Peculiarities in the Kingdom (part 2)
   Peculiarities in the Kingdom (part 2)    
 
03 MAY 13
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
 
 
 
 
Unofficial Lane
# 1 (Rule)

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.
 
 
Red Right Peek
# 2 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Sidewalk to the Front
# 3 (Rule)

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.
 
 
Moto Snooze
# 4 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Moto Date
# 5 (Rule)

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.
 
 
Moto tow
# 6 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Preemptive Left
# 7 (Tip)

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.
 
 
The Swarm
# 8 (Tip)

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.
 
 
The Parasite
# 9 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Heel Push
# 10 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Conscious Avoidance
# 11 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Kick Twist
# 12 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Must Make Left
# 13 (Rule)

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.
 
 
Gratuitous U-ie
# 14 (Tip)

Be Creative!


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.
 
 
Hands Free Device
# 15 (Tip)

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.
 
 
The Synchro-split
# 16 (Tip)

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.
 
 
The Channel
# 17 (Rule, extended)

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.
 
 
Emergency Choke Pull
# 18 (Tip)

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.
 
 
Yield to Merger
# 19 (Rule)

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.
 
 
Shady Wait
# 20 (Tip)

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).
 
 
Advanced Left
# 21 (Tip, thanks JimCA2)

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.
 
 
Chin Pick
# 22 (Rule, thanks Pat)

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.
 
 
The Uberpass
# 23 (Rule)

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.
 
 
Stay Alert
# 24 (Tip)

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.
 
Other notable shoutouts:

#25 - The Drift - lateral movement across lanes, slowly and without signaling.
#26 - Knee Hug - Drive with knees up and between elbows to avoid puddles or simply for pleasure.
#27 - Umbrella Ride - When raining or overly sunny drive with one hand while holding an umbrella overhead with the other.
#28 - IV ride - Moto passenger holds stick with IV bag on it (IV attached to either passenger or driver)
#29 - Occasional Helmet - Drive with helmet in basket, hanging on handle bar or between knees. Put on and off according to police presence.
#30 - Passenger Arm Signals - Aside from normal turn signals, have the passenger arm signal when turning for added visibility.
#31 - Fuel Station Cut - Cut through fuel stations on street corners to decrease turn time.
#32 - Avoid Eye Contact - Do not look at oncoming traffic, especially when nearly hitting them or breaking rules which cause their delay.
#33 - Horn Etiquette - Horns should only be used to signal your dominance when crossing through intersections.
#34 - Help-a-cycle - Let a cycler put an arm on your shoulder and propel them alongside.
 
 
Wayne
Steve, you never cease to amaze!
08 May 2013 at 12:33
 
mark
i've done all of these! i've even crashed my bike on a tow ride. i used hugged my laptop and used my body as a shield to protect it. i rolled 4 times on the pavement. my front bike wheel took the left tail light off of my friend's moto and left it hanging by the wires. no harm done. normal cambodia driving experience.
08 May 2013 at 12:34
 
JimCA2
Nice one Steve. You forgot the advanced left turn where you merge through on coming traffic to get to the imaginary lane on the far left, hug the curve then merge through on coming traffic again to get in the right lane.
08 May 2013 at 15:23
 
vong
Amazing work Steve,
08 May 2013 at 15:54
 
Kelly
This was wonderful. Thanks for the laugh and memories of our time in Cambodia. Cheers!
08 May 2013 at 16:40
 
Nelson
- you may add, police never issue violation ticket...they always ask money, so know how to bargain for the fine...they always give discounts up to $1. - in other countries, turning lights is part of safety precautions while in cambodia it is a violation when driving in daylight. i don't know the logic behind. lol
09 May 2013 at 14:58
 
James
Hilarious. Thanks for this. Graphics together with witty text - priceless!
06 January 2015 at 17:18