Top 10 over landing essentials 

With the Beaut back in Blighty, and just about functional (MOT pending), I thought it a good time to publish a list of our favourite bits of equipment and kit from the trip. Take them all with a pinch of salt – if there is anything that we’ve learnt from this trip, it’s that different people have different opinions! And that different kit is appropriate for different vehicles/people/conditions. 
And so, in a vague order (but not really), here are our top 10 over landing essentials:
10. Lockable storage box. Ours was on the roof. We found it vital for locking away kit that we weren’t using often. Particularly useful on a long trip where your down isn’t so essential in South East Asia, but will be in the Pamir Mountains!

9. Table and chairs (not the cheapest). Flat space is vital. Really vital. And yes, you could make do by sitting on something else, but we used the chairs in particular pretty much every day.

8. Kettle. Yes, you could boil water in a pan. And we did, sometimes. But if you are cooking for more than just one or two, then putting the kettle on is just better. 

7. Pressure cooker. We read about using a pressure cooker on another blog somewhere. Amazing. It made our life so much easier as it speed up cooking, and made one pot meals a doddle – especially useful if it’s so cold outside that just leaving something alone bubbling away whilst you all huddle together inside is essential to morale! We were unconvinced until we bought it. Now it’s made the list!

6. An auxiliary battery (installed on a domestic circuit). So important that some overland vehicles have two. You don’t want to turn the key in the morning, to discover that you’ve drained your battery the night before. You also don’t want to be worrying about it every time someone plugs their phone in!!

5. Coleman duelfuel two ring burner. It worked brilliantly for us, running on petrol. Probably would have run even better if we’d cleaned it more often! 

4. A decent head torch (each). We all used ours everyday. A head torch is one item where if you buy cheap, it usually breaks. 

3. Having more than one electronic charging point. To be honest, I don’t think you can have too many. The cigarette lighter to USB connection was what we used the most. Don’t even bother with the cables that come with lots of different attachments. They break if you look at them. 

2. Delorme InReach explorer. This is one area where you will need to decide for yourself what is most appropriate for your trip. We were thrilled with our choice. It gave us the peace of mind of having an SOS button; it gave us the option of sending free (once you’ve paid the monthly fee!), “all OK” messages; we could send personalized text messages to predetermined numbers to explain a problem if we needed to; people could send us messages if needed; anyone could see where we were if they wanted by logging in online, which gave peace of mind to worried families, and a source of banter to friends (haha you’re in the middle of a desert… I’m in a pub…); and you get a beautiful trace on a map of where you’ve been at the end of it! All in all, we loved it, and would choose it again. For completeness, our other options (before choosing the Delorme) were a SPOT tracker, or a Sat phone. To be honest, it was between the SPOT or the Delorme for us. Tom argued for a sat phone for a long time, but eventually realised it’s limitations when Jon posed the question: “but who would you ring that could help…?”

1. The winner. Our Lifesaver jerrycan. This was a last minute addition to our kit (arriving literally the week before we left) after Tom had watched a TED talk about the technology. Makes pure drinking water from anything. Literally anything. The guy in the TED talk uses pond water mixed with dog poo. And yes, the company went briefly into administration over false advertising (their system could only filter 99.99% of stuff rather than 99.999% as claimed), but that was good enough for us, and we didn’t get sick from water for 9 months. It is hideously expensive, (about £250), but saved a lot of money on bottled water! I reckon it actually saved us money in the long run. We teamed ours up with a charcoal filter to remove any tastes/colourings from the water which we would recommend. Makes the filter last longer too! 
Other things to note:

Having a professionally installed roof rack gave us great peace of mind. Brownchurch in London were brilliant for us (don’t get them to do anything other than roof racks though!). We were on and off the roof more than we thought.

Nav free (open source map software). The iOS version is called maps.me and it was (generally) brilliant. We met loads of travellers who were using it. It’s free, it’s accurate, and it works offline. 
Regrets: 

We found ourselves wanting a wind up table lantern. Eating / preparing food by head torch light is fine, but does tend to attract the flies to the face after dark!

We bought a HiLift jack for the trip. We thought it would be versatile, and essential off-roading kit. In reality, we didn’t use it once; it was bulky, and very heavy. We used a small bottle jack every time instead. A prime example of rookies buying an excellent bit of kit that just isn’t appropriate for their vehicle, or their trip! Ah well! 

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Thanks

08 March 2016 – To Charlotte from Switzerland, Thank you for the bread, what you didn’t know was that we were up at five that morning for the market, unsuccessfully looking for bread – so you could not have made a better contribution, you were also Far to generous with your left over cash, we drank it in beer form on the river watching the sunset just after you left us. Thank you. Enjoy Cambodia.  
05 March 2016 – To the Very Lucky and Extraordinarily kind “Welsh” Gentleman with whom we drank 13 beers, 5 of which were won through combined beer drinking efforts – Thank you. Thanks also for the steak dinner, GnTs, Dong and Kip… you were just a legend. We owe you an Efes or 13 next time were in Turkey.
03rd March 2016 – Thomas and Master Pisal – Thankyou for letting us stay in the temple it was an amazing and enriching experience, we were blown away by your sheer friendliness and hospitality. We wish you all the best luck for your future projects.
28th February 2016 – To Phillip and Leona, great to meet someone on the same trail – you get more man points though for cycling all the way! Thanks for breakfast, never before have we seen a kilo of flour and 10 egg pancake mix for just four people. You guys rock. 

