An Invisible Lane with Opposite Flowing Traffic Exists at the Far Right
It is often convenient to drive the wrong way down the lane. Fortunately, there exists an unofficial rightmost lane for this purpose. It is not just courteous to allow traffic in this unofficial lane to flow, it is custom to give right of way. For example, you (the red moto) driving at the far right should veer to the left slightly to make way for oncoming motos.
Peek Before Turning
For some crazy reason, it is illegal to turn right at a red light in the Kingdom. As with all traffic violations, they are not enforced unless you are physically chased and apprehended. You cannot however, be chased if there are no police standing at the side of the road. Police are sneaky though and often hide behind cars and trees. The common practice is for you (the red moto) to roll ahead slightly into the intersection until you can get a good view of what's around the corner. If there are no police, then you are clear to continue turning right. If there are, then sheepishly backup and wait for the light to turn green.
At Red Light, Get to Front at Whatever Cost
You (the red moto) are probably not in a rush. You probably don't need to be anywhere. This shouldn't stop you from always attempting to get to the front of the pack at a red light. Hopping up on the sidewalk, manoeuvring around a parked car or riding behind a food stand are all highly recommended tactics.
The Ground Is Dirty
You feel the urge to relax in the shade and their are no benches, no grassy areas and no empty hammocks. Never fear, your moto makes a completely comfortable and stylish alternative. Make sure to employ the parking stand (not the kickstand) to ensure the moto balances flat.
Ignore All Other Traffic
Constant rushing is the norm except on one occasion: the moto date. You (the red moto) need not worry about holding up traffic but only to stay exactly parallel with your partner in order to maximize ease of conversation. Continue to drive at a leisurely pace and ignore impatient honks from behind.
There Are No Regulations Against DIY Towing
Your moto is inoperable and a repair shop is too far away. The rich may throw their moto in a pickup truck but you don't have that luxury. What you do have is a friend and a rope. Make sure the rope is attached at a comfortable length and be ready to brake fast after you're puller does.
Act First and Save a Few Seconds
In the West, it is common etiquette during green lights to wait for straight traffic to pass before turning left. Often this results in left turns occuring during the amber light just before red. Not so in Cambodia. It is common practice for the most ambitious left turners to go before the straight through traffic as demonstrated by the red moto in the image.
Comfort in Numbers
You (the red moto) may feel anxious at first when being enclosed by fellow motos. There is, however, power in The Swarm and it can be used to great advantage. Lexus' may seem at first to rule the roads but a sizable swarm of motos soons takes the upper hand.
Big Vehicles Have Unofficial Right Of Way: Use It To Your Advantage
Big vehicles like Lexus SUVs punch their way through traffic to complete a turn. You, the red moto, being tiny in comparison, don't command much influence when separated from The Swarm, so it is wise to hug the side of a larger vehicle who has the same intention for direction change. Instead of looking around at traffic, just focus on clinging to your host as close as possible until the turn is completed. This greatly reduces the risk of capture, as it is difficult and dangerous for police to cross the entire lane for you.
Help a Fellow Moto in Distress
This falls into the towing category except it is used for short distances or when there is no rope on hand. Mount your broken moto and take it out of gear. Have a friend drive slowly beside with one leg extended in order to push your moto forward. This takes some practice, especially around corners.
Perfect Driving Won't Save You
Your paperwork may be in order. You may have this year's 4500 Riel tax sticker. The police will still find something wrong. It's best for even the most upstanding citizen to avoid capture whenever possible. When police are spotted up ahead, the best technique is for you (the red moto) to quickly hide behind a larger vehicle (tuk tuks are great for some reason) on the leftmost side of the lane just in case.
Turn Moto Around With a Fashionable Kickstand Twist
You've just finished parking and you want to turn around and exit. The inexperienced approach to solving this problem is to push and navigate your moto through a 3 point turn, adjusting the handlebars back and forth as required. Even if there is space available for such a turn, it lacks style and grace. What you want to do is first engage the kickstand (not the parking stand). Next, tip the moto to transfer the weight onto the kickstand and rotate the entire moto, all in one graceful swing. This technique becomes quite slick and refined through practice.
Don't Miss a Green Opportunity
Even though you (the red moto) have nowhere to be, it is downright unacceptable to miss a green light opportunity. Do whatever it takes to get through the intersection, in this case, veering far left into the opposite lane.
There's no graceful way to pull off a U-turn. Most roads with boulevards and intersections do not allow u-turns anyway. Nevertheless, it must be done, so if you (the red moto) are in need of a u-turn then make it as creative as possible.
Answer The Call And Continue Hands Free
It may be illegal in some countries to talk on a mobile phone while driving. It's downright dangerous to do it on a moto where both hands are required. The solution is to slip the phone into your helmet, positioning it over the ear with microphone at comfortable speaking distance.
