Ask anyone in town to describe Siem Reap, and if you give them long enough they will probably mimic the repetitive calls of the flocks of tuk-tuk drivers lining the streets in the center of town, crowing: “ Tuk-tuk? Tuk-tuk lady? Tuk-tuk miss! Hello? Hello! Tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuk…?” Tuk-tuk drivers are synonymous with Siem Reap, and they’ve made themselves integral to the town structure. For better or for worse, you won’t soon forget Siem Reap’s tuk-tuk drivers.
For one, these guys are a bunch of characters. With increasing competition clogging the corners near Pub Street, tuk-tuk drivers are getting more and more creative in their attempts to attract customers. Some choose the butterfly effect, and beautify their carriages with bright colors, personalized messages, and even sound systems. When you’re in town, you are sure to see at least one black and yellow Batman Tuk Tuk, a “Rolls Royce” Tuk Tuk, and – if you’re lucky – the Disco Tuk Tuk: one funny man who has adorned his tuk-tuk with fluorescent strobe lights and advertises your ability to plug in your mp3 player and choose your own soundtrack for the duration of the ride.
Some tuk-tuk drivers go for the comedic approach, and will walk alongside you briefly, trying to make you crack a smile, or even laugh hard enough that you’ll want to hear more jokes on your ride to the temples. It seems like common knowledge that charisma goes a long way to attracting customers, so if your tuk-tuk driver isn’t telling jokes, he may ask you where you live and if you like Cambodia so far. He may be able to tell you more about your country’s executive branch members than you could. He may also tell you how many children he has at home, and that he just wants to send them to school to learn English.
Like taxi drivers back home, tuk-tuk drivers pick up nuggets of news and colloquial phrases from the people they drive around, so you may hear your driver mimic slang expressions you never thought you would hear outside of your hometown – and you can’t help but smile. Whether or not they’ve studied English in school, tuk-tuk drivers can almost assuredly give you directions to any of the multitude of Siem Reap hotels, or popular landmarks like the Landmine Museum and the Royal Palace.
They are also your best bet for finding a local who speak some English. They know what the word on the street is. They know where to find good street food, and they’re always willing to chat. They are just as curious about your life as you are about theirs, and they relish any opportunity to practice their English. They are one of this town’s most valuable resources, and they are thoroughly underutilized and under-appreciated.
No one goes unappreciated at Navutu Dreams, however. We keep a small team of incredible tuk-tuk drivers on retainer for our lovely guests. Our location outside of Siem Reap’s city center gives us all the peace and quiet that a wellness retreat in Southeast Asia needs, but it also means you can’t just leave the resort and walk to the Night Market. When you stay with us you have your own personal tuk-tuk driver on-call 12 hours every day to take you where you wish to go, and answer any questions you may have.