Friday, October 2, 2015

The Floating Villages of Tonle Sap

I woke up bright and early for a tour of Tonle Sap Lake and its floating villages. I attempted to be quiet but my locker kept scraping open loudly or closing with an alarming but completely unpreventable bang. But, some people got up at 5 am to catch buses and turned on the light and that was definitely worse.

Tonle Sap is an incredibly enormous lake connected to the Mekong River and Tonle Sap River. Tonle Sap River is unique in the fact that the river's flow reverses--6 months a year in each direction. The lake itself is 4,971 square miles during the dry season and 6,178 square miles at the peak of monsoon season. It's the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia. Fish from the lake produce 16% of the national GDP. There are 149 species in the lake. It's actually a UNESCO biosphere because it's so important for the area and needs to be protected.

I bought a ticket for a small-group tour of the lakes, since I was in Siem Reap for such a short amount of time. In this case, small group meant just me and the tour guide, which was interesting. But he was full of information!

We took a tuk-tuk to the lake, then were on a boat alone, heading out to lake.

We first drove past the partially submerged forest. During monsoon season, it is completely submerged, yet the trees still thrive throughout the season.

Smaller boats frequently went by.

Even this small cemetery would completely submerge during the rainy season. I'm not sure how they are able to maintain the cemetery but they manage!

Here's a man fishing.

Apparently, at the end of the dry season, the water in the lake is only 1 meter, but it can reach 20 meters during monsoon season! That's a huge difference! And a LOT of rain!
Most of the people in the village are fishermen, though they also have boat markets that drive around on the lake and other little markets, a police station etc. The main school is a Vietnamese school, since 20% of the population living on the lake and surrounding areas is Vietnamese. I asked how many Cambodian kids went to school and he said just 60% attend school. Even while we were on the lake, there were boats with small children driving up to the boats begging for money. It was and is extremely depressing.

You can see in the distance there someone fishing among the trees.

Here's one of the boat markets driving around!

 This is the Vietnamese school

There's a Korean church group that works closely with Tonle Sap.

Notice how you can't see the end of the lake! It's like being on an ocean!

The kids in that boat were the kids that were begging at our boat and other boats around the lake. It was difficult to see.
 We stopped at this weird thing that had an alligator and codfish farm. I am not sure why we stopped there.

 And there was alligator skin.


This is clearly a Korean building. How do I know this? Besides the Korean writing, Pororo is on the building. He's a Korean cartoon character.

The children were drinking water from the lake. It was alarming. I am sure that it was very unhealthy. The water was visibly dirty and I don't want to think about what is in it. Unfortunately, it was not an option for them to have affordable clean water.

 Afterwards, we drove to a market.

We stopped at a woman who makes and sells coconut bread, which was delicious, though I was definitely thinking I might get worms...However, worms were something that seemed to just be expected in Cambodia. Todd and Jen and all their Khmer neighbors/friends took worm pills every 6 months or so, just in case. Todd once posted on Facebook about the time he had a severe stomachache for a few days that suddenly got better after his biannual worm pill. Horrifying.

I took worm pills basically the moment I returned to America, which I'd bought in Cambodia for a dollar.

We walked into the market. It was not clean. There were flies everywhere and bugs all over the place. A GIANT spider landed on my shoulder. And I mean GIANT. It came down from the ceiling and just sat on my shirt. It was horrifying. Horrifying. Like made me shake from fear horrifying.

My tour guide actually said that foreigners got sick if they ate food from the market, since the locals had built up a tolerance to the germs on the food.
 A lot of children were waving at me, which was cute.

Every once in a while, I'll take a picture that makes me want to walk around my house dramatically announcing what a wonderful photographer I am. This is one of those pictures. I don't know exactly why I love it so much. But I do.

Everybody's got a water buffalo, yours is fast but mine is slow. Where do you get them I don't know but everybody's got a water buffalooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Afterwards, I went to the hostel for a bit. I met Thomas from England and we got lunch. Then, I rested a bit before going to see the sunset at the temples. But that will be the next blog!

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