Direction is so much more important than speed.
Everybody here knows that but among the transportation option providers in the country, the cyclo operators can best speak of its relevance and importance – of going slow.
Getting around, we link a particular place with the transportation it provides. Think of the double-decker buses in London, yellow school buses in the United States, bullet trains in Japan and yellow taxicabs in New York. Those are classy options though but let’s talk about the simpler ones: the boats and scooter bikes in Vietnam.
Meanwhile in Phnom Penh, started in 1936, three-wheeler cyclos are recognisably Cambodian. Yes, to follow Vietnam’s, cyclos in Cambodia.
The three-wheeler cyclo has become an iconic part of Phnom Penh’s street scene. It is so popular that there are even pop songs written about them. Some speak of the journey of a cyclo driver and some talk about comedy that sum up the drivers’ problems of chubby passengers, potholes and policemen.
Without a doubt, you’d likely be able to know you’re already in the Kingdom’s capital when you see a usually painted green, with a bucket seat between two large bicycle wheels shaded by a collapsible canopy going around the busy city.
Cyclos are pedal-powered and the brakes are operated by a hand-pulled lever behind the driver, just like driving a normal bicycle with a twist and a lot heavier. But unlike pedal-powered rickshaws popular in other parts of Asia, Phnom Penh’s iconic cyclos put the driver and his pedals behind the passenger, who is comfortably situated in front in a low-slung seat. Also, its seat has a scooped footrest which the driver will tilt to help you get in and out — perfect for stacking up shopping, it also protects you from other vehicles.
For tourists and expats alike, it’s definitely a cool way to get to know the city and familiarise the details of the streets. The slow pace will make your experience more worthwhile; a juxtaposition of the city’s fast-moving reality. Not to mention the Instagram-worthy shots one can capture.
However, for the locals and people who use cyclos on a daily basis, it’s nothing but a normal routine for them. Cargos on, kids on the side or in front and everything’s ready to move.