Phnom Penh: Sam, Tuk-Tuk Man

Sam the Tuk-Tuk man is my latest example for why travellers should mingle more with the locals of the countries they visit. Sam himself told me that foreigners often treat him with suspicion when he proffers the hand of friendship, perhaps assuming he is trying to sell them something or rip them off. In my opinion, this is a fundamental error that too many backpackers make. And it is to the detriment of their own experience.

Muay Thai, CambodiaSam took me to Muay Thai boxing at a free entry venue. And he introduced me to the fighters. Amazing.

I met Sam a week ago, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sam works for the $9 Tuk- Tuk kiosk at the airport there as well as working for himself. I needed a drink badly after a rough three flights (one stop wasn’t even on my schedule, but that’s China). He cheerfully shook my hand and took me for the necessary aperitif before shuttling me to my hostel. He only reluctantly accepted the $1 tip offered. I hired him as my chauffeur that night when he came to pick me up for a night tour of the city.

We spent the next three days hurtling around the city in between other jobs he had on. Sam introduced me to his family and friends, we shot at and missed coconuts with AK47s and M16s, we visited the sobering killing fields, we watched Muay Thai boxing, we had barbecue, we had drinks. I couldn’t have asked for more from my three days in Phnom Penh. And all because I agreed for my airport Tuk-Tuk driver to come and pick me up later.

Shooting range, Phnom PenhA terrifying sight for the enemy

The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ when travelling. Most travellers say ‘no’ way too often. Saying ‘yes’ will more often than not make your experience much richer. Says me, anyway.

If you are in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and need a tour guide you can reach Sam on this number: 089452627. He offered to take me around for a mere $15 a day, which I thought a little low so I paid him more. You couldn’t ask for a more genial, honest, gentleman to be your guide.

Sam is the man.