|January 23, 2016||Filed under Cambodia, Kampong Phluk||
It was dry season in Cambodia. As our boat motored down a muddy channel of water leading to Tonlé Sap Lake, we passed a few scattered administrative buildings raised high on stilts. Then an entire village standing on 20 to 30-foot poles came into sight. During wet season, we would have passed by the homes’ doorsteps, as the water level would have increased dramatically in the Lake and surrounding floodplains.
On my past trips to Cambodia, I had resisted visiting the “floating” villages of Tonlé Sap Lake, about 15 km from Siem Reap. I had read and heard various warnings: “it’s a tourist trap”; “it’s a scam”; “it’s poverty tourism.” I finally decided to check out Kampong Phluk, a somewhat less visited village, but with local friends in tow. Even they had not been. Luckily for us, since it was still early in the high tourist season, there were not many other visitors. Unluckily for the local boatmen, there were dozens of tourist boats sitting idle off the dusty banks.
Kampong Phluk showcased the ingenuity of living with flooding as part of the natural cycle, yet with finesse I had not seen before. Its energy from the water was palpable, as the villagers worked on their boats, mended their nets, sorted the fish, visited with neighbors, tended to daily chores and played in the waves. Tonlé Sap Lake was designated a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1997, because it contained a variety of ecosystems vital to Cambodia and beyond. (more…)
|January 11, 2016||Filed under Angkor Wat, Cambodia|
Most people tour the Angkor Wat Archeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on a tuk-tuk or tour bus. Some people tour the Angkor Temples on bicycles or backs of scooters. Only an intrepid (or crazy) few experience the sights on foot along the route of the annual Angkor Wat 1/2 Marathon!
The 2015 Angkor Wat 1/2 Marathon was scheduled to begin at 6:30 am on December 6. Arriving before dawn, I was barely awake. The early start time was intended to beat the tropical heat, but at 5 am it was already in the low 70’s F.
As dawn broke, the race was about to begin. But no! After a start announcement, some government official arrived to make a speech. Finally, the run began to the sound of pounding drummers from the podium. (more…)
|March 9, 2014||Filed under Cambodia, Siem Reap||
“Tuk-tuk?” “Massage?” “T-shirt?” “Tuk-tuk?” “Postcards?” “Tuk-tuk?” The never-ending propositions, chaotic traffic, and hot weather bustle of Siem Reap seem to annoy some visitors. To me, it’s just the reality of a hardworking tourist town.
Like the slow moving river bisecting the city of unpretentious buildings a few stories tall, the streets of Siem Reap flow with a stream of tuk-tuks, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, food carts, taxis, cars, buses, and pedestrians. No one ever stops at intersections or crosswalks, yet everyone manages to proceed without incident. (more…)
|February 28, 2014||Filed under Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Siem Reap||
I traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia to be bedazzled by the temples of Angkor. I was. But I was also charmed by the town itself, its environs and inhabitants. Once a sleepy village, Siem Reap has become one of the top tourist destinations in the world, as well as a landing place for many expats.
The je ne sais quoi that this town exudes comes from the juxtaposition of the old and new, East and West, urban and rural, local and international. The money-driven hospitality industry is balanced by “real” Cambodia, not rich monetarily but wealthy in spirit, kindness and culture. (more…)