Category: Kampong Phluk
|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…)