Saturday, January 21, 2012


When we arrived here in Siem Reap Julie made it clear that she didn't want to stay long in a tourist town. And after experiencing the heat while at Angkor it was decided that we must escape to the southern coast - my dreams of Kep could come true!
Fortunately there flights direct from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville. Too bad the flight just left and it's not every day. So plans changed. Our driver Mooney had mentioned the floating village and a floating forest that he thought we should go see. So we did some investigating after dinner (at Angkor Palm, a worthwhile Lonely Planet trap) and found out that we could formulate our own tour to the village without spending $32pp and a whole day. Rather it worked out to about $15pp and took only 3 hours.
The village of Kampung Phluk is on the edge of the large Tonle Sap lake and it experiences water levels that fluctuate by about 6m. To cope with it, all buildings are built on stilts or truly do float up and down. Our man told us that there was about 4m of water here in the waterway and it could reach up to 10m. Spread out across this vast area that's a staggering amount of water. (For reference, Tonle Sap lake appears to be a bit smaller in size to Lake Manitoba, and when it flooded badly in 2011 it only went up about 2m.)
We were here at just about the peak of dry season so most everything was in the air. Our taxi driver turned into our guide as he could speak English while our boat driver could not. He seemed to have done this tour thing before as he was doing a fine job showing us around and answering our questions. The floating forest is basically the flooded forest, through which you could rent a small paddle boat and go through. For lack of time, and disinterest from all but Julie, we skipped it.
We disembarked onto land at the local Buddhist temple, and were quickly spotted by a number of girls and ladies selling snacks, drinks and school supplies.  The temple looked brand new but the rest of the village was a study in poverty. Smoke from grills and piles of burning trash wafted through the main drag. Moving from the temple towards the houses, school children were suddenly running around us and the sales ladies strengthened their sales pitches on the school supplies.  Julie and Blaine took the bait and were promptly led up the stairs into a classroom of the school. Honestly I was expecting more of a response from the kids when Julie and Blaine handed out the scribblers and pencils, but then I realized that if this happens with most tourists then this likely compares with getting socks and a sweater for Christmas. The kids were very polite though. We wondered why some children were in school whilst others were not. Turns out that the school operates in shifts.
It was a neat experience and I'm glad we went but I doubt you'd ever need to take advantage of the Guesthouse here.

Following a failed attempt at getting our taxi driver to show us street food, we flew away to PP on Cambodia-Angkor Air - a pleasant experience. 
Back on the ground our man Siy was at work for us finding a car to take us to the southern coast. On the plane we'd decided upon going to Kep. Too bad Siy's buddy wasn't warm to the idea. Agh! Dreams dashed!
It cost us $70 for the ride, plus the $10 "deposit" we'd given Bondal in Siem Reap. I assume that was simply Bondal's cut for drumming up business.  Ask Blaine to prove the math.

Thur, 05/January

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