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Cambodia Opinions and Advice (part 2)

by Charlie Smith

Vay’s Motorcycle Shop, #177 Street 110, Phnom Penh
H/P: 012 869 661, E-mail: 012869661@mobitel.com.kh

I recently wrote about buying a motorbike at Vay’s Motorcycle Shop with the agreement he would buy it back at minimum price difference when I was ready to leave, like maybe $35 per month if it is still in perfect condition. Most shops in Phnom Penh do not want to do that and prefer to rent, at $45-50 per month, or $5 per day.

I had nothing in writing about our agreement, only his word, and my receipt only showed the $400 purchase price. But he remembered and was a man of his word, I had the bike 6 weeks and 3 days and he bought it back at $60 less than the purchase price. I go to Phnom Penh a couple times a year and told him that, so I do not know if he would do same price for everyone but it’s worth a try. I would rather own than rent as I do not like to leave my passport for long periods of time and know definitely where I stand in case of trouble such as wreck or theft. And if you are badly hurt you will need your passport to get quickly to Bangkok for hospital. Plus, the cost factor of the wreck or theft is at the shop’s discretion. So if you rent at least have the bike’s value in writing on your rental receipt. In case repairs are needed there are sidewalk outfits all over town that do anything to any motorbike for almost zero cost. For instance, I wanted a bigger seat and bought an almost new one for one dollar and a new basket for $1.25, both installed, on 214 street at the roundabout near Wat Sampao Maas. But that price is similar elsewhere.

Also, I would think purchase/buy back would be better for the shops as bad wrecks happen all too often in Cambodia and death is included in too many of them. And if that happens to you, all the shop owner gets is your passport. Also, in Phnom Penh, be sure you get the registration paper and a bona fide license plate on the back, with license plate paper. Probably 60% of bikes in Phnom Penh have no license plate and most of those that do are counterfeit. In Sihanoukville none have a license plate but there it does not seem to matter.

When riding around in Cambodia be aware that you are a prime target for special traffic police self improvement funds. You will notice many locals ignore traffic lights completely and EVERYONE turns right on a red. But I did it and they tried to nick me for $20, I did manage to get it down to $2. Wrong way, like everyone does around the markets, and they wanted $6 but my Cambodian wife hollered at them so loud I was afraid they would certainly just haul her off to jail but she handed them 2000 Riel and they settled for that. Not a good tactic tho, I do not believe anyone else in this world could get away with that. On Pochentong Blvd there was an obscure no left turn sign with a tree hanging down over it so they stopped me for that and first request was to see license plate paper, which I didn’t have and told them I had only rented the bike but they demanded $20, which they said right from the beginning was “for a little bit of beer.” And more and more police and military police kept crowding in until there were 11 of them and I felt so completely outnumbered and intimidated that I gave them $10. Vay said official fine for illegal left turn is 5000 Riel and for no vehicle license is 2000 Riel ($1.75 total!) but of course nothing is done officially, it all goes into their pockets.

In Sihanoukville my favorite place to rent a motorbike is GST, at the GST bus station for $3 per 24 hour day. It frees you up to completely and economically look over the whole area before deciding on where to stay.

For VISA extensions in Phnom Penh I still consider Lucky! Lucky! Motorbikes to be the best bet. Phone: (023) 212 788; (012) 892 956. Unfortunately my receipt from them does not have an address but they are on Monivong Blvd ½ block south of Street 182. DO NOT go to the official immigration department way out by the airport unless you really do enjoy the long ride out there and back just to be ripped off big time.

Gordon, I support your views toward Mealy Chenda transportation and maybe your exposures about them are doing something as here is a new twist: In Sihanoukville, at the Ho Wah Genting bus station there was a new poster for vans to Koh Kong. The picture showed a nice new van with the name RASME / BUNTHAM TRAN on it. So I bought a ticket but insisted I was buying the ticket 23 hours early as I definitely didn’t want to ride in the back seat and would only go if they could guarantee any other seat in the van. Have been in too many with bad shocks, bad AC, bad muffler, and in those cases the back seat is the shits. They made a phone call, did lots of jabbering, hung up, and said “You will ride in the front seat with the
driver.” Then I didn’t think to even look at the ticket until that night and guess what; it didn’t have a seat # on it but it did say, “Mealy Chenda Travel” right across the top in big capital letters!

When the van showed up the next morning the front seat was empty so I jumped into it and a man in the station did try to convince me to sit farther back but I stayed put. It was a good trip and nice to see a new route and scenery but I do consider the boat to be better. Unless you are going from Koh Kong to Phnom Penh, do not want to stop at Sihanoukville, and can manage a van that will get you straight thru to Phnom Penh, as it does cut off some miles. But I like Sihanoukville so do like to stop there. But anyway, by the time we reached Koh Kong border all the luggage behind the back seat was so saturated with red dust that you could not even determine the colors and I had to look three times to be sure which one was mine. And when I got to the train station in Bangkok was almost grateful the last overnight sleeper train to Hat Yai was already booked full as it forced me to stay overnight and have the opportunity to wash all the red dust from my body and hair and clothes.

There is the, “Station Hotel” straight across from the front of the Bangkok train station at 250 baht with bathroom. You definitely get plenty of the city noise but OK otherwise. To get to it you go thru a narrow pathway between the hawker food stalls. And also, right outside the hotel’s door, across that narrow pathway, there is a restaurant with good Thai and Chinese meals at 25 baht per plate, they open early but close about 5 or 6 PM.

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