Girls take a boat ride and eat mouse+crunchy frog

Trip Start Feb 29, 2004
Trip End Apr 12, 2005

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, August 1, 2004

So going to the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia for a little boat trip to see the floating village doesn't sound too hard, does it?

Guess again.

Long story short: don't believe anyone--ANYONE--when they tell you that you can't go with a private boat anymore and that you have to go on a government boat for $15 per person. Not even when you stop at the checkpoint and the bored officials in khaki lounge around waiting for you to cave in and fork out your money. Not even when your moto drivers (who were like your best friends a minute ago) look scared and say you have no choice, if you don't you'll have to pay a fine or that you're going to get stopped at another checkpoint down the road. It's all a scam (a very good one!).

We almost got caught in it, but because of a good dose of pig-headedness and some good old fashioned flaunting of authority (not always good traits, I know, I know--I think it was the fever...), we did just that and had not only an informative time inside a decent NGO eco center that explained a lot about the lake, its people and the flora and fauna (where did that phrase come from?) and an interesting walk around the jetty area (a kind of a chaotic, floating town in itself I guess), but we also got some wicked snaps of a pickup truck full of dead, twisted lake snakes. AAAAAHHHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGGH!!!!!!!!

After a baking hot trip to the end of the road and back (and fending off all manner of little naked kids running out of bamboo huts to say " One dollaahh!" and pointing to their hands), we hired a local boat for $5. Oh, and we paid $6 so they could pay the police later. Hhmmm...Not sure exactly what we paid for, but we had a nice, leisurely boat trip thru a couple of canals to see the floating village, whose inhabitants are all/mostly Vietnamese who came in after '79 when the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia and drove the Khmer Rouge from power. There's even a floating Christian church. Grandma, how'd you like to make that trip every Sunday? :)

The lake itself is very interesting because of its seasonal metamorphosis. It goes from an expansive 10,500 sq km in the rainy season and shrinks to a teeny weeny 2,500 sq km in the dry season. In fact, it's such a huge difference that the Tonle Sap River which feeds it goes a bit schitzo--it actually reverses its direction of flow twice a year due to the fluctuating amount of water in the lake. Pretty cool, eh?

The boat guys were not too happy that we didn't want to visit the 'fish exhibit' (?!?) or the croc farm (yeah, they're fish and amphibians, but we heard/read that the conditions these animals are kept in is atrocious and it's recommended that travellers stay away for that reason alone), prob because they missed out on commisions they'd get for dropping us there, but they relented in the end and let us sit out on the beautiful, huge lake for a bit before we headed back to the jetty. Nice big, white, fluffy clouds.

On the way back to Siem Reap, our moto drivers (who met us a bit sheepishly back down the lane where we'd left them in search of our boat) suggested a stop at their favourite roadside 'diner' for some frog (mostly crunchy bone), mouse (strangely tangy...) and snake eggs (couldn't do it...). Carmen the vegetarian got off lightly! :)

Sadly, Carms had to jet back to Jakarta the next day, but what a week it's been. Thanks, Carmenitsa--tseluvki, hope you and G are having fun in Chiang Mai!! :)
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