The Toyota Camry works its way through the early morning side streets near Phsar Thmei. Up Monivong Boulevard, across the Japanese Bridge, and then the car picks up speed as traffic loosens up beyond Prek Liep.
The taxi driver, sharing his seat with another passenger, switches gears and stretches for the gas pedal.
On Route 6, there is little traffic coming south toward Phnom Penh. The driver passes one slow truck, and then another.
The taxi narrowly misses a head-on collision with a truck traveling south. After another close call, one of the three front-seat passengers asks the driver to slow down.
The driver complies. But soon the taxi is hurtling past fields and villages, until a back-seat passenger makes the same polite request.
Once more, the driver slows for a short while and then gradually increases speed. Through isolated areas, he flies. Through villages, he sometimes brakes, leaning on the horn to give warning.
One Kampong Cham village market is filled with motorcycle traffic. A moto with a passenger slowly swings onto the road ahead of the taxi. The taxi driver makes a quick swerve to the left to pass. Then another moto enters the road from the left, forcing the taxi to return to the right lane.
Brakes scream. The taxi’s front fender smacks the moto’s back tire.
The moto passenger, a middle-aged woman, is thrown on to the hood. The car comes to a stop a few meters later. Worried ethnic Cham villagers shout as they run to the road. The taxi driver and a passenger carry the bruised woman to nearby shade.
The motorcycle driver is unharmed and the woman is not seriously hurt. “I want to see my husband,” she says. The taxi driver takes her to see him.
Someone calls for a policeman, who comes and marks the area with chalk. For the driver, there will be fines paid to the woman’s family, to the local police and to the motorcycle owner. The passengers will have to find different transportation to Kompong Thom.
A few people remain to look at the blackened marks on the road and the damaged motorcycle, still laying on its side. In the other lane of traffic, Camrys and buses again whiz by, sounding their horns.