I showed the driver the business card of my hotel which had a map on the back. We negotiated the price. I jumped on the back of the moto, muttering a quick prayer that nothing would happen on the short ride home. I know I shouldn’t ride without a helmet. I know that. Yet here I was, doing it again.
I grasped the handle on the back and we were off. I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going; he said he knew where the hotel was. I suddenly realized we had been driving for a while. Oh, no. He didn’t look like a serial killer. I noticed we were along the river way, not the part of town where my hotel was. I tapped him on the shoulder. “Tee. Tee,” and pointed the opposite direction from where we were. He turned around and I realized this could be problematic. I knew my hotel was within walking distance of the Independence Monument, which was in the middle of a traffic circle.
We got to the monument and drove around it once. Then twice. Then three times. I couldn’t recognize any of the side streets. Which one went to my hotel? He stopped at a sidewalk café to ask for directions. They pointed in a direction that seemed like it could be where my hotel was. We passed many abandoned construction sites. Was he lost, too? Or was this part of his plan? I realized I put a lot of trust in random people. I was on the back of a motor bike with someone who didn’t speak English and didn’t know where my hotel was, riding around Phnom Penh. Nice.
We drove back to the monument. Once. Twice. Three times. And down another side street. We stopped in front of a hotel. The guard there looked at the business card and pointed us in another direction. We were off. Hello, monument.
When we arrived at my hotel I started clapping. “Akun! Akun!” I exclaimed, laughing. I offered him twice the rate we had agreed on, in appreciation for him not killing me, either intentionally or via Phnom Penh traffic. He argued with me, wanting more, motioning with wild arm movements to indicate he had gotten lost. I stood there, perplexed. He said he knew where my hotel was. Yes, we drove around, but partly because he didn’t know where he was going. I didn’t either, but I’m not a moto driver. Should I have to pay for him to be lost? I tried to give him the money; he wouldn’t accept it. I started to walk away; he lunged after me. I offered him more money, he shook his head. I was utterly confused. Was he asking for more money? Was he offended by the amount I was offering? Was he refusing payment because he drove me around for 20 minutes, lost in Phnom Penh? After several more of his adamant refusals, I began to walk towards the hotel. He ran up behind me, grabbed the money from my hands, and sped off. I guess he was holding out for more money.