Mr. Lee And Tuk-tuk Number 3

Apr 13, 2017Non-fiction, Travel, Writing

Angkor Wat is one of many temples around Siem Reap—one of very many temples.

We were tourists for a day. Mr. Lee was our tuk-tuk driver.

He said he lived 10kms out of town and was trying constantly to get us to book him for more trips.

I understand completely, it is his livelihood and he needs to get work anyway he can. If he could secure a booking with us he would have a guarantee to make it worth his while to travel into town.

Otherwise he would have to invest in driving to town with the risk that it would all be for nought. He would then have to absorb the fuel costs himself.

He says he owns his own vehicle. I am wondering if all the drivers are like this or perhaps there are some that just rent.

Taxi Drivers

Mr. Lee is essentially a taxi driver and drivers of taxis all over the world have the same struggle.

They have to find clientele to drive from A to B. If they’re fortunate, they get to drive them back again.

The problem is there are more drivers than passengers. This is also a worldwide phenomenon. I wonder if this has always existed.

I wonder that if we went back to time of the Hanson carriage, that there would also be the same imbalance in the driver to client ratio. Or is this just a modern problem brought on by a change in supply and demand and the opportunities for work?

I expect that a carriage and horse is a much greater investment than a 125cc motorbike and glorified rickshaw. It is probably all relative though. Horses were once common place and the only form of powered transport. Motorbikes are now ubiquitous.

Especially in Cambodia.

A Business Relationship

Mr Lee made a major mistake early on in our business relationship.

He had dropped us off at our first temple. We were in the dark as far as knowledge of the area went. I had read up on the attractions but not really considered the logistics.

A temple is a huge complex, some are bigger than others. You require at least one hour just to cover the ground on foot and that doesn’t include the time needed to actually study what you are visiting.

And there is a heap to study.

An ancient tuk-tuk driver

Every block and slab of stone is intricately carved.

Each temple consists of millions of stones all neatly stacked and interlocked. It must have taken years to construct and to carve. Sections that have collapsed seem to have taken on average five years to piece back together. I suppose if you’re building from scratch it would take less time.

Nevertheless it is an enormous investment in time and manpower. I don’t know the exact details as we didn’t invest in a guide but I’m sure there are plenty of websites which will give you that information.

Our driver had local knowledge and thus knew that we would need a lot of time and he would not be required.

Tickets and Tuk-tuks

Mr. Lee was not at fault, we were.

We had bought tickets, but they were in a bag which we had left with him. He had driven off and we had gone to the entrance. Where he went I have no idea, but he naturally assumed that he would not be needed for at least an hour.

Without the tickets we could not enter the temple complex.

So we were stuck waiting at the gate. I searched for him among a plethora of tuk-tuk drivers but to no avail. The search was further complicated by having to refuse the services of said drivers while trying to find someone nobody knew.

There is no driver tagging system. It’s a free for all.

I suppose there are advantages to this as it would probably lead to more corruption opportunities. The problem was eventually solved after a phone call, but it put Mr. Lee at an instant disadvantage.

It had let us down as far as service was concerned.

Making a Living

This meant that by the end of the day, even though he had been more than helpful, the lingering thoughts of desertion remained.

Mr. Lee had proven that he could be trusted yet the experience had been soured.

I am truly glad that I am not a taxi driver. You are required to dance on an incredibly fine line if you wish to make a living.

Writing is also no party, but at least I am only answerable to myself. I am not providing a service in the same way.


Have you had an interesting experience in a foreign country?


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