Tuk to the Road Charity ride
First published 22nd May, 2006
Did you know that to drive a car into the Czech Republic you need to have a warning triangle, a fluorescent jacket, a spare set of glasses (if you wear them), a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and a replacement bulb for every light in the vehicle? I didn't and nor did Jo Huxster and Antonia (Ants) Bolingbroke-Kent of Tuk to the Road. For Jo and Ants, two British 27 year-old women from Brighton and Norfolk these are the vital snippets of intelligence they've been collecting this year in preparation for a 10,000 mile epic trip from Bangkok to Brighton raising money for the UK mental health outfit Mind... oh and did I mention they're doing it in a bright pink tuk tuk called Ting Tong?
It would be fair to say I've spent more than my fair share of time in a tuk tuk, but the idea of spending almost three months, 10,000 miles and a dozen countries in a pulsating buzsaw-powered tuk tuk, struck me as being totally batty. So when I heard they were looking for more sponsors, I (or rather Travelfish) thought why not -- it's a terrific idea, for a great cause and after all who ever heard of a pink tuk tuk called Ting Tong.
So that's how I found myself one grimy Bangkok morning in Jo and Ants company at a Bangkok tuk tuk factory seemingly half way to Cambodia. Expertise is the brainchild of Anuwat Yuteeraprapa, whose family has been in the tuk tuk business for over four decades, exports around 90% of their tuk tuks around the world. A fast talking and excitable man, Anuwat dancing around Ting Tong's skeleton, explaining how his craftsmanship is going to get the two girls safely to the UK. A car (and tuk tuk) racing enthusiast, Anuwat is not shy about claiming to be the best in the business (Thailand has four main tuk tuk producers) "The others, they're just businessmen" he says. "But me, I really care about what we make -- it is my, and my family's name." When I question him about the length of the trip, he looks at me with a glint in his eyes and raises two fingers. "Two of my tuk tuks have made it. All the way to Europe. It is possible. Absolutely 100%" he smiles.
This is the first time Ants and Jo have come face to face with Ting Tong and while they're a little let down that it isn't complete, this setback quickly becomes an advantage under Anuwat's guiding hands, as some last-minute tailoring comes into play. One of the first challenges is organising a bigger lock box -- as they'll be travelling with a laptop, satellite modem and various other technological bits and bobs, the originally planned lock box is too small. Anuwat is quick to suggest a multitude of solutions -- here there, bigger, flatter, wider, taller -- we could move the battery, change the speaker size, what about over there -- and what about colour?-- should the box be pink too?
We spend a good two hours at the factory dithering and dathering, going through colour swatches -- should the roof be blue or pink -- I foolishly suggest red but it's quickly pointed out to me that red clashes with pink -- now why didn't I know that? Other pressing issues include speaker location and how to manage the sounds system (Anuwat was banking on a CD player, but Jo and Ants were thinking iPod) but overall things appear to be on the right track, and, despite my initial concerns, a bright pink tuk tuk looks pretty cool.
After leaving Anuwat's workers to get on with the job, we relax in Vientiane Kitchen, a northeastern Thai restaurant in Bangkok, where Jo and Ants chat frankly about about their fears (not least of which is the fried frog curry on the menu) and their excitement about finally getting this epic journey underway.
Tuk tuks are best known for their buzz saw engine and ridiculous appearance rather than any modicum of security and both Jo and Ants are well aware of that -- "One of our main concerns is personal security", says Jo, "in stretches of Russia and the Ukraine we'll need to be particularly careful, but the further west we go personal security becomes less of an issue, but theft can be a real problem."
One issue that is paramount in my mind but hardly seems an issue to Jo and Ants is the actual driving. While Ting Tong has been modified to be driven as a car rather than a tuk tuk, neither of them have more than 30 minutes tuk tuk driving experience -- "All up maybe one mile between us" says Jo, laughing, "and all that driving on a field".
This isn't to say they're not prepared -- aside from deciding what colour speed-stripes are needed for the seating (pink and blue was the final decision) most of the major decisions are already well behind them.
"We did a survival course run by military guys -- survival in the wilderness -- that kind of thing" says Jo, "at one stage Ants had to skin a rabbit but she's an avid vegetarian -- watching her do it made me cry."
When not busy skinning rabbits, Ants got down to brushing up on her Russian. "I'd studied it at school, and so decided to do some refresher courses online via Skype with a teacher in Finland. At 35 quid per hour it wasn't cheap, but I think when we're dealing with border guards and officials we'll see the real value."
During the planning stages, Antonia looked after managing the media and travel planning through the Russian and European legs, while Jo looked after sorting out a tuk tuk long distance (we'd like a pink one please) along with the planning of the Asian leg of the journey including the complicated paper-trail that follows them through China.
"China was difficult, but once we got the right person to talk to it mainly came down to the money -- the cost is on a per province, per day basis, so the longer we stayed in China the more it would cost. Partly as a result we've budgetted to do over 300 miles in one of the worse days." With a comfortable cruising speed of perhaps 50mph, that makes for a long day in a tuk tuk.
"We ended up with a strict day by day itinerary, along with a minder who will ride with us in the tuk tuk for the full stretch of the China leg" says Ants, "all this came for a mere US$9,600 -- a seemingly absurdly high amount when you consider the whole purpose of the trip is to raise money for charity."
I guess those Chinese number plates they'll be needing don't come cheap.
We talk of how they're harnessing modern technology and the results so far have been a pretty mixed bag. For example, the Traveller's Simcard performs so badly they use my mobile phone for calls, and, by the next day have bought a local prepaid Thai simcard. They've also had problems with the satellite modem, which was planned for updating their blog during the trip, at least for the Thai leg they'll have no problems as internet cafes are as common as somtam sellers, but further along the way, this could be a serious problem.
On the other hand, some technology -- particularly the internet -- has been an absolutely indispensable research tool. Horizons Unlimited and GT-Rider, two primarily motorcycle travel focussed websites were packed with resources and helpful members. "I posted a question on one of the messageboards and I got back this amazing blow-by-blow answer that just went on for pages and pages" said Jo, "the support and assistance was really amazing".
Jo and Ants talk of the support and assistance they've received -- both from friends and family and people they've never met. Yet its now, in the final days before departure that it is finally just the two of them ... and Ting Tong. When I ask what have been their greatest challenges, Antonia's immediate response is "Getting BT to connect the internet to my house", while Jo says "well we're yet to come up against something we weren't able to solve between us".
It's this reply that stays with me as we up and leave the restaurant. It's one thing to say something is a great idea, but another completely to go and actually do it -- particularly when it involves driving a pink tuk tuk half way around the world. They're doing it for a terrific cause and if anyone was going to pull it off it is Jo and Antonia.
Tuk to the Road are underway with their fundraising, but there's a long way to go. We highly recommend you take a look at their site and consider making even the smallest donation -- and a year from now when you see a pink tuk tuk driving around Brighton you'll know you helped it get there.
Read 3 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (4)
- Burma (3)
- Cambodia (19)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (14)
- All stories
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (6)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (59)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (29)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (18)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (14)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (15)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.