Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cal Worthgington - Khmer Style

I am REALLY dating myself here by even referring to Cal Wortington (C'mon Down!!). Cal was a used car salesman 'par excellence' in Southern California for decades. Anyone over about 30 grew up with him.

And I found his counterpart in Phnom Penh about a block from the US Embassy on 'used car alley'...more like used car park, but whatever.

We've been using Sim Sao as a tuk tuk driver since we got here. But it's getting REAL expensive to use him every day and use fill in drivers when he is off or has found another fare. So we decided to buy a car!

I called my tuk tuk driver in Phnom Penh, Yuji, and had him start looking for a 1996-98 Honda CRV. He found one for $6,700, and that was a phenomenal price.

Used cars over here mostly come from the US and they are horrendously expensive. You buy a used car in America for say $5,000. Then you ship it here for another $4,000. Then you pay 'whomever' to get it out of customs. That's another $2,000. then you have to make a profit. So a 1998 Toyota 4Runner with 100,000 miles on it that costs maybe $5,000 in the US will wind up costing you $12,000 over here.

I didn't want a 4Runner. The mpg isn't very good and we are living on a very tight budget and I don't want to spend that much.

So I found a 1998 Honda CRV. the one Yuji found for $6,700 was way gone. I found one for $8,500. But it was pretty cheesy. I finally found one for $7,500, and after checking with some Khmer friends we figured it was a pretty good price.

Then we went to the bank to get the money. Then we had to figure out how to register it to me....I don't have 1 year visa yet...story for another time. Eventually 'Cal' gave me the plates and sent me on my way.

That was Thursday. Friday morning I woke up to a dead battery. Luckily Yuji was with me. In 5 minutes he turned up with 2 kids about 12 years old who had a battery and 2 screwdrivers. They jumped me and we went battery shopping. The first 2 places we went wanted $65 for their 'Japanese' batteries. They were Korean and priced about $15 too high. The third place was honest and I bought one from them and headed back to Siem Reap.

It takes 6 hours on a bus. I made it in 4.5. I also busted a ball joint, blew a shock, and the brakes got funky. I had everything fixed in Siem Reap on Saturday. Cost me $90. Great by US standards, but I still paid the 'barrong' price.

But the car runs pretty good. I've got a check engine light that comes on. The readout is '..catalyst system efficiency below threshold...' It could be a bad converter or it could be bad gas...there is a lot of that over here. I have an American friend whose cousin owns a a garage in Siem Reap. I'll have Ronnie take me there one day next week and we'll see what he says. The guy I've been working with is pretty good, but ...

It may sound the car is a lemon, but for the price we did pretty well. I'd love to have my old Jeep Cherokee here, but I'd never find parts.

Finally ... Who wants to hold a fundraiser for CSHD?

We have the money from the USDS and we need to buy that new truck right freakin' now. so if you'd like to hold a fundraiser I can help out with some really cool ideas and stuff if you want. We've had folks do them as house parties (Hawaiian and Mama Mia), auctions and dinner parties.

Can't Hold a fundraiser? I've got another option for ya:

Adam Kirby of New Zealand is doing a 160km bicycle race around Lake Taupo. He needs sponsors. If you want to sponsor Adam and help CSHD, contact Adam at

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