We were now on the island of Phuket in Thailand. It was past eight in the morning by the time we started rolling out of the hotel in Hat Yai. The high point of the day was lunch. Not because of the food, but because the place we stopped at was called ‘Cabbages & Condoms’. It’s the result of a man’s effort to popularise condoms and stop the spread of HIV in this country. Obviously there was a bowl of condoms on the reception counter, yours for the taking, free.
First puncture of the trip post-lunch as Car 20’s rear right tyre went flat. I am sure that no XUV500 had as much attention bestowed on it for a puncture as this particular car. M&M has chosen its best mechanics from across the country for this trip. So six of their very best, along with their boss went to work changing the tyre. While it couldn’t be compared to F1 pit-stop times, they still did pretty good.
While in Malaysia we had police motorcycles, in Thailand we had pick-up trucks taking their place. With police cars piloting us through the roads, we made pretty good time covering the 420-odd kilometres to Phuket. It’s a really beautiful country with hills that seemed to have been painted into the landscape by some master artist.
I am sure it’s a spectacle for the people watching the convoy. First comes a police car with flashing lights, followed by a 2km convoy of SUVs covered in colourful stickers blasting down the road, then an ambulance, and ending off with another police car. The waves, smiles and thumbs-up we get as we pass by them is worth the aches and pains after hours behind the wheel.
We reached our hotel, our stop for the night in Phuket, before five in the evening – the Royal Phuket City Hotel. Tomorrow is a very long drive. Our destination, Bangkok, is 820km from Phuket. It’s going to be a 14-hour drive if we have no delays. But, before we can call it a day, we have another official function to attend. Dinner hosted by the Indian Ambassador and a programme of classical Indian dance.