Siem Reap: A wake-up call

Published on December 8th, 2010

Sometimes, we need to look to the past to be able to appreciate the present and the future. There are plenty of things we can focus on here, right now, right smack in the middle of our beloved country, of course, but it’ll definitely help us to recheck ourselves if we look back once in a while.

We have it good here, compared to other less fortunate or less stable country. Sure, we have a few riffs here and there, but which country doesn’t? As of now, I am just glad I am not getting shot at for trying to get that loaf of bread from a nearby mini market.

I can drive freely, enjoy the wind as I drive past the legal speed limit, enjoy the occasional touge session with the boys, watch local races, have a drink or eat at 3 o’clock in the morning, and no one bothers me much. Well, except for my parents.

When I feel like it, I can let off some steam at the highway by going for a Wangan trip, or take the car to the twisties, go for Hazelnut Coffee in Genting, or whatever. Freedom calls as freedom sees it.

I took a short trip to Cambodia recently, and it was short trip of realization. I will not focus much on the normal stuff you can read off National Geographic or watch in Discovery Channel, I will focus on the motoring lifestyle instead.

My trip was mainly dedicated to the town of Siem Reap itself and the Ton Le Sap Lake. I travel in a bit of an entourage in a Hyundai Starex and had a good view of the surroundings throughout my stay there.

Before I proceed, I must insist on explaining that my journey was limited to Siem Reap and Ton Le Sap Lake, and could not see the rest of Cambodia which include Phnom Penh. Therefore, my observation may be completely wrong, for which I apologize. This article was simply written to share what I have observed while I was in Cambodia.

Journey to one place and another was taken at the most 65km/h, and not a kilometer more. Top speed allowed on the highway was 40km/h. Yes, our driver was actually going over the speed limit almost all the time.

On certain more rural areas, the speed limit is cut down by 10km/h. If you were there, you will instantly understand why the speed limit was set so low. Small bikes, bicycles, Tuk-tuks, pedestrians, small kids, and not to mention small shops, cover the roadsides. Not all the time, but at some points it did get a little claustrophobic. More often than not, we occupants were bristling as the driver took the Starex within an inch to other road users.

The honking will always save the day, they say, and the Cambodian uses it a lot. You can hear one being thrown almost immediately after the last one ended. No flashing lights, no shouting, no temper, no showing off the middle finger, nothing. They honk, the other person moved, and everything goes on merrily. We Kuala Lumpur folks almost bit half our hands trying to make sense of their sense of direction.

At first, it was a complete chaos, but within a few hours of all that, we had somehow stop biting our nails and accepted the fact that they all have some kind of inner navigation thing built into their heads.

The traffic consists of old Toyota’s like 2003 Camry’s, Corolla’s, a few Lexus here and there, and not many other brands were present. In Cambodia, if you can afford new cars, you are considered one of the richest, much less being able to afford a Range Rover Sport, a Bentley, a Mercedes or other premium brands.

Looking at all those made me miss home a little, which was surprising. I didn’t expect to be missing my home since I was practically in the same region.

We have it good here in Malaysia. We can enjoy our cars, our food, and our lifestyle without anything much bothering us. In some parts of the world, they don’t even have a motoring lifestyle. Vehicles are meant for work, for transportation, and that’s it. Heck, they can’t even afford it if they want to.

Regardless whether you are driving a Viva or a Kawasaki ER-6n or a Lamborghini LP640 or a Honda EX5, driver’s driver, and the road is for everyone. Let’s enjoy them together.

words & pix: Al-mu Syahrisyawal Ahmad


  1. Posted by MiTec-i on December 9th, 2010, 01:07

    actually had the same feeling in a few places in Indonesia…i feel lucky to be Malaysian…

  2. Posted by Traffic Mag on December 9th, 2010, 16:45

    same here… same here… 😛


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