Khoy Prokrotey can’t help but help. A couple of decades into a career in ecotourism in Cambodia, she’s found plenty of reasons to.
Back in the day as a trainer working with ecotourism projects and NGOs, Khoy had the opportunity to travel around a lot of Cambodia. And when she wasn’t working, she’d keep exploring, often by motorbike on overnight jaunts into the Cambodian jungle. Wherever she went, for work or for fun, she met lots of people, but it was the women she was most curious about.
‘I would see the local women who are struggling because their husbands work outside the house, but the women still work very hard in the fields or farms,’ she recalls. ‘But when they break up or the husband dies, they become a single mother and they struggle with no job and no money.’
Especially in parts of rural Cambodia, divorced or widowed women not only face potential economic challenges if their partner had been the sole income earner, they also often face a social stigma as well.
Helping not just local women, but visitors too
On her travels, Khoy would also meet foreign women visiting Cambodia from abroad. ‘I would ask them what they feel when they travel alone,’ she says. ‘They say in some places they don’t feel safe at night.’
‘Then I said, okay, I need to do something to help women on both sides.’
In 2017 she came up with the concept of a tuk-tuk business that would employ local women and also provide a service to travellers, especially female travellers. She started with one tuk-tuk and three drivers. Today her company Driver Srey has three tuk-tuks and 12 drivers.
In 2024, Intrepid travellers can hop aboard one of those tuk-tuks for a tour around the Angkor Wat complex. Travellers will be collected at their hotel by one of Khoy’s drivers and head off for a tour, stopping at three temples – Angkor Wat, Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm – where the group will hop off and explore with their local leader.
Back at the tuk-tuks, travellers are handed a cool towel and take a seat back on board for an open-air ride to their next stop.
Intrepid senior product manager Dyan Mckie recently got a chance to try this experience. While tours of the complex are typically done via minivan, tuk-tuks are another option, though it’s unusual to see a woman at the handlebars.
‘Many of the male tuk-tuk drivers doing the same route looked on in mild shock and surprise,’ Dyan recalls. ‘Other women who checked tickets at the gates of Angkor were pleasantly surprised and happy to see a female driver. Only then you realise and fully appreciate what these women are doing.’
Full speed ahead for Khoy
When Khoy first started her company, she set out to recruit drivers. ‘I met a few other women who were motorbike drivers. I watched them drive to the market and back, and I saw they had skills.’ She’d speak with them and learn more about them, their lives and how they earn an income – if they do.
‘I want to support women,’ Khoy says. ‘Not only just to empower them, but to support them and their livelihood, too,’ she says. ‘And solo travellers can come here and I give them care. I try to give my team a plan to take care of women travellers.’
Outside of this Intrepid experience, most of Driver Srey’s customers are solo women travellers, and many have expressed how big a factor safety is for them as they travel (including some reports of unwanted advances from male drivers in the past). Khoy will coordinate directly with travellers to arrange for one of her drivers to take them out not just for tours, but for airport, hotel and restaurant pickups and drop-offs, too.
‘It is important we take care of them,’ she says.
Khoy has no plans to hit the brakes. ‘I want my business everywhere, not just Siem Reap,’ she says. ‘I want this step by step. I will grow this thing bigger and empower them.’