So far, other than an odd extended downpour like that which led to the recent street flooding the weekend before last, the rainy season has meant one heavy downpour a day, usually at the end of the day, quite often in the evening when it is dark, or occasionally in the morning. The general chat has suggested that this not been a very wet year, particularly upcountry where they are complaining of less rain than usual. The Mekong near Kampong Cham has been lower than usual, so that some islands normally under water at this time of year, are still visible. These last few days however have been quite exceptional.
The weekend was generally overcast, with some very heavy rain on Saturday. By Sunday afternoon, I had never seen such a black sky, with clouds rising up from all sides into an inky dark cloud hanging over the city. If I had had a barometer, I think the air pressure would have been off the bottom of the scale. At around 5 it started to rain, and I mean rain. In Malaysia, many city and town streets had deep open storm drains to cope with the really heavy rains and deal quickly with blockages. I have seen few such here – drains are closed off and blockages hidden – so when it rains, the water starts to build up on the streets and the traffic dangers increase accordingly! I avoided this on Sunday night, as I holed up at home, cooking two days’ worth of fried rice. When I rose Monday morning it had only just stopped raining. I cycled to work through a light drizzle and then it started again. By lunchtime, I thought it was night. We lost power five or six times in the morning and another half dozen times in the afternoon, so the only light was the light of the computer screen, working of its battery. I finished work work (as opposed to my work!) at about 3.00 and was keen to leave early because of the weather, but I was waiting for a gap in the rain. I waited in vain. Eventually I had to cycle back in heavy rain, and through the deep puddles and rivers of the PP streets, dodging 4x4s picking their children up from the International schools on the way back. I followed the crown of the road, as the driest point, only to be cut up on the inside by a hot chick on a scooter, gimlet eyes deadly fixed ahead, who swept through 18” of water at about 40mph creating a high wash that soaked me, cycling gamely on her outside, and anyone else who might get in her way. No shower was needed on arrival home.
I was so much looking forward to a cup of tea. However my little bottled gas cooker did not work (later I discovered there was gas, just no ignition – however I couldn’t hear that because of the noise of the storm). No tea! No more fried rice! I donned my North Face waterproof (I didn’t really believe I would ever wear it here) and with rolled up trousers and flip flops sought out a nearby eatery through the river that the road has become. What it is like elsewhere where the drainage is less good, such as the street of the Indonesian Restaurant, goodness only knows. As I wrote this (Monday evening) it was still raining heavily outside. I regret not carrying the camera more often to catch the blackness of the clouds and the depth of the swirling rainwater, through which the unending PP traffic swishes on regardless: that is the most surprising thing. People just carry on. I suppose the rain here is never accompanied by bitter cold as it is in UK so although clearly people don’t like getting wet, it’s not quite the same thing as when you’re freezing and just want to get home and snuggle up beside a fire.
Tuesday morning: I discovered this morning that over 50 people have died across Cambodia in the recent storms. One of them is the brother of a member of staff here at DCD – he is apparently a fisherman lost at sea when taking some tourists out on a trip at Sihanoukville. I believe he brought the tourists safely in, but as last man on the boat did not make it himself (difficult for me to be completely accurate about it because of language). My little adventures through the puddles are put in their place by this experience.