On Saturday a quick call to Paul confirmed his mob were heading out to check on construction progress and keen to get my mob out of town and into some open space as well, we loaded up the truck and head out to Stung Meanchay – a mere 20 minutes outside Phnom Penh. What greeted us on arrival was stunning to say the least. On arrival at the turn off we were greeted by a barricade /boom gate manned by some un-enthusiastic policeman ( what a surprise ! ). As motorbikes were simply navigating around them I simply did the same and they simply waved me on. A few hundred meters down the road and it became obvious what the situation was as we came across a scene like something out of a movie. The river was running an absolute 30mph bunker and everything on the left / river side of the road was going under and fast. As we drove past people were wading nipple-deep in muddy water and rescuing what few possessions they could. Many of the houses were of simple thatched construction and were lost. Crossing the bridge just near Paul’s place was nerve wracking to say the least as the water was extremely high and flowing at a million miles an hour. One slip and hello Vietnam…..a backpacker with a lilo wold have had a glorious time.
We had to wait a little while for Paul and Chris to arrive with their families so we parked up in the shade and whilst I snapped away with my trusty Canon, Leakhana and Grace slurped away on delicious 200riel ( 5c ! ) coconut popsicle and Karma did her best to avoid all the local mutts. The boiys soon arrived, gates were opened and we convoyed onto the block with a roar of diesel and some slipping and sliding. Cars spewed forth loads of kids ,dogs,food and beer and as the girls set up a picnic under a big tree, the boys grabbed a frosty one and did a site tour.
Paul’s house is going to be a small weekender and he is working to the 4m2 room recipe which Khmer builders work well to. The house will have an external attached gazebo for eating and then inside an L-shaped lounge area with open kitchen and 3 bedrooms. Thus far I am in agreement with all of Paul’s material choices but I cannot seem to get him to agree to building a smaller bungalow out in the garden for visitors. Damn him. There will be fish ponds, a walk around veranda, steel tri-fold doors ( my idea Paul…admit it ) and a verdant garden which they have already started on. Even as we toured, a truck with several large $110 M’Lop Tapang ( umbrella ) trees arrived and I felt for the barefooted teenage crew that had to install them. They looked bloody heavy but will be fabulous when they grow.
After a spot of lunch and a bit of a walk around we received word via the village tom toms that the river had breached the access road and ” maybe time you get going !”. In a mad flurry the baby was thrown in the back of the ute, the dog was strapped into the baby seat and were were bidding farewell over our shoulders as we peeled out of the driveway. Again, another hairy crossing over the bridge and then we saw that the road access was indeed closing down so I made a quick call to Paul and recommended he do same. In the end we made it out OK but I felt for the villagers who were losing everything.