Crossing Cambodia

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chasing cars, shortly after Khmer New Year

Dare I mention, that this be my last entry? Time to move on. Nearly five years (just a month short) and over 400 entries no less, so if my readers have failed to pick up the essentials of travel and traffic in Cambodia and Phnom Penh in particular ... well, more postings won't help!

To sum up, getting about here is anarchic, lawless and down right reckless. Then again, I haven't had an accident in the nearly 6 years I've been here, so driving around with caution helps. But I also know of many others less fortunate....

Oh well, the news
  • I's have liked to start with a posting on tripadvisor concerning poor services rendered by a local bus company, but tripadvisor have deleted the thread. Huh.
  • It is the time of the year for accidents to be more commonplace. More movement, more alcohol. But even before the festivities started accidents happened. Phnom Penh Post (6 March 2011) reports on a horrific accident near Sihanoukville where a container truck hits a minivan (with 25 persons, hows that possible?). Nineteen deaths. The said accident lead to NGO's
    'expressing concern'.
  • Travelfish have added their own entry on traffic accidents in Cambodia:
    'Getting into a traffic accident anywhere is serious, but in Cambodia it's particularly so .... only to find out that there's generally no enforcement and no punishment ...'.
    Their advice is Get insured, Be prepared, Have all kinds of emergency numbers at hand and wear a helmet.
  • More air traffic. Besides the (re-) launch of Air France flights, Korean Air will deploy bigger aircraft on Cambodia, effectively increasing capacity by 50% to Seoul (Phnom Penh Post, 9 March 2011). There are also
    'feasiblility studies'
    underway for finding out whether or not direct flights can be made to the UK or Turkey (Phnom Penh Post, 23 March 2011).
  • More news on the fight of Hun Sen vs. the trucks:
    '“I’m very concerned about trucks loading containers. It seems that accidents would happen easily and the issues repeated again and again. Therefore, you must be cautious, and you who don’t work on this have to resign from your position,” Hun Sen said. The Ministry of Commerce needs to shut down some transportation companies that continue to violate the law.” Hun Sen also appealed to provincial governors to stop illegal road checkpoints and ensure that roads are repaired and maintained'.
    Wish him luck with that. Also with his appeal to ensure all involved adhere to the traffic law, which has proven to be impossible. Not worth the paper it's printed on.
  • But, presto, a day later 25 trucks were
    Phnom Penh Post, 18 March 2011).
  • A first hand experince with the new Monivong parking fee collectors from Khmer 440. Lots of questions.
  • Cambodian electric vehicles? Possibly, according to Phnom Penh Post (March 22, 2011). A local company in conjunction with
    'local inventor Nhean Phaloek – who once reportedly claimed that the doors to one of his prototype vehicles opened telepathically'
    will seek to produce at least 500 cars on an annual basis.
  • A nice blog entry on Lto Cambodia on road signs in Sihanoukville which actually encourage road users to go up the wrong way of a one way street!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The government has designated Street 130 as the number 1 street for tourists to walk along between the nearly renovated Central Market and the Mekong Riverside. The four lane road has been made less wide with broad sidewalks and a green central divider. See the picture below.

A good example of the government trying to stimulate (and protect) the most vulnerable of traffic users, pedestrians.
Why on earth no one walks in this city is beyond CC.
But good intentions aren't enough, what happens then is that the wider sidewalk is used for parking of cars and motorcycles, not only by small businesses but also by the phone company Beeline. Thank you.

Street 130, walk if you dare. Extra space intended for public use, used by businesses and through-way clogged up by cars and moto's.

Sihanouk Boulevard: looks nice but is at odds with function. Potentially dangerous?

In spite of that effort it seems the walking street will be the lower part of Sihanouk Boulevard. The past two years has slowly seen the street evolve from small shops selling everything to modern air-co shops selling high-end goods. Naturally these poor citizens can't be expected to walk and certainly not to cross the road.
The amount of detail shown in street 130 is completely devoid on this section where they have replaced the divider of cement blocks by a meter high fence with no gaps.

In the light of last years Diamond Bridge catastrophe one could actually question why this sectioning of the road will not possibly result in another. The crowds which wander up and down the Boulevard during the Boat Racing period are tremendous, and one can foresee problems. But is it just me?

How to cross the road?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chasing Cars, Cambodian style, February 2011

  • Deaths on Cambodian roads only make the news if there are many. Phnom Penh Post (20 Feb.) reports 5 dead after a truck with musicians (!) collides with a tuk-tuk with gasoline.
  • Cambodia's traffic makes international headlines. An article in the Guardian (15 Feb.) echoes the underlying flow of this blog:
    'Everything you want to know about Cambodia's city society is found in the traffic of Phnom Penh – social conformity mixed with anarchic individualism, the confidence of young Cambodian women, the indifference of the police, the motorbike as an extra limb attached to the body, the inability of old cultural ways to cope with the modern world.

