Had two choices this morning, go ride an elephant or hail a Tuk Tuk and see Siem Reap. We chose the latter. Tuk tuks are dime a dozen here so you choose, generally, by how the driver presents themselves and how well maintained their vehicle is. We struck Gold.
Our driver was anxious to show us the City and after we discussed the time and distance required, he took a few seconds of serious thought and arrived at the bargain price of 6 US dollars. Off we went and his first stop was an outdoor museum of sorts…Yawn. Lilly left to take a few pictures.
His name was difficult to understand and even harder to say, so we did our best with the final result sounding something similar to “Soapie”. It was time for Soapie and me to take a moment and speak as men do. I explained, with a lot of hand gestures and arm waiving, that we wanted to see the real Siem Reap. I wanted to go where the average Cambodian shopped, ate, lived and worked. He went blank and then rattled off some nice shopping centers and Historical sites. We were not bonding, it was a language thing or he thought I was an idiot.
So I tried again and used bigger hand gestures and when he was satisfied I looked silly enough, he stopped me and motioned that he got it. I even suggested we could go all the way to $10 to “grease the wheels” of this expedition.
Off we went into the heart of the City. What I saw was amazing to me. I pictured myself hanging off the side of the Tuk Tuk, like Gene Kelly holding the lamppost in Singing in the Rain, taking in the sights and smells of Siem Reap. It was chaotic but with a sense of being oddly organized. We drove by outdoor bazaars, stores and every kind of shop that a local resident would need. People were busy building, fixing or doing something. This was everyday life and they were busy living it. This is me romanticizing just a bit, the plumber, knee deep in !#$%, might see it differently. I get that, but it was a sight to see.
Backstreets and non-tourist areas were covered and soon we were delivered back to our hotel. Ride an elephant or explore the city through the eyes of a local resident? Easy choice. I would have loved to stop and get knee deep with the plumber. Lilly, probably not so much.
Last thought, this is a very, very Spiritual place. Everywhere you go, signs of the Buddhist and Hindu religions are front and center. Also it really didn’t matter where we went, we found graciously polite people who greeted us by placing their hands together (like praying) and then raising them near their chin saying something that sounded as beautiful as it looked. I would just smile, look down and wave, clearly outclassed again. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Our American greeting needs work and so do I.
I gave Soapie $25 and he joined us for a picture. Sadly, it’s time to move on but I am very grateful for the kindness that has been shown to us from the People of Siem Reap.