Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chasing Cars, December 2, 2010

It's inevitable to mention last weeks tragic bridge affair. Though traffic deaths and carnage are an increasingly familiar part of modern day life in Cambodia, it's mindboggling that a simple bridge and in-numerous amounts of people can lead to more than 350 dead.
What could be have been a watershed for the country seems to have been put behind us all. No one is accounted for blame, no one to share responsibility. And certainly not the owners of the bridge. And certainly not the government. Responsible behavior is not Khmer and hoping to improve the future by learning from past mistakes seems a tactic foreign to the local culture.
  • One of Phnom Pen's more peculiar traffic exhibits (and tourist attractions), Sambo the elephant, is destined to be evicted from the city. From Cambodiacalling: 'Sambo's owner Sinsorn was told on the 11 November that Sambo must leave Wat Phnom and never return because people complain Sambo disrupts traffic'. Sambo disrupts a fraction on the traffic, I bet the PP's govenor disrupts the traffic a lot more than Sambo!
  • More past haunting Cambodia. The Phnom Penh Post reports that 14 persons were killed when a tractor ran over an anti-tank mine.
  • Despite all the romanticism concerning the soon to disappear rail norries, accidents can also be deadly. Again the Phnom Penh Post:
    'Thnoat Chhrum commune police official Hong Savon said that a mix of heat and long-term use caused one of the norrie’s wheels to break. One of the passengers, Kong Tit from Kandieng district, was thrown from the norrie and fell in front of the cart. He suffered a fractured skull, a severe leg injury and several injuries to his arms. He died due to blood loss on the way to hospital'.
  • Expat Advisory service has a couple of traffic related threads. Letter to the Mad Bitch Driving a Prado.
    'Yes, you know who you are'.
    A traffic related anger management issue? Strange why the letter hasn't been sent by mail. Then
    Bus Driver is Nuts. It elicits quite a few reactions, though it seems that most drivers are nuts.
  • Over on the Khmer 440 forum, there's no less than 4 pages on hit and runs. How common are they? A.:
    'Though disturbing ... it is standard practice in Cambodia'.
    Hot off their
    website. The police are using their speed gun on a less busy stretch of road beyond the airport. And manned by 20 cops no less.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chasing Cars, November 14, 2010

Going viral. Probably the most talked about traffic issue at the moment is an everyday occurrence on Cambodia's road. Car travels down the wrong side of the road, hits a moto, tries to evade police. The difference is that this time someone his uploaded it onto YouTube and everybody has been talking about, especially on Facebook.

  • Deaths reported: three monks in one go, a professional boxer accidentally. Two girls by a soldier who was briefly arrested by police before letting him go because he had not intended to hit the girls.
  • Then in Banteay Meanchey a dead cow was arrested / confiscated:
    'He [province's chief of traffic police] said the corpse was detained for two hours at the station, but the owner failed to appear and the owners of the cars decided not to wait any longer and negotiated to pay for the damage themselves. “They [ the aggrieved damaged car owners] took the dead cow with them,” he said. “I don’t know what they will do with that cow.”'
  • China mending bridges? No, building new ones for Cambodia's railways (Phnom Penh Post). Other rail news. New reopened routes will lead to the costs going down for road transport.
  • There's an upswing in tourism meaning more flights, none of the aforementioned promises (Hanoi, Manila, Jakarta), but more of the same. Also no flights to Sihanoukville. Which is quite pathetic. TCambodia's national airline (CAA) should be opening up routes to here, but is in a bind as the operator of the airline is none other than the Vietnamese government which has no interest at all in opening Sihanoukville up as it competes directly with Vietnam's own plans for making Phou Coc the beach destination of the neighbourhood. Talk about a neighbourhood bully.
    'Developers and real estate agents have again emphasised the need for regular flights to Sihanoukville airport, with one party calling it “possibly the single most critical issue affecting tourism” in Cambodia',
    is just one of the lines Phnom Penh Post uses to highlight the case. The final sentence in the
    'Mai Xuan Long, an official at CAA, declined to comment'.
    Stephen Finch's comment also focuses on the situation. He asks some poignant questions.
    'Why isn’t CAA supporting these newly emerging destinations, especially given that Cambodia’s new flag carrier is understood to be partly government-run? The surging prices on CAA’s route from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh amid nonexistent carrier competition is equally debilitating for Cambodian tourism. Whereas the new airline offered special promotion fares between Cambodia’s two biggest tourism destinations after launching in July last year, now a round trip for foreigners usually costs more than US$200 when airport tax is factored in. That route across the Kingdom must rank as one of the most expensive internal flights in the region per kilometre'.
  • The government is planning more overhead bridges (Phnom Penh Post) despite current ones not fitting the bill.
    'is it me or are the road exits around the overpass at Chbar Ampeouv another classic piece of local planning ? It seems that if you're traveling south on Norodom and want to turn left across the Chbar Ampeouv bridge then you can only do this by turning right for a few hundred metres until you can execute an illegal u-turn around the concrete lane dividers ? And similarly if you're traveling north from Takmao and want to turn left onto the southern end of Monivong, it seems you now have to turn right to go across the newer Chbar Ampeouv bridge before turning round to come back over the old Chbar Ampeouv bridge'.
    More discussion on Khmer 440.
  • Khmer 440 also mention that there is a radar gun in Sihanoukville working ...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chasing Cars, a month later

