What Wot?

So it’s a crazy mixed up City, Phnom Penh, and with out any formal public transport it’s just a right royal mess. It’s a wonder that anyone gets to where they are going at all. Tuk Tuks (think scooter with trailer that seats 4 or 7 if your really trying) and motos( tuk tuk minus trailer) are the transportation of choice for Khmers and westies alike. These drivers, who have seemingly only one job to do, that is, get you where you want to go have no bloody idea where things are.

If you submit to the howling mob of drivers, they ask your destination, then you tell them, and they nod enthusiastically as if they know it, like its round the corner from where his mum lives. So you sling your bum on the back seat (normally an aftermarket seat bolted to the goods rack) and off you fang in generally in the wrong direction. After being here all of three weeks combined with my scout-fu, even I know enough to know when it’s the wrong direction. When I was first got here and less bald, I would wait a few blocks to see if he has chosen an alternate route, then stop the show to redirect things. Now I just yell at the driver to stop and try to correct him right away pointing the way I want to go.

Okay, I hear you, these fellas have a distinct disadvantage when hauling westies round. One, they don’t speak English as a native language (or at all, really). Two, the drivers probably are not frequenting the places that westies want to visit. You know the Gucci NGO-run cafes and fancy restaurants. Three, it seems that the Khmer people don’t use maps… ever…. That means, even if you are a well-prepared Westie with your handy map of the city, you could point to destinations and street names all day and it would not help your driver at all. They just dot read maps. So I use landmarks, Wots (temples) actually are the best I live near Wot Lanka, and every time I have told a Moto to drop me at Wot Lanka it hasn’t been an issue. So Wots are the way to go if you ask me, I like to call it Wot-Nav… One drawback,… they might think of me a churchy fellow :)

So how do you get where you are going? If you walk, be prepared to be addressed by every driver on the street. Hello, Sir. Where you go? You want motorbike, tuk tuk? I take you. Sir? Sir? It gets old really quickly, but you can’t blame the guy for wanting to make a dollar(it sure beats crubbing around in the rubbish). Most people smile and say “otay, akun” or “no thanks,” addressing each one individually. And others just completely ignoring them (except that you feel like a tool). My approach as been to look them in the eye and shake my head side to side gentle as if saying no, it works really well.

If you take a moto or a tuk tuk, do your best to watch for street signs and local landmarks (good luck, street signs are well-hidden), and don’t be afraid to shout directions or stop your driver. Luckily, sometimes, drivers will consult other drivers’ mid-journey to ask where a particular destination is. On occasion, this proves fruitful, but other times, the other driver will confidently send you in the wrong direction. By the way, no discount is given for a tuk tuk who lost his way. In fact, the driver may demand extra money for the roundabout journey, a trick cabbies have been using since the dawn of time. Try to explain that it isn’t your fault he did not know how to get there, and he will certainly pretend not to speak English.

Even if you know where you are going, getting there is the really mental part. Talking to the other volunteers, sitting in the carriage of a tuk tuk, bouncy as it is (worst shocks in town) feels relatively safe compared to clinging to the rear handle of a moto who keep from hitting the pavement. The Moto option is a good one for me, its fun. In Phnom Penh traffic, these guys rarely get up above 40kmh. that’s a good thing with 90cc moto-scooter encumbered with a 100kg 6’4” Aussie acting as a wind scoop I would not expect more. However when in Cambodia, and do as the Cambodians do (you have the same life expectancy as a Khmer). The only think that I don’t like being on the back of the moto is the lack of autonomy.

So I settled on a bicycle, $30 from the local market and you get a re-sprayed old clunker straight from the scrap heap in china. I pimped my ride with an extra long seat pole and long handlebars, fully sick! I generally keep up with most of the motos, and often have the odd giggle from moto riders and I look like a dill warring my motorcycle helmet. But damn do I have a lot of fun. And I’m Dutch, I mean that in two ways; one, it’s in my blood to ride a bike, 2; it saves me a fortune on transport costs.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.