Thursday, May 29, 2008

River views

These monks take shelter from the blazing overhead sun
Here are some photos from a recent trip I made to the stilted and floating village of Kompong Khleang, on the banks of the massive Tonle Sap Lake and located some 50 kms south of Siem Reap. The trip was with a group of staff from the Hanuman office and on arrival at the village our main focus was to get a boat ride out along the river and onto the lake itself. We spent 4 hours all together, in the village and on the boat, a large chunk of which was trying to get the boat to start! The water levels were pretty low too, so we also had to find a boat that could accommodate about twenty people and not run aground. We managed it but wasted a lot of time in the process. Kompong Khleang is a massive village, more like a small town to be frank, and the largest single community on the lake with something like 30,000 people living in the permanent on-land part and within the floating element, a few kilometres out onto the lake. We didn't even manage to visit the main market, wat and school, though I did cross the pontoon bridge and pop my head into a second pagoda and high school, which I didn't visit on my previous trip there in January last year. As you can see from these photos and more to follow, the permanent houses are built high on stilts to accommodate the changing water levels, whilst the smaller houses on the riverbank leading out to the lake are more transitory and can be moved depending on the time of year. Its very different in style and feel to Chong Khneas, the floating village nearest to Siem Reap that attracts most tourists. Its said that many wealthy Khmers have a house here in Kompong Khleang as there is still lots of money to be made from the fishing industry though the dwindling fish stocks on the lake suggest a different story. I think its certainly worth a visit, as is its neighbour Kompong Phluk, as an alternative to the boat-loads that flock to Chong Khneas every day.
Most of the permanent houses are on wooden stilts high above the ground
These two girls take their boat out to the village on the lake a few kilometres away
Boys playing in the river and one of the houses that can be moved according to the water levels

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