Asia, Cambodia, Travel

Diary of a tuk-tuk driver in Angkor

12th March 2015

Meet Mr Kong.

Mr Kong was our tuk-tuk driver, for one day, during our 3 day visit to Angkor.
Our bums were getting sore from the bicycles, and we wanted to explore the far away temples on the outskirts of Angkor.

We met Mr Kong during our stay at Mantra Angkor Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap. A lovely hotel that is situated close to the temples.
Mr Kong is a lovely man. Although his English is not 100%, he knew exactly what we wanted and he is super friendly! He asked us where we wanted to go and he took us to all the quiet, hidden temples. At each stop he explained to us where we were on the map, and also gave a little bit of information on each temple.

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As we went along, we started to chat to Mr Kong about his life.
He is a rice farmer. When he cannot farm, he drives a tuk-tuk to make sure that he earns enough money to take care of his family. He moved from a smaller town to Siem Reap, as he heard that you can earn money as a tuk-tuk driver for tourists. He will only be able to start farming again in 5 months, as it was dry season during our visit in Cambodia.

During lunch, Mr Kong took us to his village to eat at one of his favorite places. He lives in Angkor, so he knows all the local people and hang out spots.
He told us about Lok lak, a favorite dish for locals, and so we ordered it. (Naturally if anything had beef in it, AJ would order it!) Lok lak is basically beef/ chicken strips, served on lettuce and tomatoes. Sometimes they might add a side dish such as rice or a fried egg. As we shared our food, Mr Kong told us more about the local people. How all of them try to get work and how people in Cambodia live.

Mr Kong took us to the night market one evening. He was very worried about us walking around in the streets and told us that he would come back to fetch us when we are done. He made sure that we knew exactly where we are at all times, and took great care of us.

Mr Kong is one of the lucky ones I guess. A man with a good soul that can look after his family. Not everyone can.
The harsh reality is that Cambodia is a very poor country. We saw little children trying to sell 1$ bangles. Old people poking us in the arm for money and following us around. Blind musicians playing their handmade instruments.

We also spoke with other tuk-tuk drivers. They sat outside one of the temples and invited us over. We exchanged stories about our life, our country and our families. The one driver was so proud of his wife. “Most beautiful woman in whole Cambodia” he said to me. “Me lucky”. We laughed at him as he was telling us that she is not the best cook in the world.
It was in that moment I really felt like we are all the same. We are all people, born on this planet. We just want to live happy lives.
Because we are born in different circumstances, our lives are different. “How unfair life can be”….I thought. Wondering if somehow….if I close my eyes and reopen them….life can be different?

Visiting the quiet temples

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