The tuk-tuk chugs up a long hill to a scrubby patch of lawn with a handful of motos in various states of repair. It reminds me of the small town where I grew up — sometimes, when you’re fixing a few things at once, just leave ’em all out on the lawn. My driver negotiates the rental cost for the moto but first, he says, they need to see if I can actually drive it. A short test, if you will.
I am not totally sure I can, in fact, drive this thing. See also: long-legged klutz who, when falling, looks like a “swan dying”. But I am definitely going to try. Rubber! Meet road! So I select the hot pink Honda, fully automatic, the easiest, most cream-puff vehicle on the planet. Women in Phnom Penh drive these in heels while carrying a baby under one arm and a little purse-dog under the other.
One of the Khmer men gives me the keys, shows me how to start it and directs me to drive up and down the long street, circling back around the median. On goes the helmet. In goes the key. It turns. The engine starts! It revs! It dies.
We try again.
It starts! It revs! It dies.
Finally we switch me to another moto. And by now I am so freakin’ positive that I can ride this machine, I take off with a magnificent zoom. It is SUPER EASY! ALL YOU DO IS SLIGHTLY TURN THE RIGHT HANDLE AND RIDE LIKE A FAST FAST BUNNY. OR A FAST FAST SWAN. By the time I reach the roundabout where the bus stop was, I see that I’ve left the rental shack too far behind. So I swerve back around and back up the long hill, ALMOST skidding into the grass but definitely not skidding.
They are waving their arms.
They are incredulous.
No no no! They are crying. You can not rent! Too fast. TOO FAST!
And so that is how I didn’t rent a moto that day.
This seems like a total loser way to start off an independent journey. And I definitely can’t go back to that cafe and risk those stupid guys laughing at me. I just want to get back on the bus and go home. But there is no bus for hours. So I ask the tuk-tuk driver to take me to the main dock. Lorna the British Insta-Friend said I could negotiate a boat over to Rabbit Island for five dollars. I don’t actually know how to “negotiate a boat” yet but that is what I will do. Then I will be totally, totally alone.
Next post: the island.