05 December 2008

Tonle Sap

.The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and declared a Unesco Biosphere.

I had initially thought of Tonle Sap as a version similar to Kampong Ayer back home. A floating village with the full works; floating schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, convenient stores, restaurants, etc. However, there are several unique differences between the two. One obvious distinction is the term "floating", while some houses are mounted on stilts, most are assembled on floats or flatboats allowing them to change location according to the seasons. Where they live in October may be kilometers away from where they live in March. Imagine a wooden house powered by motor cruising down the river!

Boat tickets cost USD6 per person. When we arrived, i was surprised to see a little girl dodging among crowds snapping pictures of us with her digital camera. Talk about technological advancement in the rural zones. I thought nothing about it until after we returned from our tour, she ran towards us and surprised us with an individual/couple shots on us stuck on a marble plate marked Cambodia. What brains! You cant exactly say "No", isnt it, falling for the souvenir gimmick, we gave her USD5 for 3 of those plates.

During the boat ride, you will notice it appears that fields and mangroves are blossoming amidst the river. In actual fact, these fields and mangroves thrived on dry land. It being the rainy season allowed us to witness the phenomenal reversal flow of the Mekong River, another trait that sets it apart. The Mekong River starts its seaward journey in the Himalayas, through China, Laos and Cambodia before discharging into the sea in South Vietnam. Unable to contain all the runoff from monsoon rain during the wet season, it reverses its normal flow back up the Tonle Sap river. It then stretches the Tonle Sap lake from 2500km2 to an amazing 12,000km2.

These colour on B&W seems befitting for those moments.

He drove out to the open river, and stopped the engine. I freaked out. We whispered amongst ourselves "why are we stopping here, what does he wanna do?" He casually moved to the front of the boat, leaned back and stared at us. With a lousy grin, he said "Just wait here." "Why??"
"You relax, enjoy." @_@! It felt abit weird, we were too worried he's gonna flip the boat to enjoy whatever tranquility one is supposed to feel. Thank god another boat came hawking drinks, and we bought his favour back with a can of coke.

.Crocodiles caught from the Mekong river.

.A bee scare with Boon2 got us worried for a while, but all is good.

At the end of our boat ride, our tour guide asked for Boon's cap and 20USD. We gave him the cap and 5USD. That should have made his day, i think. My rating: Do consider Tonle Sap as part of your itenary.

Almost every turn you make, there is someone trying to make money, or begging for money, little kids signifying 1 dolla with their index finger.. begging merely for their family. It is hard to escape that sight. Here's a beautiful poem i found on the web titled:

A Cambodian Child
by Marja

He smiles but a riverbed
of silenced tears end on his face
where hope has died
where trust has depart
The hand of the begging child is empty

as is his heart

A child living in the shadow of live
where demons of poverty and exploitation
try to get him in his grip so tight
till he stops fighting and loses control
The hand of the begging child is empty
as is his soul

The beautiful mind of a Cambodian child
won’t be nourished by food and education
no pathways grow towards a fruitful future

his cleverness declined

The hand of the begging child is empty
as is his mind

A boy, a landmine victim
like a tree cut from live lost his limb
and a living
he sits down,
the one called outcast

His troubled eyes looked at me however

The hand of the begging child is empty

Is it Forever?


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