A Dangerous Drive [READ]
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The Scariest Motorbike Ride I’ve Ever Experienced
Exhausted I alight the bus just outside of Sihanoukville. It had been an extremely long day after riding a van of death from Siem Reap on the opposite end of Cambodia. Tuk tuk drivers were now all competing for my attention, yelling prices to go to hotels I’d never heard of. I didn’t know where I would be staying because I hadn’t been able to talk to my friend yet. I needed the Internet first. A driver leads me to his tuk tuk after naming a reasonable price to the town centre. We drove for about two minutes, stopped and I realised his price wasn’t that reasonable after all. I was too exhausted to fight. Instead I just gave him a dirty look and mumbled “thank you” as I lifted my bags. I looked around the main street of Sihanoukville. I wasn’t very impressed. White people everywhere, pumping music coming from beach bars, lots of general drunkenness. I ducked into the closest hostel in search of Internet. A few minutes online and I find out that my friend has already moved on to Koh Rong Island. She was close, but too far for me to be able to get to tonight. She suggested I ditch Sihanoukville (yes please) and head to the next beach along, Otres, which aligned more with our tastes. Sighing I pick up my heavy bags to get in yet another tuk tuk.
My usual transport tactic is to ask three different tuk tuks within sight of each other a price and take the best of the three. On this particular night I couldn’t find even one. I wondered aimlessly for a few minutes until I saw a motorbike taxi with a plumpish man driver. In my stingy bargaining head I figured he would be cheaper than a tuk tuk anyway, and he was. He took my precious smaller bag (containing my computer and camera) that I usually don’t let leave my sight, while I wore the bigger backpack on my back, on the bike. And off we went zipping into the darkness.
My arm hair started to stand on end when, after a couple of minutes, he took a left turn away from the beach and began to drive down a back road with no streetlights or houses. My instincts were telling me there was something wrong with this route. Why would he turn AWAY form the beach when we were going TO the beach? I started to pay closer attention to my surroundings. Around me were just overgrown grass paddocks and trees. Deserted. Further down the road, more trees. This wasn’t right. Then suddenly the driver grabs my arm and inaudibly yells over the motorbike noise. The only word I pick up is “Danger”. I scream back, “sorry?” “It’s dangerous, this is dangerous drive,” he yells. What…? Fuck. We are just going to the next beach, how is it dangerous? I didn’t know what to say back. My senses were going crazy. I felt adrenaline start to shoot through my body as I run through all the things that could go wrong. Dangerous… How? Shit, what have I gotten myself into? My eyes dart around the trees for an exit strategy as I consider telling him to pull over but there is only darkness and trees here. This is not a good place to try to look for help.
As I have all of these thoughts I see two stopped headlights ahead. This does not make me feel any better. Why have they stopped? Fear grips my stomach. I begin to think that this taxi driver, who had been speaking on the phone in Khmer just minutes before, was actually bringing me to danger. If his friends were there to rob me (or worse), there wouldn’t be anything I could do about it. I consider jumping off the moving bike and running. But to where? Fuck. Fight or flight mode kicks in, but instead I just sit there and hope it’s not what I think it is.
We drive past the car that owns the stopped headlights. It is just kids… Phew. The driver must have sensed my fear, because he starts to pick up again about the ‘danger.’ I don’t understand. He begins to get angry. I’m confused and scared. He yells; “You need to pay more money!” I quickly agree. I’ll pay him more money. He is bigger than me and I’m alone in the middle of nowhere. I just need to get somewhere safe. I’ll give you more money, if that’s what it takes.
Finally we round a corner and I see dim lights up the end of a dirt road. Please be a hostel. Please be safety. We drive slow as we try to avoid the potholes. Two tourists are walking alongside us. I yell out to them. “Hey..! Uh, do you know where a hostel is?” They can hear the fear in my shaky voice. “Are you okay?” The girl asks. “No, I’m not,” I reply, “is it okay if I come with you?”
I grab all my things, making a point to look properly at this man’s face for the first time. I hadn’t done it before getting on the back and realised how big a mistake I’d made. He tells me he has a daughter in school and he needs more money to pay for her education. A slight change of tune now that there are people around, huh? I’m angry and scared. I quickly decide to give him more money, but not much. I hand him maybe 50 cents more and he drives away. I tell my saviors what happened as they walk me to a hostel and they inform me that no one around here catches motorbike taxis after dark, as they are dangerous. I wish so hard I’d known this before. This is a wake up call for me, and I’m thankful it panned out the way it did. As it could have been much worse.
Currency: 2 Currencies – USD and Cambodian Riel (KHR, ៛)
$1 USD = ៛4, 000
I was here: September 2013