Dirty, smoky and clogged with traffic, Phnom Penh's main streets aren't any different from most big cities. Yet, when you travel by motorcycle, as most Cambodians do, getting to and from work is unlike anything experienced in the West.
From the back of a motorcycle you can taste the pollution and feel the heat of the exhaust pipes against your legs. And it's hot and it's dusty and all the time you are aware how vulnerable you are, as impatient, arrogant drivers of 4WDs push, push, push into too tight spaces.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it. Well yes, usually it is. From the back of the motorcycle you get to see all kinds of things; like whole families packed onto one bike. Or a tuk-tuk with ten passengers and a motorcycle transporting 30 live chickens. And there are the street vendors, lazing police, armed soldiers and old men playing chess.
Yet, despite all the traffic- the pushbikes, cyclos, motos, trucks, cars, people, food carts and various vehicles adapted for amputees-rush hour passes without anger and frustration and the horn is used as a friendly warning rather than an instrument of aggression. Now, that's different from the West!