Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

3. Modes of transport: 3.1 public transport 3.1.1. The Moto-dup (Part 1?)

What makes traffic in Cambodia so different from its neighbouring countries? Chaos? Anarchy? Not really, it’s the existence of the moto-dup, in short a motorcycle taxi.
You hire a motorcycle with driver, just like a taxi. They exist in other Southeast Asian countries, mostly used for short-distance travel in cities, where they have the added advantage of squeezing through traffic jams and taking back-roads / shortcuts not fit for 4 wheel vehicles. But for longer distances in these countries there are usually taxi’s. Not so in Phnom Penh, well, there are a few taxi’s but locals will not be caught in a taxi, they take the moto-dup. In most countries there are laws forbidding more than two persons per motorcycle. Not so in Cambodia, the moto-dup will take as many as possible, that also seems to be rule in Cambodian public transport sector. The more the merrier.
So how do you fit more than one passenger per motorcycle? The rear seat is enlarged, a bit longer / wider. The passengers refrain from eating too much, the driver gets used to sitting on the point of the seat. As females are usually a little smaller than the males, they seem to be able to fit more on theses moto-dups. They also sit amazon style, the legs alternating, the first has her legs left, the second right, the third left again, the fourth… No, more than 3 (adult) passengers is not possible.
Moto-dup, a Cambodian word, can be translated as motorcycle service, service as in to take / to carry. The moto-dup (meaning in this case the driver and motorcycle) can be found on every street corner, as well as lounging around in shady areas. They are there from early morning until the small hours of the next morning, hanging around nightclubs driving the all-night customers back home. They ply the streets looking for a lone pedestrian(s) someone who clearly needs there service but needs a little coaxing. ‘Moto, sir?’ The minute you step outside onto the street you are approached. If you are walking for 5 minutes, you will be approached by at least 10 different moto-dups, 1 for every 30 seconds. If you need to go somewhere, you announce that, discuss the price, hop on and then mostly everything goes wrong. It’s presumed you as passenger know where you are going, the driver drives! So you get taken for a ride and once at the destination you will be charged twice what you agreed, because the driver of course did not know where he was supposed to go, but it’s always further than the price that had been agreed on. Tough luck.
Most moto dup drivers are from the provinces who are trying their luck in the big city. At the beginning of the day they will take some locals into town (20-30km), quite near to their inner-city stake-out: all the street corners are ‘owned’ as well as places such as (super) markets. Prices for a ride start from 0,25 $US and there’s no maximum! You can hire per day / per distance, whatever you want.
Besides being unfamiliar with the major attractions of Phnom Penh they are equally unfamiliar with usual traffic rules. Research last year by the ngo Handicap International revealed that moto-dup drivers do not have a driver’s license (not required for motorcycles under 100cc) nor have any idea concerning traffic rules. Does this make them exceptionally unsafe? Not really, as stated earlier adhering to basic rules (right side of the road) is near non-existent on Cambodia’s roads. Foreign passengers can be occasionally spotted; they stand out as they have a helmet!
Another aspect of moto-dups and their popualrity is their ability to fuction as a small truck and with a cart behind to function as a big truck!
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