Traffic Rules of Cambodia – Bigger Gets Right of Way

The moment you step on Cambodian roads you will notice the most prevalent traffic rule of all – Bigger Gets Right of Way. Other than this master rule, there are hardly any other rules in effect. If driving anarchy exists, it resides in Cambodia. There are no rules, only something vaguely resembling guidelines that nobody cares about. As a result, driving in Cambodia is as chaotic as education – nobody cares about doing it right, they simply slalom around to get by.

Going for a walk in Cambodia is a life threatening experience. You get used to it quickly, but until such time, you will be shocked over immense rudeness and disrespect shown by the drivers. Nobody will care about a pedestrian being part of traffic. Nobody will attempt to slow down to avoid hitting you. As pedestrian you are simply smaller than a vehicle and bigger gets right of way. Jump out of the way if you can. Your life is in stake so you better, afterall.

It’s still shocking how there is no attempt, no intention of any sort, not even as much as slowing down or trying to steer away – bigger will simply continue going straight regardless of obstacle or who by law has the right of way. That includes automobiles joining traffic from sidelines. They only look in the mirror to make sure nothing bigger than themselves is coming their way, then they will simply continue forcing their way into the lane. Everybody who is there already, including pedestrians on the side of the road better find the way to get out of the vehicle’s path if they wish to live.

There are places with pedestrian crossings (zebras) making it look like this should be the zone for pedestrians to cross the road. I’m not sure what exactly the purpose of it is and why they bothered painting those zebras on the road. Nobody, I mean absolutely no freaking body will bother to even slow down when you are waiting there trying to cross. It’s just tough luck. They are n a car or on a motorcycle – they are bigger then you, they get right of way. Because number of motorcycles on the roads is ridiculous, you will never find a blank spot in traffic so you will have to enter and dodge at your own risk until you have crossed.

But what do you think happens once you have entered the traffic? Do you think anyone on a motorcycle or in a car will try to avoid you to give you a slightest chance to get on the opposite side quickly since you are already on the road? Think again! Not even the slightest attempt to help you cross. They will continue going straight at chosen speed. No slowing down, no steering away – straight no matter what. If you want to live, find they way to dodge. They are bigger, they get right of way.

As if this was not enough, as if insanely rude drivers did not create dangerous enough roads, it gets worse than that. As I had mentioned above – nobody follows any rules. If it’s a one way street, don’t expect there will be no motorcycles coming from the opposite direction. If you are on the right side of the road (they drive on the right in Cambodia), don’t assume there will be no drivers driving in opposite direction (aka driving on the left, opposite all traffic). If you are on traffic lights and there is a green light for pedestrians (which is a cute, animated green figure that walks Michael Jackson style) don’t assume that vehicles on the red will stop or remain stopped. And most of all – don’t assume you are safe walking on a sidewalk. It’s actually even more dangerous because you don’t expect motorcycles come wizz beside you at high speeds.

Remembers, you could be cool, but to be Cambodian cool you need to break all the rules. Real Cambodian don’t stop on the red, real Cambodian doesn’t drive on the right, real Cambodian doesn’t give way. If you want to life, look after yourself. There is little to no law enforcement in Cambodia. This statement doubles for traffic. Everybody does whatever they want on the road and will take pride in showing everyone in a smaller vehicle that they rule more than you.

Cambodian Traffic Rule Hierarchy

  • Pedestrians – you will never get right of way no matter what. You are the only one who can save yourself from getting killed. Watch out!
  • Bicycles – you can safely endanger all pedestrians as they will have to jump of your way to save themselves from getting hit. You have to give way to motorcycles and car as they will show you with joy that you are smaller and they will not back down.
  • Scooters – most common means of transportation in Cambodia. You can safely ignore pedestrians and cyclists. You have to watch out for motorcycles and all cars, SUVs and trucks.
  • Motorcycles – only vehicles with more wheels than 2 get right of way. Everybody else must get off your way if they want to live
  • Tuk Tuks – even though they are basically scooters with trailer behind them which makes them excessively sluggish, they are four wheelers, hence bigger than two wheelers and get right of way
  • Cars – 80% of traffic participants will back off, because you are bigger. Vast majority of traffic vehicles in Cambodia are scooters and motorcycles. Mostly scooters. Bicycles are second most used, but not popular among those who must use them. Locals think it sucks not having a scooter.
  • SUVs – all cars and motorcycle/scooter based entourages will get out of your way. You are near untouchable on the road.
  • Trucks – among normal traffic, you rule the road. You do whatever the eff you want, you go in any direction, blend into traffic from anywhere and just plain and simple do whatever you want behind the wheel. Near everybody else is smaller, hence you win
  • Semi Trailers and Buses – you don’t watch out for anything, just go. You are the biggest shite on the road, everybody else sucks and can go eff themselves or get killed if they don’t like it. The road belongs to you.

Cambodian roads are extremely dangerous with virtually no traffic laws in effect. Hence the only one rule applies – the rule of the bigger. The bigger a vehicle you control, the more right of way you get. The smaller you are, the more you have to dodge. As a tourist, you will have to dodge.

