The River View Hotel, Ayuthaya and Khao Yai National Park.
I can’t believe it, the Tukathon has actually begun. At 11.49 a.m on Sunday morning Jo, myself and Ting Tong, under the watchful eye of Queen Victoria, turned left out of the British Embassy in Bangkok and set sail for England. After so many months of planning it’s extraordinary to think we have actually embarked on our 12,000 mile journey and that for the next three months we will be slowly heading home, each day inching a little closer across the globe.
Having only come out of hospital on Friday with flu, pharyngitis, a viral infection and a throat infection - according to the hospital medical report – I was unsure whether I’d actually be able to go with Jo for the first few days. But after a shaky day on Saturday and a few green, wobbly moments on Sunday morning we were off and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
On Saturday night we took Ting Tong to the Khao San Road and got a taste of what the next 12 weeks might be like. Even in Bangkok, where tuk tuks are ubiquitous, people stopped, stared, laughed, took pictures and shook their heads in amazement when we told them we were driving our pink bomber all the way to England. Jo drove her into the Khao San and we parked her up for a few hours while we did a few interviews, people took pictures and Jo clambered on the roof rack and risked her and Ting Tong’s life for some photos. They’d better be good. Ting Tong went down a storm and although we might be a little bit biased she really must be the most supersonic tuk tuk this planet has ever seen. Everyone who sees her definitely goes a little green around the gills. Thanks Anuwat, you are a total star and Jo and I are both very, very happy that we found you and your amazing tuk tuk factory.
Sunday morning was an early start as we had to load all our kit on to TT and be at the British Embassy by ten. After a rigorous security check at the gates we cruised up to the front door of the Ambassadorial Residence to find a pack of photographers and TV crews waiting for us. When Nuttanee, the Embassy’s press officer, had said she would be able to get some press along to the launch we never expected such a good turn out. Maybe it was the lure of a morning at the Ambassador’s residence, where they do make exceedingly good cakes.
The next two hours were a blur of interviews, photos, smiling till it felt like our faces might crack, hanging off the side of Ting Tong for more photos, giving the Ambassador and his wife a lift in the TT, and hurried bye bye’s to cousin Bert and our friends Hannah, Jess and Andre. Then in we got and off we went. We could never have dreamed our launch would be such a grand affair and we owe a very big thank you to Mr and Mrs Fall for their amazing hospitality. Even better – Mr Fall might get a tuk tuk from Anuwat to drive round Wiltshire in his retirement. Spread that tuk tuk love!
Since then we’ve been speeding north in Ting Tong, eliciting smiles wherever we go. Jo was at the wheel for the first two days, cursing everyone’s slow driving and bombing past astonished drivers at 65 mph in the fast lane. Despite the floods in the north of Thailand, the terrible Indonesian earthquake and all the strife in East Timor, we made it into seven Thai newspapers on Monday morning and 2 TV stations. We’ve heard back from Blighty that we’ve also been gracing the airwaves on Radio 2 and Five Live, and have also been on South Today and are on the BBC website. Even weirder, Ting Tong also appears in papers as diverse as the Indian Financial Times, The Herald and The Pakistani Globe today. Why on earth would someone in Karachi want to read about a bright pink tuk tuk?
We’re in Khao Yai National Park now, where The Beach was famously filmed. Our hut is surrounded by jungle and I’m hoping we wont get eaten by a hungry tiger in the middle of the night.
200 miles down only about another 11, 800 to go.....