Day 0 Bangkok, Thailand
The unofficial start to the Laos Unitour kicked off in Bangkok, Thailand. Several riders stayed overnight at the Viengtai Hotel, near the backpacking hotspot of Khao San Road. Hans Fiby, Seth Golub, Kevin "Gilby" Gilbertson, Tony "Meltdown" Melton, Ken Looi, Bruce Hall, Barry and Nick Clearwater had all arrived the night before.
We were to meet our guide, Jason "Grasshopper Master" Williams for Unicycle Tour of Bangkok. After a quick buffet breakfast, we gathered outside the hotel. Barry and Nick were the most unfortunate members of our group, after their Cokers were left behind in Sydney on the flight over to Thailand. They took a quick detour to Jason's house to pick up some bikes for the morning ride.
We were joined by the local Thailand Newschannel on our tour of Bangkok. We had been in the country less than 24hrs and already we were going to be on National TV.
Tony: "I wish I'd brought my Trials Unicycle."
The group is taken on a ride through the streets of Bangkok. We join the crazy traffic, riding alongside the belching trucks, suicidal taxi drivers, tuk tuks, rickshaws and other assorted machines going in assorted directions with intense determination.
"Vrroom, BRRrrrr, Screeeech, putputput, beep beep, SCrreeeeech, BBrrrrroooom"
Our unicyclists weave through the inner city streets, busy local markets and alongside the rider. Tony and Gilby wheelwalk their unicycles along the riverfront for the news camera crew.
After the ride, we check out of the hotel and head to Pantip Plaza to buy some cheap electronic stuff. The priority, however, was to fill their rumbling stomachs, so we stop by one of the many eateries in town.
Hans: I think I'll order this (points to item on menu).
Tony: What did you order?
Hans: I don't know. But life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.
A plate of green beans arrive for Hans, whilst Tony, Barry, Ken go about burning themselves on the very spicy Thai cuisine.
After shopping themselves silly at Pantip Plaza, the group take a crazy high speed tuk tuk ride back to the hotel.
We met the Danish riders, Jesper and Thomas, and our Singaporean rider Sid at the airport for the flight to Chiang Rai. Jesper and Thomas had arrived a day late, after being caught in a snowstorm in Copenhagen, but also met us at the airport. Despite the hot and uncomfortable flight, we arrived at the official starting point of the tour, Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand.
Several riders had already arrived. First to greet us was Florian Schlumpf, our Swiss rider and inventor of the geared Schlumpf Hub, which many of the riders are using. He shows off his new unicycle and also his cast after breaking his arm before the trip. The Californian riders were already in Chiang Rai but were sound asleep, not used to the time difference, as were our Canberra riders, David and John. The rest of the LUT riders head to a bar to sample the local Thai Beer.
We were confirmed out National celebrity status when told by the hotel owner in Chiang Rai that they had seen us on Channel 7 news that evening.
Quotes of the day:
Jason: No need to hurry, it's a budget airline. Their departure time is their check-in time.
Tony (holds up a solid 1kg crank puller): Can I take this on the plane?
Jason: Don't forget to push and shove. There are no seats allocated on the plane. Their motto is "now everybody can fly"; and of course, everybody does.