Traveling by Tuk Tuk in Siem Reap
Traveling by tuk tuk is reputed to be a pretty unsafe way to get from one place to another. I don’t mean to dispute that in any way, but after experiencing it for the first time, I would say that in spite of this danger, it is one of the best forms of transport I have ever had the pleasure of using. It was an absolute delight. Our driver Peou, spoke English well enough to communicate with us in most situations, which was pretty impressive I thought, and offered us a pretty reasonable deal for all day transport wherever we wanted to go. He also knew where everything was that we wanted to see, which is to be expected, but also suggested several temples and other sites we would have never otherwise thought to go.
My visit to Southeast Asia was around the end of May and beginning of June, so the normal heat and humidity was starting to intensify. The research I did and the people I talked to indicated that this would be a good (or bad, depending on your outlook) time to visit because it fell between the winter, which is busy because the weather is the least oppressive, and summer, which is popular because much of the world is on holiday. While I’m not sure what the average tourist traffic looks like, it did seem to me that it wasn’t very crowded or overrun. There were certainly some crowds, but only at the two most popular temples, Angkor Wat, and Ta Prohm.
Anyway, the heat and humidity are part of what I thought made tuk tuk travel so pleasurable. Because you are essentially out in the open and the only shelter is the shade provided by the roof, you are able to experience a constant cool headwind any time you are moving. In tandem with the collection of cold beers we would pick up each morning before setting off, this made for extremely comfortable trips. I should also mention – I do not know what the open container laws are in Cambodia, or if any exist, but we never got so much as a sideways glance while downing cold ones in the back of the tuk tuk.
Of course, it also afforded us the opportunity to stop when and where we wanted by just giving Peou a tap on the shoulder. This came in handy for food stops, drink stops, bathroom stops, and even the occasional stop at a disused military base for a live fire exercise.
We did see a few large, air conditioned tour buses and vans near the more popular temples or leaving our hotel each morning, but I never had even the slightest desire to be on one, and I almost felt bad for these people who were missing out on the pleasure of the tuk tuk. I’m not sure how much of this was due to Paou being an excellent driver and guide, but I would favor even a mediocre tuk tuk experience over a tourist bus experience.
If you find yourself in Cambodia and want to hire a tuk tuk driver, I give Peou Chhuo the highest possible recommendation, so get in touch with him via Facebook. A large number of tuk tuk operators hang out at the airport when flights come in (at Siem Reap, anyway), and customers are doled out to them as they exit, which is how we ended up meeting Peou, and I’m sure how you could end up meeting your own excellent tuk tuk operator.