Sep 28 2011

Siem Reap floods

Published by at 11:42 pm under Floods

So I guess it’s oopsadaisy if you came to Siem Reap in the last few weeks. Well, it is rainy season and you knew that. Though it’s not likely that many of the guide books would have warned you about the rising tides you may have seen outside your hotel or guesthouse and, to be fair, the flooding in Siem Reap, at least on the scale seen this September, is a relatively recent phenomenon.

It's not actually supposed to look like this...

Siem Reap has been deluged in the last few weeks, leaving everyone in or near the centre of town wading through murky waters if they want to get anywhere. There are a number of reasons for this, some natural (rainy season, high Mekong), and some entirely human-made (e.g. a ring-road that blocks the water’s natural flow towards the Tonle Sap and turns the southeast of Siem Reap into a giant bowl of seriously dodgy soup).

Philosophy 101.

It never rains but it pours: the bad news for anyone coming here in the next few weeks too is that the rainy season isn’t over yet and the Pacific typhoon season is also due to continue until November and could have some residual effects in Cambodia, as with Typhoon Ketsana in 2009, although mid-September’s flooding was unrelated to anything like that. The good news is that at least you get some kudos from home and, for the tenacious, you may still be able to do some of the things you planned on plus have some extra stories to report back with. Who knows, you might even be able to add high street wind-surfing to the list.

The floods reveal a great deal about Cambodia’s ongoing capacity problems, and the international support that underpins that capacity (fabulously paid here today, gone tomorrow consultants don’t have to live with the shortfalls, inconsistencies and lack of continuity in their work). But they also reveal a great deal about the Cambodian nature. If you’re staying in a hotel, chances are you’re dry most of the day and can have a hot shower to warm up and clean off all the bacteria in the water. For many Cambodians, those options simply aren’t there. Worse, imagine nursing a child in an increasingly damp and dirty house. Moreover, over Pchum Ben, the response of non-governmental organisations has been virtually non-existent, because it’s a holiday, as dire an excuse for a failure to meet genuine humanitarian needs as is imaginable.

But it’s an absolute wonder to notice as you wade through the swirling waters (don’t think about the brown) the cheerful way in which Cambodians just get on and do their thing even though their home and half their belongings may very well be under four inches of water. It’s very humbling, in fact. Even a week into the floods, as some locals make their way, hollow-eyed with tiredness, through the waters on their way to the market or their job, there is still a smile for passers-by and even the chance for a good-natured giggle as this passer-by almost took a tumble into a fast-moving river.

Always look on the bright side of life...

Kids of course will make hay whether the sun shines or the rains pour, and they have a ball when the floods hit. Their own giant swimming pool and so many targets for splashing they can’t work out where to start. Ingenuity rules too, as some kids will find pieces of Styrofoam and then wait for the waves from the giant 4x4s as they cruise past. High street boogie-boarding, sorted. High street wind-surfing doesn’t sound quite so improbable now. Rafts will be made, and during Ketsana several entrepreneurs rigged up canoes, boats and rafts  and used them to give lifts, mostly to the ladies it should be noted.

Don't think about the brown ...

Adults too set about pitching their stalls, driving their motos, going to their jobs or hauling their belongings out of harm’s way in the best way they can, and usually without a trace of complaint. Imagine that happening at home? Phasing Cambodians is tough to do.

If you do go for a wadeabout, voluntarily or otherwise, the only recommendations are to wash your feet and legs properly when you get back to your hotel preferably with Dettol and especially any cuts as the water is seriously filthy, and get your hands on some worming tablets which you can get cheaply from UCare.

Don't drink the water....

Aside from that, take a leaf out of the Cambodian notebook. This is not something that should phase anyone – it’s a little bit different, even a little bit fun, albeit a little bit wet. You’ll soon dry off, and don’t forget to smile.


The images above were taken after Siem Reap was hit by Typhoon Ketsana in 2009. The ones below are from the third flood that has hit this town in September 2011, with more expected.

No pushover this mama...


Learning to walk, or to swim?


And the winner is....!


Some kids get all the breaks


There is never any excuse for a lack of grace.


This may not be the ideal way of resolving sibling rivalries...




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11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Siem Reap floods”

  1. Sarahon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:27 am

    A horrible situation but great photos! Thanks.

  2. […] view of recent events, the government has just taken the probably very sensible decision to cancel this year's Water […]

  3. […] you used to reach your destinations with eyeballs swimming in dust. Throughout most of town, the floods that have plagued Siem Reap for six long weeks have almost entirely subsided, and the watery streets are back to their usual […]

  4. […] is located. Travelfish gave an update on the situation in Siem Reap: Throughout most of town, the floods that have plagued Siem Reap for six long weeks have almost entirely subsided, and the watery streets are back to their usual […]

  5. Cambodia: Worst Flooding in a Decade :: Elites TVon 24 Oct 2011 at 1:00 pm

    […] located. Travelfish gave an update on the situation in Siem Reap: Throughout most of town, the floods that have plagued Siem Reap for six long weeks have almost entirely subsided, and the watery streets are back to their usual […]

  6. beenut93on 09 Nov 2011 at 8:22 am

    Has the flooding in siem reap completely subsided now?

  7. Nickyon 09 Nov 2011 at 10:43 am

    Hi Beena, the flooding has all completely subsided in town, though there are some areas out in the countryside that are still affected. Siem Reap is once again open. Have a great trip!

  8. beenut93on 09 Nov 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Great thanks for that Nicky! Is Pnohm Penh all clear too? If only bangkok would do the same -.-“

  9. Nickyon 09 Nov 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Beena, I hear that PP’s all clear so no worries there. As for Bangkok, well….

  10. […] アンコールワットがある主要な観光地 シェムリアップも洪水により甚大な被害を受けた。Travelfishはシェムリアップの最新状況を伝えた。 シェムリアップのほぼ全域の町に被害をもたらした洪水 はひき、水浸しだった道路は元のほこりっぽい道にもどっている。 […]

  11. […] to be widened, and the riverside developed, which seems a bright idea, especially in view of the devastating floods that hit Siem Reap last year, and stayed for six long weeks. Others point to the amount of litter constantly ejected […]