KPC-SGN Day 3: Tonle Sap - The Wetland of Poverty

I was assuring myself that I was not drunk last night. In fact I don't really think that the alcohol level of Angkor Beer would give me any effect. Aiks! I was suffering with memory lost, I do remember that someone was down last night. Hmm... Yea, she was one of my travel mates who was not taking enough water during the first two day trips and ended up with a minor sun stroke last night after dinner while we were walking home. I remembered that my mates sent her back to guesthouse while I was left at the pub street and doing late groceries shopping - for water! I carried backed with me 2 bottles of 1.5 liters water and some beers as my bed time drinks. To walk pass a dark alley without light was kind of like bringing me back to my old time when I was small and living in a village that was without light after 10pm. Electricity was very pricey during that time. I was left with moonlight leading my way back to guest house. That reminded me a lot of my childhood memories, I was like back to year 10.

To give everyone enough rest to recover from the two tiring day trips, we gave up our plan for a sun rise at Angkor as well as cycling around Angkor ruin. I woke up around 8am in the morning and waited down at the guest house's restaurant for 30 mins for the ladies to come down. Sorry girls, don't mean to complain about you all and I know it is kind of like norm for girls to take an hour to dress up "properly" before going out.

So, our first stop was the Old Market - where we tried to do some early souvenir shopping before hunting for food. Yea, I was so hungry in that morning. In fact too hungry that I can swallow an elephant (kidding). The old market was a local market which combines lots of stores selling all kind of stuff from food to clothing and even gold accessories. Well, I don't normally do shopping for long and once I saw something that I wanna buy and I quickly grabbed it with the price which I think was reasonable.

Something unique about this market was that the barber shop sit right next to the vegetable or meat store. So you can see people where trimming hair there while others where bargaining about vege price next door. Funny!

After breakfast, we went to a nearby day trip agency to check about day rips available. I was so sad that we couldn't make Makara for our day 3 driver as he was pre-booked by one of the guest in our guesthouse for a half day trip to Tonle Sap lake. So we ended up walking around to check with the agents there for a trip out for our last day in Siem Reap. In the end, we got one to the Kompong Plok. The agent was a Cambodian chinese who can speaks little "teoh chew" dialect. He was highly recommending Kompong Plok to us as according to him of all his previous customers, they all like the place so much and he guaranteed that the trip will not disappoint us. I was a bit doubtful about it at first particularly that I did not really heard about Kompong Plok before. Shit, I hope that I won't end up being conned by the agent (I cannot recall his name now. Another clear sign of my memory lost problem).

After some 30-40 minutes drive down a mud road, we arrived at a house which was said to be the hostel for the local tour guides to Kompong Plok employed by that agency. So from this point up, we had to abandon the car to ride at the back of motorcycle up to the jetty which was some kilometers away. The road condition from the 'hostel" to the jetty was getting from bad to worse with a lot of holes and cow's boos. The skillful driver was able to avoid all of them and get me to the jetty safely and in the shortest time as possible. Why so rush? There was the 12pm sun above us!

As now was the rainy season, water level went so high that the real jetty was not accessible through land transport. So temporary jetty was being setup beside a canal leading to the lake some 2 kilometers away from the jetty. As you can see from the pictures below, the tents were built scattering along the canal as temporary jetty. Locals were selling food and drinks under the tent while some were resting there.

So there we go! We boarded the boat to transfer us to Tonle Sap Lake and to visit Kompong Plok on our return journey.

The weather was good and some nice scenery along the canal cruise to the lake. For most of the time, we were surrounded by bushes grown so tall along the canal.

Cows were feeding by the canal.

After some 30 minutes cruising along the canal. The canal was widening and slowly Kompong Plok was emerging right in front of our eyes. And now only I know that Kompong Plok was a village built along the canal leading to the lake with some of the houses being built on the water itself.

Those were the "morning glory" that was planted in front of the houses. Local Khmer dishes uses these vege a lot.

