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Pchum Ben in a sunken city

Pchum Ben in a sunken city


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For the second time in September, Siem Reap was flooded – and Flood Number 2, which spanned last week and this week, broke all records for the biggest wet in recent memory.

Indeed the deluge attracted international coverage, with The San Francisco Chronicle reporting on Tuesday that “The center of Cambodia’s tourism capital Siem Reap – home to the Angkor Wat temple complex – was underwater on Monday.”

It was, to succumb to the jarring jargon that’s so insidiously in vogue, a Weather Event to beat all Weather Events.

The deluge shut down most of the town’s restaurants and tour company operations, and Pub Street became an almost-deserted Pub River.

But despite the tragedy that accompanied the floods – the death of both locals and an expat, and the appalling damage to the town’s buildings and infrastructure – the drenching was met with merriment in the streets.

Women waded through the at times waist-deep water, laughing and calling out to fellow travellers.

The eerie Pchum Ben dirges and chanting emanating from numerous pagodas was punctuated with the sounds of motos and tuk tuks chugging through the water, laughing mums dangling infants at the water’s edge, and the gleeful squeals of kids having a hoot in the water.

The kids loved it: they skipped their sandals across the water surface, they splashed and ducked and dived, they pulled each other through the muck, and some even unleashed remote control boats.

Such a difference to the west, where floods are met with wailing and gnashing of the teeth, tragic overtones, anger and despair, and a zillion insurance claims.

Here in Siem Reap it was a case of this is what nature has dished up so make the best of it.  And in the case of the kids, have fun.

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