In defense of my (hypothetical) motorbike

This is a blog post that will probably make my mother cry, concern my sister-in-law and worry others. But I thought I would write out my reasons in defence of the idea: buying a motorbike whilst I am Siem Reap.

  1. It’s cost effective. I generally pay $2 into town and $2 back on a tuk tuk. Motodubs are cheaper but still $1 a journey. If I catch a from of transport each day (which is an average, rather than reality), that’s at least £60 a month, or £600 in the time I’m still here. Petrol is ridiculously cheap here (coke is more expensive by the litre).
  2. It’s liberating. I don’t have to think about cost or whether I’ll be able to catch transport back. I can just hop on my moto and go.
  3. It’s relatively safe. Okay, a lot of tourists die each year on motorbikes. But that’s because they’re putting themselves at risk by doing silly things and driving way too fast. As a pedestrian trying to cross busy roads, I feel more in danger then than when I’m moving with the traffic.
  4. I won’t sweat to death. I walked to the school I work at today. It took fifteen minutes. During that time and the subsequent cooling-down period, I probably sweated enough to fill a small glass. It’s not even the hottest period of the year.
  5. It will save time. I won’t have to factor in the walking time or the time it’ll take to find a tuk tuk/motorbike driver. Also, if I’m walking, I generally have to add thirty minutes in order for me to become a normal, dry human being once I arrive.
  6. It’ll probably mean I’ll eat better. I will feel more inclined to just pop to a local market if I know the journey doesn’t mean walking in the sauna-like heat or crossing National Route 6 as a pedestrian.
  7. I won’t have to constantly apologise or explain myself to tuk tuk/moto drivers. I won’t have to tell them I don’t want to use them and I’m happy walking.
  8. I’ll wear a helmet.

Obviously, I need to go jump through a few hoops before this can happen. I need to get a licence (most expats won’t; it is potentially illegal to drive a motorbike without a Cambodian licence*) and this requires a certificate from my Songkat office (essentially a place where you register residents in an area) then to either find a place in Siem Reap that can legitimately provide me with a licence (where they probably send it to Phnom Penh) or to go to Phnom Penh.

So, it’s very hypothetical at the moment. But I’m hoping to convince my mother that she’s okay with it before it happens (otherwise I won’t tell her).

(*I say “potentially” illegal as the law is slightly ambiguous. Previously, it was illegal for anyone, foreigner or Khmer, to drive unless they had a Cambodian license  (international licenses don’t count). Many tourists believed they could legally rent a motorbike here, but they were wrong and received fines. At the beginning of this year, a law was passed that people could drive a motorcycle under 125cc without a license. It is unclear whether this only applies to Khmer or to foreigners too. In any case, your medical insurance may not cover you if you do not have an appropriate license, so it’s worth checking!)

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