There are a few ways to get around town on a daily basis, bicycle, scooter/motorbike, tuktuk or your own two legs. Each has their pro’s and cons.
A lot of people travel about by bike in Siem Reap, but I have a slight issue here, in that I’m not proficient at manoeuvring around on two thin wheels. Yes, you read that correctly. This girl who has packed up her life in England to travel halfway around the world, pretty much alone, (save for a plastic minion) who has been zip-lining and mountain climbing, swimming in the sea and in rivers and in waterfalls, trekking through caves and experiencing new things almost every day since December 31st 2015 never learned how to ride a bicycle as a child. One of my awesome new friends who is from Mexico took this as a personal affront and vowed she would teach me how to ride on her bicycle. No doubt about it, being able to cycle in Siem Reap would benefit me no end, as the temperature at the moment (~35-40degrees) is not conducive to walking around, and I’d be reducing my journey times and overall time spent out in the sun, no end. On the other hand, the roads are chaos, so an unexperienced rider will probably get into more than a few scuffles, but a good first step would definitely be learning how to balance on one of those 2-wheeled contraptions.
After two different lessons, having watched some interesting tutorials on the interwebs, I still wasn’t getting the hang of it. Not to mention the fact I was sweating with the exertion of just being outside, let alone trying to manoeuvre the bike around. The bike itself was pretty heavy, it was maybe a little too big for me too, and in the back of my mind I was always thinking that even if I master this fine art, I’m gonna have to navigate the crazy-ass roads of this town… What’s more, the bike was not as comfortable as I first imagined and the whole experience was actually much more difficult that I had originally thought it would be. There is no truth in the phrase “It’s as easy as learning to ride a bike”. It is not easy. After three different people trying to help me out, on two different occasions, I decided I would leave it be, and chalk it up as a life skill I just do not possess. Sure, I’m still going to have “tuktuk lady, tuktuk?!” yelled at me wherever I go, with the occasional “moto, lady? One-dollar motorbike?!”. But I can smile and say no thanks and continue on my way. For those of you who know me from home, I can have a fairly short temper, so the first time I yell “NO I DON’T WANT A F***ING TUKTUK. I DIDN’T WANT A TUKTUK WHEN THE FIRST GUY ASKED ME, I DIDN’T WANT ONE WHEN THE SECOND OR THIRD OR FOURTH GUY IN A ROW ASKED ME, SO WHY ON GOD’S GREAT EARTH WOULD YOU THINK THAT I WOULD SUDDENLY DECIDE I DO WANT A TUKTUK JUST BECAUSE YOU ASKED ME SO F***ING NICELY?”, I’ll reconsider the cycling argument… or I might take myself to the beach for a few days, chill out and return with a more even temperament!
I do, however, have my own personal moto-dop, as we call them out here in Siem Reap. Mr Phen picks me up after my morning shift at school and drops me wherever I need every day. If I only need to go home, he doesn’t let me pay him at all since the journey is so short! He speaks little to no English, so even though I have his phone number, I doubt I will use it, in fact, now that I think about it, I’m not sure he knows my name. I should make a note to tell him next time I see him!
I also have a lovely reliable tuktuk driver that I can call who, very importantly, knows the location of the PANCarthouse (‘cos it’s a little out of the way!). I met him on my way to a shift at school, and he actually lives there with his family! So if I ever need a ride, I can always call him. If I’m just heading to/from the supermarket, I pick up a tuktuk/moto-dop as and when I see them. It is very clear that there is a local rate and a tourist rate, and I’ve been around in the area long enough to know when I’m being taken advantage of. A simple “no, au kun te” or “no thanks” and a brisk walk away makes them change their mind and quite often halve their price, just like at the market. Oh yeah, and the Psa Leu market is made up of narrow streets with one dude selling bamboo furniture next to a lady selling fish so fresh they’re still flopping about. And of course, no market is complete without a motorcycle racing through it:
I’ve seen my fair share of craziness on the roads out here, and have been gathering stories from other travellers about what they have seen and where. Here is my top five from everything I’ve heard:
5. A family of 6. One ~3 y/o kid standing in front of Dad, a ~5 y/o sitting in between Dad and Mum. A baby on Mum’s lap with another kid facing backwards, back to back with Mum. This kid must have been about 9 or 10. And fearless.
4. A heap of live chickens. This I have seen more than once, and I managed to take a snap…
3. A breast-feeding mother. Her boob was out. I agree that it’s the most natural thing in the world, but it’s DANGEROUS on the back of a motorbike!
2. A collection of live pigs. In Vietnam, where else…?
1. A brand new full size Samsung fridge. I’m not being funny, if you can afford a Samsung fridge, you can afford a delivery van and a driver.
It must be noted that these are just items being carried on one single motorbike, not including tuktuks, trailers or trolleys. If these were included, the list would be much longer! What is the weirdest thing you have ever seen on a motorbike? And in which country? Leave me a comment and let me know! Finally, for anyone who is interested, this page lists every single one of my blog posts in chronological order.