Thursday, 25 January 2007

How do I get to 39 street 528?

Or, how to make it on time for an interview appointment in Phnom Penh rush hour...

It's mad, really mad! No matter what mode of transport you choose. With a 4WD and a driver, a well paid expat might be comfy and cool but your car is way too big to push through the crazy rush hour traffic pouring onto the streets of Phnom Penh shortly after 5pm.

The Tuk Tuk has charm, but even this mode of locomotion is too big to sneak right, left and center of the bumper to bumper cars.

So there's still the choice between a cyclo and a moto - I've done the cyclo once and felt terribly bad, that a skinny Khmer driver half my size (and weight) would have to peddal hard to get me to my destination - my choice of transport is the moto.

It's quick, cheap, and whilst sometimes lifethreatening always an adventure. Turning left onto a main boulevard one first drives on the wrong side because there's no way to cross the three lanes to the other side in one go - and waiting is never an option, even not at most red lights... motos are coming from all sides, overtaking from left and right, squeezing through any tiny spot between cars, trucks and busses. Entire families, colourful bulky goods or life stocks are transported this way. I even spotted a party of five. Wearing a mask is not unusual... it first made me think of SARS, but when the pollution hits you it actually makes sense.

So, I had my interview appointment at 5.30. Half an hour earlier and Phnom Penh not being really big I thought half an hour would get me there way too early... My driver didn't really know where street 528 was, but he seemed confident - and so was I. After all, I thought, numbering the streets instead of having names was pretty straight forward. Well, think again, we're not in the US here... every district has its own numbers - and I had no clue in which district Dr. Koma was waiting for me. Too bad, we ended up at one end of Phnom Penh, unfortunately the wrong one. For a change my mobile was not working, so I had to borrow one from a little girl, soon drawing the attention (and laughter) of a dozen people as I unpacked my laptop to extract Dr. Koma's mobile number... grhhhh... he was waiting for me at the other end of town. So I hopped back on the moto -- off into another round traffic nightmare. I did end up getting to 39 street 528 half an hour late... the tour was all the bit worthwhile, as I learnt everything about agriculture and rice production. And why Cambodian farmers take it easier than their Vietamese neighbours. But more about that another day!


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