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Rules of the Road

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Good morning, class, and welcome to Advanced Sri Lankan Driving. I’ll be your substitute instructor today, as Mr. Pinnaduwa was fatally injured in a brutal head-on crash last night. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Good-Luck-Driving-In-Sri-Lanka
Lesson One: Honking

Before starting the engine, make sure to test your car’s horn. It’s your most important weapon and strongest defense, and you’ll be making frequent use of it. Let’s review the three most important uses of the horn.

1. When approaching intersections. Honking your horn immediately before reaching an intersection allows you to sail through without slowing down.
2. When passing cyclists. By alerting the cyclist to your presence, you minimize the chance of collision. Your proximity to the cyclist when you honk, and the strength of your horn, are important factors in determining how far to the left he will lurch. A loud, perfectly-timed honk can even cause the cyclist to fall from his bike, off the road, which is the safest place for him to be, anyway. (This also applies to pedestrians).
3. All other times. Using your horn to say “hello” to buddies is safer than leaning out your window. Use it to express annoyance. When in gridlock, keep the horn pressed. When rounding curves, honk your horn. Use it to jam along to the beat of the song blaring from the radio.
Lesson Two: Overtaking

Not only will it get you there faster, but passing other cars is one of the joys of driving. What’s more, it’s absolutely safe to do, in almost any situation.

Exercise: You’re driving a tuk-tuk, and stuck behind a row of three school buses. A jeep is heading towards you in the opposite lane. There’s a 30% chance you could pass the first school bus, a 15% chance of passing the second, and a 5% chance of overtaking the third. What do you do?
Solution: You pass all three. This is a trick question, and most students will have answered “pass two”. The general rule of the Sri Lankan road does state that you should pass if there’s a 10% chance of success. But this exercise said that you were in a tuk-tuk, which of course means you always pass. The “10%” rule is also waived for people with dominant attitudes and/or powerful cars.
Lesson Three: Painted Lines

Not often, but every once in awhile, you’ll see white painted lines in the road. What do these mean? Ah, this is a real mystery! The fact is, these lines have no meaning and you should ignore them. There’s disagreement as to whether they’re purely decorative, or serve some as-yet-unknown purpose. At any rate, they are annoyances which should be completely disregarded.

Thanks for your attention, class, and enjoy the weekend. Next week we’ll concentrate on the “Always Accelerating” method of driving, and examine why the “wrong” lane is usually the “right” lane to be in.

What To Do: Mosquito Bites!

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March 15, 2012 at 6:48 am Comments (3)

Take a Tuk-Tuk

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The practical, puttering tuk-tuk is one of the classic mainstays of Sri Lankan life. Clogging the streets of every city on the island, and found bumping along even the most remote mountain roads, the motorized rickshaw is an unavoidable, and incredibly fun, method of transportation.

Sri Lanka Tuk Tuk

“Taxi? Taxi, sir? Taxi?!” Ah, the joyous chorus that follows us wherever we go! As we walk down the street, a clamorous line of tuk-tuks follows us, demanding our attention. “Taxi? Taxi, sir? Taxi?!” Regardless of how often we say “no”, or how insistently we wave them off, they’ll not be deterred. The idea that we might prefer walking is positively baffling! And it’s not a reality the tuk-tuk driver is prepared to accept.

Half the time, we let them win. The truth is, there’s no better way to get around in Sri Lanka. We’ve been here a week, and I’ve already lost count of how many tuk-tuk rides we’ve taken. And each one provides an exciting little memory we’ll treasure for years to come. “Remember that time we almost died on Galle Road?” “Oh gosh, right! That bus almost smashed us to pieces, haha”. Once, as we were speeding down a curvy hill in Kandy, our driver confidently remaining in the passing lane while turning around to chat with us, Jürgen observed that the ride was just like a rickety old roller coaster, but, you know, without any rails, seat-belts or safety considerations. This made the driver laugh.

I’m exaggerating a little. Though the adrenaline rush of the average tuk-tuk ride is profound, I’ve never felt really in danger. The drivers are experienced and familiar with the idiosyncratic laws of the Sri Lankan road. And each trip we take makes us more comfortable. We’re getting good at haggling prices down, and are learning the tricks of the trade. You should never get in a rickshaw without first agreeing on the price, and definitely refuse those who offer free trips. And if you’re in Colombo, try and find metered tuk-tuks, which almost always result in a cheaper fare.

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Tuk Tuk Driver
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February 9, 2012 at 8:49 am Comments (5)
Rules of the Road Good morning, class, and welcome to Advanced Sri Lankan Driving. I'll be your substitute instructor today, as Mr. Pinnaduwa was fatally injured in a brutal head-on crash last night. Let's get right to it, shall we?
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