Tuktuk scam and losing my wallet in Siem Reap

A year ago, I was on a bus headed towards Siem Reap. It was the second leg of my first international trip.
I was never particularly fond of long bus rides. And crossing the Aranyaphratet – Poipet border on a direct bus was no exception. The bus left an hour late in Bangkok and stayed around an hour at the border. Nonetheless, it was uneventful and we didn’t get scammed at the border. It was already nearing nightfall when we reached Siem Reap. And any hopes of seeing an Angkor Wat sunset was already crushed.

The tuktuk mishap

The bus soon stopped near KFC, in front of Nattakan Bus Co.’s office. We were told to stay put as the bus company had arranged a free tuk-tuk for all that will take us to our onward destination. We were pleasantly surprised. I never liked arriving at a new place at night. And my request for a tuktuk ride from our accommodation was a little too late.

RELATED: Taking the direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap

After a few minutes wait, we finally got off the bus and was assigned a tuk-tuk driver. He started with small talk, talking about the weather and the bus ride. Soon enough he was offering to take us to Angkor the next day. Since we don’t have a pre-arranged transport yet, we entertained him and asked questions. He was charging us 50$ for the route that I want. A lot more than the price I researched. I politely declined. But he was persistent. Again I declined. It was soon revealed that nothing is ever really FREE. It was like a blind date gone bad. First-day scam.

Things soon took a quick turn. He became more persistent and even now insisting we pay him for the ride to our hotel. Voices were raised and my patience wearing thin. I took a deep breath and prayed.

As soon as we got to our hotel, I told him I’m just going to have my 100$ changed to smaller bills. We immediately asked for help from the reception. We recounted our plight and she told us what we already knew. We were overcharged. Frustrated, I was near tears at this time. She instructed us to just tell the driver that the hotel had already pre-booked our transportation for the next day. The waiting tuk-tuk driver had no choice when we told him this. But he looked mad. And was still trying to overcharge us for the ride. I tried haggling but he was relentless. Eager to finish the situation, I just relented and paid him 5$. I told him that’s as high as we can pay him. And turned our backs.

That definitely took a lot of our energy.

pub street

Welcome to Pub Street!

khmer house pub street

Dining at Khmer House

 Pub street and a story of kindness

After checking in, we headed straight to Pub Street to get a feel of Siem Reap. Turns out, our accommodation is really walking distance from the famous street. The energy, the smells, the sight of different foods. Truly, it was a feast for the senses. It all made up for the craziness earlier.

Dinner at Khmer House was a blast. We also tried street food and explored the inner streets until our feet grew tired.  We went to bed happy and eager for our upcoming day. At last, I’m going to see one of the places that inspired me to travel the world.

A few minutes before heading out to catch Angkor Wat sunrise, we discovered something that made us speechless. Our travel fund wallet was nowhere in sight. Hundreds of dollars that should’ve lasted us for a few more days, gone.

It was the only thing I was holding last night and hadn’t even noticed when we went home that I had already lost it. I can really be a klutz at the most inopportune moments. Stupidity at its finest.

We searched the room and tried to recollect our memories best as we could.  Last I’ve seen and used it was at the restaurant. At this point, panic set in. I didn’t know what to do. Reluctant, we went ahead with our plans for the day. Good thing we had extra dollars with us.

Before that trip, though, I was reading The Power by Rhonda Byrne. So even though we were on our way to Angkor in the dark, I refused to believe that our wallet was truly lost. I tried to remember and use the Secret’s tips to visualize the wallet returned to me. Believing and being thankful that it will come to pass.

All throughout the day, it was a constant battle of enjoying the moment while trying to attract the outcome that I wanted. Alas, the sunset was over and done, and now it was time to go back to Khmer House. I said a silent prayer on the way and steeled myself for the news.

Hallelujah! Not only was our servers still on duty that night, but our wallet was also saved. They remembered us and returned the wallet whole, safe and sound.  I wanted to cry because of happiness right then and there. As a token of our gratitude, we gave them a small reward for their honesty. It was a total turnaround from what we experienced the night before.

I breathed one huge sigh of relief after that. It was such a profound experience that has become one of my memorable experiences in traveling. It was definitely not wise to put so much of your travel fund in one wallet. And that no matter bad situation you will get into, there will always be people who will restore your faith in humanity.

Have you experienced any mishap lately? Or how about stories of kindness? Share them below!

Darlene is currently on the road again and traveling full-time after being an expat/overseas Filipino worker in Qatar. She's rediscovering what it means to travel solo and in her 30s while working on her blogs.