Monday, May 24, 2010


I have discovered a new sense of freedom in Phnom Penh! About a month and a half ago, I finally got up the nerve to start navigating the utter chaos of the streets in Phnom Penh. My hesitation in not doing this previously was simply that I never rode a bike much growing up and was just not very confident on one. However, the organization I am working with had some bikes available to me should I choose to use one. So, during Khmer New Year (April 14-16) the streets of Phnom Penh were absolutely deserted as everyone traveled to the provincial countryside to enjoy time with family. Thus, this was the prime time for me to get all the wobbles out and begin biking!
I think that might have been the best decision I have made in a long time!!!! It was so incredibly liberating to be able to hop on a bike and go anywhere that I want to go and stop anywhere I feel like stopping along the way. And, the best part is that it is free (well, minus the 8 cents it costs me to park at the market)!!!! I love riding on the back of motos, but the free factor of riding a bike definitely appeals to a girl who is living on a budget. Phnom Penh is small enough that it is feasible to take a bike pretty much anywhere in the city as long as you don't mind being soaked with sweat when you arrive. It has been insanely hot over the last few months, so I have grown quite accustomed to perpetually dripping with sweat regardless of whether I am riding a bike or simply sitting. So, the sweat factor is not a drawback for me, really.
I have had some fun (and not so fun) experiences on the bike. I got in a little accident a few weeks ago. A moto hit my bike and I did a Superman dive, but I was fine, just a few scrapes and bruises. I was back on the bike just a few days later, undeterred. Another day I was quite a sight to behold as I rode home from a friend's apartment on a Saturday morning with a backpack strapped to my back, a backpack strapped to my front, and the basket on the front of my bike filled with 2 bags of groceries. Now, you might think that I got some strange looks as I pedaled home, but you would be wrong. Though I would have looked absolutely ridiculous in America, in Cambodia I looked very similar to everyone else. You should never underestimate the amount that you can carry on a bike, moto, or truck!
In conclusion, I have heard someone say that you should do one thing that scares you every day, you know, just to keep things interesting. Well, at first I thought that navigating Phnom Penh traffic during rush hour constituted this every single time I do it. But, it honestly does not scare me anymore. I am growing quite accustomed to the rules of the road (or lack thereof)--making right turns without looking either direction, doing what I like to call the wrong way cross-over (going the wrong direction on the road until there is a gap in traffic when you can cross-over to the correct side), weaving between cars and motos that are stopped at stoplights in order to get as close to the front of the line as possible, using anything that moves as a shield when making a left hand turn, and basically being completely oblivious to any existence of traffic laws...
I am actually beginning to think that at this point navigating traffic in America might be a greater cause for fear...

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