|Driver pushes his tuk-tuk through flood waters in downtown Phnom Penh|
Although momentarily stunned, I continue walking, hoping not to embarrass her. Seeing me, the lady bather turns away, pulling further back into the shadows to finish her ablutions.
In the remote countryside some Khmer women bathe in this manner, since they lack plumbing. But I certainly did not expect to see a woman bathing nearly nude right in front of me in downtown Phnom Penh.
Cambodia is just full of surprises.
|Flooding happens every year during the rainy season|
Water everywhere is rising. On both sides of this downtown street it's almost up to the curb, although a strip in the middle of the road hasn’t flooded yet. This isn’t clear rainwater, it’s brown as it flows by. That’s a bad sign; it means it’s flooding in from somewhere else, and I see where. On the street corner, water is flooding up and out of the city sewer!
An occasional motorbike rider drives by, braving the dirty deluge. Even wearing a raincoat, these are days you don’t want to be out riding a motorbike. These streets are already accident prone when dry, when wet, they're far more slippery on two wheels.
Walking two blocks down, the water is rising even higher, peaking at a busy intersection. In the middle a car has stalled, after it tried to plow through the floodwater. A tuk-tuk driver is pushing his vehicle through the high water on foot.
Surrounding businesses are faring worse. Floodwater has risen high enough to invade their front doors, flooding their shop floors. I watch as the shopkeepers scramble, putting all their merchandise on tables and shelves above the flood waters.
Finally, the punishing rain stops. The backed up sewers reverse, and the water level on the street finally drops. This problem isn’t a rare occurrence either. I ask my hotel manager about the flooding, and she says to me, “This happens every year.”
With all the years of war and poverty in Cambodia, it's not surprising that there has been little work done to maintain or improve the city sewers. I learn a major drainage project funded by the Japanese government is underway to stop Phnom Penh's seasonal downtown flooding. This new drainage system may stop the floods, at least that’s what Khmers are hoping.