This is Som. I had waved him down in the street during one of my first days in Siem Reap. What a find!
Som speaks quite good English (much better than I speak Vietnamese) and we negotiated a daily price for the days I might want the use of his tuk-tuk services. I had a three day pass to explore some of the temples in the Angkor region which I would need to use within 7 days and I didn’t want to do them back-to-back. (Too many temples, too much history, too much erosion and neglect of so much art and architecture to appreciate it within a short time-frame). I wanted to immerse myself in it.
We agreed upon 60,000 Cambodian Riel (about 15AUD) per day. Som would pick me up from where I was staying in Siem Reap and take me to the temples I wanted to see. He would wait while I explored (only “certified” guides are able to accompany their clients into the temples at Angkor), returning me to wherever I wanted to go, at whatever time I wanted to go there. Some days were shorter than others when I felt I’d had enough culture for one day. I didn’t mind; I paid the same price regardless.
The tuk-tuk drivers gather together in a shady place and chat with one another while others may catch up on sleep in their vehicles while their customers are in the temples. It’s quite a social aspect of life for them it seems.
Lucky for me, Som had a fairly extensive knowledge about each of the Angkor temples and was able to tell me what he knew, and answer my questions. We had some interesting discussions about his country and his past and present governments.
Tuk-tuk drivers are everywhere in Siem Reap, all touting for business. I was happy to have my very own one (for the time) and had a good and polite reason to refuse the constant advances of the numerous men trying to pick up a fare.
And they’re not all as reliable and honest as Som. One night I took another tuk-tuk a very short (should have been) distance to my guesthouse because it had begun to rain quite heavily. I knew where I was and my guesthouse was only a block away. This guy seemed not to have a clue where to go and took me miles out of the way; down tiny streets in the dark with no street lighting, through massive potholes full of water, in the heavy rain. Alarmed and annoyed, I called to him to stop, and when he did I got out. (I considered it easier to negotiate from outside the vehicle as I could run if I needed to.) There wasn’t a soul in sight.
I questioned him on where he thought he was taking me and why we had come this way. He was very apologetic, and admitted he’d gone the wrong way. Satisfied that he had no nasty intentions, I stepped back into his tuk-tuk and guided him back on the right track.
My advice is to find a good reliable tuk-tuk driver wherever you are in Cambodia, and get his phone number. Strike up a nice relationship with him and give him your custom when you need it. He’ll appreciate the work, and the income, and you’ll have someone you can feel safe with.