Travel Stories

The Floating Villages

Loren and I visit the floating villages of Chong Khneas, Kampong Phluk, and Kampong Khleang, all part of the massive ecosystem that is Tomle Sap lake, the largest body of fresh water in all of SE Asia.  During the dry season the lake drains into the Mekong.  During the rainy season the Mekong drains into the lake, increasing its size by a factor of ten.  Thus the villages on Tomle Sap are either comprised of literally floating churches, schools, basketball courts, restaurants, houses, and a water processing plant, as in Chong Khneas, or they are built on stilts literally up to thirty or forty feet in height, as in Kampong Phluk.  Google Cambodian floating villages for a better description than I have the impulse to give, other than to say that the villagers are painfully poor and painfully dirty, that many of the young children have rotted teeth, and that in the stilt house villages tourists are exceedingly rare, thus making Loren and I the objects of considerable curiosity and good humored laughter.  And, of course, the sense of unity in community and family was palpable, extended families and neighbors living their lives in full and fairly open and intimate view, taking their meals together, and sleeping in long bamboo houses with rooms separated by thin bed linens or some other form of curtains.  Begging was non-existent, but enterprise was everywhere: fishing net weaving and repair, boat building and repair, new house building and repair, vegetable gardening, and, of course, fishing.  I did buy a very nice big bunch of fresh salad greens (which I gifted our driver) that cost me two and a half cents.  Even so, you don’t want to retire here.  Not now anyhow.