After spending a long time thinking & planning about a trip to Cambodia, I arrived in Phnom Penh international airport on a clear late December night in 2016. After collecting my luggage I went through the immigration. The lady at the immigration was not very nice as usual (I told her I was not sure where I am staying in Cambodia, she yelled at my face the same question where I will be staying in Cambodia!). There was not much checking in the customs. When I walked from the customs office I though there would be a waiting area where I can wait until Ria’s (the friend traveling with me) flight arrives. But when I walked 10 feet from the customs office, I was outside of the airport. There were a ton of people waiting outside to welcome their friends and family. I decided to wait outside since the weather was nice and there is no place to wait inside the airport.
So I was waiting and this tuktuk driver came and asked me whether I needed a ride. I told him I was waiting for a friend and it might take some time for her to arrive and he doesn’t have to wait for us. He was very persistent in getting me into his tuktuk but I avoided him as much as possible by walking away from him since I have read many stories about tuktuk drivers in Cambodia. I waited almost an hour for Ria’s arrival. As soon as we were ready to head out this same tuktuk driver came and asked us to take his tuktuk . Since we were tired we decided to take his tuktuk and told him to get us to a hotel.
During the tuktuk drive I was able to see the urban Cambodia. The roads, buildings and trees reminded me of Sri Lanka, the country that I was born and spent most of my life. Supur, the tuktuk driver has been driving for a long time, I got suspicious and thought why is he driving this far, I am sure there are many hotels near the airport. While I was thinking he turned the tuktuk to a smaller road from the main road. It smelled like fish everywhere, I guess there was a fish market nearby.
While he was driving the tuktuk through these small roads, it came to a sudden stop in a dimly lit road with no people in it. I was like “Oh shit”, this guy is going to take my money and passport. Although I was a bit scared, I asked him what was wrong. He was mumbling something and trying to get under the tuktuk and fix something. Ria was trying to keep herself together and I was thinking what do I have to attack this guy in case there is a confrontation. Only thing that I could think were bug spray and my razor! Both are not very useful! Then another tutktuk shows up and the driver from that tutktuk was telling something to Supur and may be helping him. Finally Supur restarted the tuktuk and my fight mode subsided slowly.
Then he took us to this hotel called Queenwood hotel. This tuktuk driver charged us $10 and had the audacity to ask for a tip. Since I just arrived there we ended up paying $12 for the trip. Later on I realized tipping is very uncommon in Cambodia. We went inside and the guy in the front desk said it will be $35 for a room for a night which seemed absurd to me. But it was past midnight and we had nowhere else to go. So I paid and got a room. After looking around the room, I was not convinced this is even a hotel. Even for Cambodian standards Queenwoods hotel was very bad. We were swindled by this tuktuk driver and the hotel. When I checked online this hotel only charges $25 (Still a lot) but somehow we were robbed! Bathroom door wouldn’t close well, the shower was right above the toilet and most of all it was expensive. Since we decided to take the bus to Siem Reap the next day, we didn’t bother much.
Due to time difference we couldn’t go to sleep. So we decided to book a place in Siem Reap to avoid what happened to us in Queenwood hotel. I wanted to book a hostel but Ria wanted to see if airbnb was available. She found a cheap one, so I was ok with it. I took a shower and spent the night reading and chatting. We didn’t know what other adventures we were going to face in Cambodia the next day… (To be continued)