  • Air France are coming this way. Bye, bye Bangkok. (That's if there are no strikes ....).
    More from the Phnom Penh Post ( 11 October 2010) Airberlin and Bangkok Airways sign deal to allow good connection via Bangkok.
  • The airport in Siem Reap. To relocate? To enlargen?
    'Airport management company Société Concessionaire Des Aéroports believes Siem Reap’s existing aerodrome can cope with future traffic demand, despite recently approved plans to build an alternative US$1-billion facility'.
    So there.
  • Trains are riding, analysisi are written. Keeping the iron silk line on track. Quite. But things are only starting. Analysis in Phnom Penh Post (21 October 2010).
    Elsewhere Khmer 440 forum has this:
    'Went the back way to kep last weekend and crossed the new rail line at several spots.
    I was astonished to see wagons loaded with ballast being unloaded onto the tracks.The line looked nearly finished and it actually opened yesterday.
    The new line means that trains can now carry cement from kampot to PP which will save the roads.
    But today we read that only hours after the first train ran it collided with a cement truck and was derailed!
    Toll holdings say that the train did all it could to warn the oncoming truck'.
    The final word on this thread:
    'Cambodian government will solve the problem, by passing a law that requires everyone to wear a crash helmet'.
    And here a more business like article on the train going forward.
  • More accidents, more expensive cars, more claims at insurance companies. Progress. It must be a good business:
    'Cao Minh Son, chief executive officer of Cambodia Vietnam Insurance, has seen the firm’s premiums total $750,000 over the first nine months – while paying out less than $8,000 in claims during the period'.
  • More car business: sales are up (Phnom Penh Post, October 6, 2010). Quote:
    '“People are becoming more fond of new cars because they’re thinking about the quality and safety,”'.
    As opposed to the good old days when buyers were just thinking about a set of wheels ...?
  • Letter to Phnom Penh Post's Editor ( 19 October 2010):
    'Nowadays, a lot of traffic lights have been set up in Phnom Penh. The traffic lights help people to avoid traffic jams. Violators are always disobeying the rules.
    Some of the traffic lights cause traffic jams because they don’t have the left turn signal. I think the government should set up the right traffic light'.
    Get right, get left.
  • And the answer to those drunken drivers who drive around carefree in Phnom's streets ignoring all the rules? A SMS.
    'Gary Foo, marketing manager for Hello, said the company began sending out anti-drunken driving messages to subscribers last week at the behest of the National Police.
    The messages state: “If you drink, do not drive. If you drive, do not drink”'.
    More in the article:
    'On October 1, municipal traffic police established nighttime drunken-driving checkpoints in all eight districts of the capital, and pulled over nearly 100 drivers in three days. The checkpoints were suspended, however, for the Pchum Ben festival, and Chev Hak said yesterday that this week’s flooding had prevented police from setting them up again.
    “We planned to restart on October 11, but because the weather was not good, we decided to suspend. We will carry on from this week after there is no more rain,” he said yesterday.
    Prach Chanthou, Kampong Speu’s traffic police chief, also said checkpoints had not been set up there, citing the weather and a “lack of street lamps”'.
  • And thus prior to Pchum Ben:
    'Municipal traffic police established nighttime drunken-driving checkpoints in all eight districts of the capital over the weekend, stopping nearly 100 drivers and fining four of them.
    The law calls for fines ranging between 6,000 riels and 25,000 riels (about US$1.50 to $6) for drunken driving, depending on vehicle type'.
  • Another long discussion on the merits of parking guards on the khmer 440 forum. The starter:
    'I always hate those parking guys who put the piece of paper on the vehicle and then deamand the return of the other half when one returns.
    I hate it when they try and demand three thousand riel for parking a car at the night market.
    I went to meta house last night on the moto,quite a nice venue but with a crap movie on.
    Imagine our surprise when we came out for the parking guy to demand 500 riel for each moto.
    Why a barang business would get into charging for parking is beyond me.
    I wont be going back'.
    The discussion then goes on and helps readers dealing with parking here, esp. for free.
  • Big festival, big toll:
    'Preliminary figures indicate that there were more road deaths during the final three days of this year’s Pchum Ben festival than there were last year, despite the fact that fewer collisions were recorded'.
    Phnom Penh Post ( 10 October 2010)
  • Prior to the festival, big prices too:
    '... bus companies and taxi drivers are set to increase their fees by 25 to 100 percent during the five days of Pchum Ben, a festival in which Cambodian people commemorate and honour dead ancestors'.
    The quote:
    'But many passengers remain disgruntled over doling out extra cash. Svay Rieng University student, Phok Marady, 22, who recently came to Phnom Penh to visit his uncle, said he had been charged more than usual. “It is difficult because my mother gives me only a little money,” he said'.
  • Anarchy in the kingdom:
    'Dangkor district governor Kit Sopha said he had ordered police to arrest eight wayward cows on Saturday and another four on Sunday. The bovines are being detained at the My Chance Centre, a drug rehabilitation facility in the city’s Sen Sok district.
    “This is not the first time we have cracked down on roaming cows,” Kit Sopha said.
    He added that the animals had been detained in connection with the Kingdom’s Land Traffic Law, which prohibits animals from “walking in a disorderly manner on a public road”. Their owners must now write letters to City Hall in order to get their animals back, he said'.
  • Advertising for free on Expat Advisory Services:
    'Just seen the tuk tuk limo,all black with a uniformed driver.
    He has free water,face towels,masks and a small library.
    Call mr limo on 077 33 77 01'.
    A library?
  • New developments: a new bridge. Old one is now off-limits to some. And the new bridge costs money. Phnom Penh Post (24 September 2010):
    'Trucks and vehicles with 25 or more seats have been prohibited from crossing the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge across the Tonle Sap and must instead pay to use the newly finished Prek Phnov Bridge on the city’s outskirts, Phnom Penh municipal authorities said'.
  • Finally blame the messenger. According to OECD the past decade has seen a rise of over 300% . The government response:
    'Tin Prosoeur, deputy chief of the Traffic Department at the Interior Ministry, yesterday questioned the accuracy of the 328 percent figure. “We acknowledge that traffic fatalities are still increasing, but they have not jumped up to these high statistics,” he said'.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chasing Cars, Mooncake day 2010

Highlighting Cambodia's inability in providing safety for road participants, no less than the DG of the Transport Department has explained that if Cambodia is to attain the ASEAN goal for reduction of road fatalities (in 2010), it's the international communities concern, not Cambodia's.
'“We will not achieve the goal because our capacity is still young,” Ung Chun Huor, director general of the Transportation Department at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said at a workshop in the capital on Friday. “We have insufficient funds and a lack of human resources to promote traffic safety.”'
He also had no clue on how much funds were already attributed to traffic safety but rest assured, traffic safety concerns are only donor driven, so what can he do? How about enforcing the law?

