Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Driving Lesson 101

So Today as I was returning back from a brief two day retreat, my friend Catherine suggested that I try my hand at driving her Toyota RAV 4 back to Phnom Penh. Since we were staying at a local resort located on National Highway Road #1, the road itself was fairly straight. So I thought why not? I might as well begin the journey of learning to drive here as one day I hope that the Lord will provide a car for us to get around as it is becoming more of a necessity here than a luxury. For one thing, it conserves our energy levels on those hot days, you are not inhaling the pollution and diesel fuels as you sit in the open air tuk tuks, it provides safety in the evenings and most of all it is a time saver, unless you are using a motobike.

So what is it like driving in Cambodia. Well I happen to pick a good day to drive when the roads are not busy as many Cambodians are still visiting their families in the provinces so it was the perfect day to have my first driving experience on Cambodian soil. It wasn't too difficult as there wasn't too much traffic at all but one does have to be more alert and check your mirrors often given the motorcyclists that weave in and out. I asked my friend what the speed limit was and she laughed at me. This is Cambodia, what are you talking about speed limit! But alas, not too far up the road, my eyes caught a sign that said the speed limit on this highway was least I think it was kilometres and not miles.
Driving along National Highway Road #1

The 'highway'here is not like a highway we are used to in North America. There is some sort of speed bump grid to slow you down...not sure really what the purpose is as you can't even go fast if you wanted to. There is actually a 'motorcycyle' lane so that the motos and tuk tuks can use but like everything else, everyone does not adhere to the lanes. If there is an opening you just go for it. No wonder Asian drivers in Toronto have a bad reputation. :-) If you have only learned to drive in this environment, you learn to be creative and make a way through the crowded streets. Thankfully today, I didn't have to worry about the crowds but I did notice that people use their brakes here a lot so I would imagine one's brake pads will weary here very quickly as there is a lot of stop and go traffic.

My driving lesson lasted about 40 minutes as we meandered our way through the local streets in the city of Phnom Penh. Given the minimal traffic, there was no need to be aggressive but I can see that driving here will definitely cultivate patience. But then again, that is one virtue that God is nurturing among all of us who live in this nation. As I am getting more familiar with my neighborhood it is quite easy to drive around as one cannot really get lost in the city since its not that big. I think the true test will be driving when there is a lot of traffic but it seems to me the same rules apply here as they apply in North America. The bigger the vehicle, the more rights they have on the road. While I would like to say that there is no tail gating in Cambodia, that seems to be the norm if you want to get where you are going otherwise you will be left behind. Of course, wisdom is needed in driving behind certain Toyota Land Cruisers and Lexus's as you do not want to be involved in any minor infractions with those SUVs because they are usually owned by the elite in Cambodia and it can be a costly expense.

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