15 May 2010

Life in a Floating Village on the Tonle Sap

I am fascinated by life on the water and so was really excited at the prospect of visiting a floating village during our stay in Siem Riep.  We piled into one of the colourful longtail boats to make the trip upriver and it was a wonderful way to get a

P5070041taste of life on the Tonle Sap.  Life on this lake is dominated by the seasons and the flooding of the Mekong River.  During the wet season, the swollen Mekong backflows into this lake expanding the surface area from 2,500 sq km to about 10,000 sq km!  There is only one way to live in this kind of landscape and that is in houses that move with the rising flood waters.  

P5070022 When the lake rises, the entire village moves with the flow to a completely different location, enabling the community to carry on their business, trading with the locals on land! 

As we moved upriver, many other boats pulled alongside ours to sell their wares and soft drinks.  Little kids with snakes around their necks posed for pictures to P5070014 make a buck and a little boy hopped on to offer a massage.  

I am continuously fascinated at how Cambodians have adapted to the stark contrasts of the wet and dry seasons ensuring their style of living is in complete harmony with nature.

Eventually we reached a pontoon where we disembarked to relax, do some shopping and have lunch.  It was so peaceful here and I wished we could have stayed a few days to truly experience life on the water.  There were lots of trinkets, sarongs and dresses for sale, and with a little help from Dino our resident fashion designer and a bit of encouragement from Jane my roommate, I was persuaded to buy a lovely red cotton dress, that would come in very handy for nights when we would ‘dress up’ for dinner!


And so we experienced two very different days in Siem Riep.  ‘Real Life’ versus ‘Real Relics’!  No matter where you may wander, try and combine a bit of both in your travels so you truly tap in to the pulse of a city.


“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

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