Surviving off the beaten track
By Nury Vittachi
Survived your latest business trip to un-urbanized parts of Asia? Congratulations. It may be luck, or you may have been lucky enough to have absorbed the information you need to know to keep alive.
Here are the 20 Unwritten Rules of the Road for going off the beaten track in Asia (with thanks to Nigel Dahl, Sahir Siddiqui, Greg Botts and others).
Rule 1: There are no rules.
Rule 2: Except for the golden rule which is: Cows get priority.
Rule 3: All traffic drives on the left.
Rule 4: Except for traffic which drives on the right.
Rule 5: And the traffic which drives in the middle.
Rule 6: Instead of seat belts, wear a garland of flowers or a feng shui amulet, which offer better protection.
Rule 7: If you are driving a truck, paint “No Kiss” or “Horn Please” on the back.
Rule 8: Might is right.
Rule 9: Instead of driving in a manner that ensures you arrive at your destination alive, set up a small shrine (Ganesh, Kuan Yin, Buddha, the Virgin Mary, or all four). This ensures the worst thing that can happen to you is that you get to heaven faster.
Rule 10: You should only ever overtake on the right. Or the left. Or over. Or under.
Rule 11: Multi-tasking while driving is compulsory. Beginners may wish to drive, chew betel nut and talk on a mobile phone, while advanced drivers should do all three plus enjoy a three-course meal, drink a bottle of locally brewed wine, sing a karaoke song and watch television.
Rule 12: Signaling before you turn is considered bad form. Surprises are more fun.
Rule 13: When driving at night, headlights should be kept (a) at full beam to blind oncoming drivers, or (b) switched off (see reference to “surprises” in Rule 12).
Rule 14: Checking to see if there is any oncoming traffic before pulling out to overtake is considered the behavior of a “wuss”.
Rule 15: You’d be surprised how many vehicles can fit abreast on a two-lane highway.
Rule 16: If the road is blocked, the hard shoulder may be used as a road.
Rule 17: If the road and the hard shoulder are blocked, the pavement may be used as a road.
Rule 18: Do not run over pedestrians, cyclists or scooter-riders, unless necessary.
Rule 19: But remember, there are no rules.
Rule 20: Except the one about the cows.
Frenchman Didier Fayolle wanted to update this column’s suggestion that French men like to drive with a Gauloise (a stinky cigarette) in one hand and their passenger’s leg in the other. “Gauloises are not the trend any more,” he said. “But having your hand on the passenger's knee still is.”
A note on driving from the Lonely Planet Guide to India: “The normal driving technique is to put your hand firmly on the horn, close your eyes, and plough through regardless.”
Reader Vince A. says that drivers in Manila do stop when they see red traffic lights. “Unfortunately, they’re looking at the traffic light at the next junction rather than the one they're approaching,” he said.
Prize for the dumbest traffic campaign goes to the Hong Kong Government, for: “Hong Kong’s Aim: Zero Traffic Accidents.” In other words, they have blown taxpayers’ money on a campaign that is (a) impossible to achieve and (b) guaranteed to fail in the first hour.
Way to go, lads.