Riding The Cambodian Cyclo

Cambodian Culture, Living in Phnom Penh / Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Errr, I’m not the lady riding this cyclo here in this photo.. {Gah! Couldn’t I sound less defensive?} Lol! And a word of warning: this post will be longer than my usual posts coz I have a story to tell about my first and last cyclo ride.

Cambodian Cyclo

I did take a Cambodian cyclo ride a couple of years ago and sadly I didn’t get to take a photo and since I made a ‘sort-of’ promise not to ride a cyclo again, so I had to hunt down a random cyclo photo from my ‘photos from Phnom Penh’ archive.

I had it in my mind for the longest time already to blog about cyclos here in Phnom Penh but somehow it always slips my mind. When I first came to visit Phnom Penh in 2004, there were lots of cyclo’s around and no tuk tuks. But now only a handful of cyclos can be seen and mostly in tourist/central areas and hordes of tuk-tuks. It’s a pity coz I find them (cyclos)  so unique and quintessentially Indochinese and so much a part of Cambodian culture.

So before the Cambodian cyclo really goes into a total decline, I wanna have my say about it here. The cyclo is mainly a rickshaw with three wheels.  These kinds of wheels are commonly seen throughout Indochina region.

I find the design of the cyclo a novelty {Sure, I know its a very old form of transportation already..} but since I’m from the Philippines where we have tricycles and pedicabs where the passengers are provided seats on the side of the motorbike or bicycle, so seeing cyclos, where the passenger seat is upfront, and the driver stays behind. In essence the passenger seat is like the steering wheel!!

The first time I saw one, I just thought, ‘whoa! driving that contraption sure is no mean feat! I’d probably commit to driving a motorbike than attempt to drive a cyclo.  And to think that cyclo drivers earn really really a pittance.

Anyway on to my story, it was in 2004 when I dared to try riding one. We were doing some ‘pasalubong’ shopping in then Big A department store in Monivong and my Filipina friend wanted to try riding one. I was seriously thinking, ‘huwat!!! Me?? Sit in front of that and have the old man push us? It’s like I’m being pushed towards oncoming traffic! What if, what if some lunatic with zero driving skills decides to run me over?

But still my friend and also { I think } some leftover sense of daring made me agree. Both of us took just one cyclo, and I was so amazed more than two persons can actually ride that thing! We had our ride at around noon time, and we were almost baked charcoal before we could even be half-way to our house. It’s was slow, super slow. That’s not a complaint though since I know how heavy we were.

The trouble began when after an hour of cycling and the driving groaning over our combined weights we reached the place just near the now Phnom Penh Sport Club. That road has a steep incline and I think the driver almost fainted trying to get us over that uphill climb. In the end, we took pity on him and we got down and gave the cyclo a push. With a lot of people looking on and some laughing really hard at us..

And after all that, the driver charged us a pittance! We were conscience stricken and gave him an extra dollar. I then promised I won’t try riding one again, coz I think I was secretly traumatized after seeing that look of agony on the driver’s face while he was trying to get us over that steep rise.

2 Replies to “Riding The Cambodian Cyclo”

  1. Toe, I don’t dare repeat the experience coz I pitied the driver {especially now that I gained a lot of weight hehe} and I was just so tense while riding it..
    But its really sad, super konti na lang talaga cyclo’s here..
    Read your latest entries.. kakainggit naman, you’re now blogging from Russia, with love… Hope to read more of your Moscow experiences..

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