Category Archives: Things Along the Road…

Things Along the Road… Traffic Accidents

100_0041A few months ago, my roommate made a traffic video to give a taste of how the streets are here in Phnom Penh. In someways, I have become more accustomed to the traffic patterns here. But having seen a couple of semi-trailer and moto collisions over the past few weeks, I have been reminded again of the danger of driving here. Some say that there is a pattern to the chaos, and I agree somewhat. However, semi-trailers and motos just don’t mix well on the same road no matter what the pattern may be.

I was recently reading an article entitled “Driving Tips for Cambodian Streets” by James Cottle (World Team), and was amazed by how accurate his description of driving here is. Below are his thoughts on the difference in the mind-set of Western drivers versus the mind-set of Cambodian drivers:

  1. Westerners say, “A road is a place of order where people follow and lead in an effort to get to where they want to go.” In Cambodia the attitude follows a thought more like, “The road is an area (dirt, paved or grassy area) that I can use however I see fit in order to be first in getting to where I want to go.
  2. Westerners say, “This is my side of the road, that is your side.” In Cambodia the lanes are places to be used no matter if there is a yellow divider line or not. Motos will frequently drive along the side of the road going the wrong way looking for an opening to cross to the correct side.
  3. Westerners say, “I have my highway rights.” In Cambodia you have the right to move over as three vehicles come your way “in your lane.” Hanging on to your highway rights just to defy the new culture of Cambodia is a sure way to get into an accident because the other quickly-approaching car is thinking you are going to get out of his way.
  4. Westerners say, “Just obey the signs, signal lights, and speed limits.” In Cambodia most of this traffic paraphernalia is suggestive only. You will not want to depend on others to place the same value on these things as you do.
  5. Westerners say, “This doesn’t make any sense at all.” In Cambodia many of the driving methods are ludicrous but some of them make perfect sense once you begin to understand the system. Unfortunately it will take time (maybe a few years) before you really begin to comprehend the reason behind the madness.
  6. Westerners say, “Thanks for letting me pull out in front of you; I’ll hurry and get out of your way.” In Cambodia take your time even when someone has shown a kind gesture, don’t worry about holding them up. They understand the cost of quickly crossing lanes.

Previous posts in this series:
Things Along the Road… Money Changers
Things Along the Road… Fried Crickets

Things Along the Road… Money Changers

100_0025Well, it my be hard to top the shock value of the first post in this series: Things Along the Road… Fried Crickets, but most of life can be rather mundane. So this post along with many others may not be all that exciting, but they will continue to give a brief snapshot of life in Cambodia.

Money changers, especially in areas around the markets, are another common thing to see along the road. The official currency of the country is the riel. However, the US dollar is widely used throughout the whole country. In the past, coins were used, but the current system does not use any coins, US or Cambodian.

exchanging_moneyThe current exchange rate is about 4,300 riel for 1 US dollar. But most small shops and restaurants give an exchange rate of 4,000 riel for 1 US dollar. The money changers in small booths along the road offer the best exchange rate. So one can gain about 7 cents per dollar by getting money exchanged at a road side booth rather than using US dollars at places where prices are charged in the Cambodian riel. When getting money exchanged, each US dollar is closely inspected, because the use of counterfeit dollars is a fairly common occurrence. Also, I think my brain is still adjusting to dividing prices by 4,000 to see how much the price is in dollars.

Things Along the Road… Fried Crickets

cricketsYes, that is right! Fried crickets. There are many food carts along the streets here in the city. Most of the food is fairly typical dishes that one would expect to see here and an assortment of fruits and vegetables. However, when I see the food carts with crickets and a variety of other bugs, I always think to myself that I can’t really believe that people eat things like that. But having said that, Daniel and I recently, under much pressure from some Cambodian friends, gave them a try. My thought is still that a fried cricket is something that is better to be seen than tasted. From my observation people here eat them like snack. crickets_0 So instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips or pretzels, they snack on a few freshly fried crickets. And as you can see from the picture, if you don’t like fried crickets, there are plenty of other fried bugs to choose from.

This is the first of a series of posts that Daniel and I are starting called: “Things Along the Road…” We will basically be trying to capture pictures and share a few thoughts about, as the title says, things along the road. So be watching for more posts in the weeks ahead.