Today’s itinerary was vastly different from the previous days. Our destination was Tonle Sap, South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake by far. Its size and depth change significantly between the wet and dry seasons. The water level rises up to 30 metres and the lake’s area increases by to 4-5 times. The lake also supplies over 70% of Cambodia’s fish.
On the way to the lake we visited a local produce market which sold a variety of fruit and vegetables as well as an array of fish, some alive and kicking, others dead, and many dried.
|Fresh fruit and vegetables for sale at the market|
|Fresh fish, some still doing the occasional flip|
|This building near the market has 7 painters on very ricketty scaffolding|
|Traditional farming practices in action|
The shore of the Tonle Sap Lake is dotted with numerous fishing villages. The houses are built close together along a main entry road. In the wet season the road is completely inundated and tourists enter the village by boat. Some of the houses look rickety and primitive while others look more comfortable. There is no electricity supply, but several families have television, powered by battery. The batteries last about 3 days and are taken to the local generator to be recharged.
|These houses on stilts may look precarious but are better than many others. In the wet season the water reaches almost to the floor|
|A typical village scene - a fisherman at work|
|The floating mechanic's workshop|
|A comparison of 2 homes - one high quality, the other almost derelict|
|A fish trap in use|
The villagers use fish traps and nets extensively, many spending a lot of time in the water, though they all have flat bottomed boats - a bit like gondolas without the decorative features – and most are powered by outboards with long trailing props to allow for the varying water depths.
Along the lower shores of the lake some families grow crops, mainly green beans and sesame seed. These farmers have to rebuild their homes after each wet season as they are destroyed.
|An irrigated crop of beans and sesame seeds.|
The most interesting communities are the floating villages live in a conglomeration of buildings, part barge, part houseboat, with fishing boats tethered to them. Because of the changing water levels the villagers have to relocate the homes 4 times a year, retreating to the shoreline in the wet.
|Fishermen from the floating village hauling in their catch|
|A floating home being towed to a new location|
|More fishermen working in the floating village|
The day proved to be a real enlightenment into the lives of totally different communities using the lake to their advantage. The vastness of the lake is difficult to comprehend – it seemed immense and unending.
After 4 days in and around Siem Reap and Tonle Sap we headed for the airport and our first destination in Laos, Pakse. I was particularly taken with the name of the Duty Free store, Dufry Store.