There is nothing quite as quintessentially British as talking about the weather. Except maybe with a cup of tea and eating Custard Creams and Jammie Dodgers, with the odd Ginger Nut thrown in for good measure. Another traditional British hobby is complaining about stuff. Combine the two, and you’ve got a good two minutes of small talk before you have to start scraping around for actual conversation topics (I can almost feel the wry grins forming on the faces of some of my readership… if it’s any consolation, I miss you too!).
Despite most Brits complaining all year round that they are sick of the miserable rain and constant dull cloudy sky, give them more than two days of +28oC temperatures, and the news will be full of reports of heatwaves. Honestly, if I had a £ for every time someone in the UK said “I like warm weather, but this is just too hot,” I’d be a wealthy girl!
Personally, I really do like the hot weather. I live for that week in early June, and the 10 days from the end of August through the beginning of September. When I planned to travel to SE Asia, I was warned that it gets very hot, I just shrugged it off and said “yeah, but I like the heat”. Little did I know how hot it was to get. Looking online, the average temperatures for the months I had planned to live in Siem Reap were between 30-35oC. That is fine, but I hadn’t taken into consideration either the heat index nor the fact that the temperatures may actually be significantly higher than the average of the last 75 years. And I picked the right year for it too… from freak cold storms in north Laos to the driest dry season Cambodia has seen in living memory, I’ve experienced and interesting climate since my travels began at the very end of 2015.
As a general rule, Cambodia has two seasons, one dry, one rainy, both pretty hot. I’ve now experienced both of these, as well as drought and floods. It doesn’t quite seem fair that half the year it is so hot and dry that you can’t function properly and the other half has that much rain, there aren’t enough containers to hold it, in time for the months when you are really going to need it. Excuse my language, but Mother Nature can be a bitch, right?
Since I arrived in Siem Reap back in February, the temperatures have physically soared to above 40ºC (104ºF) and the heat index has been higher still. The locals have complained perhaps more so than the expats that I have spoken to because this year’s dry season has been the longest and most brutal in the last 70-odd years. Between the beginning of February and the middle of May, not a single drop of rain fell. Water levels have plummeted and remote villages have been left with wells that have dried up and the “F” word has been bandied about. Famine. The lack of rain in recent months has caused many crops to fail, inland fisheries have dried up completely and before long, we will be looking at widespread famine in many provinces of Cambodia. And worst of all, this is being hidden from tourists. There have been reports that the river that runs through the city has been dammed to prevent it looking too depleted and to keep up the river’s aesthetics for the benefit of tourists. Large hotels continue to water their lawns on the heat of the day, and locals (who may not know better) can be seen hosing down their footpaths and driveways to prevent dust blowing into their homes and businesses, and washing their cars and motorbikes to keep up appearances.
But it’s not all bad news, there is a great Facebook page called Water Wise Cambodia that aims to educate people how to reduce your own water usage in both English and Khmer, and I’ve personally managed to stop lawn-watering during the hottest hours of the day at my place of work!
Some concerned expats have set up a fantastic organisation to provide short term crisis-relief before the rains come (fingers crossed!!) to villages in and around the Siem Reap area called Water on Wheels. Through specific fund-raising events such as a quiz night and raffle, plus generous donations from businesses and individuals around Siem Reap and the world over, Water on Wheels has been able to provide water and rice deliveries to outlying villages. If you would like to help a much needed cause, there are a couple of ways you could do it. Either donate by credit/debit card at Razoo or by PayPal at World of Crowdfunding. I haven’t used my minion to ask for cash before, and I doubt I will ever do it again, but if you can spare some money, I would personally be incredibly grateful. And I know that the villagers in remote areas would not only appreciate it, but might even live to see another rainy season thanks to your generosity. Look at his little face, in the first rainfall of the year! How can you resist?