Oh Cambodia… coming straight after the Philippines, it was a bit of a culture shock. In the Philippines, almost everyone speaks English, and the areas I went were touristy but laid-back.
Then I landed in Siem Reap.
One of my friends here referred to it as “Siem Reap You Off” due to how expensive everything is and how aggressive the vendors are.
A Soapbox on Tuk-Tuks
Like the tuk-tuk drivers.
What is a tuk-tuk, you ask?
Each one is essentially a “chariot” on the back of a motorbike. And each carriage is constructed to be quite functional. But that’s not to be confused with comfortable.
These things are definitely made in such a way that you’d never know any sort of shock absorption had ever been invented. You say Jeeps have a rough ride? Clearly, you’ve not recently been in a tuk-tuk.
Because they’re wider than a bike, and because the bike is set in the middle for hauling the carriage, there is essentially no avoiding EVERY bump in the road. Every. Bump.
Seriously (and sorry, TMI), my bum has never been so sore as it was when I rode in a tuk-tuk for the day. At the end of the day, I just hurt.
But the vehicle itself is not the hardest part of the tuk-tuk – it’s the drivers. For tuk-tuk drivers, the temple circuit is quite lucrative. So they’re very aggressive about selling it to consumers, and seem to have a bit of a sense of entitlement that they’re the only transportation one should use for temples.
It’s hard to deal with the aggression of the tuk-tuk drivers, but there are times you see why. I saw multiple tuk-tuk drivers who actually live in their tuk-tuk. They will have a hammock to string across the carriage, and that’s where they sleep. Many of them come from the poverty of the countryside, so they’re working to send as much money home as possible.
But all the same – they’re aggressive in sales and perhaps the most optimistic I’ve ever seen. There can be six tuk-tuks in a row about 30-40 meters long, and you will say “No” to the first five tuk-tuks. Even though tuk-tuk #6 saw you say no to the other five, you will still get hassled. Got to admire the optimism!
I failed to get any pictures (crap), but one funny thing the tuk-tuk drivers will do is decorate their tuk-tuk to set them apart.
I saw two with the Audi rings painted on the back – and “S6” painted on the side. Definitely legit. Right?
There was one that had “Ferrari” and a few that had superhero themes – I saw a couple Batman tuk-tuks and a few Superman tuk-tuks. It’s a very creative way to make their vehicle stand out, and I have to say it’s probably good for marketing! I think foreigners find it funny to ride in an “Audi” tuk-tuk, so get a laugh from hiring the driver.
Before I came to Cambodia, I had not experienced Cambodian music.
It’s basically like a louder, more horn-like version of listening to a cell phone ringtone.
How do I know this, you ask?
Because the people next door to the hotel I stayed in began playing Cambodian music at a deafening volume at 6:43am. It did not stop until after 8:40pm. All day. I mean, I was out for a good part of the day, but it was so loud it was difficult to hear yourself think.
I was on the phone with Brandy during some of it, and she got to experience the joy that was that music!
Apparently, it was for some sort of celebration – either a wedding or a funeral. But it went on for two days (then I left… day 2 they started at 5:37am!), and it made me realize that I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore.
In the States, they would have been reported within an hour for being a public nuisance. And then the music would have stopped. It was an interesting cultural experience for me just because it was so different and loud. And (in my opinion) rude. But that’s a whole different post…