  • Talking of which, police are now enforcing a one way traffic sign on street 130 in Phnom Penh. It's more newsworthier than the above.
  • Along with the stoppage on major construction projects in the capital, Cambodia's first assembly plant is getting a bit late.
    'Camko finance director Lim Visal said yesterday that the plant would be ready to assemble cars by the end of the year, but declined to specify a date'.
    And Camko are not a real estate developer ....
  • More development, a new airport in Siem Reap. Just last week a pipe dream, now awaiting construction. Logic: big airport, more and bigger planes, more tourists = more money.
    But is it a good investment? Could be, but again Camko involved as well as another until now unknown company. Maybe it's still a pipedream ....
    Btw, who saw that they believe that the new airport will result in a 4 or 5 fold increase in passengers? Does it mean they don't know?
  • Again the Japanese are announcing the construction of their bridge over the Mekong. It seems to be taking for ever.
  • From the Phnom Penh Post (14 September 2010) :
    'Two technologies dear to the heart of Phnom Penh’s expat community – the tuk-tuk and free Wi-Fi – have been combined. Mobile-phone provider qb has launched 15 special tuk-tuks that are set to travel around the capital offering an internet connection to “anyone in the area”. The vehicles will also act as showrooms for qb'.
  • has a discussion on songteaws. Why possible in Thailand, not in Cambodia? Next week they will have a discussion on the use of old Mercedes buses. Why in Vietnam, not in Cambodia?
  • Flight information. India is just another country which probably won't start flights to Cambodia even though their intentions are well-meant. In the meantime Cambodia Angkor Airways (CAA) is on the way to expansion.
    'It also plans to expand operations to South Korea, China, Singapore, Bangkok and Hanoi.
    Cambodia and Vietnam are also preparing to open a new route from Da Lat, in central Vietnam, to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, a move already approved by Cambodia’s Council of Ministers'.
    And with loads of just over 60%, a year after taking off, it's can't be deemed to be making money despite officials naming it a success. I also heard on the grapevine that CAA are still no way near to starting up flights to Sihanoukville, despite massive interest from Bangkok Air. Being a state run enterprise though means they can block that interest ...
  • An exposition of photo's of Phnom Penh communities who until recently lived on the rails.
To finish off with where we began, Phnom Penh Post had a fine article (not literally!) on the stealth tactics used by the traffic police.
'“It is important that traffic police keep safety on the road. Make sure that people respect you and the law,” Touch Naruth [Municipal Police Chief] said yesterday as he relayed a message given during his Tuesday meeting. “Don’t just stand under trees and jump out to crack down on drivers without helmets or mirrors. It’s dangerous for you and drivers on the roads.”
However, it appears not everyone agrees with the police chief’s strategy. Him Yan, director of the public order department at the Interior Ministry, said hiding behind trees is “an unavoidable strategy”.
“This strategy is to make people cease their bad habits,” Him Yan said. He said other countries also employ such measures to enforce the law.
But Long Chy, a 34-year-old motorbike-taxi driver, said that he blamed police for causing traffic accidents when trying to surprise rule-breakers.
“Police activities are much more anarchic than regular people’s,” he said'.
Well, as trees are slowly disappearing from the city, will traffic police follow?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Chasing cars, September 2010

Somehow I had in mind to stop this blog after 5 years, which I believed would be soon. Just found out that I have just passed the 4 years! So no end in sight?
  • Rail news. Besides the news that the railway rehab is ongoing there is the news item on the company involved ordering carriages and loco's. It also seems that the company working in Cambodia has taken on a new investor in the form of local firm Royal, but that news seems to have eluded most.
  • The Phnom Penh Post once more highlights the lack of interconnecting railways in Southeast Asia.
    'The only missing link on that route is between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh'.
    Elsewhere in the same newspaper is an op-ed on the same subject:
    'In terms of trade the benefits are obvious. The new network would provide links to some of the Kingdom’s most important trade partners – China, Vietnam and Thailand. With Cambodia beginning to see large increases in its exports in recent years from a small base, this rail project could provide added impetus to the development of these industries. Furthermore, a new rail connection provides an additional transport link to key deepwater ports in Singapore and Cai Mep in southern Vietnam. Economic opportunities associated with completion of the project, therefore, also benefit industries like the garment sector, as most exports flow to these ports and on to Cambodia’s primary export markets in North America.
    Given these clear benefits to the economy, why is the government not making this project an absolute priority? Instead of resorting to the type of mentality that expects others to front the capital, Cambodia needs to consider ways it could help finance the project'.
  • Stan Kahn gives his own thoughts on the same subject.
    '... our August 20 coverage of the Mekong railway project, which included a front-page picture, an opinion column and report leave a lot to be desired. First, the opinion piece by Steve Finch lays the blame for not finishing the project solely on Cambodia, which is quite unfair considering Vietnam is also required to build new tracks. Furthermore, the huge US$1.09 billion cost of the new line, more than half of which comes from the need to construct two very expensive bridges, including one over the Mekong, is not something Cambodia could tackle on its own.
    ... it would be clear why the cost is so high. That new line starts just north of the capital, heads east and a bit north to Kampong Cham, then east all the way to Snoul, where it then makes a sharp right turn and heads south to connect with a short line in Vietnam, which should also be on the map, which comes due north from Ho Chi Minh City.
    The connection between the two major cities would be much faster and shorter if it were routed generally along Highway 1. In that case, Vietnam would be responsible for close to half the cost. The present, less-desirable routing places about 95 percent of the cost onto Cambodia, which is much less capable of shouldering the burden'.
    Maybe the Vietnamese are just smarter.
  • New rail, new roads. Not always so easy to undertake. Phnom Penh's road to the north was to be widened but after that virtually knocked down all that needed to enable the widening, PM has stepped in and said that the widening was a bit optimistic. A new problem?
    'It would now appear, however, that at least some of these families were forced to tear down their homes unnecessarily'.
  • Bridges galore. The bridge over the Mekong to make the road to Saigon seamless is to be tendered. The bridge has been waiting for ever to move forward. Scheduled date of completion 2015. Don't hold your breath.
  • New roads open, others are being blocked.
    'Around 300 villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a sugar company owned by a prominent senator blocked National Road 52 in Kampong Speu province yesterday in an effort to prevent the company’s employees from tearing down villagers’ homes'.
    With frustration with the near
    daily reports on land conflicts increasing, expect more of this.
  • Air transport. The national carrier has received it's own country license only a year after operation. Furthermore an as yet unidentified airline will seek to fly between Indonesia and Cambodia. Not direct but via Singapore, so that's no better than Silk Air, Tiger, Jetstar or Air Asia ...
Now we are moving into the more whacky part of Cambodia's traffic.
  • First of all a sorry tale:
    '23-year-old security guard has been seriously injured after he was crushed by a luxury SUV in front of a popular city cafe, according to the man’s family.
    Mom Chamroeun, who worked as a security guard in front of Gloria Jean’s coffee house in Chamkarmon district, was hospitalised after the Wednesday incident.
    “His left leg is seriously broken and has to be amputated,” said Sam Sokla, the man’s sister. “His kidney, liver and intestines are also damaged.”
    Ney Sokhay, a security guard nearby who saw the incident, said Mom Chamroeun was sitting in front of the cafe when a van collided with a Lexus. The crash sent the Lexus veering into the guard, he said.
    Gloria Jean’s Managing Director Michael Albert said the business is soliciting customer donations, which will be matched then handed to Mom Chamroeun’s family'.
  • Bricks thrown from vehicles (see also here). Police will drop the case(s) according to their own logic:
    '“We have not found the suspect.... We are not in the process of investigation,” he said. “There is no case anymore.”'
  • Finally there is Cambodia's Pocket Guide Out&About for Phnom Penh which has a section on cycling on page 50. In it besides finding out where you can buy a cycle and what to do without ending up as roadkill it mentions
    'there are plans to transform whole swathes of the capital's streets into tourist-friendly, pedestrianized areas with narrow cycle lanes'.
    Funny, it as least takes a more serious look at the advantages cycling have. Further along on page 66 a piece on staying alive which is an essential article of how to survive on Phnom Penh's roads. It involves great one-liners such as:
    '... as a foreigner you're not supposed to be here and, if you weren't then the accident would never happened'.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chasing Cars, August 16, 2010

