Floating Village

Cambodia Add comments

It cost us another $10 to have our driver to take us down a dusty road from the city to the river. We didn’t know anything about the floating village, except that he insisted we see it. He pulled over at a small building with three walls, a roof and a table where a couple men sat surrounding a metal cash box. I haggled with them on the exchange rates between the boat price listed in Cambodian Riels, my payment in Thai Baht and their change in US currency.

Back on the dusty road, I imagined how dry it must be during the dry season. The street dropped off on both sides into small waterways. Shacks stood high on skinny stalk legs. They didn’t look safe, but obviously held their weight against the rush of a wet season’s river. As we drove on, it became more congested. Stilted bamboo houses lined the entire road. The driver we had this day spoke some English. He told us the government lets the people live there for free, since they are too poor to afford anything else.

The road came to an end at a haphazard collection of small boats and floating shacks tied to each other. Homes made buoyant with plastic jugs and tires. Motors were exposed in the aft of boats, ten foot poles with propellers swinging from them into the air.

Our captain was about 18 or so. He was energetic and excited to talk to us. We hopped with him from boat to boat, rocking them all as we went for his. It looked like a large canoe, but just big enough to stand up in, with a flat floor and canopy. Our seats were the cheap plastic lawn chairs that self-destruct if you lean back in them. The throttle was a frayed rope which slipped, the steering a bike chain that stuck. Despite a few snags, she sea’d fairly well.

As we followed the brown river towards the lake, we learned the water level changes ten meters between the wet and dry season. That’s over thirty feet! Up the river is a better place to be, since it’s closer to the road and the school. When there’s no water that’s not an option for the floating homes, so at this time of year, they tow them all out into the middle of the lake. When the rains come, back up the river they go.

Fisherman stood with nets along the knee deep river. We passed many other boats, our captain pointing to one with a dark man sitting high on the bow. “that’s the doctor,” he told us. There was a floating school with a fenced in play yard, and kids climbing onto the dock from their overfilled boat.

At the mouth of the river, we saw the lake was massive. If it weren’t for the calm and color of the water, I would have thought we’d met the ocean. I couldn’t believe how many homes there were. It was an entire city. We passed floating stores, workshops, a church and even a floating recreation center with pool tables and a carousel. A larger boat ferried children, which at times starts to sink from the weight, forcing some kids to swim alongside.

The water was so brown that swimmers would disappear an inch below the surface. I’m sure dirt and silt play a role, but thousands live in the stagnant water with no sewage system.

To view larger images, launch the slideshow and choose the “Cambodia” gallery.

Peace in Cambodia

One Thought on “Floating Village”

  1. Diane Ferrara Says:

    Your photos of the floating village are my favorites so far. They are so vivid I feel like I am right there.

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