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I know that formal road rules in Cambodia are pretty much non-existent (or if they do exist no one pays any attention to them), but there are some unofficial rules that drivers follow which seem to be learned through osmosis or years of observation (see Elysse’s Big Fish, Little Fish theory here). But I just can’t seem to figure them out.

This weekend I travelled to Siem Reap to visit Elysse and make the two hour trip from Siem Reap to Poipet on the Thai border to fix my visa. Over the weekend I spent up to 15 hours on the road and so had some time to observe the happenings on National Road 6. The basic idea is that pedestrians give way to bicycles who give way to motos who give way to cars who give way to bigger vehicles. Although no one actually moves over, everyone just weaves in and out and plays chicken with the oncoming traffic. As a result of my 15 hours of observation I have identified several tools employed by drivers of all vehicles to aid them in their dominance of the road.

The Horn
The horn is used to announce our presence around corners, tell other road users to get out of the way, warn dogs and cattle that are meandering across the highway, and get the attention of various passers by. However sometimes, when there are no other cars visible on the road and there are no residences or businesses nearby, they still honk. For no apparent reason that I can divine.

The Headlights
Headlights are also frequently used as a means of bullying slower vehicles such as safe drivers who do not want to die, and motos. They are also used in the highly popular game of chicken. As one car is overtaking another and, being in the wrong lane, is fast approaching an oncoming car they flash their lights at each other as though to say ‘hello, can you see me? I can see you and we are going to crash and die if one of us doesn’t move soon. I think you should be the one to move as my headlights flash faster and brighter than yours do’. There’s high beam, flashing, and terrifyingly at several points in the dark of night, no headlights at all.

Indicators
This is the one I find the most confusing. Indicators seem to serve no purpose at all. They are rarely used when turning or overtaking, and seem to be turned on for miles at a time for no apparent reason. Or, perhaps they like to indicate their intention to turn a good kilometre before they need to do so as a way of being polite and considerate to those behind them.

These roads were not too bad as they were sealed and had lanes that were followed for the most part. It will be interesting to see what happens on the more rural roads.

By the way, sorry for not having any photos on this post. As a normal and interesting person I have not taken any photos of cars or traffic.

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