A Floating City

Upon sitting in a tuk tuk in Cambodia’s third largest city of about 177,000, I felt as if we were driving into a river.  My driver turned around and said:

Just some water, lot of rain every day.”

He was smiling and managed to drudge through enough water to get me to one of a plethora of hotels offered in Siem Reap.

The next morning I was off to explore the town.   Dumfounded, I stood and looked at the waterlogged streets, wondering just what to do.

The owner of my guesthouse told me to hop on the back of his motorcycle.  He drove through water that was knee-deep in spots.  I couldn’t believe that I was sitting on the back of a motorbike that was plowing through flooded streets, some that overflowed way beyond the sidewalks.

This was a first for me.

Thanks to the monsoon God, kids were playing and even swimming in the street or the overflowed Siem Reap river.  People walked, bicycled, and drove tuk tuks and SUVs.

Everything moved slowly.  No one was upset.  If anything people were smiling and laughing, especially the children.

I thought: These people drive through this like I’m used to cruising through snow.  It’s just a matter of what you’re used to.

Here there are no states of emergency declared, no national guard, and very few police officers.  The flooding isn’t broadcast on the news.  Everyone just goes on with their daily business as best as they can.

Apparently this happens every year during the heart of the monsoon season.  I was told by one local man:

Two years ago, more water.”

He motioned that it was then waist deep, whereas now it’s only up to our knees in places. Back in ‘09 they had deeper problems, literally.

Since the motorbike ride and noticing people unfazed by the flooding, I’ve adapted to pushing my legs through pool-like streets almost as nonchalantly as the locals do it. I thought:  When in Siem Reap in September…

After a couple of days here, I think I understand what a monsoon really is.  It tends to rain multiple times per day, but mostly in the afternoon.  It can cause flooding for days to a month or more at a time.  On most days, if you get up early and do your outdoor activities in the morning, you’re fine.

Monsoon season is fun.  It’s refreshing to drift around and observe the smiles, chuckles, and laughs as people embrace the water.

Siem Reap is a gigantic tourist attraction that’s been growing quickly.   Due to the super-wet weather, it’s low season now.

Low season has its perks:

● Hotel bargains can be had.

● The temples in Angkor are much less crowded.  Just try to go in the morning to early afternoon as the rain can be ruthless during spans in the afternoon. There’s no flooding at the huge temple complexes, maybe just some mud in spots.

● You get to experience a bona-fide monsoon.

● Wading through river-like streets with locals makes it
real easy to interact with them.

A woman I was talking to in the street asked me:

Do you like this floating city?”

Yes. I love it!”


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Stacey Curley on September 19, 2011 at 19:47

    The kids continue to be fascinated by your travels and love to see the pictures. They will have a million questions for you the next time they see you in person so be prepared!


    • STACEY: Ideally there will be many more photos and posts. Next time I see J & J I’ll more than likely have plenty of feedback for their inquisitive minds. Ideally you guys have a map or even better an earth/globe that we’ll be able to take a look at.


  2. Posted by Darren on September 16, 2011 at 20:16

    That’s pretty amazing earthdrifter I love the fact that people just deal with the rain, deal with the river and go about their daily routine with a smile.

    Well said: Here there are no states of emergency declared, no national guard, and very few police officers. Maybe they don’t have the tax revenues to pay for those things, but obviously life goes on, which shows that people will take care of themselves if you let them.


    • DARREN: There’s a ton of corruption in Cambodia so whatever tax money there is is getting pocketed to an extent. One impressive thing though, for one of the poorest countries in Asia, they have free government hospitals.

      I hate to bring this up but it turns out that the day I took the pics above, a 13-year old girl somehow fell into the river. People got her out but by the time she got to the clinic it was too late. In very poor countries it’s not usual that people learn how to swim as kids like what we’re used to in developed lands.


  3. Posted by Darren on September 16, 2011 at 20:11

    That was a good movie… Classic Robbie Dinero


  4. Some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets. Thank god for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk. Listen you screwheads: Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the filth. Now I see clearly.

    Quoted from what movie?


  5. There must be a lot of mildew around that place?


    • DAVID: Actually the rain has slowed down considerably and the flooding has subsided. So, I took a look around for mildew and didn’t notice any. Things look relatively clean.


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