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Tonle Sap Lake - Cambodia

Floating Houses, Tonle Sap Floating Houses, Tonle SapFloating Houses, Tonle SapBoat houses, Tonle Sap

The Tonle Sap lake is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. Due to the heavy monsoon rains the lake swells to more than five times its size and is rich in fish and aquatic life. This provides the main food source to the many communities living in the floating villages on the lake and surrounding floodplain.

Tonle Sap is best experienced on the boast journey from Siem Reap to Battambang. Dependent on the time of year and the water level this can take anything from 4 to 10 hours, passing through a variety of stunning scenery.

The journery from Siem Reap begins in the flooded marshlands along narrow channels through the flooded treetops, rich in bird life. The boat then opens out onto the massive Tonle Sap lake, looking as large as the sea before heading back into the narrow channels again.

Through the wetlands the journery seems directionless, sometimes going stright over the vegetation, before opening out again onto a river. Here small communities exist in floating huts with temples as the only permenant structure. Everything exists on the water - there's even a small floating clinic - and the houses build extra pontoons for a cooking extension.

Further along, the boats head deep into the flooded waterways - some seemingly narrower than the boats with branches flicking along the side. Meeting another boat coming the other way is a challenge although its mainly small boats you come across, either fishing or collecting firewood.

The final stretch of the journey is along the river to Battambang. This is like a journery through time and poverty, beginning with boat villages with absolutely nothing at all - just a small pile of cooking utensils in a very small boat. Further on communities spring up on the land - some with just a plastic sheet for the walls and roof of their homes. Finally stilt houses appear, along with bigger villages. Everything here is very basic with the people living off fishing alone. The excited children play in the water and ride the bow wave of the passing boats as they navigate their way through the maze of fishing nets.

It's an amazing journery, with such a variety of colour and life, passing some of the poorest and yet happiest people in the world.

 

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