Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shipping from Kathmandu to Bangkok, Oriental City

In addition to our one day of touring Durbar Square, we also arranged to ship our motorbikes and ourselves to Bangkok. Since Burma is still closed to all overland travelers, and since it costs 300 bucks a day for a government escort if you want to ride through China, we have to fly if we want to move eastward. I assume that because of the above two reasons, it's pretty easy to ship out of Kathmandu. Colin read about other riders' experiences and who to use as a shipper before we arrived. Our first full day in the city, Monday, we walked to Eagle Eyes Exports, the recommended shipper, and met with Jeewan. He had a binder full of air waybills dating back thirteen years of just his motorcycle shipments. He was able to tell us, line by line, what the charges would be, and when the bikes would go. Eagle Eyes and Jeewan seem like a well-oiled, shipping machine. Confident that this was the way to go, we left a deposit with Jeewan and arranged to meet at his office on Thursday morning before riding to the airport to crate the bikes. On our walk back to our guesthouse, Colin noticed the sign for another shipping company, on the same street, called Eagle Exports, which said on the sign that they ship motorbikes. Wondering if we just made a mistake, and with a somewhat queasy feeling in our guts, we went into Eagle Exports, and met Suraj and his wife, Sara. Yes, they ship motorbikes to Bangkok, yes, they have many, many delighted customers, and yes, the rate would be...exactly the same. When Colin said the rate was the same as we were quoted by Eagle Eyes Exports, Suraj said that Jeewan was his brother, that they had been in business together, and that Jeewan was dishonest. Suraj would reduce the rate by 20 USD for us if we shipped with him. We said we'd think about it and left. Unfortunately, before we left, we mentioned where we were staying. Later Monday evening, Colin received both an email and a hand-delivered note from Suraj which said he could reduce the rate by another 50 USD if we ship on Friday, but if we could ship the bikes on a day when he had four other bikes going, he could drop it a further 135 USD. Not exactly sure how Suraj could do this, we decided to return on Tuesday morning to speak with Jeewan at Eagle Eyes. To add another twist to the plot, Colin received another email, this one from Jeewan, saying that Colin left his “Griffin” in Jeewan's office and that he could retrieve it any time. This message left us totally confused, since neither of us had a clue what a Griffin was. The next morning after breakfast, we walked back to talk to Jeewan and find what Colin left in his office. It was his iPhone. We walked back to the guesthouse, planning to get cleaned up after switching to our new room, and then go to do some touring in Kathmandu. Shortly after we arrived and got settled into our room, there was a knock on our door. It was Suraj and Sara, offering to ship our bikes for an even lower rate (they were now down 220 USD from their original quote). I told Suraj that Colin and I would need to discuss our options and we would let them know later in the day. Suraj pressed me to make a decision right then, and said to use his service even if it meant losing the deposit we'd left with Jeewan. I again told him we'd think about it and let him know. They left, rather disappointed, and I told Colin what had just transpired. Instead of sightseeing, we marched back to Jeewan's office to try to find out what the deal was. We told Jeewan about the radically lower rate Suraj at Eagle Export had given us and asked if it was possible. He pulled out recent air waybills and again broke down the rate for us, line by line, and offered to return our deposit in full if we would rather ship with Suraj. Since the only way Suraj could give us the low rate was if he built us a free crate and didn't pay the builders or grease any palms at Customs, and paid Thai Air part of their charges out of his own pocket, we decided to keep our business with Jeewan and Eagle Eyes Export. We walked back to our room, satisfied with our decision to stick with Jeewan.

The Italian RTW couple also going to Bangkok
On Thursday, we rode to Jeewan's office and then followed his brother's motorbike across town to the airport cargo facility. When we arrived, he motioned for us to pull into the warehouse, where we found several men working on several bike-sized crates. The base of ours was complete, as were our side panels. Colin and I shifted into disassembly mode and removed the front wheels, fenders, and handlebars, and disconnected the batteries in about forty-five minutes. With the help of several of the craters, we lifted the bikes onto the crate base, and Colin strapped them in place. As the craters attached the sides, I loaded the various bits and pieces inside, before they nailed down the top. We were finished, our paperwork was completed, and we were ready to leave shortly after 1:00 pm (and this was with an hour delay while waiting for the Customs official to return from lunch and sign our Carnets!). The other bike-sized crates that were being built were for four other bikes. They were the customers that Suraj had tried to get us to ship with for the lower rate. We met Stefano and Annamarie, an Italian couple who are riding around the world, and Brian and Tanja, who were the couple Colin met in Pokhara when we landed from our paragliding adventure. They were all flying to Bangkok on Friday (as were we), but their bikes weren't flying until Sunday. We watched as they loaded their bikes onto the crate bases and removed a whole bunch of stuff from their bikes to make them fit within the width of their crates. After seeing the problems the four of them had crating their bikes and finding out that they were actually supposed to do it the previous day (but for the strike, which was announced ahead of time), we were glad we stuck with Jeewan. We exchanged email and blog addresses and said goodbye until the following day, and then we took a taxi back to town. We headed Jeewan's office, paid him the balance, got our receipt and the air waybill, and thanked him very much for the smooth process. Once business was done, we enjoyed a cup of tea, and Jeewan filled us in on some of the background with Suraj. Yes, Jeewan and Suraj are cousins, and Suraj worked for Jeewan at Eagle Eyes Export for ten years before leaving the business to open a very similar one right down the street with a nearly identical name. He never said anything bad about Suraj, but did say that they are no longer on speaking terms. Again, after leaving his office, we were both glad we stuck with Jeewan.

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