A tuk-tuk driver whose turf is located outside Street 178’s Latin Quarter restaurant, Hout, 25, this week revealed some of the ins and outs of Phnom Penh’s most ubiquitous profession
I use a 2002 Honda Dream with a 125cc engine, which I got from my mother. I’ve been using it since my days as a motodop.
It’s theoretically possible to use any motorbike to drive a tuk-tuk, as long as you have the right hook to connect it with the carriage, though some bikes have better fuel efficiency than others.
There are two kinds of hooks you can use to attach the bike – mine is screwed onto the carriage, while the other kind can be taken off without tools.
The kind I use is much better because, even though it’s harder to detach, it reliably stays in place and won’t come undone by accident.
Mine is a $700 model from 2008, weighing about 200 kilograms.
If you know how to drive a tuk-tuk right, it’s actually easier to drive a moto when it’s attached to a carriage because you don’t have to stomp your foot on the ground when you stop.
But you really have to know how to drive it.
The balance is very important – if you don’t know how to drive it right, it will pull you down and tip over.
It also costs way more for petrol – you normally get a fuel economy of 30 kilometres per litre with a Honda Dream, but with a carriage attached you need much more.
Carriages vary significantly in quality – for more than $1,000, you can get something really beautiful with fancy ornaments and handrails.
I didn’t have enough money for that so I bought this one. But I’m saving up to buy the best one in one or two years.
I bought my carriage from the tuk-tuk factory near CTN, across the Japanese bridge.
There’s a few others, but that one is the best because they provide really good quality products.
They sell many types of tuk-tuks – they come out with new series every year for many price ranges.
The more expensive, the stronger the material is and the longer they last.
To get my tuk-tuk fixed, I usually go to Orussey or Olympic Market for repairs, which cost from $5 to $25.
Usually when something breaks, it’s the engine itself, so I can go to a normal mechanic to get it fixed.
The motorbike definitely breaks down more than it would without the carriage attached, since it uses so much power.
But I know my way around the bike fairly well, so I can fix simple things if someone lends me tools.
The hotel where I was working before is currently under renovations, so I came to work outside Latin Quarter at the corner of Streets 178 and 19 a month ago.
I like this corner because there is foot traffic coming from all directions, so it’s good business.
There’s no legal regulations regarding tuk-tuk drivers, but there is an informal code among us.
If someone moves into a spot because they don’t have one of their own, it’s okay. In my case, I lost my old spot, and since I had worked here before I was welcomed back by my fellow drivers.
But if someone has another spot already, they should be there and not here.
If they come anyway, we ask them to go back to their own turf, and if they don’t, we’ll mock them until they leave.
In order to remain friendly with each other while competing, we follow a strict rule whereby whoever makes contact with a customer first gets that customer.
Actually, we’re all friends – we have a community.
We usually go to this simple Khmer place near Lux Cinema after work. All the tuk-tuk drivers from around this part of the city go there.
On a good day, I’ll earn $20 or $30, and a little bit can be spent on entertainment. Once in a while – but not every day – we’ll drink beer.
Cambodia and Angkor draught are my favourites. Sometimes we’ll have rice wine. We usually go there at 7pm or 8pm after work.
I only work in the day, beginning at 7am and working 12 hours until nightfall.
Occasionally I’ll take a day off on Sundays – I have a wife and kid I need to spend time with.
Being a tuk-tuk driver isn’t such a bad job, but when I’m older I want to be a shopkeeper, selling everyday household items from my house.
Being a tuk-tuk driver can be a hard life sometimes – there’s nothing worse than having no customers, no money and a broken tuk-tuk.