Happiness is a Journey, Not a Destination

Happiness is a Journey, Not a Destination – words of the wise man responsible for this quote (I believe it was Crystal Boyd) resonate with me as strongly today as they have when I first realized that chasing goals of the future is akin to chasing your own tail. It’s a rat race. Happiness is not something you will work your way to. Things like: “I just have to pay off this debt and I will be happy” or “I just need to close this big deal and then I will be happy” or “I just need to finish building this house and then I will be happy” are all lies. You lie to yourself because where there is one obstacle forcing you to put the feelings of happiness off and into the future, there will be another right after.

There is NO way that will lead you to happiness, because happiness IS the way. It is the way you are feeling right now at this very moment. Appreciate this very moment and enjoy it, because it is in your life only once. Time is your most precious commodity, don’t spend it waiting for something you hope will come in the future. No matter what you do, there will always be challenges in your life. You tell yourself that your life will be complete after you have married your girlfriend, then after you have bought the house, then after you have had the kids, then after kids are a bit older cause it’s hard with the little ones, then after kids are out of puberty cause being a parent of teenagers is hard, then…. You see where I’m going with this?

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. That’s why no matter how much you save up, money will not buy you happiness. And that’s also why I did not make my early retirement a thing of the future. Since happiness is a journey, not a destination, you can start it from anywhere. You can start it from the very place where you are right now, reading this article. Every journey, regardless of how long or short has started with the first step. Take this first step in faith. You don’t have to see where the road leads, just take that first step in faith and the road will be shown to you. Where it leads is irrelevant, because it’s not the destination that makes for happiness, it’s the journey.

Be happy. Embrace yourself for who you are and open up your mind to happiness. There is no better time to be happy than right now, in this very moment. And there is a very good reason for it. It is because you are sharing this moment with someone special, someone worthy of every single second of your precious time – YOURSELF!

Treasure this moment. It is the best moment of your life. Treasure every moment of your life because you are an amazing person who deserves to be happy. Even the tallest oak tree was once a nut that stood its ground. It’s your life so go nuts and stand tall. And remember – happiness is a journey, not a destination.

If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done…

I realize that grasping the concept of leaving work so one can travel (or otherwise engage in whatever your dream activity is) is not easy. There is always that little bit of doubt at the back of your head. That little bit of uncertainty that pokes you like a splinter underneath the skin. Work is this only thing that provides some hope for the future, right? One should be glad if they still have work to go to. Yet I’m preaching here about early retirement and quitting work to travel. How can this possibly work for an average person?

The very first and very important thing to realize is that I do not say one should quit work. Quitting work is simply what I did and the reasons behind my thinking are described in this journal/blog. One should live their life to the fullest and should do things they want to do. When your life is fulfilling, enjoyable and exciting, when you lay in bed at the end of the day and feel like saying: “What an awesome day it was today, I truly had hell of a time…” then you are likely doing it right. Remember, you only have limited time to spend on this Earth. Sooner or later, your time will be up and your journey on this planet will end. It is possible to have virtually unlimited supply of everything else, but never of time. You will not be here for unlimited length of time and you will not be able-bodied during all of your time here. It only makes sense that you use as much of it for things you enjoy as possible.

You know the ages old saying that “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got“. And you will always feel what you always felt. You yourself have to be the change you want to see in your own life. It starts with you, because it’s your life. Sometimes the change may seem intimidating, because it requires one to step away from the safety of their homes, or take a step to the side from well established path that goes straight ahead and everyone walks on it. Change bears risks with it, because it can go either way, but hey… If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got.

I applied the “If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done…” principle to myself. I had a good job that’s pretty hard to get and is a clear keeper. I was making enough money to get by and occasionally go for a few with my buddies. I was able to buy myself latest fashion, go see latest movies or indulge in a massage. It seemed like a fairly steady life yet deep inside I felt that there must be more to life than this. However, this feeling did not surface until I resumed traveling. I was faced with the ultimate challenge:

  • Continue going to work. I have a steady and secure job that pays all my bills and leaves me some extra. If there is better life than this, I will never experience it, because all I will have known is work. There will be no surprises in my life as I know exactly what tomorrow brings – yet another day at work. But at the same time I know I am taken care of and don’t have much to worry about.


  • Take the risk and quit work. I don’t know where this path leads, as it could go both up and down. My life will be one daring adventure and every day will be different. I don’t know the odds, but I will do what I believe in my heart I was meant to do.

I was content where I was at the moment, but I still believed that there was more to life and that I deserved it. I knew that in order to personally mature and feel better about my life as a whole, I’d need to change the way I do things, change the way I make decisions, change the way I live life. It’s pretty simple – If you keep your foot on first base, you will never steal second. And if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always have what you always got. What I got was just enough to get me by. I was a ship in safe harbor. But as John A. Shedd said – this is not what ships are for.

A risk of failure accompanies every change. But if you look at all the great achievers this world has known, you will notice similar pattern in their lives – they have all achieved great things by taking risks. By trying something different. By deviating from predetermined path followed my majority. You can either be safe and good, or you can take a chance and be great. It’s the way to knowing the world and knowing yourself. One does not discover new oceans without losing sight of the shore as one does not find out how far they can go unless they risk going too far.

Wayne Gretzky once said: “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Yes, change requires risk-taking and risk-taking is ultimately prone to failure. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t call it risk-taking, would they? However, even if you ultimately fail but you do it pursuing your dreams, you will have lived a much more fulfilling life than those who have put their dreams on a shelf for fear of failure.