In the words of Sir David Frost, 'It was just like deja vous, ..... all over again'. I watched the departure boards at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport as they began to flicker, the text was alternating between Thai and English making the information difficult to digest at one sitting. One by one, the flights were slowly changing from 'on time', ..... to 'delayed', ..... and then to 'cancelled'. A pattern was beginning to develop; Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Taipei, ..... all of the flights heading to or from the South-East, a cyclone was moving in, .... I was once again going to be stranded in an airport of terminal chaos.
I'd been on stand-by for the previous evenings flight but unfortunately I hadn't been lucky, the plane had been full. I was now confirmed on the 20:15 departure to Abu Dhabi, my return to London exactly one week later than planned. My flight EY401 changed from 'on time' to 'delayed', ... and remained there for the next hour. I'd already checked in and had spent an unrewarding hour talking with the English couple that I'd first met back in Khon Kaen, ..... yes, the same couple that I'd been avoiding, they were still complaining, ... my day was just getting better and better. The departure time of my flight then began to change, a 45 minute delay, ... became a 60 minute delay, ..... became a 90 minute delay. This meant that I'd probably miss my connecting flight onwards to London, ... but at least my first leg wasn't yet 'cancelled'.
How they did it I have no idea, but my flight eventually left Bangkok 90 minutes late and arrived in Abu Dhabi within 10 minutes of my onwards connection leaving, ... we'd made up nearly 30 minutes in the air. I was ushered through passages and straight onto the London flight, ... it was empty, .... four seats on which to spread out and sleep, ... seven hours in which to dream of the separate adventure that my baggage would no doubt be enjoying. I awoke on the decent into Heathrow, I cleared immigration without even joining a queue, I picked the first suitcase from the baggage carousel (which thankfully happened to be my own) and walked outside into London's morning air. Heathrow Terminal 3, ... what a welcome to Britain, .. knock it down and improve the experience, it's an absolute embarrassment, ........ and of course it was bloody freezing.
As I arrived at the Jack Lilley Triumph dealership in Ashford Common, they were still clearing up from the previous evening's Christmas party, ..... but the Tiger was ready. I'd asked them for a service, ... and 'Service' is exactly what they'd given me. They'd been over the bike with a fine tooth-comb and rectified problems that were far beyond their responsibility, ... even finding problems that I hadn't myself noticed. Without charge, they'd replaced the ill fitting rear tyre that had been put on back in New York and pressed out the huge dent on the alloy rim. I don't believe that I was treated differently to any other customer, .... but Jack Lilley is a family concern and this is how they do business. I can now understand why they receive such great accolades each year in the annual 'Ride Survey', ...... this is 'Service' the way that it should be.
As I headed out onto the A308 and M25, the difference in the bike was quite startling. The engine pulled exactly as it had done when new, the brakes worked perfectly and the suspension now informed me of the road conditions without the usual nausea inducing echo. All of the fluids on the bike had been changed, seven new shims now ensured the smooth and accurate movement of the twelve valves and behind me, ..... not a single trace of burning oil. The Tiger felt like a completely different motorcycle, ...... it felt like it had indeed been bathed for two weeks in snake oil.
As for the success of the actual 'Trip', ..... well things didn't turn out quite as I'd planned. I've learned all that I need to know (for now) about the logistics of travelling into, through and out of the necessary countries, I've been introduced to the charity that I'd hope to support and I've even decided upon the most suitable bike on which to do it. I've met Bikers in Thailand who have followed Poor Circulation and they've introduced me to colleagues in Laos and Cambodia, ... this is support that could prove to be crucial. Unfortunately, when a shoestring tour of SE Asia takes place, the trusty Tiger will not be involved. Logistically it just wont work; too expensive, too complicated and too many restrictive regulations in the countries bordering Thailand.At the moment, SE Asia remains a 'Plan' that I'll hopefully execute in the not too distant future, .... it's simply a question of time and money. The organisations that had initially shown signs of interest and possible financial support are sadly now far more concerned with their own survival than they are of the future escapades of an eccentric Englishman in Asia. In truth, I could have accomplished most of these things by simply staying in Blighty and making full use of the telephone and Internet, ... but what fun would that have been? I'd have spent the time kicking my heels, writing a few more chapters of the book and waiting for my operation on the 18th of December. Whilst Despatch Riding should be on every bikers list of things to do before they die, ... doing it with an angry hernia should not be.
I'll spend the next couple of weeks writing the book and reading the small print of my travel insurance policy. The way in which my initial last-minute flights were arranged and paid for means that the delay in reaching Thailand could actually be a financial blessing in disguise, ..... so without prejudice to any claim that I may make, ..... I'll keep you posted.