Slow Boat to China, I mean Siem Reap
Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
147Trip End May 30, 2013
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Four times the price and four times the journey length compared to the bus. However, we were making this our day's activity (vs. rushing to Siem Reap and then hiring a tour to go see the floating villages on the lake).
The boat trip seemed to be going well. We are just at the end of the rainy season, so the water levels are still quite high. Many times of the year large sections of this waterway are not navigable – especially by a big boat like this. But then, the inevitable happened – we got stuck.
Our boat changed from just a passenger ferry to an everything ferry. When approaching a settlement, the horn would blast and someone would paddle a boat out to us where a bag or two of goods would be exchanged.
We slowly left behind the trees, and things began to open up as we approached the lake. Houses moved from stilts floating. Some homes were just covered boats. Without the trees, vegetation was limited and I began to wonder how these people could rely completely on fish! Although, certain industrious people were growing bananas on small barges, and a few chickens had their own floating rafts to peck at! Children paddled together in boats to get to school.
The Tonal Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in mainland Asia, I believe I read somewhere. Depending on the season (rainy or dry) this lake can double in size. There are some villages that perch their homes on 6m stilts to accommodate this. During the dry season, they actually abandon these homes and move farther out in the lake living on temporary floating homes. I'm still trying to understand why a group of people would choose to make their lives completely on water like this. I understand fishing, but isn't it beneficial to be close to land?