Ankor Wat

20 Feb

By Gary

Day 5 – When I asked, the front desk guy pointed me to a moto shop just about 30 yards from the hotel.  I walked right past it not even recognizing it as a shop.  This is because it was a small semi-permanent lean-to just off the sidewalk.  There were a couple scooters there that looked like they were being worked on so I did find it on the second pass back up the street.

The mechanic was sitting on the ground working on one of the bikes and I did the best pantomime I could about needing a valve job and I think he got the message.  To my surprise he crawled over on his hands and knees dragging behind him two wasted limbs.  Back home this guy would be holding a sign on a street corner.  He was clearly dirt poor, unable to walk and had many mouths to feed.  I don’t know if you could call them homeless or not – it looked like they lived in the tiny lean-to just off the sidewalk.  As I sat watching, a guy with no hands and very cloudy eyes wandered by begging quietly.  The daughter slipped some bills in his shirt pocket and sent him on.

Despite my admiration for the guy – he had it wrong.  He did a thumb over the spark plug hole compression test, and took off the tappet covers and had his wife kick over the bike.  I suppose on the basis of that he decided it had good enough compression and that I had incorrectly diagnosed the issue.  Next he pulled the spark plug boot and did a ‘how bad does this hurt’ test of the the ignition coil.  His howl seemed to indicate the though it had good spark.  At this point I try to tell him it is not an ignition problem through his daughter who spoke a little English, but he didn’t want to hear it.  He had his wife bring out a new spark plug and he put it in the head and motioned to his son to come crank the bike.  They must have cranked it for five minutes trying to get it to run and I am beginning to get frustrated – especially since the kick starter strokes are smacking into what is left of my right footpeg after Day 3’s tumble.  Sometimes you have to watch the guys here – they work fast bust often cause as many problems as they fix.

When he pulled off the spark plug boot and jammed the wire onto the plug and they proceeded to kick it some more I stood up and started waving my hands ‘No no no no’ and explained through his daughter that I just wanted him to put it back together.  Reluctantly, he did.

I tried to hand him $2 for his trouble.  He indicated he only wanted $1 and wouldn’t take the second dollar.  Have I mentioned before that every Cambodian I have met is particularly honest?  We have had a chuckle about this a couple times – the only reason you wouldn’t leave your bike on the street is because someone might sneak up and wash it for you.

So, I pushed the bike back to the hotel and asked the front desk guy where a proper moto shop was and he pointed me to one a few blocks up the road.  When I found it, they had a storefront with tires and oil and parts and such, but were doing their rebuilds on the sidewalk in front of their shop.  The guy at the counter understood English somewhat and I got a pen and paper and did the best impromptu sketch I could of a valve job and they got the picture.  They told me to come back in 2 hours.

Rocinante’s top-end rebuild cost a whopping $7.50 US and there was no drama this time.  The exhaust valve was seriously burnt – it is a wonder she ran at all.  When I got back to the shop she fired right up with one kick and purred like a kitten.  Since I was so pleased, I also had them rebuild a leaking left fork for $2.50.  In hind sight, for that price I should have just had both done, but at least now she is no longer leaking fork oil.

Matt decided that it was worth the preventative measure to have his valves resurfaced as well and left his bike there when he brought me to pick up mine.  His valves were ok – not burned like mine was, but for the cost – why not get the valve seats cleaned up.  Better to have it rebuilt today when it is not srictly necessary than tomorrow when we are stuck in the middle of the swamp.  Yes tomorrow will probably be a hard day’s ride.

Angkor Wat – Laurence, Matt, Sam and  I went to Angkor Wat today.  We found an unofficial tour guide there – just some guy stationed at a key point who started showing us stuff.  We knew he was angling for a tour guide gig so we asked him how much.  $12.  Not cheap by Cambodian standards but Laurence had been there earlier in the day and had paid $22 for a tour so it sounded reasonable.  Pin, the tour guide, knew quite a lot about the temple history – specific dates and times and different events that shaped the temple in the past.  He also gave us a recent political history of the temple starting from about 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took it over.  It really is a fascinating place and still has a working Buddhist monastery on-site.  Pin showed us how the temple was built by mounding up earth into a hill to build the uppermost heaven level and then excavating for the earth circle and then excavating back down to ground level to build the hell level.  I am sure the wikipedia article will do a better job than my second hand writeup so I will just link to it 🙂

After being in the sun for several hours at Angkor Wat, I was ready to be done.  I had some dinner and a few beers with the guys and ducked out of the activities for the night for a few hours extra sleep.

Today we are going to try a short cut to Pursat – covering the short section between two good but otherwise unconnected roads (according to the maps).  The chance of success of this route drops every time we discuss it.  Dean gives it a 60% chance of success, Dave 20%.  So we need to start early so we have time to backtrack and still make Pursat this evening.  Pursat province is where Sustainable Cambodia operates for the most part and we are going to visit a water project they are working on in Pursat city.

Having an early breakfast now and getting ready to head out.

Gary getting his bike fixed in the AM


Moto repair shop in Siem Reap


A view of the main Ankor Temple


Ankor Wat


Gary and his new friend.


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