The annual appearance of parkas and sweaters on the streets of Phnom Penh signals the yearly arrival of Cambodia’s cold season, but meteorology officials said yesterday that this year’s two-month cold snap could be the coldest in 30 years.
According to Chan Yutha, a spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, temperatures around the country can be expected to drop as low as 16 degrees Celsius, with lows in Mondulkiri and Preah Vihear reaching 13 degrees, and those in the Dangrek Mountains falling as low as 11 degrees.
The temperatures, he added, are likely to be the lowest they’ve been in three decades, and are not to be trifled with.
“Cold weather can affect the health of all of us, like with numb hands, numb legs and flu, particularly among the elderly and small children,” he said.
“So to avoid the health effects, we should wear a sweater and have a hot shower, and for peasants in rural areas, they can burn roots; the homeless should be cautious because the winds have come.”
According to the ministry, strong winds from the northeast are carrying abnormally cold air southward into Cambodia from Siberia, though authorities in Mondulkiri and Preah Vihear yesterday said that temperatures had yet to fall as low as the ministry’s predictions.
Nonetheless, the uncommon phenomenon caught some people, like Russey Keo district resident Lay Thorn, 60, off-guard.
“I recall it was also cool in the 1980s, but not as cool as this year’s season,” he said.
Sa Mul, 38, a motodop who brought a customer to the capital from Kampong Cham province yesterday, said the current weather was the coldest he could remember, and even in jeans, a winter coat and gloves, he said, he was still feeling the chill.
While winter may be a time for the proverbial chestnuts roasting on an open fire in the West, villagers in Kampong Cham’s O’Reang-ou district prefer to bake potatoes instead while chewing the fat about the rice harvest, Mul said.
“We don’t think it is a bad or a good habit, but it is the tradition of our people in the cool season,” he said.
Unfortunately for some, the cold snap also brought some sticker shock for those searching second-hand clothing stores for winter wear.
Takhmao town resident Heng Sida said that last month his neighbours bought a coat for only 10,000 riel, but when he went to buy a similar piece in Phnom Penh yesterday, it was 12,500 riel.
“We are downtown, so we cannot use fire the same as [in the countryside], because it can spread to other people’s houses. As a consequence, we have to buy winter coats to get warm,” he said. “However, the coat sellers should not increase their prices too much, because we are the same poor fellows and we do not have much money.”