I have no idea how old he was (forty? sixty?) but the "monkey driver" took great pleasure in telling us about his life and Cambodia in general. Unfortunately, I could only understand about a fourth of what he said, but his dramatic narration helped tell the story and included a lot of "then he said NO NO NO!" (loud angry voice), and "OK OK OK YOU WIN" (corresponding scared voice).
Apparently, though he’s Cambodian, he lived in Vietnam for a while in the 60’s and 70’s. Then, he was a colonel in the Vietnamese army when they were fighting the Khmer Rouge. He told us he’d been based at Bokor Hill Station for two years during the fighting, and his tanks were the ones that broke down the pavement of the road were driving on at that very moment. It used to take half an hour to get to the mountain-top; now it takes two. He’s driven for ten years on the back-breaking road that he broke decades ago.
M.D. also told us he’d chauffeured one of the Cambodian kings for a while; his English wasn’t so good, so I’m still confused about which. When we stopped at the ruins of the king’s palace, and a giant SUV appeared with some well-off Cambodians, M.D. said it was the king’s brother.
He then told us a lengthy version of the history of Cambodia for forty-five minutes without break. I was a bit worn out.
Later, on the way down, I happened asked why he’s called the monkey driver and got quite an earful — this was Felicia and my favorite story. Apparently, he can attract monkeys, "large and small!" with his special call, which he demonstrated to us. So travelers have dubbed him the monkey driver, and he enjoys that a lot. "I get email from Norway, Belgium and England that says hello, monkey driver!" When we asked to see the monkeys, he said they’ve moved to another mountain, I think.