June 16, 2014

lady! lady! where you go?

"Why you no tuktuk?" a man calls out after me. I had just politely smiled said I wanted to walk, declining his offer for a ride, "Lady! Lady! Where you go?"

Since I arrived in Phnom Penh (above photo) on Friday, I must have been offered rides on various modes of transport close to 100 times now. This is to be expected when travelling in Southeast Asia.

Here in Phnom Penh, there are cyclos, tuktuks, motorbikes, and in a blue moon, the rare taxi, which does not have a meter of course. As a person of asian decent, I think I get asked less frequently than more visibly obvious foreigners. It comes in the form of hellos, honks of horns, charades of holding handlebars and revving, and questions of where you are going.

If you know me at all, you know my preferred mode of exploration is on foot. If Google map advises something is an 1.5 hour's walk away, it doesn't make me bat an eye. Walking lets me absorb a new place at my own pace.

Understandably locals and visitors alike rarely walk from point A to point B in Phnom Penh. It is hot and humid, you feel sweat dripping down your back just standing outside. Also, "sidewalks" when they exist, are a obstacle course of garbage, tree branches, parked cars/bikes, unknown liquids, large potholes, and occasionally poop. I won't sugar-coat it, they can be pretty cringe-worthy.

You might think I'm a little bit out of my mind for willing subjecting myself to the streets and not paying for transport around town. Maybe I am, but it is a part of the city and a part of the lives of the people who live here. I don't turn up my nose at the dirty streets or think any place or experience is beneath me because I was born into a life in a first world country (technically a second world country seeing as I was born in China before immigrating, but you get the point).

Travel allows me to walk a short distance in someone else's life and meet people I otherwise would never get a chance to. Taking the side-streets on foot, skipping the packaged tours, and not staying in the top rated hotels in the commerce centric areas, means I get to rub shoulders with the locals as much as possible.

Drawing has become such a huge part of my trip too. Locals come to me when they see me trying to capture the sites they see on a daily basis.

Yesterday I was drawing near the Central Market (above photo) and found myself surrounded by curious tuktuk and motorbike drivers. Not a single one offered me a ride. They peeked over my shoulder, gave me giant smiles and told me "Very good!", and even waved me over to a spot with a better view when mine was blocked by a large tree. A few customers even had to catch the drivers attention to catch a ride home with their market purchases.

The other day an adolescent monk gave me a thumbs up for my sketch of the national museum. Seriously, how freaking amazing is that? How many people get to say they have had that happen to them?

These are the reasons I love travel so damn much! (and also why I can't be shuttled from one tourist attraction to another on a tour) As a disclaimer, I'm trying to be preachy about how to travel! I just wanted to share why I what I do!

Giving up creature comforts and my norm standard of living is a VERY small trade-off for the experiences I'm rewarded with in return. I would't have it any other way! :)

So to the inquiring tuktuk driver, where am I going? 
To as many places as I can, to experience as many things and people as possible!


I mentioned in posts before that the people are one of my favourite parts about travelling, what are yours?

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