Crossing Cambodia

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Advisory sites: Lonely Planet Trip

One way to gain insight into the culture is to look at what other’s (outsiders) comment. In this respect it might be interesting to view what guidebooks and advisory sites mention. Their expressions tend to more censored, mainstream even. Today Lonely Planet. From their 6th edition published in January 2006:

Road rules

If there are road rules in Cambodia it is doubtful that anyone is following them. Size matters and the biggest vehicle wins by default. The best advice if you drive a car or ride a motorcycle in Cambodia is to take nothing for granted and assume that your fellow motorists are visually challenged psychopaths. Seriously though, in Cambodia traffic drives on the right. There are few traffic lights at junctions in Phnom Penh so most traffic turns left into the oncoming traffic, edging along the left-hand side of the road until a gap becomes apparent. For the uninitiated it looks like disaster waiting to happen, but Cambodians are quite used to the system. Foreigners should stop at crossings and develop a habit of constant vigilance.
Phnom Penh is the one place where, amid all the chaos, traffic police take issue with Westerners breaking even the most trivial road rules. Make sure you don’t turn left on a ‘no left turn’ sign or travel with your headlights on during the day (although strangely, it doesn’t seem to be illegal for Cambodians to travel without headlights at night).
Key words: ‘win by default’, ‘visually challenged psychopaths’ and ‘disaster waiting to happen’.

Elsewhere in the printed version:
The cyclo is fast loosing ground to the moto ....
Warning: Moto drivers and cyclo drivers with little or no English may not understand where you want them to go even though they nod vigorously. This is a particular headache in a big city like Phnom Penh.
From the Lonely Planet internet site:

Road travel is safer than it's been for years, and most of the main roads are now in pretty good shape thanks to international assistance. Train travel is just about possible if you negotiate a space on a cargo service - but the journey will take much longer than by bus. With some 1900km of navigable waterways to utilise, boats play a major role in getting around. The most popular services operate between the capital and Siem Reap - the express service cuts the journey time down to a mere five hours. An effective local bus network makes travel to sights around Phnom Penh much easier than driving, particularly as cars can only be hired with a driver - and when you look at some of the country's highways from hell, perhaps that's all for the best. Taxis are more common in the cities these days, and cyclos and motos (small motorcycles) can be flagged down for short hops.
Clearly the abridged internet version is culturally adapted. But what surprises Crossing Cambodia most is that the no. 1 advantage of internet over a real book is it’s up-to-date-ness. Lonely Planet lags.
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