I arrived in Siem Reap to find a city in the dark. There was no electricity in much of the cities. Those select homes and businesses that did have power had the luxury of running generators.
The story went like this. There was an accident on the highway by the Cambodia-Thailand border. A shipping truck had hit a utility pole. That utility pole fell and knocked over another utility pole, which knocked over another utility pole and so on. Siem Reap, like the most of the country, imports its electricity from abroad – an astounding 42% of Cambodia’s electricity comes from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Unfortunately for myself and the residents of Siem Reap, those utility poles carried the city’s electricity from nearby Thailand.
I was forced to limit my photo taking and conserve my camera batteries. Cold showers were routine and communication with family and friends back home was cut. I took a cue from the locals and roaming dogs and sought refuge in the shade of palm trees. I must confess: I never did get used to sleeping in the 90°-something temperatures in the evenings.
In hindsight, it was an appropriate start to my time in Cambodia, a trip that was not short of character building moments like this.