Cambodia - Tonle saap

Timing was never my best attribute. I always find myself in the right place in the wrong time, or in the wrong place in the I don’t know time, but it is always off season for me. Which, I have discovered during the years, not always such a bad thing. Sometimes it is even an advantage.

Tonle sap is the biggest lake in Cambodia, and is known around the world for the long stilt huts of the locals, houses hovering above the water , ten meters and more above the ground. If I have to say the truth, I didn’t put it on my 'must see' list, as I have seen enough beautiful photos of these houses with their clear reflection in the lake's water shot by every amateur and professional photographer who ever passed Cambodia, and didn’t feel the need to add some more to my collection.

But, and I thank him for that, my local guided insisted, and as after  the first day he already understood what kind of experiences I like to have in my journeys,  I trusted him. The point I liked was when I asked him why I had to go there to see this lake, and he said – because it is dry season – there is no water now. A dry lake. Ok. As I said – I trusted him.

 

 
 
 
 
 

We arrived to a dusty road, with a small stream. Well…. It was a parking lot to small boats, with an inch of water. Maybe two inches. Like a graveyard of small fishing vessles in the dried soil, but not a graveyard as there was this air of anticipation, like a parking lot indeed, we just leave the boat here while we wait for the water to return.

And water come and water go, and these are the seasons, and here we are in a small boat moving towards the lake, our stream getting just big enough for us to pass safely,  and around, land crackling under the scorching sun, a desert land if I ever seen one, until you realize that you are now one the bottom of a lake, or what will be a lake again in three months. And then it sinks in.

Looking up you see those strange houses high on thin stilts, raised above the earth, like small private wooden mini skyscrapers , and you stretch your neck and wonder why are they up there, I mean, not that it is not cool, if I could put my house in Bangkok on ten meter stilts I would do it tomorrow, but still…

You look up and you see the water mark, realizing once again, that you have the uncommon opportunity to be actually walking on a lake's bottom, even if it is temporarily missing a small component of what makes a lake – water.

It is almost a humbling feeling, seeing the changes in nature in such extreme example, and seeing how people have adapted to them, and are living a double life, a dry life and a wet life, half desert half venice. You can't say this is not a cool life. At least you have diversity.

I have already made plans to go back in a couple of months when the lake is full, and try and bring the other side of the story. stay tuned for the wet version.

 

 
 
 
 
 
   
                     
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