Shipping the Land Rover from Ulaanbaatar to Bangkok

The complications of driving your own vehicle in China are well documented. Essentially, unless you are prepared to spend a small fortune on a guide, it’s not an option. Therefore once we’d decided that we wanted to continue our adventure in South East Asia, we had a small logistical difficulty to overcome! Enter Landbridge LLC, a freight forwarding company in Ulaanbaatar. Our initial contact was with a very helpful woman called Baigalmaa, (baigalmaa@landbridge.mn) who spoke very good English, and we were quoted $3,080 to ship the vehicle in a standard 20′ container to Bangkok. The route would be via a train to Xingyang and then a boat to Bangkok. Initial estimate of time of transit was 28-35 days. 
Once we got to UB, we were amazed to find that their office was about 300m from our Air BnB apartment, so we set off to talk to them face to face and start the process. 

Overall the process was quite simple and Landbridge took care of everything, however if we had understood which documents we would need to provide it would have been considerably quicker as we could have had them all ready at the start.

Over the course of two weeks we gave them: 

2 x notarised copies of Jon’s passport (he was the consignee – the person the vehicle is being delivered to).

2 x notarised copies of the vehicle registration document 

The original Mongolian customs form we got on entry into Mongolia (we got a copy done before handing it over).

A photo of the vehicle

Dimensions and max gross weight of the vehicle.

Two documents called an invoice and a packing list, which get submitted to customs. The invoice is a document detailing everything that will be in the container and their approx value in USD. The packing list is essentially identical except has everything’s weight in Kgs. Be aware here that whatever you put on these documents will fall into different taxation classes, such as personal goods, camping equipment, car tools etc. We didn’t (and still don’t) fully understand this, but we listed absolutely everything going into the container, and Landbridge wrote us a letter of tax exemption so we weren’t charged tax for exporting personal goods from Mongolia, although we were charged (about $100) for not specifically declaring our vehicle tools. 

The other thing we needed was contact details of an agent in Bangkok. Their name also went on the customs forms so was needed quite early on. We used one that had been recommended to us on HUBB overland forum: 

Nisarat Khongphetsak Schmidt 

KPS International Trade (Thailand) Co,.Ltd.

Email : nisarat@kpsthailand.com
They were very helpful and replied to all our (and Landbridge’s) queries very promptly by email. They checked all the documents and changed them where necessary to ensure they would pass through Thai customs. The customs process was even more complicated for us as we had to take into account Chinese customs rules as well. 

The final transit took 26 days (21st December to 15th January), although we had decided not to collect the vehicle from Bangkok until the 27th January as we were still in Myanmar and were loving it! The demurrage costs for up to two weeks in Bangkok weren’t too bad so we decided to risk it.
Collecting the vehicle in Klong Toey port – Bangkok

Things were complicated for us as Jon, who’s name was on all the vehicle and shipping documents, was unable to collect the vehicle in person, so the process was slightly more longwinded than normal. Once we had all the correct documentation however, with letters of authorisation/power of attorney, and multiple signed copies of Jon’s passport and driving licence (both UK and international) things progressed relatively smoothly. We also needed Tom’s passport and driving licence, the vehicle registration documents and the carnet. As the carnet isn’t officially used in Thailand anymore, it wasn’t strictly necessary, or stamped, but they were so used to the format of it that it helped speed things along. 

We met our shipping agent at 10.00 outside the customs office, having paid him the day before, and by 11.30 had all the paperwork completed – including customs forms and insurance documents. At 11.30 we were driven into the port itself, deposited at the canteen and told to wait until after lunch! 

At 13.00 we were picked up from the canteen (nice food actually, and really cheap!) by the shipping agent, and driven to the K-line office (they own the container). We then picked up a man with some bolt cutters, who unsealed the container and there she was!! Ratchet straps that had been lashing her down inside the container were undone and, with the aid of a forklift, we were out! 

