Sunday 28th/Monday 29th November

Off on another of Nig's adventures, but this time without Norman. Richard's bribe to Helen of a piece of jewellery from Bangkok described by others as "substantial" also clearly wasn't enough to secure a return trip this year, while Norman, having undergone major bowel surgery in the autumn wasn't in a fit state to contemplate the rigours of the journey, never mind the ballooning. This explanation is a thinly disguised vehicle to inform the world that he is now known in ballooning circles as "semi-colon".

Our first hotel (Sofitel King) at Khon Kaen is, according to Nigs, the best one on the tour and that we will be slumming it from now on. It is certainly sumptuous and the dinner is excellent. Perhaps the passage of time since breakfast on the plane at 5 a.m. accounts for it, but this is unlikely as the range of delicacies on offer tempt us into taking rather larger helpings than is wise. Still, nothing exceeds like excess, as I often say. We are all now assembled as Yutakit has flown in that afternoon and the dinner table becomes the usual lively focus for conversation. We are each presented with an unexpected gift from Nigs, Margaret and Yutakit. This is an individually patterned box decorated with Thai silk containing a special silver broach in the form of an open oval cartouche. The lower arc has tiny trees and temples while the upper part shows tiny balloons flying over them. Quite exquisite and beautifully made to their own design.

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