The humid air rises in opposition to the constant tumbling sheets of rain. The smell of afternoon fish, darien fruit, and the omnipresent scent of the third world rises with it.
The relentless barrage of rain drops generate a uniform hum as they fall fast against the multitude of corrugated steel roofs. The standard cacophony of tuk-tuks, horns, squealing tires and generators is overwhelmed by the sounds of the storm. The warm grey background of the enclosing clouds provides a physical face to the unabated deluge of water.
Rain runs right off the roofs into cisterns and barrels, undoubtedly to be used for flushing toilets and washing dishes. Palm trees do yoga, tops bending at near impossible angles while the downward facing bottom fronds sit alertly at at attention.
A synchronized dance of 100 tuk tuk drivers occurs as they simultaneously pull over to slap on the glorified shopping bags known as plastic parkas.
The choreography is the same for each driver:
Tuk-tuk to the side of the road
Key under the seat
Key in ignition
Standing in my room with my head out the window, the routine is played out over and over again, some keeping perfect time, while others create a waterfall effect of continuous repeated motion.
Soaked push bikers cling to their metal steeds in packs, fighting through the wind, rain, and standing water, seemingly oblivious to the deluge around them.
Lightning rents the sky, not in the now familiar forms of heat lightning that illuminate the darkness each evening but in jagged cracks of light as if the ever deepening gray morass is concealing a blindingly back light. Thunder crackles continuously with a growing crescendo to punch through the hum of falling rain.
A shirtless man opportunistically washes his motorbike, soaked by the rain but working regardless. As he finishes cleaning his metal and plastic steed, he jumps under the 4 inch PVC pipe sticking out of the bank building next to his hovel and showers in the deluge of rainwater.
Vacant fields which were bone dry moments ago are now covered in an endlessly connecting series of puddles.
A 12 story pagoda rises stoically in the distance, one last landmark making its stand against the encroaching grey. As the storm rolls further in, it is totally concealed by the grey.
20 minutes later the rain starts to lessen, by minutes, not degrees. Even a momentary respite against the onslaught will allow this dry land to accept the gods’ fluid offerings.
Finally the rain ends, bringing with it the dark of night and a chill hitherto unfelt in Cambodia. For all the storms I’ve seen in this life, this was the most vividly different.