Day 19 Phnom Penh

27 Sep



Heavy rain through the night means the flooding is even worse. Mixed reports suggest the ferry quay is unreachable, and as it’s a public holiday it’s not clear if busses will be running, so I order a taxi to the capital. The taxi is the obligatory Toyota Camry, ubiquitous in these parts, with the obligatory box of tissues on the parcel shelf. Formula one legend Gilles Villeneuve used to say his theory of road driving is to just go for it, and there will always be a gap. Taxi driver has the same idea and guns it down the middle of the road, scattering cars, trucks, mopeds, pedestrians, children and animals. He barely slows to hand some cash to a waiting traffic cop, seemingly just normal around here. After one particularly near miss on the wrong side of the road on a blind bend, he puts his glasses on. Sadly, being able to see impending death doesn’t slow him down. Ahead there are animals in the road and an oncoming truck. We squeeze through a gap so tight it leaves the side window smeared with water buffalo snot. The guy has a death wish, and is coughing so hard I can’t decide whether I’m more likely to die in a crash or from bird flu…

The landscape is under water, so is a lot of the road. Driver ploughs on. I glance at the speedo to see we’re doing 90+. I decide not to look again, but do keep my eyes on the road. If a water buffalo or a moped rider comes through the windscreen, I want chance to duck.

By some miracle, we make it. He needn’t have rushed, as Phnom Penh is not much to look at in the rain, and very quiet because of the holiday. Some delicious satay in the Foreign Correspondents Club, overlooking the river, creates a better impression, and I settle in to enjoy the food, the drink, the view, the obligatory gob-shite American, the obligatory ethnic hairstyle backpackers, and a surprising number of what I can only believe to be sex tourists accompanied by local girls half their age and immeasurably more attractive…

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