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Why can’t we have a tuk-tuk?

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Traffic in Phnom Penh. 

After the initial shock passed, I began to understand how Cambodian driving worked.  Through my American lens, it should never work.  Every third car/tuk-tuk/bike should be an accident.  A big accident (*).  But in Cambodia, it works and here is why:  drivers yield.  There is a hierarchy.  Big trucks, SUV’s, cars, tuk-tuks, motos, bikes.  The little guys yield to the big guys.  The way I see it, Americans have some, er, entitlement issues.  No one should ever cut in line, pass us, slow us down, jam traffic, etc.  And we’re certainly not going to yield just because someone is bigger than us.  No sir.  What I observed was an absence of road rage.  I guess it happens here and there.  But if Americans drove in that sort of traffic every day, we’d implode or hurt someone.  

And to give you a snippet of what I’m talking about, here is a clip of our tuk-tuk making a left turn.  Notice no one in our party even notices the oncoming traffic.  Because we know it will yield. 

Now crossing the road on foot was a different story!  A nightmare sort of story.  Still, the traffic somehow always yielded and somehow we always made it across safely.  I may have closed my eyes once or twice.

When tuk-tuk riding wasn’t putting Cedar to sleep, she and Norah were interacting with other drivers.  Or Asher was throwing things out of the tuk-tuk.  Or everyone was partying with the grandparents. 

I also loved how kid-friendly both Thailand and Cambodia seemed.  Children were expected to be children –noisy, wiggly, clumsy, curious.  But in other ways, kids were treated with respect and expectation.  At the restaurants we visited, kids were served out of the same tall, unlidded glasses as the adults.  My girls fell in love with iced coffee with condensed milk.  And flavored steamers.


Norah was also welcomed and gushed over when she went to language school with Noelle.  Norah was able to go to two classes and Noelle’s instructor spent time teaching her Khmer. 

And the girls loved getting pampered at spa that provided skill-training and employment for at-risk girls. 

Noelle says it isn’t unusual for a server at a restaurant to pick up Asher and walk around with him when he gets fussy.  If that doesn’t work, they’ll start giving treats. 

I think I’ll do one more post about Zach and Noelle’s home and neighborhood.  Then back to regular birthy talk!  I’m working on a post about the Jedi Midwife and a little something about Dr. Polo Shirt.   

* If Noelle has never told you about the time she tried to drive a moto into a busy Cambodian street, you should really ask her about that…

3 responses »

  1. I’m loving these posts. It’s so different then what we know as the norm. ❤

  2. The trick to crossing the street here on foot is easy but counterintuitive: don’t dodge the traffic. Just be predictable, and they’ll avoid you. If you try to dodge them, then you’re being unpredictable, and as they try to dodge you, they may end up hitting you. As long as you move in a straight line at a relatively constant speed, they may miss you by a whisker, but they’ll miss you. At least on the smaller streets I’ve dared 🙂 Haven’t tried Norodom, Sihanouk, or the other larger streets yet.

  3. I love how nonchalant we all are as those huge trucks headed straight for us! We just trust the system, I guess!


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