Today I had the scariest tuk-tuk ride of my life.
We arrived in Sihanoukville alright after about 12 hours of buses. I’m actually staying outside of town at Mushroom Point hostel on Otres Beach though, and had the scariest tuk-tuk ride of my life getting out here.
As usual, our bus was greeted by a phalanx of tuk-tuk drivers. We started negotiating with one very insistent man based on a price given to us by the hotel. For a reason I still don’t really understand, during the course of negotiations he ended up kissing my friend Thomas on the cheek. This did not go over well, and Thomas walked away to avoid getting angry.
Unfortunately, this kisser was offering the best price and other drivers weren’t even interested in taking us, so with him we went.
Immediately before pulling out, his “friend” jumped in with us. I was immediately wary, having encountered an Egyptian scam with a similar beginning, but let it go. As we drove, this friend – who was wearing a ratty, ripped t-shirt and looked generally unkempt – started sharing with us just how far the drive was, how bad the road was, and that he was going with us so that his friend wasn’t alone in case anything happened.
More importantly – and supremely disturbing – was the fact that as we drove out of the main town and into lightless, middle-of-nowheresville, this sketchy dude who jumped into our tuk-tuk uninvited began telling us all about how people used to string rope across the road in order to knock people off their motorbikes and rob them. And about how he was coming with us basically as security for his friend. And how gangs of young guys would hang out there and hold people up with knives and steal all of their valuables. Setting us up so that we wouldn’t be surprised when it happened to us.
Meanwhile, the tuk-tuk’s headlight kept flashing on and off – either a loose wire knocked about by the bumpy road, or a signal to their buddies in the trees to come out and rob our foreign asses.
I was with Thomas but that was only marginally comforting. Neither of us had a knife, and while he was in the military I don’t thin those 4 months left him that well prepared to fend off armed assailants. The moment this guy jumped in the tuk-tuk I told Thomas we should be on the lookout for something sketchy, and now it was happening. During the ride I actually put my daypack back on – the one containing my laptop, camera, and passport – in case I had to run, and even pulled my pen out – the closest thing I had to a weapon, thinking that it could maybe punch a few holes in a pinch.
And then, suddenly we were on Otres Beach getting dropped off at our hostel. The driver asked us for more money than we agreed on, but we’re both alive and with everything we started our ride with. There was no robbery and (seemingly) no bad intentions on the part of our driver or his friend.
45 minutes later I think my heart rate is finally slowing down.