Join the Wake of Turning Motos
An aerial view of this tactic performed correctly would be a miraculous spectacle. Unrehearsed, motos join to form close knit chains not unlike synchronized swimmers, in order to split oncoming traffic in their collective favour. To participate on a left turn for example, you (the red moto) look for a chain beginning to form and take your place single file. Block out the entire traffic scene around and just hug tight to the moto directly in front. You and others grow the chain which remains unbroken until another vehicle finds a weak link and finally severs it.
At Red Light, Get to Front at Whatever Cost
Another tactic to employ for getting to the front of the pack at a red light is to look for channels created by waiting cars. You (the red moto) then zoom through the channel before other motos find it. Beware of car side-view mirrors and passengers opening doors to spit.
For That Extra 200 Meters
For some reason it's really easy to run out of fuel with a moto. Luckily petrol stations are abundant in Phnom Penh but often an embarrassing couple hundred meter push is still needed in order to reach the station. That is, unless you employ the choke pull technique. I don't know what a choke does on a moto or even why they all have one. I'm sure no one else knows either. What I do know is that after you run out of fuel, there still remains a small amount in the choke valve. Pull it when your moto is puttering out of fuel and you'll get an extra burst which can propel you another 200 meters or so - perfect for gliding into fuel stations on fumes and saving a lot of face in the process.
Merger Has Right of Way
Shoulder checking and yielding during a merge are probably the most important and polite driving techniques employed in the West (not to mention, the law). Forget it. In Cambodia, mergers not only neglect shoulder-checking, they have the right of way. Therefore, you (the red moto) must yield at all times to traffic entering from the right.
The Sun is Bloody Hot
It happens all the time. You're approaching a red light with a long countdown and the sun is blaring down. Heat is radiating off the road and the sweat is building. Before stopping, you notice tree or building shade off to the side. This is the prefered location to wait and is the ONLY exception to Rule # 2 (get to the front at whatever cost).
Don't Wait For The Intersection
Uncontrolled intersections get congested and there is unnecessary delay waiting for every vehicle to have a turn. The best alternative is to turn outside the intersection. You (the red moto) first cut across all lanes of traffic to the invisible lane at the far left. Hug the curve until reaching the intersection (follow around left if necessary) then cut again across all lanes of traffic to complete the left turn and avoid all intersection hassle.
Mirrors are Useless
Mirrors are annoying and useless. They make it difficult to squeeze through traffic and parking lots. Unfortunately, the police love to ticket for lack of mirrors so they have to stay. Unlike helmets, they can't be quickly secured when police are spotted up ahead. The best solution is to twist both protruding annoyances inward so the reflective surfaces point forward (to the direction of travel). There is however, one special case where one of the mirrors is useful and this is also the reason to carry a tweezers around in your pocket at all times. Best performed when parked and in clear public view, twist one mirror back to its normal outward position and lean in to attend to some personal hygene.
Pass Whenever Possible
It's essential to overtake whenever possible but this is not so easy when everyone is thinking the same thing. Sometimes you (the red moto) are just about to pass a parked car when another moto overtakes it first. At the same time, another moto passes that moto. Then another moto! Each simultaneous passer takes up more and more of the road. No sweat. Just speed up a little and pass them all.
Expect the Unexpected
This list isn't exhaustive as there are too many tips and rules to cover. Just keep focused, stay safe and don't run into elephants.
Seating etiquette for inter-city shared-taxis will be now documented as it is quite unique to Cambodia. The vehicle of choice is of course a 90's era Toyota Camry, rebuilt multiple times in order to extend service. Taking the common Phnom Penh to Kampot journey as an example, the seating costs are currently $5 per seat.
This will seem simple and trivial at first but will no doubt result in confusion until a definition of 'seat' is given. Seats are, therefore, commonly recognized in the following arrangement:
The passenger location to the right of the driver is actually classified as 2 seats. The back area is split into 4 seats. Therefore, one can theoretically buy all the seats for $30 to reserve the whole taxi. As a single Western traveler, it is not economical to rent a whole taxi, nor is it comfortable or always physically possible to fit into a single Cambodian defined seat. Therefore, it is common to buy multiple seats, for example the whole front passenger seat or half the back.
Note that buying half the back seat does not in practice allow you to sit on half the back seat. Normally 2 local travelers will buy the other two seats but end up taking 2/3 of the back seat as is most comfortable for travelling with 3 passengers in the back. Then there is the common case of 3 people 'sharing' 2 of the back seats which results in your being squeezed as if you just bought one seat, and of course the loss of $5.
