What’s it like? What’s the difference? The two most asked questions I get since moving here. Well first it’s a lot quieter mainly due to Malaysians not having their hand welded to their horns when they are driving. Secondly it’s a lot more laid back, relaxing. Nobody appears to be in that much of a hurry to do anything not that anything in Manila moved at lightning speed including the traffic, here it just appears more relaxed. That’s not to say that there are huge differences between the countries, in fact there is one alarming factor that is a lot worse here compared to the Phils, and I never thought that I would ever be admitting this, but the damn pesky bikes here are infinitely worse!
Right first off I’m not talking about push bikes or proper motorbikes, those over 250cc. These are those annoying little souped-up lawnmowers, mainly 125cc, that buzz around over and under taking you with gay abandonment along with not a care in the world for your or their own lives. I realise that having a bike is a cheap form of transport for many, well it’s a lot cheaper than having a car in both countries, but here it appears that when you purchase a bike you will be questioned about if you have any suicidal tendencies to which you must answer with a definitive yes and many of them. I have had them undertake me whilst I’m indicating to turn left. Remember that due to the early British influences vehicles are driven on the proper side of the road, the left.
The other main difference is the amount of red light jumpers I’ve encountered in the short time I’ve been here. In fact over the six years I spent in the Phils, please note that due to American influences they drive on the right, I only ever witnessed two accidents, one bike on car where the bike decided to undertake the car who was turning and one car on car, where one car was turning right on a red light, which is permissible, only to get walloped by another car going straight on through his green light. Well I’ve already beaten that score in the short time I’ve been here! Seen two bike on bike accidents where one has jumped their red light only to be clobbered by another going through their green light. The other accident was car on car where one braked for a red light only to shunted up the arse by the following car who was probably very surprised that a driver was obeying the signals!
I would like to say that this red-light jumping is only carried out by those damn pesky bikes but alas it’s not. Cars are just as much to blame with many doing exactly the same. What you have to take note of is that the main road runs along the coast so most traffic lights are on t-junctions with just a right turn filter light. Coming in the opposite direction most left turns are slip roads with no lights so you just have to make sure no one is turning right from the opposite direction. All of the traffic, in both directions, will be on red with just the right turn filter set to green allowing traffic to turn right. So while that right turn filter light is on nothing will come out of the side road and so many vehicles jump the red light going straight on believing themselves to free from any potential accidents! WRONG! Coming in the opposite direction majority of these light do not have a right turn of their own, as you’d end up in the sea, but what they do have is a u-turn filter light.
As the majority of the central reservations are solid concrete blocks with a few having specific openings for those wishing to do a u-turn to reach destinations on the opposite side of the coast road like beachfront condos and hotels for example. So most arriving at a red light, with a right filter light on, forget that those arriving from the opposite direction will also have a green u-turn filter on at the same time. This has caused some very close calls especially with those damn bikes!
The other one they do here exactly the same as they do in the Phils is to turn on the red light, allowable right turn in the Phils but usually a left turn here, then make a u-turn in that road, not just the bikes but they are the main culprits as taxis are also know do this trick quite often, then proceed through that green light. Oh and a couple of other things, most locals will tell you to ignore the bikes and let them get out of your way which isn’t a bad idea. But if a bike does hit you and you’re in car stand your ground especially if you’re turning with indicators on as those damn pesky bikers will always believe that they are in the right!
Till next time.