Hello Mr. Moto

I’ve done it – in truth… three or four times now, and it’s not so bad. Ridden on the back of a moto, that is.

The moto is Phnom Penh’s equivalent to a public transportation system. Very simply, it consists of an old scooter, a driver, and you on the back behind the driver. The driver, just as likely as not, will have come in from the provinces looking for work, and never had any formal training. Shoot, I don’t know if anyone in Phnom Penh has ever had any formal training, including the folks who drive the big SUVs.

By the way, can I just mention the really obnoxious Lexus SUVS that have the huge Lexus logo on the side, just in case you missed the fact that the family was wealthy? Blech.

In any case, there’s almost no adherence to traffic regulations of any kind, but the good news is that since it’s such a chaotic system, people tend to go slow. That’s the only reason I can think of for being unafraid staring into a wall of oncoming traffic when my drivers take us into the wrong lane.

Where I do get scared is on some of the side streets where the drivers feel like they can speed up. That’s when the intersections can be quite… ah… interesting. Fortunately, there are survival strategies, namely pre-emptive honking where the driver honks before entering the intersection to warn off other drivers. (Interestingly, they do the same thing in Amman as well.) I’m making it sound like a mad dash, and that’s not the case, but it’s definitely a classic Phnom Penh experience.

Oh, and rush hour too. That’s also a little stressful. For rush hour, go with a tuk tuk. The carriage around you may just be an illusion of safety, but sometimes illusions have their place.

And I suppose it had to happen eventually, but I’m done with the Khmer version of the “pity face.” I walked away from a driver today in frustration when he blatantly asked for too much. I don’t mind paying some amount of Skin Tax, but come on… there’s a limit and at some point, it becomes a matter of principle.

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~ by Samer on August 15, 2007.

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