And now for the most dangerous, yet comical situation arising from your purchase multiple seats. More often than not, the additional seat to extend your comfort was not vacant to begin with so this passenger will transfer into a newly defined space left of the driver (refer to image). As may be the case, the creation of this new location may have noting to do with your multiple seat purchase but rather an experienced driver seizing a business opportunity. This space then should actually be classified as an unofficial seat for purchase at half price of a normal 'comfortable' location.
After a 6 week stint in Bangkok waiting for Aya's birth then waiting for her paper work to come through, we returned to our house which lay abandoned but sealed. By sealed I mean windows and doors all shut and locked. But does this matter?
House maintenance is a:
-race against wood lice who want to eat all the rattan furniture (leaving piles of wood dust)
-race against the wind that wafts the stinky lagoon in through the windows
-race against the dust which coats the floors layer upon layer (refer to comment about sealed house and picture.
-race against termites who start to eat wood structures
-race against birds who decided to make nests in the windows and destroy the mosquito nets
-race against geckos who are cute to watch but then strategically deposit their poop pellets around the house
-race against the ants who somehow scout for every speck of sweet morsel and send out the troops in army squadrons
-race against the neighbor's ugly hungry cat who wonders into the house wanting a feed
-race against cockroaches who spontaneously appear under garbage cans and in dark corners.
-race against spider webs that cover the walls and ceiling
-race against mosquitos that somehow find their way in through screened windows
-race against the rats who somehow poop in the same area on the balcony every day and occasionly die and rot there as well
And we are apparently in the city!!!
There are few things sweeter in life than independent choice, especially pertaining to bottled water selection. How delightful it is to note that in a city as small as Phnom Penh, there are at least over 120 different types to choose from! Well, that's how many I've logged anyway.
In order of appearance:
New R Day
Eau de Nature
Phnom Penh E-Zone
Eau de Vie
888 (Record Pure)
KK (Kheang Kheang)
Super Pop Zone
So, my research so far isn't really looking at which water companies have the best quality. Although I did notice that only 1/3 actually have any water quality certification. This project stemmed more from the sheer amazement at how many companies there actually are. You can seriously buy a different kind every day!
Note that these waters are ones that are available locally. Yes, there are 4 or 5 pictured that are imported but I've still counted them because they are in the mix of competition. Be assured, 85% of these are manufactured around Phnom Penh and another 10% in other provinces.
So here are my theories so far which I will continue to investigate:
1) Manufacturing bottled water in Cambodia is pretty much the best business around.
Logic: There is hardly any regulation (especially that's enforced) regarding water quality. So you just have to make sure that the water you're obtaining looks clear, then get some bottles made just like everyone else, and make up a company name, a stupid slogan, fake some purification standards on the back and you're in business!!
2) Companies switch names often (maybe every production sequence!)
Logic: One month a certain type of water, say, "Steve" Water will be in everyone's hand. Then a month later (like now) you can't buy it anywhere. New companies are coming in every day.. I just saw cases of Elvis Water hitting the shelves everywhere around Central Market the other day! This is the best way to avoid anyone coming after you.
Nearly all the bottles have poor English but here are some of the funnier:
Steve Water: The Quality Drops!
Elvis Water: Drinking reverse osmosis is water is the high standard well above the laid by any country in the world and perfect mixer for all concentrate syrup and fruit. Drinking water that is safe and refreshing bottled under managerment and inspection of the food expert.
Hi-Zone: Produced from fresh water source, treated by RO system and Ozone, sterilized by UV on full automatic of the USA technology.
Borey Spring: Our water has been carefully made through technology, that's why the Borey Spring water has become the best tasting and healthy water for you.
Omexs: Improve Energy of the Body
This might be the case with all developing countries, but in Cambodia the mobile phone situation is ridiculous. The market is flooded with too many companies and the crazy thing is that everyone has a different favorite (there must be at least 10 - mobitel, beeline, starcell, smart, m-fone, hello, metfone, qb, Excell - ok, 9).
Anyway, to make it even worse, the most popular phones let you roam 2 or 3 networks at once (that's right, 3 sim cards, 3 call buttons). I was determined not to get into this by just picking the best one off the start... how wrong I was...
When we first got here, a few people recommended Starcell because it had a good 'family' plan where it was dirt cheap to talk with 10 friends. So we got Starcell. That worked for a while until we found that hardly everyone else used Starcell full time. The problem with calling across different networks is that the price is a lot more expensive than calling between the same network.
Finally we got Beeline because you can call all networks for a cheap rate. Then we got Mobitel because it is the most used. Then we got internet which required us to have a Metphone SIM. Somewhere in there we had to buy 2-SIM enabled phones. Then I started new work and guess what... everyone's using m-fone!!! Now I have a 2-SIM phone in my left pocket and a 1-SIM phone in my right and there's nothing I can do about it!!