Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 11 June 2009
A SIEM Reap tuk-tuk driver who calls himself Mr Batman, has taken on the mantle of Gotham City's brooding caped crusader and transformed his machine into a Khmer-style Batmobile. Rather than fighting criminals, he's using his hero identity to fight rival drivers for the tourist buck, and the shtick works.
Mr Batman, aka Srey Chhay, started his tuk-tuk gig last week and said the idea of channelling the costumed hero came after watching the Batman movie on TV. Acting on impulse, he searched for a Batman logo on the Internet and sent his girlfriend to a tuk-tuk upholstery shop with the printout.
The result is a stylish black tuk-tuk adorned with six Batman logos, including a large one on the roof. Srey Chhay said that up to 30 tourists photographed the tuk-tuk in his first week, and others sing the theme song from the '60s Batman TV show as he drives by.
He said the hubbub makes him feel good. "Like Batman, I help people. I take them from temple to temple."
While he harbours no plans of fitting his tuk-tuk with machine guns or smoke bombs, he does want to work on his driving clothes. "In one or two months, after I save some money, I want to get a cape. And maybe modify my helmet."
Srey Chhay is not the only driver who has adopted a gimmick to distinguish himself from the pack. Mr Rock touts a "luxury" tuk-tuk around town, though apart from the words "Rolls Royce" painted on the side, it seems no more lavish than a standard model. There is also the infamous karaoke tuk-tuk, which allows travellers to plug their iPods into mounted speakers and sing while they ride around town.
Philip Starling, founder of NGO Making a Difference for Good and mastermind behind the quad-bike driven medical tuk-tuk that brings health care to rural villages in Siem Reap province, said that he has plans for another unique tuk-tuk. "It's very private at the moment, but I want to build a luxury model. One of the things that's a big delay is I want air-con in it."