February 25, 2009


The next morning, P had a series of meetings so I decided to do what I’d done years ago on my gap year abroad (though it wasn’t called that then) and explore. Exiting the hotel, I immediately noticed outside a couple of over-priced, air-conditioned taxis promising guests a heat- and dust-free trip from hotel to monument.

Walking out on to the main street, I had my first introduction to the primary local mode of transport when a smiling, sweet-faced young man approached me. "You want to go to Angkor?" he tentatively asked. Travelling on my own in Europe nowadays, I wouldn’t consider for a second accepting a ride from an unlicensed carrier but something about Cambodia and its simple, unpretentious people (unlike its new hotels) was beginning to draw out my long-buried, innate sense of recklessness.

"Is moto ok?" he asked. I was rather clueless as to what transport he might be referring to, but since I’m not fussy (and tend, as I’ve said, towards reckless) of course I said yes. He led me to a small motorcycle, jammed my large bag stuffed with guide books in the front and, handbag strapped across my back, we were off. I was in heaven. Wahoo!

Over the next several days while P was in meetings, I went everywhere I didn't walk by "moto". Don't expect a helmet, no one wears one. Going through an intersection in Siem Reap is truly an experience; dozens of motorcycles (some of them piled with whole families, children clinging to parents’ waists), no traffic lights, horns blaring and generally no stopping. It's live theatre! Oh, and occasionally you need to look out for monkeys.

You can always travel by Tuk Tuk if you really don't want to moto (open, 3 wheels, slow, toxic fumes, makes a tremendous, unending "tuk,tuk,tuk" noise, hence the name) but that's not my first choice! And forget about taxis, they’re over-priced and could never reawaken that giddy recklessness of youth.

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