Due to it's unique landscape, the main transport between both shores were small kayak. You can see that those kids in the picture were cruising their way upstream so skillfully. They really had amazing body balance! If I were put on the boat alone, I know I would have capsized within a few paddles forward.

The local was raising pigs on a wooden cage built on top of the water. It was fun to see the pigs moving on the water.

Local fish farm. Fishes were kept within the compound of the net.

We did not stop at Kompong Plok upon arrival but were transferred to small kayaks to bring us into the nearby mangroves area. Our lady "captain" were so skillful to paddle our way through the mangroves on a kayak. The place was so nice. It was so quiet left with the water splashing up by the paddle. Everyone was so quiet while enjoying the scenery and snapping some photos.

Water seems like not moving at all thus giving us a magnificent view of reflections of the trees on the surface. But in fact, according to the guide that the water was flowing so slow that we can't see that it was moving towards the lake. Anyway, I got what I wanted to take - the reflections haha ... Happy! During dry season, these areas were dry land. It only flooded some weeks ago as the rainy season came. The water level were some 4 meters high and some even go as high as 8 meters.

Moving slowly out from the trees, we arrived at the mouth of the river that flows to the Tonle Sap lake.

We were being transferred back to the big boat, the boatman drove us straight to the middle of the lake. We stopped there for like 20 minutes to snap a few pictures and enjoying the lake view. Tonle sap lake was the mother lake of Cambodia, fresh water flows from north all being damped into the lake before flowing out through the Tonle Sap river which was connected to the capital - Phnom Penh. It was so huge and we can't even see the opposite shore of it. I was really enjoying my time there with a gentle bliss blowing on my face together with such a magnificent lake view!

We were dropped off backed at Kompong Plok on our journey back to the jetty. Our guide lead us into the village to introduce us to the local monk (master). With his blessing, we went into the temple to pay our respect as well as listening to some of the stories being told by the old monk and translated to us through our guide. Soon, I got bored with the bed time stories so ended up walking out from the temple and walk around the village. And not long after, I realized that my move was a disaster! Well, not so serious maybe. I was surrounded by bunch of locals who were asking me to buy snacks, books or pencils from them for the local kids. I was traumatized by them as they gone a bit too aggressive and I was not ready at all to handle everyone of them myself. So I ended up rushing backed into the temple taking shelter as they will not bug me into the temple.

Local school being setup here by the NGO as a free education program to the local kids.

Through the translations of our guide, the locals actually did not mean to scare the shit out of my pant nor sucking out all my travel money. They were a bit aggressive as most of them are living in poverty. The villagers were solely depending on fishing and farming to support their family so the amount of income for a family were limited. Kids who were not attending to school were asked to help out on farming too. Job opportunities were limited and I can see that lots of the kids were staying naked. No electricity in the village and I saw lots of the people loitering around the jetty area eying on any boat stopping by and they try to sell to those tourists some food or drinks to earn extra income for the family. One of my mate were distributing candies to the kids and I was trying to do some good deed for myself too to get a bag of cakes from the lady and distributed them to the kids as well. Well that might not cost me a lot - 1 USD, but to be able to make some of the kids feeling lucky and happy for that day makes me feel good :). I was talking to myself that I am not a saviour to the village or the kids but what I was doing that time were to make some kids happy and I felt good for that too. Kids are naive, kids are innocent and kids were forced to be asking for money like a beggar due to the harsh environment. It was said that those were their fates but they did not give up on hopes for a better living and they were making themselves happy everyday. As compared with those from the city, kids barely know what true happiness is. To the local, a piece of cake or a candy would make them feel lucky for that day.

On our way back to the city, we passed by the Roluos group and on our request our driver stopped us for a while to snap a few pictures of the miniature models of Angkor ruins.

This was how the locals were making silk.

I will always remember you smiling faces, my buddies! You guys had given me a wonderful day in my life and taught me the true meaning of happiness and how simple we can be. I know that these smiling faces would sit in my memories for the rest of my life. One earth, one world, we are a family...