Friday, January 31, 2014

Floating Village

Kirk, Trevor, and I left our hotel this morning behind the wheel of our guide for about a 12-15k ride to the largest lake in SE Asia, Tonle Sap. Today marked my first-ever ride on a mountain bike, and glad for it. The quality of the road was about 1/4 paved, 1/2 hard or puddle packed mud, and 1/4 major rocks. Trevor was one of our riders who joined us in Nah Trang, rode with us to Saigon, and then joined Kirk and me for our 3 days in Cambodia.

We boarded a less than impressive, but hopefully water-worthy boat and took off for a 45 minute tour of a floating village, home to 1,000 families (3-4 people/family). Homes were built on top of boats; when the monsoons come and the water rises by 30', no problem. There are a couple of schools, also floating; used to be 4 Karaoke bars, now only one. The poverty was astounding to me, what I imagine some of the poorest Philippine Islands to look like, or maybe Haiti. The totally brown lake water serves as wash water for clothes, drinking water, bath water, and all forms of toilet. There are floating churches, a floating wedding/party boat, and a floating Korean restaurant. And yes, everyone has a cell phone, the cell phone tower anchored to the bottom of the lake.
Cell Phone Tower

Homes have no furniture, just a hammock, the floor, and sacks of rice that double as chairs, but most rural Asians are more than adept at squatting on their haunches or sitting cross legged on the floor. 

Little kids, maybe 7 years old, paddled themselves to school standing on the prow of their family boat/car. Babies crawled across the floor of the boat/home, apparently unattended, just feet from the edge of the platform above what I understood to be crocodile infested waters. 

Boat houses are but one room,  the next boat being no more than 12' away, walls are either board with see through spaces between the boards, or maybe tarpaulins. We Westerners would never survive in the less than sanitary conditions and supreme lack of privacy. They, in turn, would never survive in the sterility and isolation of our our living conditions. 
We rode a different way back to the hotel through a long village along the river, shacks on stilts for the regular flooding that comes with each monsoon. As we left the dock area where we boarded our little water-worthy boat, an uncountable number of tour busses brought hoards of tourists to ride the boats through the floating village. Others came by tuk-tuk. We were the only ones who came by bike;
 just sayin'.

Yep, a croc

The School

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