    If I were a Cambodian policeman, I too would just stand and watch'.

  • How weird can it get? A former official (who should be have been in jail at the time) manages to create an accident in Ratanakiri province. Solution? Pay a pittance for disabling lifes (PPP, 27 Jan.).
  • Lot's of flight information so much so that the Cambodia Mirror (21 Jan.) has a special on Cambodian Airlines (note that most do not operate anymore ....).
    Other airworthy news: Cambodian Angkor Air will start breaking Bangkok Air's monopoly (though there must be considerable profits falling to Cambodia) between Siem Reap and Bangkok (
    PPP, 4 Feb.). CAA will actually start to fly more flights out of Siem Reap. The article in the Phnom Penh Post (30 Jan.) includes the insinuation that Bangkok Air are making huge amounts of cash on this flight. A response, points out that per km Siem Reap - Phnom Penh (serviced only be CAA) is actually more expensive, while CC believes that Phnom Penh - Saigon is even more expensive (only operator is CAA's major share holder Vietnam Airlines).
    In response the Thai are emboldend to demand their share of the spills (
    PPP, 11 Feb).
    Tonle Sap Airways takes off (
    PPP, 7 Feb.) as will Indochina Airline.
  • Despite all the war like situation with the Thai, Cambodia's PM can go out of his way to lean on a freight company for
    'claiming its trucks often caused collisions on Cambodia’s roads and bridges'. (PPP, 24 Jan.).
    Mystified? Soi seems the company in question:
    'So Nguon Group chairman So Nguon said yesterday that the company had been upgrading its vehicles in recent months, adding “I don’t know who instigated Samdech [Hun Sen] to be angry with us like this.” The firm, thought to be the biggest trucking firm in the Kingdom, had bought 60 new trucks to be used for frieght transportation in recent months, he claimed, and said it had sold most of its older vehicles'.
  • Tourists though take aim at busses. Tripadvisor's forum includes a warning concerning Paramount:
    'We had a lot of material damage and medical costs but even after dozens of mails (and visits to their office) they don't respond. Even their insurance company, (Caminco Insurance) stopped responding. Almost 6 months later they are still not taking their responsibility!'
  • Take a boat instead. PPP (7 Feb.) has an article on Compagnie Fluviale du Mekong company. It's not cheap:
    'a typical 10-day cruise can cost about US$4,000 for a double cabin'.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chasing Cars, January 20 2011

