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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Walking the Streets of Southeast Asia

It's a challenge until you know the rules and the dangers. As challenging as driving through the congested streets of these cities in the lesser developed countries of Asia is, walking has its own unique dangers. I'll list a few of them in this post.

 

Sidewalks


Even though they exist, they are not used for the same purposes I am accustomed. They are multi-purposed. Predominantly, they are used for parking of cars and bikes. There is simply not enough parking in the cities so people take whatever they can find.


Here in front of my hotel you can see the barrier to prevent vehicles from parking on the sidewalk has been moved. Normally there are no barriers, but if they once existed, they no longer serve their intended function.



Here you see vehicles pulled up close to the buildings. The streets are simply not wide enough. They can't accommodate driving and parking. So if you can find a spot to park on the sidewalk, you take it.

This makes walking a challenge as you are forced to walk on the road as close to the parked cars as possible.


"Phnom Penh at night, taking my life in my hands"


But that is not the only sidewalk challenge present. If there is an open sidewalk, it's often used as just another road for the motorbikes. Any piece of real estate available is fair game. It can be used for walking driving or parking. Not the rules that many of us grew up with..


 

Uneven Walkways


This one probably gets me more than any of the others. I am more likely to be injured by an uneven walkway than I am to be hit by a vehicle. The reason being, I don't have the balance I used to have, and I don't worry too much about being hit by a vehicle because they're quite aware of their surroundings, and they are very good drivers on their bikes

It is especially dangerous if you're going to be on your cell phone and walking. Not paying attention to your footing can cause an embarrassing and painful fall.




I've only taken one fall to the ground that I can recall. But I have turned my ankle and stumbled numerous times. I have learned to watch my footing while walking in these countries.


 

Traffic


This would seem like it would be the most challenging of all walking events. When I first started traveling here, this is what concerned me the most. Just simply crossing the road.

Although there are crosswalks, do not expect the right of way as a pedestrian. Everyone has the right of way at the same time, and it can look very chaotic. But after having experienced this a number of times, I realize that it just appears chaotic. Actually, there is a method to this.

It's basically whoever gets to the spot first has the right of way. The drivers are very courteous here actually, even though it doesn't appear that way. If your momentum is taking you into the path before they will arrive, they will simply put on their brakes and allow you to go by. Again, this takes some getting used to and can be very scary at first. But nobody is driving so fast here anyway they can't stop for the most part



 

Be Aware of Traffic Direction


This is probably the most dangerous of them all. Being aware which country you are in and which direction the traffic is coming from.


Being from the USA, we are used to looking to the left before we step into the street. Because that's where the first car we will encounter will be coming from. But it's not that way in all countries, obviously. Sometimes they drive on the opposite side of the road than we are accustomed, so you need to look to the right when you first step into the road.


In some countries, they actually put lettering on the sidewalk, telling you to look to the right, because they know that you're not accustomed to it as a tourist.

When I do multi-country visits, this can get a bit more complicated. Because, as silly as this sounds, sometimes I forget which country I'm in.

The most dangerous time walking, in my experience, is when you first step onto the street. After your on the street, and people are aware that you're walking through traffic, they will watch out for you. But if they're not expecting you to step onto the street and you're not paying attention to which way the traffic is coming, that's when you can get hurt.


 

Those are the main walking dangers that I can think of. I'm sure there are more, but these are the key ones in my mind anyway.

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Mike Wells
Mike Wells
Mar 12
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

You certainly take your life in your hands. It's hard to be courteous when you have so much commotion. I am sure it gets easier after you have done it a few times

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Kirk
Kirk
Mar 12
Replying to

It’s a controlled crazy. I never really got a good video when it got extremely crazy. It’s tough to videotape while you’re concentrating. 

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