Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Floating Village

A few kilometers outside of Siem Reap, on the Tonle Sap lake, an enormous body of freshwater in the region, there is a community that lives unlike anything most of us have ever seen or even heard of. They live entirely on the water. From what I understand, it was originally founded by Vietnamese immigrants who were unable to afford land in Cambodia and started a fishing community of boats that has now grown to a "village" that moves with the changing levels of the water and conisists of Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Thai families who all live as fishermen. When the lake level is at its highest, they pull their village in and dock against the treetops.

Yes, those are tree tops.  In the low season, they move out into the big lake and tie themselves together as a big village floating among the waves.  Here's a view of the big lake as we saw it that day.

We were there because they have learned that their conditions of extreme poverty can be lessened if they allow tourists a glimpse of their way of life. That said, it was a bit disturbing to be the tourist who was riding on a boat just watching them live their lives. I mean, it was fascinating to see such a different way of living, but it was also very sad to see the conditions they live in. Let's focus on the "fascinating" part as I share some photos with you, ok?  :)

She is fishing from her house with just a stick and a string.  Like I said, fascinating, huh?  Who needs our technology because as you will see below, it works:

After catching these small fish (which I called anchovies) in the nets, they would sit in there and beat the net with what looked like small rackets to get all the fish to fall off into a hole as the nets were rolled back up to be used again.  This seemed to be their main way of life as it was going on at about every third boat we passed.

Some more homes and boats looked like these:

Complete with pets (poor dog!)


Laundry station

Place to get boat (maybe house too) batteries refilled/recharged


Police station


Basketball court at the school

Students in school

even a farm
Pigs on a raft

And kids will be kids anywhere:

It was a day I'll never forget. 

 "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." Luke 6:20


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