Monday, 30 June 2008

Hello Lady, you want Tuk Tuk?

After 4 days though of dust and dirt we feel the need to move on, so get on a bus back to the main road. Once the bus gets there, we disembark for a lunch stop - and the bus disappears. It doesn't come back for nearly two hours. Just when we're assuming that all our possessions have been sold in the local market by now, the bus reappears.Turns out 4 of the tyres burst thanks to the condition of the road, and they need to be replaced before we continue. Which would explain why we paid such a large fare for the trip. (All of $12.)
Since then we've toured the wonders of Angkor Wat, seen the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and visited the best wildlife park either of us has ever been to. Cambodia is truly a country of enormous wealth and poverty, mixed together with an immense sense of humour, patience and determination. Everyone we speak to has personal stories of great tragedy and/or deprivation, countenanced with an astonishing drive to imrpove their situation. For example our tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap who made no profit at all in taking us from the bus to our guesthouse, but could only hope that we would agree to take him on as our driver for the temples. Fortunately, we did, and discovered (on the second day and after much questioning) that he has to pay a monthly fee to get access to the bus station, which far outweighs any fare he can charge the tourists he picks up there. Sometimes they take him on as a driver; more often they don't - but still, it's worth it for the cash he can make on those few occasions. That cash sometimes gets spent on beer and karaoke, but is usually sent home to help raise his son, who is being taken care of by his parents, or ploughed into English tuition so that he can achieve his real ambition which is to beome a professional tour guide and operator. We heartily wish him well.

In Phnom Penh we have a similar experience with our tuk-tuk driver there - he has 2 small children and his wife is no longer working. When she did, she earned $60 a month. So he is the sole breadwinner and ecstatic when we employ him for the day to ferry us around various points in the city, after he took us from the bus to the guesthouse. He's very good company around the capital and joins us for lunch to try "your western food" but ends up having a khmer curry (better than the sandwiches on offer anyway).

No comments: