29.07.2014 - 01.08.2014
A Norwegian who had been living in Phnom Penh asked me, “Do you understand the road rules here?”. My reply, “They have rules?”. “I don’t know”.
Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam all seem to share similar ideas on how to use the road, but they manifest in their fullest expression in Cambodia. I realised there is one overriding rule of the road - the bigger the vehicle, the greater the right of way. Humans being at the bottom of the scale. As a guide, vehicles drive on the right but that depends a lot on the condition of the road and also convenience. Motorcycles in particular will ride on either side of the road, down one way roads the “wrong” way, through traffic lights, on footpaths and down “walking" streets. Using pedestrian crossings for their intended purpose will lead to a very short life.
Some of the roads in Cambodia are very good, brand new in fact. Others are in the process of being improved, so one side may be sealed and the other side not. So what happens is that everybody uses the sealed part with the motorbikes and tractors dodging the buses and trucks - there are some cars in Cambodia but not lots. Then other roads are dirt with pot-holes - the path of choice is made through - whether it weaves from one side to the other doesn’t matter.
It is obvious that many westerners waste fuel in private cars. What was not obvious to me before is how fuel-inefficient even motorcyclists can be. People ride a motorcycle to work and consider themselves energy-efficient but they’re only scratching the surface. A 125cc bike can easily transport a family of 4 including 2 young children. It can also be used with a wooden blank over the passenger seat to carry boxes, piled high and roped down. It can be used to move house. And when a tow-bar and trailer are installed, the possibilities are endless. Furniture, timber, sacks of seed, bales of crop, containers of fuel can all be transported, loaded up beyond what any non-existent safety regulations would allow. I saw one guy who pushed the envelope a little too far. He had 3 CRT TV’s, around 25”, on the back of his bike which he had dropped trying to avoid a truck.