08 May, 2008

The perils and frustrations of two wheels purchase in China.

3 days of "hoping and wishing, and looking and searching " but getting stonewalled at every way forward..... until!

First, many thanks to both Brice and Crazycarl on the HorizonsUnlimited forum for directing me to Mike in Qingzhou. Second, even more thanks to Mike for helping me out to buy a new Haobon 125 for 3,600yuan. Mike and his partner were most gracious in hosting me for the Sunday and less than 2 hours after meeting Mike for the first time I was the proud owner of the Haobon, which is unregistered with NO plates as I have 1 month in which I can ride unregistered and this is all the time I will be in China.

Up until meeting up with Mike I had trawled the streets of Nanning to find a large number of new bike dealers (note in China dealers do not sell used bikes, only new ones), and a small number of used bike shops, but was getting conflicting messages from the locals re bike purchase.

1. First, in Guanxi province (of which I think Nanning is the capital) 150cc is the biggest bike allowed (although I did find a battered old CJ750 (Chinese copy of a Ural which is a Russian copy of a 1930s army BMW) outfit which was of no interest to me).

2. The prices for new vs used bikes were all awry. A NEW QingQi GS125 was around 5,500yuan with another 1,300yuan for rego - total 6,800yuan. Not bad provided I could get someone to rego it in their name, but without a local interpreter I was most definitely pushing up hill on that point.

3. I checked out used bikes (to get around the rego problem) and a used QingQi 125 seemed to be selling for around 8-9,000yuan (these were the prices marked on the bikes and confirmed by the sellers and were cosnsitent over hundreds of used bikes so it all seemed a little strange).

I couldn't understand why a used bike should sell for more than a new bike. I subsequently discovered from Mike that this is because in major cities a limited number of vehicle registrations are available. In essence, if you want to buy a new bike in Nanning you have to first buy an old bike (with a set of plates) then transfer the plates to the new vehicle.

In hindsight, fairly logical but a real challenge for someone unfamiliar with local laws, unable to read the local documentation and unable to get someone to explain all of this to me.

At one point I resorted to stopping total strangers on th e street to find anyone who could speak a little English to help - alas to no avail until I remembered Horizons and immediately sent off a couple of emails.

Literally within hours, Mike was ready to assist. He gave me directions to catch a bus 120km South to Qingzhou (pronounced Ching Joe), met me at the bus station on his Shining Ray 200 (Chinese military offroader with a 200c version of the Honda XL185 motor, large 21 litre tank and painted in camouflage colours) and took me off to the bike shops.

Being a teacher in town, Mike knew all the dealers and was on especially good terms with one particular dealer who supplied the local ex-pat community with their bikes.

For those who are ATGATT (All The Gear All the Time) inclined, you will not like to know that ATGATT in China means shorts, teeshirt, sandals and NO helmet. It was an amazing experience flying around the back streets of Qingzhou on the back of Mike's surprising very comfortable offroader, similarily attired.

For all intents and purposes the Haobon is equivalent to the Qingqi 125s I had been looking at, but close to 1/2 price after discounts. Even further savings were in order after Mike explained that is was unecessary for me to obtain rego either. However, the bike still can only legally be purchsed by a local, and the Haobon is officially sold to Mike's partner although I retain the ownership documents.

After a very quick and easy purchase we retired to Mike's flat for a few beers and a meal. Mike then took me out to a local sauna to savour the local experience. At midnight we finally arrived back for a good night's sleep after 2 hours of massage and pummelling by local masseurs. I have to admit for such small people, the local Chinese have incredible strength, and my problem left shoulder (keeps dislocating and pinching a nerve) is now better than it has been for the last 2 years.

Next morning, Mike had an early start at school. It was time for me to say my thanks and goodbyes, and hit the road back to Nanning to collect my luggage at the Chong Yuan hotel, load it on the Haobon and hit the road to Bama.

..... but that's another story!