Crossing Cambodia

Friday, March 09, 2007

Advisory: Dos and don'ts

The next advisory is the book 'Dos and don’ts in Cambodia'. Published in 2005 and written by Dr. David Hill, this Thai publishing company provides a different sort of guide with lots of advice with what to do or what not. It's less well known than for instance the Lonely Planet. Considering that Crossing Cambodia is looking into the uniqueness of traffic in Cambodia and what this says of it's culture,possible valuable insights might be available.
A whole chapter is dedicated to 'Traffic – Especially in Phnom Penh.' Some excerpts from this chapter:
'… The traffic in Phnom Penh is a major daily wonder and conversation topic'

'Can the traffic be described best as chaos or anarchy? – you judge…'

'Do remember your breathing and expect chaos and to be challenged by vehicles, pedestrians, cows and other animals coming at you from every direction on all sides of the road at all speeds – although luckily usually slow.'

'Some important survival tips:
Do drive on the right – if you can …remember Khmer never walk so pedestrians are no problem.'

'Do remember the main road rule – might is right … Here’s another rule to see you over an intersection: whoever is in front goes first.

'Don’t think too much.'
What do they mean? In this 'Cambodia for Dummies'?

'Don’t use the pedestrian crossing. …. The Khmer have no idea about them and they are worthless [the crossing, Crossing Cambodia presumes] at best – usually downright dangerous.'

'Don’t drive with your lights on in the daytime as this is only for high officials. Remarkably this is the one rule the police really enforce.'

'Do note that a helmet is advisable. Remember, the traffic is chaos and … lady passengers - side saddle please and do avoid burns – OUCH.'

'Do follow police directions for motorcades. … The these times the traffic police will stop playing cards in the shade of trees or extorting bribes from helpless victims and jump to stop the traffic.'

'Do watch out for the Dream Boys – ‘no brains, no license, no idea, no problem’. Although most people drive slowly – too slowly – there are the young lads on fast motorbikes, like … They love to fly (i.e. drive on the back wheel only down the road) or zigzag in and out of traffic at high speed.'

'Do note that motorbikes are not permitted on Norodom Boulevard in working hours.'

This is not true

'Do know that the police are there for donations. As mentioned earlier, corruption is endemic in Cambodia.'

'Driving licenses are not required to drive motorbikes.'

On being stopped by the police:
'Usually the best advice if driving a motorbike is to power on through and not stop in daytime as the police are just after a bribe and not armed.'

'However at nighttime do stop at police checkpoints and roadblocks'.

The overall impression of this kind of advice is certainly not one of peaceful passiveness. Yes, both 'chaos' and 'anarchy' are used, but 'you judge'? Surely, the above does give the novice the impression that the traffic may be a bit overwhelming in Phnom Penh certainly ...

If you want this publication, it's not easily available outside Cambodia. It's ISBN number is 974-9823-10-9
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