Really not much to mention over the past few months, only quirky press messages. Or not?
  • Are crash / fatality rates going up or down? No one seems to know. All they do know is:
    'If traffic police continue to enforce the law, I think fatalities will decrease'. However a recent report suggest a rise which has lead to a government initiated new traffic safety action plan. In writing the plan looks excellent: 'The plan, devised by a multi-agency road safety committee, calls for increased funding and the development of expertise in order to improve road safety.
    Improved safety will require better infrastructure, better trained drivers and speed and traffic flow management, according to the plan, released earlier this week.
    The plan also calls for improved major national roads and the training of engineers for road safety audits and other oversight. It will target major risks, including speeding, driving without a helmet, seatbelt or child restraint and drunk driving. It will also target overloaded vehicles and improve the reaction time for first responders.
    Other strategies include public education, road safety curriculum in schools and universities and peer-to-peer education. Education campaigns will be linked to law enforcement initiatives.
    Under the plan, the Ministry of Health hopes to strengthen national emergency medical services, including first aid, transport, capacity of hospitals, mechanisms to manage the system and integrated information systems. Physical rehabilitation of the victim post-crash will also become a feature in the plan.
    Traffic legislation will also need updated for modern traffic conditions, and the laws must be better enforced, according to the plan. This will include better drivers licensing in a database linked between police and the judiciary'.
    But how will this translate in reality ...
  • Reality check 1. From the Phnom Penh Post:
    'A customs officer based at the Bavet international border crossing in Svay Rieng province crashed into an ambulance on Sunday in Romduol district, officials said. Sao Sokun, chief of the provincial traffic police, said the crash injured eight people including the customs officer, but declined to divulge who was at fault in the case. “According to the traffic law, if anyone wounds or disables another, he or she will be caught,” he said. “In this case, [the officer] is not in police custody. In practice, we don’t do like the law says.”'
  • Reality check 2. Phnom Penh Post report on what it takes to become a gangster in Cambodia:
    '45 men and eight women between the ages of 16 and 22 were arrested before daybreak yesterday while riding motorbikes, and that they had been accused of violations including speeding, failing to wear a helmet and using drugs'.
    Anyone failing to wear a helmet in the middle of the night (which covers roughly 95% of all road users at that hour!).
  • Somehow the nations airliner (Cambodia Angkor Air) is going to (over?) expand.
    'The carrier, set up last July in a joint venture between the Cambodian government and Vietnam Airlines, plans to purchase two 168-seat Airbus 321s – which according to a price list compiled by the French maker cost about US$95.5 million each'.
    Where does the money come from? Confidential. It apparently is making modest initial profits despite the following:
    'President of World Express Tours and Travel Ho Vandy, who is also co-chairman of the government-private sector forum on tourism, emphasised that CAA must be competitive.
    “On behalf of the tourism private sector, we’d like to suggest that the CAA should set competitive prices to encourage more passengers to use it,” he said. “We also see that service and hospitality on board is still limited. There should be an improvement, and flight attendants’ uniforms should reflect Khmer national identification.”'
    So what do they reflect now? Modernity? Vietnam?
  • What are SUV's good for? Throwing bricks at pedestrians! A rash of incidents on Phnom Penh's riverfront, most of which are as follows:
    '“I began to cross the road and a car turned down, and a brick hit me in the back.”' Not only SUVs but also pickups. The official response to this rash of incidents? 'Hun Sothy, the police chief in Daun Penh district, said he did not believe the victims’ accounts because he had yet to receive any reports detailing their cases. “I deploy police officers along the street at night to protect tourists, so I don’t think they have happened,” he said. “If there is a victim, they should file a complaint to a police official that is close to them.”'
    More about this on's
  • Cambodia's first fly over has opened. Though it allows most traffic (incl. the PM) going from north to south pass well, east-west is little more tougher. And willing to take a turn? Impossible. Read and try to understand what the architects have done. Courtesy of the Khmer 440 forum came the link to this photo:Caption to the accredited to photo:
    'The second case happened in the next morning, the crazy container’s driver want to test how strong will highway could maintain?'
    Ripped from
  • Another photo of the same object from 'Life in Cambodia':
    'An unintended (but not surprising) result of the new overpass is the creation of a new tourist attraction in Phnom Penh. Although there is no shoulder or pedestrian walkway on it, the new overpass has been swarmed by gawkers who ride their motorbikes to the middle, stop to view the traffic below, and take photos of family members. One traffic hazard has been traded for another. The interest in seeing a bird's eye view of traffic is understandable realizing that the large majority of Cambodian people have never even ridden in a car'.
  • Another khmer 440 forum item discusses whether it's customary or not for Cambodian officials to pilfer accident victims. The fact alone that this is in questions already raises serious doubts ...
  • From Details are Sketchy (so are recent postings) another news item on the impending bridge to Vietnam road saga.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chasing Cars, mid-June 2010

There we are thinking life had changed and traffic was not more on the (press) list and along come a number of interesting developments.
Prominent among them of course are the proposals to change Cambodia's traffic law.
Press focus on the increase on fines, the most obvious tactic to get traffic offenders to heel. But is it?

Some extracts of what the law can change:
'calls for the addition of two new articles and amendments to 24 of 95 pre-existing articles
If the new draft is approved, that fine will be increased to 21,000 riels (about $5), and will also be applied to passengers'.
Basically what the law is saying is that the height of the fine is the maximum amount traffic police can extort from offenders. What's more, the change leads to big discrepancies between offenses, how are the public to know what is the correct fee? As long as it's not transparent....

It also focuses on the cosmetic enforcement. If everybody has a helmet then does that make traffic law abided by? If anything far from it.
Law enforcement is mostly restricted to daylight, at nite nobody has a helmet. What's more certain officials are above the law or too poor to afford a helmet. Then the current traffic law has so much body, there's already so much to be done without changing the law. Wearing helmets the focus of current law enforcement protects current traffic users from themselves, what about the characters dodging red lights which is common more and more standard practice? Or using the phone while taking part in traffic. Or driving down the worng side of the road. Surely we would expect these enfringements of the current law to be tackled before adding another layer of rules which at best will be enforced haphazardly?