Happy New Year. Just a couple more entries to go and I'll be drawing the curtains on this blog.
  • Flights are set to take off between Cambodia and Burma, but not from Phnom Penh, according to an article in this weeks Phnom Penh Post. There's a huge market, that's for sure:
    'Cambodia received 2,614 visitors in 2010 who claimed Myanmar as their country of residence, according to Ministry of Tourism statistics'.
    Seeing how much effort is needed to get flights to countries even closeby it's a bit strange that
    'Officials also requested that Russia and Japan begin regular direct flights to the Kingdom during the ongoing ASEAN Tourism Forum in Phnom Penh.“We are hopeful that if we have direct flights with Russia and Japan, tourists will increasingly come to our country,” said Thong Khon'.
  • More air. Two new airlines approved in Cambodia (PPP, 28 Dec. 2010). But only for domestic destinations, which means between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. That's what the market wants?
  • Victims of a plane crash (PPP, Jan 16 2011) are waiting for insurance pay-out for 3,5 years now, how much longer? Avoid using Cambodian airline(s)? Btw, it was a domestic flight ....
  • The new Siem Reap airport will be constructed whatever anybody else thinks (PPP, 7 December 2010).
    'A government official has claimed work on a new US$1 billion Siem Reap airport is set to begin next year, after the project was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen'.
    Green light by the government.
  • Ung Meng Hong and Kasem Choocharukul have tried to revive the idea of a Phnom Penh bus system (Phnom Penh Post, 18-01-11). Apparently 72% of the respondents might just switch if the prices would be less than nothing. The report also noted that it would be required to see if there is economic viability...
    One problem is that a bus system will help solve traffic conditions, but if traffic conditions require public transport then it is often too late to introduce bus service, nobody is gonna pay for sitting in a bus in a traffic jam.
  • Another bus station in the planning. Currently there is none and buses just drop you off wherever they feel like. A senator thinks that a bus station is just what the doctor ordered. The bus station will be 20 km from Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh Post (13 Dec. 2010) adds:
    'Ly Yong Phat [senator] has been involved in contentious land disputes in Oddar Meanchey and Kampong Speu provinces with villagers who claim to have been displaced by his development projects'.
    Bus companies are already well versed with the consequences.
    'Sok Chan Mony, general manager of the Rith Mony bus company, said the terminal would ease congestion in the city, though he also said that both passengers and transporters would see rising costs if all companies are forced to relocate'.
    The money going where?
  • The roadsafetyawareness blog gives us another viral video. In it ,two ladies are asked to pull over, but go ballistic towards the police for the notion that they might just have done something wrong.
  • Road rage even in Sihanoukville, with trucks (PPP, Jan 10, 2011).
    'Prum Davuth, 28, and Plong Sokhen, 26, were arrested after they were accused of threatening to run over a number of traffic officers with their truck in Sihanoukville town’s commune 3, said Prum Pov, chief of the provincial traffic police. “We released both of them after they made apologies for their mistake,” he said'.
    End of story.
  • The curious world of Cambodia. Sihanoukville, the world's most expensive place for taking a tuk-tuk, is seeing a response. Hotels are now providing transportation to their guests, so they don't fall prey to the tuk-tukers. Makes sure they get to their hotel, and to the beach. But that's not fair cry the tuk-tukkers. And protest. Expat Advisory Service has no less than 42 posts on the issue. In general, the best advice is to stay away of the place altogether. It's a dump. Beach, just head to one of the islands. And why else come to Sihanoukville?
  • Over the holidays just another accident to add to the list. Five dead were reported, high official and his family who were overtaking on a blind corner ... Anyway over the holidays the was a controversy in Thailand when a young lady managed to rear end a van which then lost I think 8 passengers who tumbled over the edge of the 30m high road. She was 16. And after the accident needed to text. In Phnom Penh, that's not controversial at all:
    'Koeun Sotharaneth, the 16-year-old son of a general in the National Police, has been charged with manslaughter after he killed three people in a car accident in Kandal province on Friday night'.
    Since (21 Dec. 2010,
    PPP) have not heard anything on the case. Personally I know two persons who were hit during the holidays while using their bicycles, a trend?
  • Elsewhere the metered taxi's are not doing too bad a business (PPP, 9 Jan 2011). Though still not enough that you could hail a taxi, they are increasing in number and are not a bad alternative to tuk-tuks which are growing exponentially in the capital by the looks of it. The owners report slower than expected business but are making a profit.
  • Road construction leads to electrical problems (PPP, 5 Jan 2011). Someone needs their wiring checked anyway. The company responsible for the damage, AZ Investment has a reputation for not paying up.
    'He [electricity company representative] did not comment on the extent of the damage, but said AZ has attempted to evade responsibility in the past'.
    Another case of not holding your breathe.
  • The Phnom Penh Post (January 5, 2011) reports that there are really persons being apprehended for failing the breathalyzer. It also adds this police citation:
    '“At night time, if there is no presence of police, the respect of law is low,” he said'.
  • Phnom Penh has witnessed a couple of new bridges which enable to move from one in-going traffic jam to another. But one needs to pay. That's fine (the roads are great), but elsewhere in the country one also needs to pay for
    '... toll along a road with numerous old bridges in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district'.
    Truck drivers incensed.
  • Other bridges take more time. Already in the pipeline for ages, a groundbreaking ceremony will take place for the bridge needed to cross the Mekong between Saigon and Phnom Pen, according to todays Phnom Penh Post.
  • Rent seeking. The old weapon of the corrupt. In Koh Kong province according to the Phnom Penh Post (3 Jan 2011), the eco-tourist site (Chipat?) was serviced by many smaller boats.
    'Men Sopheap, 39, a representative of 18 boat owners in Chiphat commune, said Moeng Sophea, a commune official, was set to introduce a tourist ferry service and that boatmen were informed that they would have to wind up their business this week, since their boats were “unsafe”'.
    It will only be for a few years. The site will either become a titanium mine or disappear under a hydropower lake. Progress?
  • Congestion spreads to river? The Phnom Penh Post (11 jan, 2011) reports that a tourist boat sunk after hitting a sand barge. No word about how that could happen.
  • Discussion topics. Are tuk-tuks safer? Khmer 440 has the answer, tuk-tuks are perceived as safer (but have their own issues) but better still take a taxi.
  • For those of you wondering which street is where and whether house no. 24 is next to no. 22 or no. 543b, apparently street signs will return (Phnom Penh Post, Dec 27).
    'City officials have announced ambitious plans to reorganise the numbers of the capital’s buildings and install street signs that will be uniform in style across the city.
    He said the Chinese Chung Hong Company had been commissioned to manufacture the aluminum signs, but that businesses and homeowners in the capital would be required to pay US$4 each to cover the costs.
    The scheme received a mixed reaction from residents yesterday, with some expressing concern about the fee they would be required to pay'.
  • Big plans not always materialize. A second flyover in Phnom Penh (PPP, 14 Jan 2011) will be downgraded, with somehow the width less than ideal. Another highlight: it will be 50m high. Mistake?
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