Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kayaking Tonle Sap

After our adventures in looking at ancient temples in Angkor, Tim, Tony, Emily and I decided to take a trip to see Cambodia's great lake, Tonle Sap.  

Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and is basically Cambodia's most important natural resource (freshwater fish from the lake serve as the main source of protein for most Cambodians).  The lake is pretty unique in that it literally triples in size each year during Cambodia's rainy season (see pic here of the normal lake size vs. rainy season size), when the water in the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers reverses direction and runs back into the lake.  When the lake is large, surrounding forests are flooded, providing prime fish breeding grounds.

A shot or two from the car ride to our jumping-off point:


Water buffalo wallowing in the mud:


Heading up a (muddy) tributary river to the lake!


As we puttered up the river, we passed by dozens of men using weighted nets for fishing:



Piles and piles of fishing gear:


Then we arrived at one of Tonle Sap's many floating villages, inhabited by Cambodians, but also Vietnamese fishermen.  And when I say "floating," I mean literally floating.  Houses, schools, gardens, chicken and pig coops: all floating on rafts in the river.


The floating school:


We got to take in these village sights from the perspective of kayaks:


The floating houses were quite bare bones: single rooms, many with thatch roofs, open doors and windows. These people are not rich.


Most villagers are fishermen, but some also farm Siamese freshwater crocodiles for skins and meat.  Here's Tim pointing out croc in one of these farms:


After stopping at the crocodile farm, we paddled on to the flooded mangrove forests, home to a ton of birds and the site of much fish reproduction:


After the trip through the mangroves, we headed out into the open lake, boating amongst the fishing nets.  If you look closely, in some of the nets you can see the heads of fishermen popping up just above the surface:

Then we headed back through the village.  At sunset, the village came alive with kids ferrying themselves home from school, boats selling food, people out on their porches:


There were lots of dogs and cats living in the floating village:


Just one of the many kids in school uniform that we saw making their way back home via boat:


A couple more... I love how this little girl is trailing her arm out behind her.  For some reason it makes me think of Kermit and Miss Piggy in a rowboat.  Except completely different:


More kids in boats... who needs a school bus?

This kid was really cute.. trying desperately to escape past the makeshift baby gate keeping him inside.  How toddlers avoid falling into the water/croc pits in this village amazes me:


Some of those floating chicken coops I mentioned earlier:


Two kids who definitely do not look old enough to be operating a motorized vehicle:



As we made our way back down the tributary river to when the car was parked, we were lucky enough to see this family moving.  As in their entire house, trailed by their chicken coops and floating garden, was being moved down the river, dragged by a couple small boats:


We also saw these monks doing some yard work behind a riverside temple:


This kid was helping out with the fishing:


This fisherman had a cat friend on his boat:


Lots of birds:


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