Transport Hunting in CambodiaMarch 13, 2007
Having a small budget for a replacement motorbike, thanks to my wonderful parents, I spend the morning travelling around the Khmer orientated bike shops, figuring that they would have lower prices than the ones that cater to expatriates. This put all of my language skills to the test, but numbers are the one area of this language that I can actually manage fairly well. Just in case though, I took Lady Playboy with me for back up, support, extra translation and haggling services.
The strange thing about motorbikes in Cambodia is that the vast majority of expatriates ride 250cc dirt bikes; which might have been necessary 5 years ago when their were no tarmac roads, or maybe necessary now if you spend all of your time out the furthest, most remote provinces, but 90% of the roads that I drive on, even when I am out of Phnom Penh, are okay.
So for this strange reason the 250cc dirt bikes are all a lot more expensive than larger road bikes. A decent 250cc dirt bike costs between US$1,500 and US$3,500. my old bike (prior to it being stolen, spit, spit, spit) was a Honda KL400cc custom, which I bought at the rock bottom price of US$450, the guy selling it was originally asking for US$750, but I was negotiating with him 2 days before he left the country for good, and nobody else had been to see it, which gave me something of an advantage!
So visiting 5 or 6 bike shops around town this morning I discovered that the 250’s were all still really expensive and that the bigger bikes [400cc, to 750cc] were much better value. All except the one that I saw that I really, really, liked, it was fresh off the boat from Japan, the only one in the country, a Suzuki Slingshot 400cc 16valve in a metallic yellow and black finish. 0 to 60mph in 4 seconds! Unfortunately it was priced at US$2,000, much, much, more than I could stretch to on a my meagre salary.
So half a dozen bike shops, much haggling and negotiating, not too mention much sweating in the 40C+ heat, I finally settle on my new bike. A Honda VF750 Custom Classic; it took me nearly an hour of haggling, discussing, drinking coffee, test driving and threatening to leave and go to another shop, but I managed to get him down from US$900 to US$750, which would leave me just enough left in the budget to pay the official registration fee, buy the licence plates from the police (just do not ask…) and to buy 5 metres of heavy duty chain and a large padlock! Also as part of the deal I got him to agree to do a few more things to the bike before I pay for it – new tyres, new plugs, oil change, replace a broken clutch lever – which means that I have to wait until Monday before I can pick it up. Think I might take the afternoon off work on Monday, just so that I can cruise around town and play on my new bike – err, oops, sorry, I mean, road test my new bike to get used to it !