I first visited Thailand by sea in 2001while I was working on a 150 foot square rigged Brigantine as Chief Engineer and immediately fell in love with the people with their happy approach to life. After leaving Singapore we had sailed into the tail end of a Typhoon and for 16 days had been battered by the wind and huge seas. We arrived into the middle of Bangkok in the yacht and thankfully “dropped the hook”. A run ashore was the order of the day.
Having travelled a lot I had learnt the essential thing to have when exploring was the address of your starting point in the local language to show a taxi driver for your safe return. I duly went to a shore side hotel reception desk where I knew they would speak English and asked them to order a taxi into the city for me. I then asked them to write down the address in Thai. All set off I went for a few beers and my first taste of Thai cuisine. Tired and full I hailed a taxi, handed the driver the address and hopped in the back and off we drove only to stop after 100 meters. Now the language barrier cut in as my hand signals as to” why have we stopped” got a pointing down response from the driver. Slowly it dawned on me that the hotel had written down the address of the city centre not the hotel!
Now I was stuck, I only knew the yacht was anchored by a suspension bridge in a city twice the size of London, what to do next? I saw a hotel nearby that was part of a worldwide 5 star group. I walked up to the desk and explained my predicament and drew a very bad impression of the bridge near the yacht, “Ah” the man said “You near Rama 5 Bridge”. So with it all written in Thai off I went again and for the next couple of hours crossed the river by various bridges with me shouting and pointing to the yacht that was appearing on either side as we crossed over. Eventually after much laughter we got the correct bridge and found it bore little resemblance to my drawing. Thus ended my first night in Thailand and my first experience seeing humour in difficult situations.
Steve Francis was born in 1947 and first became interested in travelling when one of his sister’s boyfriends gave him some travel posters from P&O Cruises, and he decided to join P&O and run away to sea. By the time he was seventeen he had been most of the way round the world, and got paid for it. A five year marine engineering apprenticeship ashore set him on his true path of engineering but with enormously itchy feet.
"There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats" said Ratty in Wind in the Willows and Steve has spent his life working on boats and ended up as the Chief Engineer on a large super yacht cruising the Med. and the Far East.
Steve says “I have had a charmed life doing what I enjoy most. Now I spend my summers in Cornwall seeing my daughters and grandchildren and my winters in Thailand; once it looks cold I'm off!
I have been to most areas in Thailand and regularly set off on my motor bike touring areas well off the beaten track that look interesting on the map and they usually are. By talking to people about my travels in Thailand I have ended up either formulating a travel schedule for them or personally taking them round. I have decided to expand to a bigger market to share the beauty of the unseen Thailand. I intend to keep the numbers down to just two couples maximum as more could spoil the spontaneity of the tour. I can also do guided motorcycle tours”.
• Read Chapter 2: Bangkok and beyond
• Read Chapter 3: Kanchanaburi and getting around by train
• Read Chapter 4: Travelling around Thailand
• Read Chapter 5: The road from Nan to Chiang Rai
• Read Chapter 6: Mai Hong Son and higher mountains
• Read Chapter 7: Encounter with a monocled cobra