The HIB (Handicap International Belgium) are happy nonetheless, their focus is totally on helmets. Quote:
'"We would like the fines to be increased because, based on our experience and regional comparisons, higher fines mean people have more respect for the law, and this leads to fewer fatalities,” she said.
She added that high fines and strong enforcement in Vietnam have led to almost 100 percent compliance with helmet laws'.
So what about the strong enforcement? In Vietnam they drive like crazy, but not in the wrong direction nor do they dodge traffic lights.

And the existing law was mostly drawn up by NGO's ,the new amendments not. What to think of
'One of the two new articles included in the draft would require that drivers only operate vehicles registered in their own names ...'.
A lot of drivers and rental companies will be out of work!

Elsewhere a great article was published on the Guardian by Melody Kemp entitled
'Asia's silent victims of pollution and emissions'.
Focusing on Vientiane, Lao, she sets out to describe that traffic is becoming the number 1 life threatening source.
'Despite Harvard and the World Health Organisation (WHO) both insisting that road and occupational accidents look to outstrip infectious disease as the major causes of death and disability in the south, there is little evidence that donor agencies have shifted their priorities accordingly. Trauma medicine and rehabilitation centres remain rarities. Road and occupational deaths remain like wallpaper on the modernisation agenda: striking when first noticed, then increasingly invisible.
Visiting experts advocate rational and linear solutions. But in Asia, the cause and effect relationship is often non-rational. A Thai or Lao surviving a crash is more likely to erect a spirit house than reflect on the use of wing mirrors, or make merit at the temple rather than look before entering a stream of traffic. Passers-by may be reluctant to help a bleeding victim in case they "catch the lousy luck". These are factors that cannot be changed simply with asphalted roads or traffic lights. And infrastructure solutions, such as the new poorly designed major arterial through Vientiane, may actually raise accident rates by enabling greater speed. Systematic corruption, such as enabling a proxy to buy a driving licence, undermines progress. New wealth also enables new drivers to drive powerful cars such as a Maserati (along with Humvees, and Mercedes sports, which are increasingly popular) they are ill-equipped to handle'.
This and more, however as some commentators note the article is a little void of solutions. One comment does though look at Taipei:
'It can be reversed - Taipei, while still a polluted city, is vastly better than it was, mainly through actions designed to curb polluting engines and an emphasis on public transport. They've just finished a fantasic network of cycle paths to try to encourage people to get back to the bike - they even have TV ads encouraging people to cycle.
But the idea (possibly with some justification) that pollution and road deaths is just a price you pay to catch up with the west is very deeply embedded in the minds of most Asian policymakers. Maybe it doesn't have to be that way - but sadly nobody seems willing to take the risk of trying an alternative'.
An interesting read.

More mundane:
  • A Letter to the Editor of Phnom Penh Post earlier this month. A reader complains about the segmenting of Phnom Penhs roads which he believes impedes emergency vehicles.
  • More complaints on the same situation.
    'These [concrete barriers] seem to be aimed at ensuring Khmer drivers stay on the correct side of the road (which they should be doing by law anyway). However, in effect, they introduce a whole new range of problems.
    Emergency vehicles can get locked into these one-way “chutes”; In some cases they have blocked former cross streets, and now motor scooter drivers are coming down the wrong side of the barriers toward oncoming traffic.
    These barriers have only made already bad traffic far worse. When will town planners in Phnom Penh wake up, and where did they actually get these ideas from?
    If the police are going to fine people for anything, why not start with the basics of failing to stop at red lights, travelling on the wrong side of the road and not staying within your own lane'.
  • Then later a Letter on parking fees.
    'I regret that some people are affected by this measure, but they should be conscious that the space is for public, and not for personal use or business. The businesses and parking on the streets frequently create chaos and traffic jams'.
    Elsewhere the Post gives voice to the business community which are vehemently opposed. It will effect their biznesses. Yeah so that justifies stealing public property? Me, me, me ... Probably the whole episode is to placate the Japanese so they'll cough up more money for some bridge or another ...
Picture apparently taken in Hoi An, Vietnam.

  • Statistics are still all over the place. Some say accidents went down, now they are back up. HIB imply that speeding is major cause of accidents but helmets need to be worn ....
  • Phnom Penh Post has an article on cyclo's.
    '“I think that within 20 years cyclos will completely disappear. There are fewer and fewer, and profits are dropping,” he said. Pao Phearum said the challenges of being a cyclo driver include fatigue, competing with more modern forms of transportation like motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks, and having to pay money to security personnel or police to pick up customers'.
    True as it may seem, focusing on tourists may extend that lifeline. See many western cities now with cyclo services ...

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Chasing Cars, more than 1 month later ....

I could start of this posting by offering my apologies for not posting for such a long time. But I'm not. Traffic wise there's simply so little to report on. It's been hot so not so much traffic. Everybody is being wearing helmets so no wacky government / law instructions on that. And it seems like everybody is content.
  • Starting with content. The
    'Bangkok/Siem Reap Overland Guide'
    has once more reinvented itself. Hardly any problems anymore with the road just with bus company rip offs and border problems. Why the bus companies and border officials can't solve this a la going to Vietnam is beyond me.
  • An aircraft has been sighted at Sihanoukville airport. That's a huge increase over the past years 0 aircraft.
  • Phnom Penh City is experimenting (on advice of the Japanese) with charging drivers for parking. Currently you are allowed to park virtually anywhere even to the extent of blocking traffic, who cares. The 'experiment' lasts a full week on a short stretch of inner city road. Wow!
    '...the point of the exercise, which runs through June 2, is to reduce the number of vehicles along Charles de Gaulle and discourage “anarchic parking”. Fees are being collected by Sky Security Service.
    Masato Koto, an urban planning consultant for the city who dreamed up the scheme, said his long-term vision was to restrict roadside parking along major thoroughfares to designated areas while imposing charges to drive down demand. By doing so, he said, officials could make Phnom Penh more pedestrian-friendly.
    “In other countries, sidewalks are only for pedestrians,” he said. “But Cambodia is different. Here sidewalks are for parking cars, so we have to change this characteristic.”'
    But the Cambodian side is already whining. Charges are too high. '
    Masato acknowledged that the charges had drawn criticism, but said they needed to be high in order to effectively deter parking.
    “If the cost is high, then people will no longer want to park here. That’s the point,” he said.
    “The number of cars is increasing every day, but the land in the city is limited, so we have to control the demand for parking.”'
    Yes, but now the rich dudes end up paying for something which was free. Where's the justice in this?
  • An article in the Phnom Penh Post presumably about a new bridge north of Phnom Penh across the Tonle Sap river. Content of the article is about the more than 200 lorries Cambodia gets from China packed with 50,000 free military uniforms. This in exchange for kicking out a couple of asylum seekers, it seems.
  • 'A weighty issue. A motodop driver and a security guard try to help a tuk-tuk laden with boxes of bottled water get back on its wheels at the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Street 214 last week'.
    Phnom Penh Post April 28, 2010.
  • A huge piece in the Phnom Penh Post concerning the history of Cambodia's rail network. Saturady 5 June will see the Chinese House Express, a 3 hour (or longer) trip north of Phnom Penh with a jazz concert in a rice paddy.
  • What's wrong with bus companies? They all suck?
  • A new piece of the Phnom Penh city has been revealed. Three of the 12 roads have been approved of this 'secretive' city expansion. Part of the plan will be a flyover for which some city citizens will have to move.
  • A miscreant in Siem Reap wants to sue the police because he failed to stop when required to do so by police. He was consequently hit on the head by traffic police with a walkie-talkie device so as to enforce the stop signal. It worked. He stopped and needed stitches. Miscreant claims expenses plus
    '$1,500 for mental illness compensation'.
    But arguably he was already mentally deranged before incident ....
  • Finally Monument Books have nearly sold out of he Wall & Kemp Carrying Cambodia photo book. One can though still order from others such as Borders or Amazon. Or simply open up the Life in Cambodia website with arguably more interesting photo's.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chasing Cars, Cambo stylo, 26 April 2010

