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    Monday, 27 July 2009

    The Biggest Surprise in Siem Reap

    The Tuk Tuk [Enlarge & More]
    Siem Reap has been full of surprises over the last 8 days and the biggest has been the relationship we have built up with our Tuk Tuk driver. We went looking for a good to deal to take us round all the temples in Angkor and we found Soviet relaxing in his Tuk Tuk. Once we’d spoken to him and asked him how much he wanted to take us sightseeing, he left us alone to have a think about it and when we decided to walk away he did not start on any sales pitch but let us walk away. We were so surprised that a few metres down the road we looked at each other and said lets go back to him. We knew he’d quoted a fair price and he made such a change from all the hard selling Tuk Tuk drivers we’d encountered up to this point.

    The Big House [Enlarge & More]
    We arranged to meet him at 5am the next day to get to one of the quieter temples for sunrise. At 5.15am, we were headed back to our rooms as he had not turned up! This has started to become another theme of our travels - the last time we waited in the rain in Ooty for the Taxi to turn up 30 minutes late! As soon as we got back to the room we heard him turn up. At this point we did wonder if it was worth it but he assured us we’d make it for sunrise, and he was not wrong.

    As soon as we got in the Tuk Tuk he went careering down the road. We flew over the bumps and out of our seats for most of the half hour journey to the temple. Every time we went flying he’d turn around, smile, and say sorry. We just laughed and we did make it for sunrise.

    The Son [Enlarge & More]
    Soviet has been a pleasure to spend time with, so much so that we ended up at his house a few days later. I can see he works hard to make his money and he’s very proud of what he’s achieved. From land that his father gave him he’s built a big house. He showed us around, telling us proudly that the wooden doors cost $100 and that the whole place cost thousands of dollars. The house is not complete but each time he makes enough money he gets a bit more done.

    The Happy Family [Enlarge & More]
    We met his wife and one year old boy, and the hospitality they showed us was lovely. He kept on feeding us coconuts, each time he’d say my father has many, don’t worry and after the second one each we had to politely say no. There is only so much you can drink. It was a great opportunity to spend some intimate time with a family that you rarely get to unless it’s on a tour and then it’s very contrived.

    Usually there is a catch when someone who deals with tourists all the time shows interest. In this case there wasn’t, he genuinely was proud of what he had achieved and was happy to show us. As a thank you I’ve taken some pictures of his boy and the family and will email them to him. Last night we got some printed and hopefully he’ll like them when we give them to him later today.

    Soviet and Son [Enlarge & More]
    I’ve found the whole experience humbling as when he is not working ferrying people about he spends his ‘days off’ planting rice and helping his wife and to top it off all he’s full of smiles. Such a nice, genuine guy.

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