Over the past 9-ish months of traveling, there are certain moments that are etched into our memories forever. And, probably unsurprisingly, most of them didn’t come from a “Top 10 Things to Do in _” TripAdvisor list. Most of these memories come from connections we’ve had with other people, whether they’re locals or other travelers, whether our interactions were a few seconds long or several hours. One of these moments happened in Siem Reap and I’d like to share this quick story with you.
Tuk tuks are everywhere in Siem Reap.
(Quick explanation for those of you who have no idea what a tuk tuk is: each country has their own version, but in Cambodia, it’s a motorcycle that has a “carriage” attached like a trailer. Each carriage usually has a bench that can fit 2 people, sometimes 4.)
When we visited Siem Reap, there were a lot more tuk tuks than customers. This meant that everywhere we went, people were touting their vehicles, asking if we needed a ride. For the most part, we politely said no thank-you and continued on our way. We didn’t really need a ride as everything was walking distance from our hotel.
The one thing we needed a tuk tuk for was to see the temples. For this, we had a prior arrangement with our very first tuk tuk driver, the kind and professional man who took us from the bus station (we took a bus from Phnom Penh) to our hotel. Being a savvy business man, he promised us that he would pick us up bright and early from our hotel and give us a tour of the temples for a very good price. Seeing that he had a very nice tuk tuk, was well dressed, and just a nice person overall, we accepted his offer.
Next to our hotel, there was a pretty run-down house, always buzzing with energy and people. Every single night when we left our hotel for dinner, we walked past this house. And every single night, a man ran outside to ask if we needed a ride in his tuk tuk. We were only a couple blocks from the restaurants, so we always refused. But each passing night, it became harder and harder to say no to this enthusiastic and determined man who never seemed to get any customers.
During dinner on our last night in Siem Reap, we started discussing logistics for our flight the next day. We considered calling our same driver, who had been very loyal the past few days and whom we could count on to get us to the airport on time. But then we remembered the man in the house next door. Once we remembered, we had no doubts about what we should do.
The next morning, we were weirdly excited about our plan, but we just had a good feeling about it. Backpacks on, we walked out of the hotel for the last time. We were relieved (but not surprised) when the man ran out from his front porch shirtless to ask if we wanted a ride. When we enthusiastically said Yes!, he gave us a brilliant smile and said, “Wait here!” He skipped back to his house and, as he grabbed a shirt, his entire family cheered and clapped for him. As he ran back, fumbling with the buttons, smile still shining bright, his family followed him to see him off.
As we drove off in the back of his tuk tuk, his family waved us goodbye. We smiled the whole ride to the airport. I’ll never forget that incredibly warm and supportive family with their cheerful attitudes, the father’s undying determination, and his smile when we finally said Yes.
Do you have a moment stuck in your memory that makes you feel warm and fuzzy?