Resting and planning

14 km around town shopping for food

We planned today as a rest day, but also as a day to make our plans for SE Asia in light of the latest changes with the freighter. The operating company’s agent (NSB) insists that we require a business visa to board the ship in Shanghai. In addition, they have no way to issue the necessary letter in order to get a business visa.

This is very frustrating, especially since other freighter companies don’t seem to have any problem boarding passengers from Shanghai with a standard tourist visa. Fred, our travel agent, has been exceedingly helpful through all this, but if this were our first freighter voyage, we probably would have given up and asked for our money back (or switched to a different freighter company) by now. As it is, we’re sticking with NSB and the Hanjin Madrid. Unfortunately, we’ve broken the cardinal rule of freighter travel: “Be flexible about timing”. A few days either way still don’t matter to us, but we want as much time as possible in Asia and to get back in time for Becky’s high school reunion in Kitamat. There appear to be no other ships with timing as good as the Hanjin Madrid.

Although we might be able to board in Shanghai with a tourist visa, in order to prevent possible problems, we have decided to embark in Pusan, South Korea instead. This has the benefit of allowing us to ride across South Korea before getting on the ship for a week and a half, and add one more country to our cycling itinerary.

This means less time in Thailand than we had hoped for, so we’re having to make some choices. Thanks to Freidel and Andrew, Bill Weir, Chris Wee, and a bunch of trip journals we’ve read, we know what other cycle tourists consider the high points, and will try to skip some of the less exciting areas. This is turning out to be much more a cursory survey of Asia than we had originally thought, but hopefully it will give us a flavour, and help us decide where we’d like to go when we come back for a longer visit.

For now our schedule looks roughly like this:

  • 28 Mar – 5 Apr: Finish cycling the east coast of Malaysia, cross over to Penang and take a ferry from Penang to Lankawi.
  • 6 Apr – 13 Apr: Bus and cycle the southwest coast of Thailand (bus Satun to Phang-nga, ride to Chumphon via west coast)
  • 14 – 16 Apr: Train into Bangkok, visit Bangkok
    ** We will be playing this by ear due to the Thai Songkram (New Year) holiday
  • 17 – 27 Apr: Ride Bangkok to Chiang Mai
  • 28 Apr – 1 May: Ride Cheng Mai to Lao border (Chiang Khong) – if anything before this is late, we’ll bus this portion to get back on schedule.
  • 2 – 7 May: Ride Ban Houayxay Laos to Ban Bortin (sp?) at the Laos-China border
  • 8 – 12 May: Ride Mohan to Simao (Yunnan province China)
  • 13 May: Bus Simao to Kunming
  • 16 -18 May: Train Kunming to Beijing
  • 20 May: Bus to Tianjin
  • 21-22 May: Ferry Tianjin, China to Incheon, South Korea
  • 23 May – 1 Jun: Ride Incheon to Pusan
  • 3 Jun: Board ship Pusan to Seattle

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