We all knew that we had booked a trip during rainy season. We all read online about the perils of Cambodia’s rainy season. We all conveniently chose to place our faith in those articles that promised us a couple of hours of intense rain surrounded by blistering sunshine with highs of forty degrees. We all packed our bikins and sunscreen. We were all somewhat surprised by the deluge of rain that has accompanied our first week at our beach phase in Sihanoukville. Oh yes, the forecast of the Weather Girls was somewhat off the mark.
You could argue that we should have seen it coming; after all, our long weekend in Phnom Penh had given us a taste of the 24 hour cloud cover lifestyle. Our sojourn in Cambodia’s intense and densley packed capital gave us some respite from work between our phases. Capital of the Kingdom of Wonder, Phnom Penh is the only city larger that Siem Reap, yet the change in pace required the Girls to pause for breath more than once. As densely packed as the roads were, they could not rival the density of our itinerary for the weekend. We spent the first full day learning more about the tragiv upheaval in Cambodia’s recent history caused by the ruthless regime of the Khmer Rouge. Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre informed us about the sheer scope and extent of the atrocities through the poignant combination of audio guidance by a survivor of the regime and the sites of the horrors themselves. Then we visited S21, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a school turned torture prison that held prisoners before thery were escorted to their executions. What is most astonishing about these places is that they are not just areas of sorrow and gloom, they are also the places where you can most sense the hope the Cambodia has for the future; a nation that wants to remember its past and for others to learn from it whilst also moving forward with its arms open to the world.
Our second day was spent burrowing through the Russian Market in search of bargains and a trip to see the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda (staying indoors as much as feasibly possible in our vain attempts to stay at least partially dry. Even growing up in the UK had not prepared us mentally for this.) So with a heavy heart we bid farewell to our glorious weekend in Phnom Penh, crossing our fingers, toes and everything else, hoping for a glimmer of sunshine when we hit the coast.
The Weather Girls hoped in vain. Rainy season we can understand, but 40 consecutive hours of downpour? Can the sky even hold that much water? Was this some cruel trick played on us by the heavens because we had actually gone to the effort of straightening our hair for once? Fortunately not. The rain packed it in long enough for us to enjoy a couple of rainless (although still very cloudy) stints on Serendipity and Otres beaches. But the Weather Girls share their joy with a word to the wise: wear sunscreen. Cloud burn is no joke and the laughs were certainly on us for getting a bit to cocky under the cloud cover, resulting in hilarious, if a little inconvenient, tan (read:burn) lines.
We are staring our final 10 days work now with Let Us Create, a day centre for the street children of Sihanoukville who curriculum lays a strong emphasis on creative learning and expression. Burnt though the Weather Girls are, soaked through with rain though we may be, the trials of the Cambodian rainy season is yet to dampen our spirits, even if it has dampened everything else about us. But we’re still cheery, having a great time, looking forward to our final week and, most importantly, hydrated. Keep those water bottles full up.