Trail Riding Around Cambodia - Matt Jacobson

KTMphil

Senior member
Joined
Jan 11, 2011
Location
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bikes
2007 KTM 990 Adventure Suzuki DRZ 400
Trail Riding Around Cambodia - Matt Jackobson


Matt Jacobson, author of the amazingly detailed "Ultimate Cambodia Guide" (550 bht),who stopped by a couple of weeks ago, Just emailed me some trip report stuff he's being doing in Cambodia, hope you enjoy it .. Link to Matt's book: http://www.ultimatecambodia.com/index.html



Kaom Samnor











Death Highway
















OFFICER EARL THE TRAFFIC COP


Just how weird is the traffic situation in Phnom Penh and what are traffic police doing about it? Read on to find out.

Officer Earl is a happy-go-lucky guy, with his fine gemstone ring and gold chain necklace shining brightly in the afternoon sun; all this on a monthly salary of only US$20. No wonder why he is happy- he’s learned the art of budget enhancing!
Officer Earl’s turf is a small slice of Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh, just north of the Independence Monument’s gigantic traffic circle. Because he is such a happy guy, Earl will smile peacefully as cars and motorcycles ignore and cross over the double yellow line that separates the north-south flow of traffic, because he drives the same way. Motorists driving carelessly the wrong way and moving head-on towards approaching traffic? Not a problem, nothing out of the ordinary there as that’s how Officer Earl gets home from work himself. Cars and motorcycles turning onto the boulevard from side streets at high speed without even looking to see if anybody is coming, thereby triggering major defensive driving maneuvers from the approaching and unoffending motorists who have the right-of-way? No problem, that’s how Earl comes back to his patrol post after his 3-hour afternoon Karaoke-sing-along lunch break.
The thought that has Officer Earl smiling so much these days, as he admires his jewelry and the new Honda Dream motorcycle that he uses to get to the new home that he just had built, is that he knows that he will get to meet and make friends with many motorists each and every day. Earl is a real people-person. Earl and his other buddies-in-blue recently pooled together their thinking resources and came up with an idea to make even more new friends.
What they like to do is gather their little group under the shade of one of the boulevard’s nearby trees. There is also an outside wall of a nearby villa at hand and if they play the shadows and angles provided by both the wall and the tree just right they can usually avoid being spotted by motorists until they figure the timing is right to leap out onto the road and make a new friend.
Obviously, the above listed driving maneuvers hardly offer an officer of the law a reasonable opportunity to stop passersby to get to know them and ask for a donation toward fulfilling their latest dreams. What gets them jumping into action is when a motorist does not signal his intention to get off the nearby traffic circle to head north on Norodom Blvd. Let’s see, it’s okay to drive the wrong way head-on, or angle recklessly across oncoming traffic with no turn signal, or come barreling around a corner from a side street without looking or signaling, but it’s not okay to basically go straight through a very wide traffic circle without signaling that you are turning, even though you don’t really turn. Like I said, these are just friendly guys that have had to come up with new ideas to make new friends. Fair enough.
So after completely ignoring Officer Earl and his friends the first time they leapt out at my motorcycle (which has been my normal strategy when I notice such groupings), just after my apparently felonious failure to signal my non-turn, I saw the look of hurt in Earl’s eyes as he realized that I was just another unfriendly foreigner who thought he was too good to make friends with him and his buddies. Not really knowing at the time what atrocity I had committed that had these guys wanting to introduce themselves to me, I decided to stop by next time through and show them that we can all be friends.
Officer Earl was beaming as I followed his arm gesture to pull over to the curb, and I switched off my motorcycle there. He then chuckled while pointing to my turn signal and said that my failure to use it was very dangerous to others, as this very thing was the cause of untold misery and heartache for his fellow Cambodians, post Pol Pot era. I smiled back and thanked him for being kind enough to take the time to meet me and for telling me how to avoid the dangers of his country, finally telling him that I really didn’t think that I had broke any actual traffic laws. His smiling reply was, “Well you stopped, didn’t you? Therefore you must have known that you were guilty of breaking a law.” I knew at that point that Earl was way ahead of me in the logic department, so I smiled and bid him farewell. Being the natural host that he is, Earl would have none of that, at least not until I negotiated a friendship gift for him and the other boys. After all, the other boys were still only in the design phase of their new houses.
Of course the next time I approached their traffic beat I dutifully signaled my non-turn from the traffic circle, only to have a brightly smiling Earl jump out in front of my motorcycle and direct me back to the curb. I pointed out my flashing turn signal- which he hadn’t even bothered to look at because the boys just automatically figure that nobody is silly enough to actually do it- and after he glanced at it he slowly turned to look at my face. His smile widened even more as a look of recognition came over him. “Uhhh…my friend”, he muttered. Sure, we are the best of buddies now and he has the small piece of paper with the king’s picture on it (Cambodian riel is what the currency is called) that I had given him before to prove it. Earl then pointed to the north on Norodom Boulevard and bid me a fond farewell. Phnom Penh. What a wonderful place to make new friends!
Note: For those that will be riding motorcycles in Cambodia, be sure to take a look at our driving tips and advice in the Getting Around chapter. It is a great way to see and get acquainted with this very scenic little country, but one must stay alert at all times. Cambodia, especially Phnom Penh, is really no place for beginners.
Helmets for motorcyclists and seat belts for car drivers and front seat passengers are now required by law, though you will see scores of Cambodians that don’t use either. It can be difficult to take the seat belt law seriously when one notices that police allow share taxi pick-up trucks and passenger van drivers to load passengers on the hood, and roof (!), of their vehicles so that the driver can get as much fare for each trip as humanly (or inhumanely) possible. And, of course, the outside passengers have no safety belts, and often times not much to hold onto dear life to. Share taxi drivers are also allowed to rent their driver’s seat to fit in another passenger, which means that the driver must sit in the middle transmission shift lever area, stretching across from there to work the steering wheel, and the brake and gas peddles! This, of course, means that the trip will be that much more entertaining for the vehicles’ passengers, as the driver attempts all kinds of acrobatic maneuvers in his efforts to control the car.
 

KTMphil

Senior member
Joined
Jan 11, 2011
Location
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bikes
2007 KTM 990 Adventure Suzuki DRZ 400
Phnom Penh











T'maw Bang to Chipaht route in the Cardamoms




















Matt's book is a must if you're headed to Cambodia!


 
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