One of our last little adventures was an afternoon visit a “Floating Village” that was touted a “cash cow” by Lonely Planet.  Despite the slightly negative review, we decided to pay our favorite Tuk Tuk Driver, Jet, $15 to drive us out to Tonle Sap Lake.  It was a good opportunity to also see the countryside of Cambodia as opposed to built-up and beautified Siem Reap.

Our big joke of the trip was that all of the tuk tuks we hired always seem to be the slowest on the road.  We were always getting passed and “beeped at” to move to the side of the road.  We finally realized it was probably because the tuk tuk had 4 “big americans” in the back.  So, as noted, our trip out of town was a nice slow ride thru the countryside.

Cambodia is a beautiful country.  It is lush, flat and with many picturesque rice fields and sprinkled with “Cambodia People’s Party” political signs, in English, along the way.  I was surprised at the variety of buildings and homes we saw along the way. It is clear, that there is some money in the area as there are quite a few larger orderly two story homes with beautifully detailed woodwork.   And then just down the road, you will see a lean-to gas & cigarette stand with plastic tubes & water bottles full of petrol and a small case of cigs in front of a very simple, rustic shack on stilts with no windows, bamboo walls.  Some of these homes are clean & very tidy and others are full of plastic bottles, wrappers and trash.

The people wave “Hello”.  If you catch their eye and smile, they will happily smile back. The kids love to wave and yell.  My two daughters seems to draw the most attention.  Males of all ages noticed them and many kids gave “big waves” as we passed by.  This behavior doesn’t surprise me as we had the same reactions in Thailand & Laos, but these people as a whole have suffered  decades of war & brutality, but still present an easygoing, peaceful demeanor or maybe it’s just a good-face for travelers. (I say that with the exception of the aggressive tuk tuk drivers at the Night Market)

The trip to the pier took much longer then we anticipated.  We were on the main road for quite a while and then we hit a secondary road that ran parallel to a small river.  The road took us by little neighborhoods and through a small town. Not a white person in site, until we arrived at the ticket office ($20 each).  Then there were Bus loads. From there, Jet had to drive us out to the boat area on a very rough and unmaintained road.  This road is under the water most of the year. Since we were there in low, dry season the lake’s water level was getting on the low side hence we had to drive further to reach the boat.

The small river was a feeder to Tonle Sap Lake.  Tonle Sap is the largest lake in South East Asia, 4000 square miles. This little river was also a big fishing area for the locals.  They had make-shift dams and small camps setup along the shore.  Little boys, dressed in only their underwear, were throwing & dragging in nets to see how many of the little white fish they could catch.

The long boat we rode in was wooden and simple with a small motor off the back. We later learned that the kid driving lived in the Floating Village and the boat was “his family’s” boat.  It was a good 20 minutes boat ride until we saw the School House and “Gendarmerie” Police Station standing tall on stilts in the lake.   Then as we rounded the corner of some willows, the village came into view.  It was much more impressive than I had imagined.  Clearly it was low season, because there were a lot of exposed stairs and a small island of dirt just south of the waterway we floated on.   The village people were all hard at work.  Nets were being beaten by women & girls to get the little white fish loose which were then held in plastic tubs in the hull of shallow wood boats.  Kids were playing & peddling snacks in these same boats, but none of them were swimming in the water.   There was no odor, but I suspect local waste goes right into the lake water.

Some of the little shacks were adorable. The owners had painted the exteriors, had flower boxes and some had floating gardens. The floating gardens were very impressive. What a concept! We were dropped off at Tourist Office building at the end of town. There were many, like 30, women with children waiting around this floating office and would take 2 tourists at a time in their small, long, shallow wooden boat around the mangroves for $5.  We had a very nice lady who had her toddler on her lap (breastfeeding) and her 6 year old son in the boat with us.  Kenady & Carly were in another boat with a lady and her son.  They said hello and then chatted among themselves as they paddled us through the mangroves.

The mangroves were very pretty & lush. It reminded me of an Aspen forest, but in water.  There was an elevated walking bridge to our right that look like it went forever.  They brought us back the floating office where we had lunch and then found our long boat driver and we headed back to the mainland pier.

The experience was actually very interesting and recommended. To see how these people live and have lived for hundreds of years was super cool to me.  It provoked mindful questions.  It made me wonder how it must be to live in this village through all of the different weather conditions of the area.  How is the health of these people?  Are they mostly self-sustaining?  The tourism is having an impact, but how substantial and does it effect most village families?  How much longer will this village be able to remain “as is” before it changes? We did see electric going to some of the shacks. How long have they had electricity?

A good end to our visit to Cambodia. Enjoying the climb!