28.12.2011 - 06.01.2012 30 °C
Tonle Sap (Pronounce as “Tone Lay Sap”) is the greatest lake in Cambodia which connects to the Mekong, ranges from 2,700 square km to 16,000 square km during monsoon season. Tonle Sap lake is full of floating villages. Most are ethnic Vietnamese but grew up in Cambodia. Most of them are born without genuine papers therefore deprived of an average life. Most of them never left the lake which they are born and died there. It has very much become a tourist spot of Cambodia in Siem Reap region.
Day to day, the villagers paddle on the water or ride on speedboats chasing after tourists’ boat bringing with them either cans of cold sodas or offering a quick pat of their pet snake hanging around the little children’s necks. Occasionally, you’ll see the speedboats catches up to the tourists’ boat side by side and steering close to it, an unexpected little child will hop onto your tourist boat trying to sell you the sodas. It reminds me of some boat speed chasing scenes in some movies where the bad guy jumps into your boat, while in this case it’s a cute little child looking to earn a living. You can even find little children seated in large deep cooking or washing pots with a wooden paddle, paddling towards you for spare change.
You’ll also find your stop in the middle of the lake at a floating restaurant for tourists, complete with a miniature crocodile farm. You’ll be lucky if you can see them being fed and get a closer look at them just about 5 feet away. At the floating restaurant, you must try the fresh water shrimp boiled to perfection and some Angkor Beer (locally made). The whole lake tour will take you pass occasional swamp areas where crocs and snakes hideout a lot and I have even saw a cemetery underwater with just the tombstones half submerged. Nearer to the end of the day, as you leave the lake on your boat ride, you’ll be able to see the daily lives of the people on the lake, drawing the same water from the lake which I see as dirty to wash their clothes, to cook, wash themselves and etc. The government of Cambodia charges an entry fee of USD2 for each foreigner at the entrance before you board the boat.
Houses on the mainland towards the lake are built on stilts. They are affected badly by the recent flood. You’ll be able to see simple houses on stilts built with the donation from foreigners directly contributing to it as it’s written with a description contributed by “so & so”. A nice tour to the lake reminds me of the simple life the floating villagers have. Most may never leave the lake to be able to get a better living elsewhere as this is all that they know how to survive. Do spend half a day visiting the floating village; their lives will bring a good retrospect and a deep reflective in our own lives.