Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Damn, Wish I'd Brought An Umbrella"


The Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh is a sleepy, tropical town, except when there's a thunderstorm going on. Then it's full of loud crashing thunder and intense downpours. And sometimes, the torrential rains catch people unawares.

But if you consider watching thunderstorms to be a hobby, Phnom Penh is a place you'll never forget. The heat is oppressive, even in the so-called 'cool' season, but it's the humidity that really cranks things up and stokes the sky with massive, billowy cumulus clouds. Around 3 or 4 p.m., these clouds tower 30,000 feet or more above the city, blotting out the sun and developing ominous shades of gray in their lower reaches.

Around Phnom Penh, some citizens can be seen rushing around to get home before the rains begin. Others show no fear of the rain, and amble along the streets without a care in the world. But they know it's coming.

Then, usually between 4 and 5 p.m., the skies open, and the rain starts beating down with biblical intensity. The heaviest rain lasts about an hour, maybe two, and then tapers off. In the rainy season though, the rains often continue throughout the night.

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