we were there on time and guess what? the truck had another problem that took them 1 hour to rectify at the side of the road, anybody that knows Lesley’s sleeping habits would know that she would not be amused getting up at shit o clock for no benefit.
We were driving to a really nice City called Ping yao a walled city that on the last trip I bought my electric bike, I was hoping to have new brakes fitted to it and some other jobs done on it. We booked into our hotel at 5pm (17.00) absolutely knackered so we just went for a bite to eat and then walked about 2 miles (3km) to find a ATM machine then returned to the hotel, where the owner sat and chatted to us for a couple of hours before going to bed.
23rd June 2017
I arranged to meet the owner and she said that she would take me to a place to have the repairs done to my bike. It turned out it was cheaper to buy a brand new electric bike so I gave the old one to the hotel for the staff to use. The new bike has 2 seats so both Lesley and I spent most of the day riding it around the inner city, it should be great for later on in the trip as it will travel 30km before needing charging, we will be able to park Plodd and then go off on the bike together. (only problem I foresee is HRH yelling at me to “slow down!”).
24th June 2017
A really bad start to the day, about 4am I was woken by Les jumping up and down in bed, she had found a rather large beetle in our bed,so that was it, at 5am we got up and went back to Plodd I first took our suitcase on the new bike then went back for Les, so we sat and had a cup of tea, then set off at 7.00am.
As soon as we reached the first toll the French man came flying over to Plodd and said in a bad attitued voice that he did not want to stop over between Ping Yao and Beijing as agreed and wanted to go all the way to Beijing. OMG we thought it would be midnight before we got there so Les said we will never make it that far in a day (590km at 50 to 55km) his answer was yes we will! Green the guide told him that no matter what his plan was we were stopping driving at 4pm (16.00), I see a change of sides for the first time from the Guide. The french man was F…ing and more F…ing at us and now also at the guide. He pulled away from the toll station like someone possessed, his truck was now traveling at between 85km and 95km and at points I found it hard to keep up with the blue heavily smoking truck.
As we got closer to Beijing we could tell, provided he did not blow the thing up and we did not get carbon monoxid posioning from all the blue smoke coming out of the back of his truck, we would probably make it to Beijing, so the guide contacted our 5 star hotel that we had booked to ask if it would be possible to bring our booking forward a night, they said yes it is OK. We were very annoyed at this as we had had to follow and wait for the other truck all the trip but now because he wanted to get to Beijing it suddenly sprung into life, and to add insult to injury the guide asked reception yet again when we got there, as we were paying for a 5 star hotel would it be ok for them to park in the carpark free, talk about riding on someone else’s back.Obviously today was not on his agenda to conserve fuel!
We arrived in Beijing 4.30pm (16.30) and our hotel at 7pm, nearly 12 hours from setting off, what a waste of our first evening, instead of our proposed trip to our favourite restaurant we were lucky to get a rather splendid Roast Peking Duck close to the hotel as it was almost 9pm by the time we had showered and changed.
Sunday 25th June 2017
I got up at about 8am and went for a walk for a couple of hours whilst Les had her first lie in, later we walked into the city centre, taking in the sights of the Chinese food stalls and lunch before getting ready for an amazing meal at one of our favourite restaurants in the world TRB, the meal was up to there first class standard and hugely expensive, so what, Champagne,lobster and caviar, Steak, Duck and a nice bottle of wine. Not to mention the vast array of imported cheeses to choose from.
Monday 26th June 2017
We left the 5 star hotel in the centre of Beijing at 10am and arrived at the Great Wall where the other 2 had made there way to late on Sunday, to find they were not where the guide had told them to wait, so Green the guide went crazy with them.
They were traveling behind us and we had to stop and wait for them at every toll and at each services, there vehicle was back to its old tricks, the driver continually thinking only of himself!
I insisted we stop at 4pm so we could have a rest before driving again tomorrow. Les made dinner on Plodd and we listened to smooth radio Manchester, whilst the others went God knows where nor do we care, by this time they are seriously trying our patience!
Tuesday 27th June 2017
Today we drive to Erenhot (border town to Mongolia) next to nothing here but we are spending the extra day here so they can yet again repair the poor flogged out truck (apparently they have a buyer for it in France-heaven help him or her!)
We saw Robyn and Tristran en route and met up again in Erenhot for a drink at the “hotel” we were both booked into by the guides.
Walked into town found a nice place to eat Sinotea then walked back to “shittyroomsforrent” and watched Tristrans videos of China.
Wednesday 28th June 2017
Took Plodd to Supermarket and bought as much as we could ready to enter Mongolia (Fridge now working).
