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a light in Cambodia

I'm a moto driver!!!

CAMBODIA | Monday, 14 May 2012 | Views [361]

I felt like joining the roaring cries of a Scottish warrior and exclaiming “Freedom!” as today I joined the many motos that fill the roads of this city with my own set of wheels. The need for personal mobility has greatly increased, as work is no longer in walking distance and finding a reliable and fair moto taxi driver can be a bit it and miss, especially as the monsoon season has started.

Yep, that’s right; monsoon is here and has started strong. Around 3pm each afternoon the heavens open up and drop buckets over this city of poor drainage, quickly turning what were once roads into rivers that one has to travel through.

Today was my first day taking my moto out for a spin. I got ready, placed 5000r ($1.25) in my pocket, just in case I happened upon any waiting policemen that decided to pull over this foreigner for whatever mister meaner they could conjure up, and started meandering around my neighbourhood to develop a feel for my moto.

After, what was a successful practice, I decided to brave it and drive to work to get a few hours in dutifully working on my report cards. This trip proved to go well. I guess travelling on the back of moto dtueks and with friends teaches you a few tricks on driving, like using cars as shields when going around round-a-bouts or crossing heavy traffic.

Once I had all I could stand, in terms of grading my students, it was time to head home and then off to a hotel for a night of luxury and rest with a few friends. Just as I was walking down the stairs to get to my moto the sky decided it could not hold on any longer and rain tumbled down to the ground below. I pulled out my poncho and brazened myself for a rather wet ride home.

The streets quickly took the shape of rivers and I braced myself as I steamed through the giant puddles that were consuming the roads. Arriving home soaked through and knowing that my friends were sitting all dry and merry at the hotel I quickly compiled a pack of dry clothes and mounted my metal steed ready to see what this rain would throw at me.

Let’s just say that I drove through water halfway up my calf in an attempt to escape the clutches of Toul Kork. Remember, this is my first day driving in Phnom Penh. If you had a strong urge to pray for me this day your prayers were so needed as I was protected along my waterlogged path.

However, something happened that can only be looked back on as humorous, but at the time was darn stressful and embarrassing, my horn started to blare ….. CONTINUOSLY!!!! My moto was making high pitched sounds of protest having to drive through the rain and those nearby turned to stare and laugh at the foreigner. I turned down a nearby street and tried to contact a few of my Khmer friends for some much needed ideas for my predicament but had no luck reaching any of them. Did get through to Emilie though, one of the people I was to meet at the hotel, who encouraged my to just continue on. “At least people will hear you and get out of your way” she optimistically added.

So, that’s what I did. I continued driving with my horn blaring and flashing apologetic smiles at those who were unfortunate enough to be near me at traffic lights.

At last I found a helpful wheel repair man/mechanic who gave my moto a few light taps near the horn, to beat it into submission, and then informed me (in Khmer) that because of the large amount of rain my moto seems to do this. I guess I have discovered the first quirk for my bike. I thanked him, paid him a dollar for his troubles

However, after travelling a further 700m down the road the siren like shrieks started up again as I approached yet another road submerged by the gushing rain. A friendly Buddhist monk smilingly suggested that I turn around and seek another road as he cross the road in front of me slightly bemused.

Each road I turn down, heading towards the hotel, a torrent of water was there to greet me. I was performing u-turns left, right and centre, nearly ploughing into a group of moto and tuk tuk drivers. I paused with them for a few minutes trying to regroup and compose myself knowing that my best option now was to seek shelter and hope the roads will clear as the rain lessens.

Decided on heading towards my favourite Indian restaurant, but now found myself travelling on the wrong side of the road. Another wheel guy tapped my horn and I continued on in silence again, only to play chicken and nearly collided with a foreign guy as we continued to veer to the same side. I called out “Som toh” only to inwardly kick myself as he probably spoke English. So, slightly embarrassed, I sent up a quick prayer that he would get to wherever he was going safely and he would have no long lasting recollection of my awkward clumsiness and near collision.

Seeking shelter was a wise decision, it assisted in calming my nerves, allowing me to dry off and be able to think clearly again. It was here that I discovered that my soak through jeans that sheltered my phone failed in its source of protection and I had a soggy phone that no longer works and may need to be laid to rest.

At last after an hour of respite, some delicious curry and naan I was able to navigate my way to the hotel, only having to charge through two giant puddles in the process.

I believe that if I can survive all this and still be willing to get out there on the moto again, then confronting Phnom Penh traffic is a lot less daunting. My skills and confidence may be in desperate need of improving but that will all come with far more practice.  I can look back at today's driving experience as a lesson, one that I sure will not be the last, in coping with whatever Cambodia seems to throw at you. Honestly a good sense of humor is a necessity here.

Still have to take photos of my little guy and me, so stay tune for that.

Tags: adventures, im here as the entertainment, moto, traffic

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