After we reconnected the battery, and the agent had disappeared off to go and get some fuel, it was the moment of truth! Would she start? YES!!! Nearly first time… To be honest I probably should have primed her first… She spluttered /roared (delete as appropriate) into life, and we moved her into the shade to await the customs inspector. Whilst we were waiting, a port official brought us soft drinks, oranges, and most bizarrely, a tube of fake ibuprofen gel…! 
The customs official was delightful, and spoke English. After checking the engine and chassis numbers, and being terrified by the mess in the back, he asked us a few questions about our trip, and stamped her into Thailand! 

Success! 

   
 

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Success! 

Lads, we are proud to announce that today we made it to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia!

A huge thank you to everyone back at home for all the love and support and for those who took bets that we wouldnt make it…. time to pay up 😉

Mongolian blogs on the way in the next few days.

Xxx

Mongolia Day 8 – 25th November – still on the road to UB

Mong Stats:

7 hour driving day

2.5 hour defrost

290km – variable quality tarmac road

Morning broke, and we all emerged from our sleeping bags, uncurled from whichever corner of the back we’d managed to wedge ourselves into during the night, and were amazed at the icicles of snowflakes that were dangling from the roof of the Beaut. I should point out that I’m talking about on the inside of the Beaut…

The night had actually been a surprisingly good night’s sleep, although we can conclude that we all snore. Except for the women amongst us, who obviously don’t. Heavy breathing I think it’s called…

At soon as we woke up, the Webasto was switched on – we figured the engine would need all the help it could get this morning! Within 5 minutes, we realised we had a problem. The Webasto wasn’t igniting properly and we had to get out of bed to sort it out. It was quite a low moment!

After checking the usual problems (e.g. had we let it run out of fuel again), and coming up blank, we were running out of ideas – so we just tried to turn it on again. This time however, there was an ominous slushy noise, and a backfire… and we hastily switched it off again. “That slushing noise.. you don’t think our coolant could have frozen do you…?”. “Nah.. don’t be ridiculous, we mixed it to work down to minus 38..!”. Nevertheless, we were suspicious, and a nonchalant check in the radiator confirmed it – slush puppy! At least we knew what the problem was!

After a night in the (comparative) warm, the Coleman was functioning again, so instead of cooking us breakfast, we lit it underneath our coolant pipes to defrost them. Within half an hour, the Webasto was up and running, and we were back in business! The nervous bit was watching the radiator after we switched her on (started first time, on the key, what a babe!), to check that we hadn’t burst any pipes. Fortunately we seemed OK, and after a top up of brake fluid (the replacement seals on the wheel cylinders had completely failed by now), we were on the road again and headed for the finish line!

Today’s timelapse:

Mongolia Day 7 – 24th November – Bayankhongor onward to Ulannbaatar!

Mong Stats:

8 hour driving day

350km – 10km Tarmac, 5km Dirt Track, 335km Tarmac

Weather: Cold and Sunny

With over 600km to UB, we knew in our hearts that we were never going to make it in a day. Little did we know that Mongolia had one final trick up her sleeve, just when we had started to believe we were home and dry (or rather, home and thawing). The road wasn’t bad, apart from a surprise dirt track section just outside Bayankhongor, and the sun just made such a difference. The scenery continued to be absolutely stunning. As the day wore on however, the road quality deteriorated. None of us were really sure what was wrong with it – it was tarmac, there were no potholes, no corrugations, no obvious repaired sections.. it just wasn’t remotely smooth! Very frustrating!

After a defrosted ratpack lunch (we had to use at least some of them!), we continued our bumpy progress, and with less than 300km to go, decided to camp for the night. As soon as the sun dropped below the horizon, the temperature really plummeted. Our Coleman stove stopped working, and for the first time we were actually slightly concerned. After warming the gas canisters using the Webasto powered heater, we managed to get the JetBoil working well enough to warm up some more rations (this time eaten out of necessity rather than choice!). By 8pm, it was minus 26 outside, but a barmy zero in the back of the Land Rover. We were so grateful (and surprised!) by the difference that some extra insulation, 4 people’s body heat, and a small re-routed engine pre-heater actually made! Well worth the hours of effort back in the UK.