Absolutely nothing seems to be going on, traffic wise in Cambodia. One would have expected a lament of the many deaths and injured during the past Khmer new year celebration but nada. Well not technically, I believe the Phnom Penh Post ran a smallish article on the drop of deaths in Phnom Penh, though if you were here during the holidays it's surprising that an accident took place at all, technically the town had turned into Ghost Town as the city had emptied.

The holidays have come and gone and everybody still needs to get into the groove somehow.
  • A study so says the Phnom Penh Post. A calculation of the cost of accidents. No less than an annual cost of $248 million for 2009, a doubling since 2003. That seems a conservative estimate and considering the number of new traffickers (can I say this?) has risen three / four fold in the same time, it means that the costs are proportionally dropping, good news eh? Funny this estimating the cost. The administrative part cost $43 million, while deaths and injuries $73 million. Life is cheap? the police finally add that it's because the public are ignorant and fail to comply. What about the role of the police in this?
  • Though we had been hoping for boats to be leaving from Kep for Phu Quoc asap. apparently someone has decided to throw a spanner in the works. The Japanese company has objected to the intended harbor being placed 5 km from the agreed on place (a year before!), according to the Phnom Penh Post:
    'Authorities instead proposed a port location in the forest area of Poun Mountain, 5 kilometres from the centre of the town in Damnak Chang Er district, a site the company official said was shallow and choked with seaweed'.
    The local government are (literally?) standing firm ...
  • This morning I picked up the newest scam on the road Siem Reap to Bangkok involving bus breaking downs and extending waits so as to get other buses full. Good advertisement. Anyway, who wants to go to BKK?
  • Bamboo trains are disappearing laments none other than the LA Times. Never understood why this would anyone would be passionate for this, it's about the same as wishing you could only get to Siem Reap by moto ...
  • Last week a downpour providing relief by distress to road users as the streets went under. KI Media reports. Despite multi-million drainage system which was clogged up and blamed on the local rubbish collectors ...
  • Sokha to open a second hotel in Sihanoukville. Newsworthy? Funny they have enough space to develop on at their first site, but to keep land in cambodia you have to build something to really claim it, preferably a wall. Anyways in the Phnom Penh Post article they mention that Cambodia Angkor Airways might start to fly from Siem Reap:
    'News of the hotel build follows reports, published in Cambodian press Thursday, that Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) is to offer domestic charter flights to Sihanouk International Airport this year.
    The Post met with blank responses when it contacted officials to verify the claims Thursday.
    Mai Xuan Long, deputy director of CAA, said that he didn’t know exactly what was happening with the company’s flights to Sihanoukville International Airport.
    Kao Sivorn, Operation Director Department of Secretariat of State of Civil Aviation, said that so far he has not received proposals from CAA to start operations to the new airport.
    He added that the company does not have enough ability to begin regular flights to Sihanouk International Airport yet.
    He added: “If [CAA] begin operation there, it will boost the tourism sector for Sihanouk province, as the airport can link it to Siem Reap International Airport.”
    Tith Chantha, director of Sihanouk International Airport, said that he has not yet heard when CAA would begin flights to the airport.
    “I have not received any official letter from CAA,” he said'.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Chasing Cars, pre-Khmer New Year '10

Yesterdays Phnom Penh Post (April 5) has put up an article based on calculations by Handicap International Belgium about what the costs are to the the nation of poor driving (and consequent accidents).
VOA Khmer had already reported on this earlier. Both though delved in the press release by Road Safety Cambodia.
The press release mentions amongst others the relative numbers (deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles) are dropping which is partially blamed by more congestion which means lower speeds = less deaths. However they are still way above regional standards. Though no doubt putting a price tag on this is all part of the pressure the government package but the reality is that putting a price on tragedy doesn't mean that it will compile the government to take action. Tragedies happen. The odd part is that the cost to humans matches the cost to properties, surely that can't be correct.
Why did they they choose blood Friday for the presentation?
  • Talking about safety, the Khmer 440 forum has a thread on the safety of Phnom Penh's streets. The mostly male crowd who inhabit this forum seem to be OK with safety issues though they mostly focus on muggings ...
  • Sihanoukville airport back in the news:
    '[The airport operators] determined to convince airlines to start providing scheduled flights through Preah Sihanouk province’s fully operational airport ...' then the article harks back on the national flag carrier: 'SCA and the government want the new national carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), to begin scheduled flights to Preah Sihanouk, but the CAA is apprehensive. Cambodia Angkor Airlines’ vice CEO Lim Kao told the Post Wednesday the carrier’s three planes are already burdened with their runs, at a time when tourism has slowed. He added that CAA is reluctant to open up a new flight path without knowing if there is sufficient demand'.
    If the CAA isn't willing to take a risk in promoting Sihanoukville as Asia's newest beach destination who will? Surely that's why you have designated a national carrier in the first place?
  • Much in the same vein, a conference on ground handling in Asian airports concluded that liberalization of both handling and awarding flight rights are lagging...
  • And then there is the Cambodia Daily. On March 27-28 ('Airline Industry set for Recovery as Prices mount') they mention how things are looking up for the aviation industry in Cambodia, but not for the consumers? Witness new routes an/or expended capacity (Siem Reap - Shanghai; Guangzhou - Phnom Penh; KL - Phnom Penh).
    They also mention that a comeback of Siem Reap Airways is in the final stages.
    One funny thing mentioned is that since CAA have started fares between SR and HCM have risen. Flights between HCM and PP are some of Asia's most overpriced, CAA is certainly not competing ....
  • Talking about rivers and boats. The annual Mekong River Swim is off. In the Asialife April edition besides a lack of volunteers they also mention that due to the newly formed Boat 'Association' prices for renting a boat have become prohibitive ...
  • Next up? Cars with tinted windows.
    'Police have begun a crackdown on cars with tinted windows, as ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a meeting Friday at the Council of Ministers. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday that police were taking a hard line with owners of cars with tinted windows, forcing them to remove the window tinting “to ensure security and order for the Cambodian people”.“Police will eliminate cars with tinted windows from the road,” Khieu Sopheak said, ...'.
    More on Khmer 440. Probably it's Khmer New Year soon ...
  • Odd news. A general takes revenge on an ice seller for damaging his .... car. According to his own sense of justice, a neck shot was required, the ice seller still lives. Is this odd? No the odd thing is that the general will be prosecuted, at least that's what they are saying ...
  • Then there is mob rule. Reported on in various media, no less than 400 'residents' killed two motorbike robbers and left another for dead (CD reports: 'regained consciousness just before his body was to be cremated'!) after intervening with police. Gruesome footage with Khmer media.
  • More odd news.
    'A Cambodian taxi driver was arrested after he ramped up an inter-city fare, then threatened to kill his passengers by driving into a lake unless they paid, local media reported Monday. The driver had initially agreed to take 20 passengers to the eastern province of Prey Veng for 2 dollars a head, the Phnom Penh Post newspaper said. However, halfway there, he stopped the taxi and announced the fare had increased to 5 dollars each. When the passengers refused to hand over the extra money and began arguing with the driver, he threatened to drown them by driving into a nearby lake. A passenger then called the police who arrested the driver. Cambodia lacks public transport, and privately operated minibus taxis, which are often overcrowded, are a common way to travel around the country'.
    Source according to KI Media is dpa, though the PPP also runs this story ....
  • Info on a new bus service to Pakse. Elsewhere there's a thread on Tripadvisor.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chasing Cars, March 24, 2010

