Friday, 22nd continued

With my usual high standard of technical skill, I am going to continue my commentary on yesterday on a new page – adding to yesterday’s was a bit challenging! So here we are, early on Saturday morning, in my air conditioned room, looking out on a day that is sunny, and looking very hot. It is 6.30 am

……. to continue the story. It is obvious that tourism has become a major industry in Cambodia. For those who can get into it, it is a pathway to riches. Getting there is another matter. Free schooling lasts to the age of 12 and is ‘compulsory’, but it was evident when we reached the rural areas that access and other pressures mean that children often drop out of school much earlier. Certainly financial issues prohibit many from going further. Not only do you have to pay for school but things like language tuition is an additional cost far beyond the reach of the majority. In the lakeside communities we saw evidence of this.

When we got nearer to the lake, there were literally hundreds of boats……. some of the drivers were certainly no more than early teens.

We boarded our craft and set off. Initially our route took us down a broad channel, but soon this widened out and we were travelling through a forest on the lake. Apparently this inhibits the rush of water during the monsoon season when the lake swells and the whole area floods.

Everything travels by water and a boat is obviously vital. There was a floating ‘corner shop’ run by an enterprising lady!

The houses show how high the water gets.

Some were obviously substantial. Others less so.

Once out on the lake there was a restaurant that housed crocodiles, imported from local crocodile farms. I have to say they looked dead – but they obviously sleep with their mouths open!

Others just sleep.

We got out onto the roof and you could see for miles……..

The lake is certainly a size – 150 k long and 70 wide – and provides a livelihood for the communities around it. These floating villages of between 1,000 and 4,000 people make a living from fishing or growing rice in the flood plains. We got off the boat in a village called Kompong Pluk. There were signs of Buddhism and Christianity, but the poverty was obvious.

But the children were having fun – playing in an old boat!!

Or maybe it was a new boat yet to be launched!

This one was left over from the New Year celebrations apparently!

On the way back we saw an interesting indication of the poverty in that a boat passed where the sightseers had thrown bags of dried noodles into the water and children and older women were swimming and boating to get to them to add to the day’s food. A sobering thought when a packet of noodles is a highlight of your day. We saw one woman literally thrust a small child into a life jacket and throw him into the water to go and get a packet of noodles floating past.

We eventually turned for home. Back on dry land, we stopped at a road side vendor selling barbecued frogs, chicken and fish. The frogs were gutted, stuffed with curry and peanuts and cooked. They were surprisingly good – I just hope I don’t live to regret it!

The afternoon was spent back at the hotel. A short rest. A long drink and then off to centre ville for dinner.

Two margaritas later and a power cut and it was time to get a tuk tuk home to bed. Tomorrow a ‘homestay’.

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