If you’re looking for a wonderful and sweet tuk tuk driver in Cambodia, ask your hotel to call Bong Thoo (pronounced Two) at +855964556699. We paid $15/day ($20 on the day we went for sunrise) in October 2017. Please tell him I sent you.
His name is Bong Thoo, but he goes by “Two” because it’s easier to remember. He has a gentle demeanor, round face, and a quiet voice. He speaks better English than most and drives with a safe confidence. And he assumes the best.
The story of how I met Two isn’t so pleasant. We arrived in Siem Reap, ready to tackle the 11th century temples known best for the largest, Angkor Wat. We agreed to a 3-day tuk tuk ride with the driver we met at the airport at a price 50% higher than the going rate, which we didn’t realize at the time. Our re-negotiation attempt the next morning resulted in him ripping up our initial payment and throwing the money in my face.
This led to our meeting with Two. He came over and picked up the shreds of cash off the ground. “I’m sorry, I never do that to you,” he said. And then he asked us if we needed help.
Over the next three days we spent hours with Two, traveling the temples of Angkor Wat under his patient and capable direction. He’s not a guide—although he’d make a great one. But he helped us plan our exploration based on his 7 years of experience driving a tuk tuk. I’ve written the itinerary we came up with, based on many suggested itineraries I read and Two’s local knowledge, at the bottom of this post.
Business is competitive, of course, as it is with any tourist industry where the barrier to entry is low. Sometimes he tours Angkor Wat once each week, sometimes less often. Earning $15/day, the averages don’t amount to much.
What I most appreciated about Two was his spirit. Who can say how many countless tourists Two has driven through Angkor Wat? And who can say how they’ve treated him? Most probably quite well—the majority of travelers we interact with are lovely and treat locals with respect—even though they are unlikely to ever meet again. But I’m sure many have been less kind.
And these actions have ripple effects. I don’t blame the first tuk tuk driver who threw his payment back in my face. He’s trying to make a living and his experience with travelers in the past has undoubtedly shaped his business style. Our experience with him will too.
But I’m learning there’s no substitute for mutual respect. It is a vital ingredient in any cross-cultural interaction. I’m not a walking dollar bill and don’t enjoy being treated as one. I’m a human—with an immense amount of privilege yes—but also with a ready smile and an open heart.
And Two is that human too. We didn’t learn a lot about each other beyond the basic family details, but there was a warmness in his smile that spoke volumes.
Since we left Siem Reap I’ve given Two’s phone number to travelers planning a visit to Siem Reap and two couples have called him up. Each time he’s sent me a group selfie with them, thanking me for the referral. And each time he does my heart swells a little. Because this is what it is all about. Connecting, smiling, and offering an attempt at thank you.
If you’re looking for a wonderful and sweet tuk tuk driver in Cambodia, ask your hotel to call Bong Thoo (pronounced Two) at +855964556699. We paid $15/day ($20 on the day we went for sunrise) in October 2017.
Please tell him I sent you.
Angkor Wat Temples Sample Itinerary:
Day 1 (start mid-morning):
– Preah Khan Temple
– Neak Pean
– Ta Som Temple
– Eastern Mebon
– Banteay Kdei Temple
– Srah Srang
Day 2 (4:30am start):
– Angkor Wat (for sunrise along the left bank, follow the crowds)
– Angkor Thom (the Bayon)
– Terrace of the Elephants
– Terrace of The Leper King
Day 3 (2pm start):
– Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider)
– Phnom Bakheng for sunset (must arrive early as only 300 are allowed at a time and it is a popular place for sunset; Two will help you coordinate the timing)
Temples we didn’t visit:
– Banteay Samre Temple
– Prae Roup Temple
– Banteay Srei (15+ km north of the rest)
– Ta Nei Temple
– Victory Gate
– Prasat Preah Palilay
– Tep Pranam