Sunday, December 22, 2013

4. Traffic in Cambodia

I sincerely do not want to appear to be judgmental ("Westerner imposes his value system on underdeveloped, third-world country"), but the traffic and driving habits here are really bad (also compared to Thailand.) Rarely people stop at red lights, just to name one; riding through an intersection when you have a green light means you have to watch out in ALL DIRECTIONS, since people will not obey the red signal. This is mostly true for scooters, but also busses, trucks, and cars do not play by the rules. Riders do not have a driver's license, as I found out, and here in Sihanoukville, the law is not enforced.

Night traffic check.

I checked: Traffic rules do exist, in fact new, more thorough laws were passed recently. 

To no avail.

There isn't a 'meanness" to all this craziness. however. There isn't any 'cutting' off on purpose, or any other 'bad character' attitude here at all (like sometimes in Western countries), but the general carelessness is something to get used too.

The most blatant/dangerous situations for you as a motorcyclist are:
  1. Traffic comes 'head-on' towards you, on your side of the road, no matter what: trucks, cars, busses. This is also the case for divided lanes (median) where oncoming traffic will be in your own lanes.
  2. Honking by others means: Watch out, I'm coming through and I won't stop.
  3. Traffic does not stop at red lights at intersections.
  4. Traffic from secondary roads (without right-of-way) will not yield, you need to cooperate.
  5. People drive drunk often, especially at night.

"True, or False?": 
In Cambodia, traffic drives on the right side of the road just as in Europe, or the U.S. 
Look at the pictures and try to find out whether you a) do agree, or b) don't agree with the above statement (Pictures are NOT mirrored, as you may see in the lettering.)

In this picture traffic is NOT at a stand-still, but moves rather quickly.

Look at the motorcycle lady in the center.

As usual: Traffic from side road turns into the wrong lane.

Besides the crazy traffic, Sihanoukville, named after former Prince (King) Norodom Sihanouk, is a relatively small port city (the only deep sea port in Cambodia) which saw with the bombing and complete destruction by U.S. forces the last official activity of the Vietnam war (1975, battle against Khmer Rouge). The main attractions are the beautiful beaches, it lacks a historic downtown, any temples or other cultural highlights..

Serendipity Beach

(Concrete) Water buffalo at Victory Beach.

UN machinery and emergency equipment compound.

The chicken kebabs and the Ferris wheel are ready for the party.

Listening to the live band.

Oh, rattle snake AND scorpion! Normally, I just get the snake-only one.

The pretty sky lanterns, also in Cambodia.

Night market.

Of course there is a strong, French expat community living in Sihanoukville. I met Jean, 76 years old from Corsica, who retired here; as a French engineer in 1955, he was involved  in the construction of Sihanoukville's sea port, he told me over a cup of cafe au lait. 

Every French person meets in the morning at "Douceur de Cambodge" ("Sweetness of Cambodia"), a small, ugly cafe in downtown. The cafe won't win a design award, but what comes out of their ovens is simply mouthwatering and amazing! My breakfast routine seems to alternate between 'Cafe Khmer and croissant' and 'Cafe au lait, baguette, marmalade and butter. Hmmm, better than in Paris!

Of course the place reminds be also of my circle of friends who gather at a cafe in the U.S. on Saturday., albeit without having access to similarly good baked goods!

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