*Note: this was written in May, when I was in Cambodia. I am currently in Bangkok, and on my way to Uzbekistan in 2 days. Very behind on my blog, I still have Laos and all of Thailand to write about, so stay tuned!!!
I arrived in Siem Reap yesterday, after a 6 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh and spent the afternoon biking around the town and along the Siem Reap river. Most people come to Siem Reap for only a few days and mainly to see the temples at Angkor.
I’m here for a few days before leaving for Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city, and then will return to Siem Reap to visit the temples with 2 friends (Lara and Grant) who are coming in from Thailand.
What is there to do besides Angkor? Lots! Today, I visited some floating villages and houses on stilts in Kampong Khleang, a village about 1.5 hours south of Siem Reap, on the Tonle Sap lake. The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia. During the dry season, the lake drains into the Mekong river at Phnom Penh, but during the wet season, it fills up. Early May (now) marks the transition from dry to wet and during our visit, the Buddhist monestary in Kampong Khleang was setting up a celebration of traditional dances for this purpose.
The water is very low right now which is evidenced by the stilted houses, but apparently the past few wet seasons were just as detrimental and flooded the village. According to our guide, 80% of the houses experienced flooding. You can see the level that the water reached on the sides of the houses.
Once on the river, you can tell the water level is low because the motor of our boat was splashing around and we had to get up and push through some areas! We took the boat about 30 minute to the floating villages, which are primarily Vietnamese families who settled in Cambodia. Originally, they came in to help fight the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) and established themselves here. The villages engage in fishing activities, as you may imagine, and while we boated around them, we noticed what appeared to be mobile grocery stores, people from the surrounding mainland selling items to the floating villagers.