Thursday, 1 January 2015

The woes of the bicycle traveller

As anyone who has spent hours scanning airlines' Excess and Oversized Baggage policies knows, it is a pain to fly with a bicycle.  

Here's our schedule for the next few days:

Tomorrow, Jan. 2nd : Take the train back to Chiang Mai.  When we tried to book this yesterday, the overnight sleeper was full except for the ladies-only car.  Michael refused to dress as a woman, so we are going during the day, 2nd class seats with air con, leaving at 8:30 in the morning, and arriving at 8:30 at night, 12 hours for a journey of 600km.  Thus, on tap for today: download e-books, podcasts, music, html and Greek lessons to keep us entertained on the train.
Jan. 3rd or 4th : Pick up bicycles.  In the month of December, we had the pleasure of being visited by friends and family (thank you Jenna, Ruston, Sharon and Cynthia! we had so much fun with you!), so we left our bicycles and our camping gear with a colleague of a friend of ours who lives in Chiang Mai (thank you thank you Derryl!).  Definitely a relief to have a place to leave them where we knew they'd be safe.  Looking forward to being reunited.  
Jan. 5th-6th :  Take the train back to Bangkok, this time with our bicycles!  It is possible, and in fact quite easy, to take your bike on the long haul trians in Thailand.  You need to arrive a bit early and buy a cargo ticket (cannot be bought in advance), and then your bicycle travels in the cargo carriage with the motorbikes.   Check out more details here:
Unfortunately, the sleeper berths for this train were also full when we tried to book yesterday, but since we definitely wanted to arrive in Bangkok with our bicycles in the morning to avoid the hassel of storing them at the hotel, we booked the night train anyways!  Third class benches with fans.  The lady at the desk at first wouldn't even sell us these tickets.  "Third class!"  she kept insisting, so we'll see what that means.  We leave at 5:30 pm, and arrive at 8:30am, 15 hours for the same 600km journey.  
Jan. 6th : Drop off bicycles at BikeZone, an Ecuadorian-owned Bangkok bike shop, where they will be disassembled and packed into boxes, 1000 baht ($35 CAD) for the pair - not bad!  
Jan. 7th : Arrange for a airport limo to meet us at the bike shop and take us and our trusty steeds to the airport (another 1000 baht as opposed to the 100 baht it would cost for both of us on public transit).  Check in at Scoot Airlines with all our gear - a little bit worried about this.  The Scoot baggage policy states that sports equipment is accepted as long as it does not exceed your purchased baggage allowance, but it is a budget Singaporean airline that no one we talk to has ever heard of before.  They make you pay for your food, drinks (it is prohibited to bring your own), entertainment, seat selection, luggage transfer, credit card use, and anything else you can think of.  But the flight was cheap!
Jan. 8th : Arrive in Sydney, after a 2 hour stopover in Singapore, hopefully with our bicycles intact!
Jan. 9th : Fly to Hobart, the capital of Tasmania.  The only reasonably priced flight was with Virgin Australia, and it leaves at 7:30am.   Of course, we miss it by a couple of hours on the 8th, and have to wait nearly 24 hours for the next one on the 9th.  We could make the most of it and go out to see the Sydney skyline, BUT we will have two large boxes with us, each about the size of a kitchen table and weighing about 25kgs (bike plus gear).  So, unless they have amazing, closet-sized storage lockers or we can sweettalk someone at the airline into keeping them for us, we will just hang out with our boxes at the airport.  Luckily, we found this website, and know that it's possible:

In conclusion, it will take an entire week, and three near-sleepless nights, to get us and our bicycles to Tasmania.  The moral of the story?  Don't fly.  Just bike.  : )

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