For the first time, the roof tent was declared medically unfit for purpose, and we all stayed in the back for a slightly cramped night’s sleep! Definitely our coldest so far.

Timelapse:

Mongolia Day 6 – 23rd November – Bumbugur to Bayankhongor

Mong Stats:
4 hour driving day

107km – all filthy corrugated dirt track

Weather: Glorious Sunshine – enough to defrost one side of the Landrover’s windows!

After our impromptu party of the evening before some of us were woken at 05:00 by our own hangovers. Port jackets still intact, by some miracle we weren’t cold despite the previous evening having reached a cheeky -14 C while the Chef was at work and much colder overnight!

Our challenge today was to be another river crossing this one we had been warned not to try to cross ourselves, locals with tractors would tow you across for a small fee of 5000 MTG, imagine our surprise when this appeared after miles of driving our own line across an open plain littered with tracks….


The only slightly dubious looking bridge saved us hours of faff and allowed us to roll into Bayankhongor for lunchtime. The nicest hotel in town (limited competition) came complete with coffee shop and Korean BBQ style restaurant, taking advantage of the latter first we sat down to a communal lunch stew and dumplings.

The rest of the afternoon held a trip to the tiny Natural History Museum, complete with stuffed Gobi teddy bears, taxidermy at its best (pretty sure someone had been to the bear factory). A gander into the park where Kat and Coby totally did not go don the tiger slide together and coffee and cake to round off.

Dinner that evening recurred a theme started in Chowd, the refusal to serve us a beer with dinner despite clear advertisement and us actually being able to see them in the fridge…? (If anyone can explain this we’re really curious). At length we deployed the Goodchild, who in an unprecedented display of firmness demanded that we had four beers – with eventual success! Huzzah!

Timelapse:

Mongolia Day 5 – 22nd November – Altai to Bumbugur (on the way to Bayankhongor)


 Mong Stats:
8 hour driving day

289km: 126km tarmac then 163km corrugated dirt track

Weather: Cold but bright

With the tarmac road polished off before 10am, spirits were high and were only dampened slightly by the truly shocking state of the dirt track. For hours on end we bounced up and down on corrugations, with only small stretches being relatively flat.

It was slow going and mercifully uneventful despite some frightening cambers on the ‘road..’ so as the sun went down over the hillocks we made our camp.

After unfreezing the canned meat for a yummy horse meat stew, Coby put a ban on washing up for medical reasons (i.e. not losing fingers) and we held an impromptu party: delicious damson vodka brought all the way from Kent, Port from Russia and Cognac from Kazakhstan – just your average night out really and somehow it didn’t feel so cold after all that!

Timelapse:

Mongolia Day 4 – 21st November – Chowd to Altai

Mong Stats:
9 hour driving day

458k (180k tarmac then 278k good quality track, X1 River Crossing)

Having met a helpful British chap in Chowd who had given us an idea of the road to come, 200km paved followed by 200km unpaved we predicted 2 days to reach our next town, Altai.

Happily for us the unpaved road turned out to be a smooth gravel precursor to tarmac and by 15:00 it was looking like we would make Altai in a single day, then this appeared…

After discovering that our newly purchased (and for this purpose) wellies would be totally submerged in the icy water we took a stroll down the river of ice to look for an easier crossing point. Luck was with us and our now rather experienced ginger river crossing minion took to the wheel sailing across with record ease. Unperturbed we ploughed on to Altai making it to a very nice little hotel (Taigam Tal) with a very sweet hostess by twilight.

Mongolian food has been very very pleasantly surprising after stories of fatty testicle stews, we were prepared for anything but so far it has been delicious and we have almost always won the menu roulette (understand that all menus are in Mongolian, often with no pictures, so generally you find out what they have, point and hope). That night we subjected our lovely waitress to various farmyard impressions in a futile attempt to solve a dispute over whether our dinner was beef, mutton or other…..

All told, a great day.

Todays Timelapse: