Enterprising girls take on the villainous “vultures” of Cambodia’s tuk-tuk trade

Despairing of having to deal with inept and crooked Cambodian tuk-tuk drivers, Benjamin Johnson was delighted to hear of a new transport firm founded by some enterprising — and strictly professional — ladies

Phnom Penh sleeping Tuk Tuk drivers March 2009

Throughout Southeast Asia there is a special breed of human (?) that serve the sole purpose of destroying the sanity of all those they encounter.

They’re called tuk-tuk drivers, and while their stated purpose is to drive people around, they just drive them mad.

Various versions of the breed can be found in nearly every country in the region, but they are particularly common in cities like Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

The tuk-tuks — or as they are locally known “vultures” —will do anything to swoop on a dollar or two, and their harsh shrieking cries of “tuk! tuk!” are a constant soundtrack on the city streets.

While not driving, they consider it their purpose to offer certain products — their usual menu is “meth! weed! ecstasy! coke! heroin! opium! yama yama! (Ketamine), girls! boys! boom boom!…” and when all else fails, “meth!” again.

It shouldn’t really need saying, but buying from a tuk-tuk driver is not a good idea. Not only will you be ripped off, you’ll most likely end up dead. If you really do want to haggle your way to an early grave, you’ll likely end up discussing prices at a station.

The same sort of warning applies to the other “services” they like to offer.

If their pimping and pushing leaves something to be desired, they’re even worse when it comes to getting you from A to B. Yes, the streets of Phnom Penh are little messed up and, yes, no one should expect every driver to know every road of a city, but these guys take it to another level.

Even speaking in Khmer and knowing the way yourself won’t help them find something, so if you’re on getting somewhere that’s not one of the famous sights, then bring google maps.

Happily, an alternative to the tuk-tuk has appeared in Phnom Penh, in the shape of an all-female team of motorcycle drivers.

The fine ladies of Motogirl Tour even have enough sense to carry GPS, so they are actually able to take you where you want to go.

Their tours are already proving popular. A full day exploring the city with a charming, knowledgeable, English-speaking guide costs less than $40, all inclusive.

However, the founder of the company, 25-year-old Chea Renou, has been forced to publicly clarify that her riders do not offer any “extras”. Perhaps her slogan of “let’s enjoy the ride” was ill-advised.

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To emphasise the point, it’s now policy that pillion riders can’t put their hands around their chauffeurs, and must hold on to hand grips instead.

Let’s hope that these ladies succeed and help to consign the villainous tuk-tuk vultures to the dustbin of history.

For information about bespoke party tours to Phnom Penh and Cambodia, visit our friends at GNTours.