Adventures on a rainy Phnom Penh night

Earlier this week I went to a pub quiz night with friends. It was a bit of fun, though we didn’t know many of the answers. Shortly after we sat down one friend mentioned that the weather forecast showed a 90% chance of rain within the hour. It proceeded to rain throughout the entire night. We were sitting at the side of the restaurant, and actually got a little damp as rain splashed off the plants beside us. We watched puddles in the street outside expand until the street was covered over, and watched the water recede as the rain eased.

Once the rain had pretty much stopped we left to find a tuktuk to take us home – only to discover the slope of the road created a puddle about 15cm deep and perhaps a metre across. Too wide to jump across, and so deep our shoes were soaked. Of course, I was for once wearing socks with my one pair of sneakers. My feet were all squelchy. (Took my shoes 2.5 days to approach something resembling “dry”). As we took off the rain started up again, so at least we had luck there.

There was some confusion between my friend and the driver getting home. He took a strangely circuitous route which had us coming from an unusual direction, so we ended up going around some flooded back streets to get to their place. When I say “flooded” I mean “bags of rubbish floating down the road” kinda flooded. Once they were dropped the tuktuk turned around and plowed through deep water back to the main road.

This is the sort of depth we plowed through down flooded back streets.

This is the sort of depth we plowed through down flooded back streets.

With my friends dropped off, it was a 5 minute drive to my place. At least, it should have been.

The tuktuk driver drove us out of the flood and up the hill onto the dike road and back down the other side toward the wat (temple) near where I live. As we drove down the tuktuk suddenly began leaning toward the right, and a thumping noise began underneath. Even before the driver stopped I presumed he had a flat tyre. He pulled over and asked me to get out and wait under the awning he had pulled up next to.

Turned out the tyre was VERY flat indeed. So there I was, standing under an awning by the side of a small road, looking at a disabled tuktuk and listening to the rain. Motorbikes drove up and down, some people wearing ponchos and others unprotected under the rain.

After pulling over the tuktuk driver had chatted to a motodop (person who drives passengers on the back of a motorbike) who then took off with a passenger. I wasn’t sure what that conversation had been, but assumed it would get me home somehow. The most likely scenario was that the tuktuk driver asked the motordop to come back and take me home after taking his current passenger where she was going. I rarely take motos around as I don’t have a helmet, but it seemed like this was going to be the only option. It would have been a decent walk home from there in the daytime, but doable. At night, however, I would never walk that route – I wouldn’t feel safe walking the small, unlit streets.

After 5 or 10 minutes the motordop returned. The tuktuk driver paid him out of the fare I paid him. Then there was nothing else for it but to jump on. I was wearing a skirt not particularly conducive to straddling a motorbike so I sat side saddle – my first time doing so. I also decided to use my umbrella – another first for me on a bike. The seat was wet, the rain was lighter but still falling, and I worried a little about slipping, but it was fine. It was easier to balance that I thought it might be, and my feet rested on pegs. Between that and holding the bracing under the seat on the other side I felt fairly secure. Not sure how much help the umbrella was, though. It certainly did nothing to deflect waves of water spraying up toward us from beneath the moto’s tyres! And my backpack was still a little damp the next day.

I was home in a few minutes, squelching up the stairs in my sodden shoes. I had a shower with cold water that felt remarkably warm, happy to be home safe and sound. All in all it was an interesting mini adventure!

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2 thoughts on “Adventures on a rainy Phnom Penh night

  1. When we were in India, we noticed that almost all motorcycles had a skirt guard & foot platform installed to facilitate the wearing of saris whilst riding sidesaddle – I wonder if that device originated there or somewhere else? I can’t say that I would feel comfortable riding at (and, more importantly, stopping from) any kind of speed like that, but they all seemed to manage!

    • Interesting observation! We weren’t travelling at anything like “speed” but I was pleasantly surprised by how balanced I felt. With practise I imagine it wouldn’t require any thought at all.

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