Generally getting truck ready for border crossing tomorrow. Green wanted us all to have dinner together for the last night, i won’t bother typing out what Les said about that, but needless to say we went alone with her.
Thursday 29th June 2017
Leave China, border crossing took two and a half hours (not bad). Drove to nearest town and took a room in the Crown Hotel, we had intended to stay on Plodd but at 40 degrees it would be impossible without electric for aircon.
Walked to the bank and with the help of the hotel owners daughter we were able to buy insurance for Plodd.
The hotel was a strange affair with beds as hard as nails and pillows made from sacks of rice,(as you can imagine my wife required bedding from Plodd!)
In 2014 we had dinner in the Green Corner Restaurant,(Restaurant=painted Green+on a corner) wild imagination these Mongolians! So we repeated the experience and it was very acceptable.
Early to bed, one of us on a rice pillow the other on pillows filled with duck down !
Friday 30th June 2017
Looked at the maps and decided to go just over 200kms to Saynshand in the desert.
Nothing here only a small supermarket selling cold beers, that will do, since the fridge has packed up again….(fridge really getting on my nerves as much as the bloody frogs!)
Les made Roast Pork and stuffing dinner and I sat outside Plodd with my cold beer, didnt get away with it though as after dinner I learnt it was me washing up whilst HRH sat with her cold beer.
Slept on Plodd which was so much more comfy than “shittyroomsforrent”!
Saturday 1st July 2017
Set off at 7am for Capital city Ulaanbaatar, stopped at 10am for a cup of tea and were caught in a swarm of bees, luckily neither of us suffered.
Lunch at 1.30 sat outside Plodd we noticed a rather large scorpion like insect, it went in the opposite direction so we carried on eating then we saw another and another and yet another, HRH did her impression of John Cleese running to Plodd whilst I was left to put the chairs/table/HRH’s cutglass glass etc., away.
On route we saw all five of the desert beasts the mongolians think of as sacred;- Camels, Horses, Cows, Goats and Sheep. we arrived at the Oasis truck stop at 3pm (523 kms).
Had nice showers and feel human again after being so hot on the travel.
Oasis staff did our large bundle of washing and hung it out in the gardens to dry.
Les made dinner on Plodd, mixed grill tonight, as fridge not working!
Sunday 2nd July 2017
HRH cleaned out the fridge, threw all the cheeses and meats we had managed to get in China but darent risk eating. I spoke to the staff at Oasis and as we would need early visas for Russia booked us in including electric for a week whilst we sorted it all out.
There is a small supermarket just around the corner so we can buy what we need daily.
Had showers and flagged a private taxi to the town centre, where we had a drink in the Khan Irish Bar and then walked to Restaurant California, we ordered a salad and Kushoors for starters and were so full (enormous portions) we could eat any more!
Monday 3rd July 2017
Today the Russian embassy, our visas to enter Russia do not start until 20.7.2017 so we are now having to apply for Transit visas to Russia/Kazakstan/ back to Russia. nothing is ever simply is it? “Go to internet cafe, fill in E-form, send…Print E-form, bring back to Embassy, with Holiday insurance, Passports, Vehicle documents ,two photos and a letter requesting such Transit papers” OK we reply….simple…..NOT! Office closes at 12 lunchtime, its now 10.30am we have done everything as asked and are now back in the embassy. “Wrong document he says, how,says I, none for you….two for your wife!!!!!!,says he, bloody hell says me.Back to internet cafe to give the woman in charge of the printer a piece of my mind when she tells me that when we left she deleted all data! Start again……. finished…….yes youve guessed it 12.05pm!
We went to Burger King and pigged out, knowing that tomorrow we shall have to come again to the embassy.
Dinner in town, feel a bit weary with all the red tape, so home early.
Tuesday 4th July 2017
I took all relevant paperwork to embassy and went to the bank depositing their fees for the transit visas $140.00.
We decided to do a few jobs on Plodd, the heating pipes needed adjusting under the bed as HRH has so much stuff under there they got squashed.replaced the cupholders and sorted out the cupboards.
We sat outside Plodd and were visited by a tiny little tom cat, he is so adorable Les wants to adopt him.(no way).
Had a nice evening in UB Jazz club, and a spicy mongolian lamb casserole.
Wednesday 5th July 2017
HRH has pulled a muscle getting things from under the bed, so shes in a right mood, i went out on my bike for an hour to get out of the way.
After lunch we went to the hairdressers for a much needed trim.Then to the supermarket for provisions as the fridge is now working again!!!
Taxi to Los Angeles (Restaurant) for dinner, HRH had faijitas and a mojito, i had a rather large steak and a cold beer.
Thursday 6th July 2017