Wine tasting in South East Asia – an ongoing endurance

Being partial to cheeky glass of wine (or three), when the opportunity to visit a vineyard rears it’s head, we are usually the first on the scene. After managing to find the only one in Myanmar, we thought we’d do the honourable thing, martyr ourselves and conduct a thorough review of the regions’ wine producing capabilities. 
Red Mountain – on the shore of Inle Lake, Myanmar
As a location for a wine tasting, this couldn’t really get any better. The vineyard has spectacular views of the Inle Lake valley. There is a good selection of whites and reds on offer, and the tasting menu is a four glass affair. Two whites, a red and a desert white. Being brutally honest, the quality didn’t really live up to the price as a general rule, although we did each find one or two that slipped down easier then the rest. Conclusion: well worth doing for the experience and the setting, if not the quality of the wine! 
Prasat Phnom Banon Winery, Battambang, Cambodia

  
Again, the country’s only foray into wine making. A short drive south of Battambang (where, incidentally, there is an excellent wine shop selling a wide variety of wines from all around the world), the small vineyard is in the village of Bot Sala. The tasting menu is, in theory, cheap ($2.50), but only includes one red, a brandy, a two shot size glasses of juice – a grape and a ginger. It is fair to say that this is probably the only time where we have been grateful for small portions at a wine tasting. The juices were pretty good, but the wine was possibly the worse we have ever tasted and the brandy was something else entirely. By that I mean that it could not be described as brandy. The guide book describes it as “tasting favourably to turpentine”, but we don’t think that really does it justice. Just see Tom’s reaction! 

  
I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be importing Cambodian wine any time soon!!

Mechanics in Bangkok

Once again, we had problems with our brakes. This was a recurring theme of the trip sadly. We’d first noticed a slight veer to one side on braking back in Kyrgyzstan, and despite our best efforts, and the efforts of not one but two genuine Land Rover garages (Almaty, Kazakhstan and Barnaul, Siberia), they were still bad. In fact, they were barely functional. At least we vaguely knew what the problem was, and now had brought the correct spare parts out with us from the UK after our brief Christmas trip home!
We had been recommended a particular garage – they only do clutches and brakes, and they were open, even just after Chinese New Year – most places in Bangkok see this as an excuse to be closed for about a week…! The garage is called Prakanong Brakes, and is between Sukhumvit Soi 67 and 69. Not much English spoken, although they understood a lot of the mechanical terminology pretty quickly!

They were also brilliant, although not massively cheap. 5 hours later (we hung around and generally made a nuisance of ourselves) they had completely overhauled the brakes. They’d reconditioned all 4 drums, put new pads on all 8 shoes, repaired all offending wheel cylinders (the cause of all our woes), and generally given everything a well needed clean. Oh, and had the usual fun bleeding them afterwards of course…! Cost for all this was TBH 6,700. (£130). A fraction of the cost of a similar thing in the UK!

Finally, we had firm, even braking. How long will it last this time I wonder…?


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! 

   
 

Cambodia Visa – In Bangkok

This was easy. As there seems to be limited information online…. like opening hours etc. hopefully this will help out anyone looking for the same.

Consulate: 518/4 Pracha Uthit Road
(Soi Ramkamhaeng 39)
Wangtonglang
Bangkok 10310
Thailand

Get off the Metro at Huai Khwang – be warned, its a long old walk from there!

Opening Hours: 09.00 – 12.00 & 14.00-17.00 (we assume daily – we went on a Monday)

Turn up, collect application form and fill in – nothing too hard on here, you will need to know how and where you plan to enter/exit Cambodia. For Overlanders we used ‘Hat Lek/Koh Kong’ Thailand/Cambodia and ‘Voeun Kam/Don Kralor’ Cambodia/Laos.

You will also need – Passport (Obviously) Passport Photo (they don’t seem bothered about the size for once!) Photocopy of your Passport photo page AND a photocopy of your most recent Thailand entry stamp.

Moneywise, US$30 was advertised but we paid $US35 for a quick issue, the guy behind the desk suggested that $US30 was for a three day service. You can also pay in Bhat 1200 which actually worked out at a better exchange rate. Re quick issue, they mean quick – no receipt given we just sat down and waited – and it was like you wouldn’t believe, having entered the consulate at 14.00 on the dot without photocopies or application forms we had everything done submitted and returned to us by 15.00!

Having supplied dates of 08/02/16-07/03/16 the visa shows 01/02/16-01/05/16 so you seem to get three months to enter from date of application but only a month is allowed in country.

If you need a photocopier service come out of the embassy turn right and there’s a copy shop within a few minutes walk next to DIY Coffee. 2 Bhat per sheet!

Obviously having not had any of the info above we turned up at 12.00 and were turned away but turning left out of the consulate is an excellent coffee shop, the name escapes me but its all glass with a terrace – have the frozen coffee float and the almond cookies, there are wore ways to kill two hours!