On a non traffic related matter I recently signed up to Smart internet, they offering some of the cheapest internet on mobile phones. Cheap is definitely not good. Needed just 3 visits to their customer service and now it's working, but soooooo slooooooow. And they have blocked access to KI Media, a seemingly unendless amount of news stories.
'While trying to retrieve the URL: The following error was encountered:
  • Access Denied. Access control configuration prevents your request from being allowed at this time. Please contact your service provider if you feel this is incorrect [sic]'.
Anyway on Cambodia's traffic front. Yesterday's (23 March 2010) Phnom Penh Post provided an opposition parliamentarian a couple of columns to allow him to publicly complain about the lack of redress within the Cambodian legal system. Remember his son was shot after a traffic dispute in Phnom Penh's center. Though at the time it was a bit ambiguous about the cause of the dispute, it is tellingly that the police have been unable to arrest the killer despite having his name.
' “... the police have not got any clue about the suspect’s whereabouts. I request that the police speed up their work in this case so that justice can be brought to my son,”...'
However it does seem weird that a parliamentarian thinks he can jump the line. Injustice is common within the country and the legal system is only working for the rich and well-connected. If anything this parliamentarian should know this. Or not?
  • How the law sometimes 'works':
    'A 33-year-old man is facing prosecution after he was accused of involvement in a Wednesday traffic accident in Phnom Penh that killed a 30-year-old garment worker and a 13-year-old boy. However, authorities speculated that the man might not be sent to court if he agrees to pay US$4,500 in compensation to the victim’s family. By law, accused perpetrators still face court action even if they agree to out-of-court monetary compensation. But another driver who was allegedly involved in the same accident was not sentenced after he paid up'.
  • In and on forums on Cambodia one of the most often asked questions regards transportation and if buses run between x and y, and how are they? Andy B. reviews on his blog his recent trip with paramount to Siem Reap: '
    If you want to do the bus trip between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap then don't choose Paramount Angkor Express, as their bus that carried me between the two, leaving the capital at 6pm, was one of the most uncomfortable I've ever been on. And believe me I've been on some crap buses'.
    After receiving a comment praising the same company he adjusts his views:
    'the bus he [bus driver] was in charge of had seen better days and needed some new screws fitted. By comparison the Mekong Express bus to PP was considerably better'.
  • A small article (22 March 2010) in the Phnom Penh Post on how the number of accidents is up. As usual the article is full of statistic wonders.
  • The Australian company hoping to earn a buck off Cambodia's railroads has found out that the going will be tough:
    'David Kerr, CEO of Toll Holdings Group Cambodia (THGC), asked the government to put regulations and infrastructure in place, which are needed to fix the country’s railways'.
    Should have thought that before signing up ...
  • A promise is what? Cebu Pacific had promised to start to fly to Cambo land this April, but nothing seems to be in the pipeline. This thread on Khmer 440 seems to suggest that it's not such a bad thing ...
    'Cebu Pacific Air is the worst airline I have ever flown--huge delays, booking hassles, canceled flights with no advance notice, refunds that never arrive, and horrible service ...'
  • Promises? That's what they hope what will get the Sihanouk airport up and running.
    'Sihanoukville airport is still struggling to attract airlines due to the enduring slump in the regional travel industry, according to an official at Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA), the French firm that manages the Kingdom’s airports.
    Still, not a single airline has agreed to flights to the airport despite the offer of zero percent airport tax.
    SCA’s Chief Planning Officer Tanguy Bertolus said Tuesday that new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), a joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, was showing reluctance to fly to the recently renovated airport due to the difficult economic climate.
    “Cambodia Angkor is a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines and the Cambodian government, and they are not really keen right now to take risks and open new lines,” he said'.
    That's goobledigook. The company has only been existing for 12 months and the situation when they started was probably worse than now. So why are they backtracking?
  • More tourist related info. As in the previous editions of CC the ... 'boat cartel' ... Though they call themselves a Water Transport Association, they have been trying to cream off the boat owners by imposing themselves and getting the tourists to foot the bill. The way it works:
    'Ly Puthy, association president, said a letter thumbprinted by all members would be sent to the Tourism, Interior, Public Works and Transport ministries, and to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, requesting that Rin Naran – owner of the Chamkar Sne boat – immediately join the association'.
  • Talking about boats. Why all the fuss about tourist boats?
    'Two women died when a boat sank on the Mekong River in Prey Veng province on Friday, police said, the most recent of a string of such incidents throughout the Kingdom prompting officials to issue warnings about the dangers of overloading passenger boats and other vessels'.
  • Tourism helps? After visiting Cambodia in 2007 (by bicycle) Dan Austin decided to get help in, by donating cycles to children. In Cambodia of course, in Uganda, in Peru. The organisation 88 Bikes, gets a (very positive) roll call on CBS News. 88 is the cost of donating a bicycle.
  • Has someone picked up on this? Phnom Penh is to become clean? Cambodian Beginnings has a short blog entry.
    'However, as of next month Phnom Penh City Hall intends to rectify the state of it's streets. 5000 riel fines (US $1.20) will be administered to anyone seen discarding rubbish in public places. The boulevards are wide, tree-lined and quite beautiful in some places. Perhaps this fine will go some way in returning Phnom Penh to it's hayday of being the 'Paris of the East' in the 1950's'.
  • Elsewhere in the city the officials are trying to prevent anarchy from amorous bulls.
    'Police in the capital’s Dangkor district have seized 15 wayward cows and bulls after a recent spate of incidents in which lustful bulls have vigorously pursued potential mates, disrupting traffic and endangering passersby, officials said'.
    This even made the international press. Or better said the Malaysian press.
  • A clinic in Phnom Penh was closed down due to complaints following a traffic accident. Or not?
    'The Health Ministry has opted to shut down a medical clinic that was accused of negligence in its treatment of a man who succumbed to injuries sustained in a traffic accident last week, the director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department said Sunday.
    “The association ran a health-care business without approval from the Ministry of Health and was shut down,” Sok Sokun, the municipal Health Department director, said Sunday. “It will be allowed to reopen only after it receives an official license to operate from the ministry.”'
Just outside Phnom Penh

