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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rich pickings for driver of "Space Age" cyclo

Rich pickings for driver of "Space Age" cyclo

W HILE toddlers can tell the bell of a passing balloon seller, and the horns of

motos, cars and trucks are instantly recognizable to all, the noises of On

Korn's cyclo often confuse people.

They might find that what sounds like

a wailing fire engine coming down the road is in fact only a little cyclo like

all the rest in Phnom Penh - except for its battery of lights and

sirens.

Of the hundreds of cyclos which ply the Capital's streets, On

Korn has the most unique.

It is equipped with sirens which can produce

six screeching alarm sounds - including that of a fire engine, police car and

ambulance - and 18 lights, 10 of them mounted on the front.

Attracting

customers and avoiding accidents were the main reasons why Korn decided to go

high-tech with his cyclo, and his efforts have been successful.

He has

never had an accident while peddling the streets, and earns a fair bit more than

the average cyclo driver does.

Korn used to be moto-taxi driver but gave

that up about a year ago, when armed robberies were rife, to switch to a

cyclo.

He says his cyclo cost him $100 to buy, and he spent another $100

buying used car and motorcycle parts to spruce it up.

The cyclo is a

frequent sight outside the Diamond Hotel, where he flicks on his flashing lights

to attract tourists as they venture out to see Phnom Penh.

Living "an

owl's life", he mainly works at night when his cyclo lights can be seen to their

full potential.

Korn, a 33-year-old man with a Chinese-Khmer face, says

he usually earns 10,000-20,000 riels a day, much of it from foreign customers

who often pay $3 an hour to tour the city in his cyclo.

But while

foreigners such as Japanese and Singaporeans usually pay well, others are more

miserly.

"The French love cyclos very much but they pay little money," he

says, adding that the Americans are the same.

Some tourists pay him money

just to take photographs of his cyclo, which is just one of an estimated

10,000-15,000 cyclos in Phnom Penh.

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