Tuesday, December 22, 2015

India - Why we love the bazaars!

Looking for a bike cover, I found one at this stop... they only had them in orange though, which sort of put me off a bit, so they flipped it inside out and said it was now blue... couldn't argue with that... so we bought them :-)
Bikes like the Yamaha XT660s are thin on the ground in India, and with our trip through Myanmar coming up we wanted a spare chain as the one we had fitted was showing some signs of distress... Considering it had been on the bike from Europe and by now covered some 30,000+ km through what can only be described as the worst conditions ever, we were quite pleased with how long it had lasted (JT chain and sprockets with a Tutoro chain oiler). Ideally we would have liked to fit a new JT set again but getting one shipped to India would have been like buying a lottery ticket....

The bikes covered up in Royal Enfield covers!
Thailand was a much better option as chains and sprockets for an XT660 are available there, but to play it safe I started looking for a emergency chain to take with us until we got there. As the Myanmar trip was with a group and planned from day to day, we didn't want to keep the rest waiting while we were looking for chain in the middle of nowhere. The chain for a Yamaha XT is a simple 520x110, pretty commonly used on other brands as well. Getting one in India proved somewhat difficult... The hotel we were staying at kindly called the motorcycle shop I had found on Google on my behalf, as speaking Hindi isn't my strongest point. No fewer than 4 times the various bike shops they called for me simply hang up on them...! In the end they found one at the bazaar in Siliguri (Anand) who was willing to have a look. As it was only 1,5 km I decided to walk over there as face to face always works better than over the phone. The hotel manager kindly gave me a very clear mudmap, but I still managed to end up in the wrong street... Asking for directions at a pharmacist (as they usually speak English) a fully decorated Indian Army major of some sort, who was just coming out of the shop said he woud take me there... great! He walked outside, threw his leg over his Enfield, gave me a helmet and we were off...! Here I was on the passenger seat of an Enfield, ridden by someone from the Indian Army, in India, and I didn't have a camera with me! Arrggh! 

Moments like this once again emphasised the problems I have with understanding this country. Lots of people we have met in India are so incredibly friendly, helpful and considerate that I just love the place.... But then you meet the rudest, most inconsiderate bastards on the road trying their utmost best to run me off the road, blasting horns and cutting me off... and then I just hate the place. The contrast here is like black and white, there is no middle. When I arrived at the bike shop, they said they didn't have a chain...  'We don't sell motorcycle chains, sir' was the reply, which was rather surprising when you claim to be a motorcycle parts supplier and there are boxes full of chains stacked on the shelf. What they meant was, they only sell complete chain and sprocket kits. 'We need to know which model bike, sir' said the overweight grumpy man behind the counter. 'It's for a Yamaha XT660R' I replied. 'We don't have that model in India, sir. We can only supply you chain and sprockets for a Hero, sir' He turned his head away and was about to start helping another customer when I said 'Ok, I'll buy a kit for a Hero. Which model Hero has a 520 chain of 110 links?' I asked. The man looked puzzled. I had him on the spot. He could no longer keep up that he didn't have it as Hero Honda in India has a slogan which reads something like 'no-one should ever have to wait for parts, they are all in stock!' they weren't kidding it was indeed all in stock. I had to buy the full kit of course, which was fine as the total outlay was just US$ 17.46... Try that at your local bike shop! I took the rear sprocket out of the package to save weight and said 'I don't need that, give it to someone who can use it'. A split second later one of the waiting customers had grabbed it :-)  

Walking back through the bazaar made me realise I do love this place... all I have to do is stay away from the tourist places, the many rip-off restaurants and trade it for places like this. Here, where the real indians live, this country is great. The friendliness is amazing and no matter what you need, if you walk around long enough you will find it. The best thing to do though is ask. I needed gearbox oil, to put in the Tutoro chain oiler, and found it at a small shop which sells nothing but oil. Castrol sells for US$ 5,- a litre here, which by western standards is cheap, but there is also a local brand 80W90 mineral gearbox oil which sells for US$1.75 a litre and is fine for chains. The guy running the shop was helpful, friendly and thus the man to ask where I could find the next thing I was after: motorcycle covers.... He came out of the shop and pointed me in the direction of another small shop with rolls of fabric, just a little bit further on. Again a great place. Without asking I would have walked straight past it as what they had in front of the store wasn't even vaguely motorcycle related, yet they had motorcycle covers for a Royal Enfield on the shelf. Made from plastic sheet at just US$ 4,75 each! Walking back to the hotel, through a maze of narrow roads we found everything you could possibly ask for. At the bazaar the prices are low, very low, and they don't try to rip you off because you are a tourist, like they do in the tourist orientated places. The next day we went into the bazaar again, just to enjoy the chaos :-)