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Phnom Penh: Streetwise

Out since February 2010 is the Streetwise Phnom Penh street directory produced by Cambodia Pocket Guides. On sale at various points in the city (amongst others Monument Books and Lucky's supermarket) it costs are $5. For this price one gets a compact 80+ pages street guide as well as extensive description of how one should navigate Cambodia's capital.

The publishers themselves mention on Expat Advisory Services:
'We believe the guide should prove indispensable for anyone seeking help and advice as to how to navigate Phnom Penh’s increasingly congested streets, especially the newer business and residential areas outside the centre of the city'.
But is it any good? Worth it's value?

What others say
Cambodia Beginnings believe's so:
'this map-nut is excited to have another navigational aid at her disposal; I'll now point with a lot more confidence; and the motodops can just drive'.
Andy B, Phnom Penh's premier expat blogger:
'I'm not sure how often I will look at the directory, but it's a good addition to the 'city map scene' and exceptionally well presented. Though I must take issue with the spellings of Wat Onalom and Wat Botumwatdei - I have never seen those spellings before for two of the city's main pagodas. Well done those Pocket Guide folks'.
But's that about the extent of the online reviews, so let's get this expert to look at this....

The maps
First of all, the format is great; the cheap, free, folding maps of town are quite cumbersome, prone to flying away and come with invitations to visit girlie bars. And yes half of the city is off the map anyway.

But then, how often does one need to travel off these folding maps anyway? And how does Streetwise Phnom Penh help?
For example I play football a lot and sometimes need to find places such as Khemera field (north of town), Mekong field (behind Northbridge) or the 'over the bridge' places. Streetwise Phnom Penh does cover these areas but though it can mention every one of the exponentially expanding number of Phnom Penh's minimarts, these football fields are still out there somewhere, waiting to be found and correctly identified.

Furthermore with the main part of town shifting west, it seems an omission to miss covering the area uptil and beyond the airport.
Possibly another mapping suggestion to improve on, would be to include a wider overview map; apparently a ring road (with toll) is under construction (see bridge construction site north of PP towards Pursat) but this is outside of the coverage of Streetwise.

The degree of detail depicting the center of Phnom Penh city is great and much info is provided. This is certainly a boon to local residents seeking something specific and already comfortable with Phnom Penh's lay out. However tourists (and with them the moto drivers) will probably be overwhelmed with the many details and have failure tracking the right street.
Then the advantage of much detail will also result in the disadvantage as changes in the city are so quick; such that they will quickly render the map out of date, at least if you need to find Phamrmacy Y, Restaurant X.

The layout of side by side maps can be advantageous over folding maps but one needs to beware of the jump between the facing pages, the maps are made to overlap each other, meaning traveling from facing page 1 to another means a slight readjustment is required.

The information
Besides the maps there are another 20 pages of information included, which covers the history of the city, tips for getting around, places of interest, Cambodia's road rules and what the future of Phnom Penh might look like.

Certainly adding to most expats knowledge on town, though the section on street names is only for aficionados.

Getting around
Getting around is certainly in too much detail; as always sites of traffic jams change by the hour, day, season or vintage. And traffic lights are cropping up on the alternatives as fast as a crew can set up a wedding tent.

In depth knowledge
This section mentions amongst others that the British ambassador's residence is 'splendid' (cheers to him/her). Covering no less than 4 pages, this is a waste of money. Who is interested in this?

How to get around
Here though pedestrians get a little coverage, the guidance seems to be steering readers to motorized transport options.
Cyclists are seen as crazy so it seems, requiring
'optional knee and elbow pads'
'vital face masks'.
Having cycled up and town for four and a half years I've yet to have a scratch. And why would you need a face mask?
Funny though if you see how many motocyclists end getting cut up (and that's the real picture I am getting) that they are not advised to use the optional knee / elbow pads ...
And why to cyclists require a sturdy lock and the motorised version not? I can't even count how many of my (temporary) friends who have had their motocycles stolen ...

Law and Order
No less than 2 pages explaining the difficulties of getting by the Cambodian law. Considering what's included on this blog on this subject 2 pages might be a let off. The publisher could have kept it short, i.e. like the traffic jams, the interpretation of the law changes hourly, daily, seasonally , etc., etc.

The future
Two pages on Phnom Penh's new tomorrow no less. It presents a rather rosy picture of the future. And much info on non-transport issues. It even claims that the
'city fathers'
are busy planning the new city layout, which I seriously doubt. Since 2000 not much activity has been seen other than paving the dirt and accepting the odd gift of a bridge here and there.
There is serious talk of a mass transit system? Define serious. Again these are donors giving advice and hoping the government chooses their option using a soft loan to pay-off the donor's host country companies ...
Bicycle lanes? Dream on, if anything the officials are closer to outlawing pedestrians and cyclists. Anything to prevent your Lexus from scratching ...

Overall call
  • I like it, it certainly adds info not yet available.
  • It's shelf life I'm afraid will remain limited and no doubt other publishers will copycat the issue less the 'schmuck' which I'm afraid adds little to the maps.
  • Possibly a bit too expensive ...
  • Then again I'm a map freak...
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