Cambodian Tuktuks

I despise riding tuktuks in Thailand. But for some reason, I love the ones in Cambodia. Unlike the Thailand three-wheeled carts, these are carriages attached to a motorcycle pulling it. There are a couple single-vehicle units that are still made to resemble the pulled carriage structure.

The compartment is usually made of wood, sometimes so shabbily so we are afraid to really put our weight on the floorboards, in fear of our legs breaking right through the planks onto the asphalt below. There’s something about the carriage, though, that just feels rustic and old fashioned. Maybe it’s the poles supporting the hood that looks almost like a thin pillar. Maybe it’s the benches being not unlike the benches of the old horse carriages. Or the penchant for a lot of the drivers to hand up curtains around  the compartment, largely plastic rain shields, but an occasional fabric curtain or two.

As much as I am charmed by the vehicle, I vehemently dislike the process of being ripped off by the drivers. Fares generally are negotiated, especially when dealing with the mafia camped out in front of  the major hotels. There’s an organized element to the hoard of tuktuks that wait in front of the hotels. They follow a queue system, and they have a price point they try to maintain that is as much as four times the fair value. A gaggle stakes claim to particular street corner or hotel entrance and any one trying to join in will likely be bullied.

The tuktuk mafia hate me. Frugal to the fault, I believe in paying at fair value, not a penny more. It’s not that I can’t afford it.. but a lot of locals and NGO expats cannot afford raising tuktuk fares. So I don’t encourage the drivers.  Like taking taxis in Bangkok, I’ve learned flagging a tuktuk passing on the street is the best way. More often than not, the drivers don’t even haggle, they just accept what you pay at the end as long as it is fair.

The rides are not smooth. And often quite scary when weaving between huge SUVs in traffic that doesn’t stop for any light. With no suspension, riders have to be grateful the asphalt isn’t terribly potholed- yet.

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