Friday, May 11, 2012

Access denied/granted

As previously mentioned, I had some trouble getting the different visa. My short trips to Bangkok didn't make it easier as I always had to take my passport with me.
Nepal's never been an issue because I get it on arrival at the airport.
I was concerned about the Russian visa because they tightened the regulations for Germans recently. But with the support of my friend Sascha from Saint Petersburg I got a letter of invitation from a Russian travel agency with which it was straight forward.
The Chinese visa application center in Singapore insisted to get the original documents from the travel agency in China. FedEx needed 3 days longer than expected so there wasn't enough time left before I had to fly to Bangkok again (the second visit when I had to pick up the spare parts from the airport). To save valuable time I thought I can apply for it there. After 3 hours of queuing it turns out that the letter of invitation from China is only valid for an application in Singapore…once back there, I got it within one working day.
After the third visit to the High Commission of Pakistan in Singapore I eventually got the Pakistani visa. The whole process was really pain in the ass because they requested one more additional thing at every visit, e.g., when I brought the letter of invitation from a government registered Pakistani travel agency they asked for a copy of the passport of the owner of it to proof the genuineness of the document. How ridiculous is that? After some discussion I could convince them to check the registration number of the agency. Three days later I collected my Pakistani visa.
In the end, there wasn't enough time left to get the Indian (requires five working days, no urgent service) and Kazakh visa. So I'll have to apply for them on the way: the Indian one in Kathmandu and the Kazakh one in Urumqi.

When worse comes to worse

This is an accurate description of the happenings since I went to Bangkok more than two weeks ago. The extension of the Thai temporary import permit was straight forward, in terms of Thai bureaucracy. That means it was done within 5 hours visiting only 3 different sites and just less than 10 different offices in total. I am sure it would have taken much longer without the support of one of Mr. Thira's, my shipping agent, employers who did all the talking. I just had to sign a lot of papers and pay the fine of 2000 THB.
Then I wanted to stop by at the local BMW Motorcycle dealer Barcelona Motors to see what spare parts they have in stock for my motorbike (don't ever by genuine parts in Thailand because it's so much more expensive - more on that later…). A package from Germany with important parts for my motorcycle hasn't had arrived yet and so I wanted to check out alternatives. The success with the import documents made me lighthearted and careless to such an extend that I caused an accident. This resulted in a rear end collision, 100% my own fault. Luckily, I haven't got any scratch because it happened at low speed, but fast enough to cause some damage to both my motorbike and the taxi I hit. The radiator of my BMW was leaking and the taillight, the rear bumper and fender on the left side of the car were damaged. 
Damaged tail light & bumper of the taxi and
 leaking radiator of my motorbike.
After the taxi driver got out of his car, he asked me: "How much?" It's better he says a sum, I thought, so I didn't answer. "2000" was his reaction, which was a lot less than I had expected. So I paid the money and the case was closed.
When I stared my motorbike I noticed that the instrument cluster wasn't working anymore, so no warning light for engine temperature, which was particularly bad in this situation. With a stopover at a motorbike workshop on the way to refill some cooling liquid, I finally made it to Barcelona Motors, but it was just before they closed and only two service guys were still there. So I had to wait till the next day (Friday) to get a diagnosis of the damage of the motorbike. It turns out that the fan behind the radiator was broken, too. They said it's very likely that they can fix all the broken parts within a couple of days and no spare parts need to be ordered. The cost wouldn't be very high and the motorbike could be shipped as scheduled on 3rd May. Then I had to catch my flight back to Singapore because I had to write an exam the next day (Saturday), so I had to monitor the repair from there, which isn't easy if people don't answer emails or phone calls...
In the end, I had to postpone the shipping of my motorbike to KTM for one week to 10th May, order a new radiator and fan from Germany and fly to Bangkok one more time to pick up the spare parts at the airport myself. I contacted ADAC (automobiles club in Germany that offers roadside assistance and related services) and asked them to assist me. They were very helpful  and within a couple of days the spare parts arrived at BKK. The customs clearance at the BKK cargo complex was more troublesome than for my motorbike last November and even more expensive.
Apparently, my tout paid a bribe of 40 THB to cut this queue.
5 min later I got the package with the spare parts in it.
I brought the parts to Barcelona Motor and they had them changed the next day. But my motorcycle wasn't ready yet, because they forgot - and ignored my 4 requests over the period of two weeks - to check the instrument cluster, which wasn't working after the crash anymore. My motorbike was supposed to be at the packing house, where they would put it in the crate, by the day after tomorrow (Saturday, 5th May) at latest. Imagine, how upset I was! End of the story: I ordered a new instrument cluster from Germany via ADAC again - to Singapore this time - and told the guys at Barcelona Motor to make the bike ready for shipping as it is. So I'll have to exchange the instrument cluster at Kathmandu myself.
Mr. Keng and a mechanic, both from Barcelona Motors,
helping me preparing the bike for shipping.
The guys from the packing house did a good job
and everything was packed in a couple of hours.
Ready for shipping: 
286 kg (including most of my gear + equipment), 58 x 196 x 127 cm.
 I met Hassan from Iran at the packing house, he was sending two all-new Honda CRF250L to Iran, disassembled due to Iranian import regulations. He's been doing this for 15 years. I had a nice talk with him about Iran vs. the rest of the world and the huge difference of the attitude towards foreigners between the Iranian people and its unpopular government. Apparently, he doesn't like the government and ruling class at all so he won't go back to his home country except for one reason: if there is war, he'll fight for his country and its people as he did before during the war with Iraq. Let's hope this won't happen!

Hassan from Iran and a disassembled Honda CRF250L.
Then I went back to Singapore to get my Chinese and Pakistani visa - another story of difficulties doing such a trip - so I spent one more week in Singapore. As I had nothing to do but waiting for my visa I had plenty of time to do lots of the touristy stuff one can do in Singapore and which I haven't had done during my 9 months there as an exchange student: go to the cinema, visit museums, wander around parks etc.; like a happy end of my stay in Singapore.
Marina Bay Sands seems to tower over Singapore's downtown
 as you can see it from many places while walking through the streets; 
here from the Asian Civilizations Museum.