Friday, March 02, 2007
There are fairly few cars in Phnom Penh--traffic consists overwhelmingly of motorcycles (usually carrying at least 4 people), with large numbers of tuk-tuks, non-motorized vehicles, and overloaded trucks. The tuk-tuks (unlike their more famous Thai relatives) are simply motorcycles with little covered 2-wheeled carts attached. They have comfy padded seats and can fit an impressive amount of people or stuff. In my opinion they're far superior to motorcycles: they're shaded, feel safer, and are a much better way to city and people watch (motorcycles go too fast for a good view). They also don't make you feel super guilty about the poor person straining to pedal you around like the non-motorized modes of transportation. Our first full morning in Phnom Penh, we planned on walking to a not-all-that-nearby marketplace to do some shopping and see about getting Katie's camera fixed (it broke in Siem Reap). As we attempted to figure out where and how to go, we were immediately assaulted by drivers of all types of vehicles, offering us rides to specific places, tours, and all-day hires. Gradually, as we kept walking and shaking our heads, the pack began giving up and thinning out until we were followed by a single persistent tuk-tuk. He followed us down a small road full of trash and the world's dirtiest sheep, and then along progressively bigger and busier roads, putting along beside us with a big grin on his face--with complete disregard for his fairly disruptive effect on the traffic around him--and gradually lowering his price. Eventually, we decided to hop in. Our driver's name was Pal, and we ended up hiring him for the rest of the time we were in Phnom Penh. Since we had our very own driver, we were able to do a ton of stuff in a very short amount of time. Pal was really sweet and helpful and fun to talk to--his English was really impressive (it's amazing how well everyone in Cambodia speaks English despite having little or no formal English education--and even more amazing how poorly most people in Korea speak English despite having so much of it) and we had a great time with him, even when our tuk-tuk broke down on a particularly rutted and dusty stretch of road far from civilization.