Us tuk tuk drivers will talk some. The locals really get a laugh out of a white guy driving a tuk tuk
Two Amish guys walk into a bar. Usually that’s a scenario found only in the opening line of jokes by cruise ship comedians, but in this case it happened in Siem Reap last Friday when the two Amish guys in question – Ken Gingerich and his brother John, who recently moved away from their rural home in the US’s Coshocton, Ohio – were interviewed in a Siem Reap bar.
Exceedingly polite, the two brothers refrained from jokes at my expense after it dawned on me that inviting members of a teetotal religious community to a bar, in this case the Warehouse bar, may not have been the best idea.
Apart from their Amish Mennonite background, the brothers are unusual in the way they choose to travel – behind the handlebars of a pair of tuk tuks, the closest thing available to the traditional horse-drawn wagons used in Amish communities in the US.
“We’re called Amish Mennonites, but we’re a different branch to the more traditional Amish communities. We may look similar but we have a different way of doing things,” explained Ken.
For most orthodox Amish, driving any mechanical vehicle at all is prohibited, along with the wearing of shorts, the use of electricity and women exposing their hair. Ken informed me that while Amish Mennonites are expected to dress and behave modestly, their lifestyle isn’t as strict as their more traditional brethren. “I don’t have anything against the traditional Amish, they just hold tight to the tradition and have a different way of doing things.”
Funded by donations from their fellow congregation members at Sugar Creek Church in Ohio, the brothers were sent to Siem Reap to open a local branch of the South East Asia Prayer Centre.
On arrival they found themselves spending so much money renting tuk tuks that they simply decided to buy their own. “Once we started getting into things over here we saw that we can’t always be getting a taxi tuk tuk, so one of the drivers we hired knew guys who wanted to sell their carriages. They’re not brand new, but they’re still in good shape,” Ken said.
The brothers said they paid $1200 each for two used tuks tuks and consider the purchase a bargain. “Back home in the US, you’d get something really trashy for
a price like that.”
Ken’s experience working as a machinist back in Coshocton has come in handy, and his tuk tuk has undergone several engine modifications over the last five months to increase its fuel storage and carrying capacity.
“Now that I can speak Khmer, us tuk tuk drivers will mill together and talk some. The locals really get a laugh out of a white guy driving one.”
But the brothers aren’t the only missionaries in town to use a tuk tuk to preach to the unconverted.
South Korean Jehovah’s Witness Kim Sung Ho also uses a tuk tuk to drive his family around town and attend church services.
Kim said he moved to Siem Reap to “spread the good news in the bible” after meeting several Cambodians in South Korea.
Some news in the bible unfortunately has to do with the not-so-bright future of the planet which, Kim believes, is uncertain given the increasing number of natural disasters, especially the recent earthquake in Japan.
“I believe we are living in the end times. The End of Days will be accompanied by many earthquakes according to the Gospel of Luke, as well as disease and war,” he said.
When asked whether the process will leave enough time to allow this article to be published, Kim replied that while all the signs are there, the exact timetable for the end of the world is still uncertain. “Jesus could not tell us exactly when the world will end, as only God knows the answer.”