Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


An empty cyclo tempting fate during current monsoonal downpours. Source: Beth

The non-existence of public traffic in Phnom Penh has resulted in the availability of other alternatives. From the French colonial days cyclo’s have existed to take passengers in a relaxing and slightly decadent method. The Cambodian cyclo is a cycle rickshaw, i.e. a 3 wheel vehicle meant to carry passengers. The Indochina version carries the passengers upfront between the front wheels with the cycle driver/rider behind and above has passengers. The passenger seat is very comfortable but only 1 person fits, though if everybody sits on each others lap, considerable more passengers can be taken.

Crossing Cambodia did some research, but there’s hardly any worthy information available on this vehicle. That’s with the exception of the Cyclo Centre Phnom Penh website. The centre provides cyclo drivers with livelihood support through various means, such as health provision/awareness, the possibility to gain working skills and business/finance skills. The site provides excellent information that draws attention to the dire situation of most cyclo drivers: for instance 38% of the drivers live and sleep on the street. Eighty percent of the cyclo drivers (the centre has registered more than 1200) rent their cyclo’s @ 0.5$US/day. Average income is 1.8$US/day! In the last year, 2 cyclo drivers died in accident related incidents and 12 drivers needed medical attention after accidents.

Cyclo drivers are not found as regular as moto’s in Phnom Penh, though with a little effort they are to be localised. They are used on shorter routes, both by tourists and/or locals, though seldom will you catch any local youth/young adults on a cyclo. Sometimes they are used for transport of larger articles. As can be seen by the low income, the cyclo is relatively cheap, though in the case of tourists this may be opposite. Then again, cyclo’s waiting outside hotels are quite good in English and can be a good guide to Phnom Penh, something what can’t be said for a random moto driver waiting outside the same hotel.

Crossing Cambodia also took some trouble trying to find some web info on a coffee table book by Rob Joiner, called ‘King of the roads’. Cambodian Crossing saw a copy not so long ago at Monument books with beautiful photo’s of cyclo’s and their drivers.

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