For today we had booked an afternoon tour of Tonle Sap, the great lake of Cambodia but as our morning was pretty much free we decided to take a walk into town and get done some of the ‘bits and bobs’ which we did not get done yesterday, due to our self-induced ‘illness’. So for our chores we posted some letters to our younger relations back home. We keep trying to send them postcards and leaflets so they can see the places we have visited along the way, we also grabbed some shopping, bits for the trip later today. It was not too much longer though before, chores done, we returned back to the hotel in order to wait to be collected.
Our minibus soon enough arrived and then we were whisked away to pick up the rest of the group, some of the hotels we stopped to pick up passengers were certainly a bit more salubrious than ours! Anyhow, once full we zoomed off … our guide took us to a shop just a bit further up the road, to see if we wanted to buy some trinkets! This was most definitely not what we had signed up for, no lake just a bloody souvenir shop!
This time when we set off it was the real deal but it was quite a trek in the minibus to get to the boat on the river which then took us to the village of Kompot Pluck. As we landed at the village the first thing we saw was the houses by the river that we were travelling on, these were built on stilts that stood really high above the waters we were on.
Reaching our destination we first saw the colourful pagoda, this was built on the highest patch of ground the village had to offer and both the pagoda and the village looked as though they were celebrating something. These thoughts were confirmed as we went into the village and after speaking to the locals our guide explained that the villagers were celebrating the rains coming to the lake. Although they cause the great flooding, the rains are also a time of great benefit to the area due to the extra fishing that can be done – more fish = more money = more honey, a local saying round those parts! Some of the children and adults in the village were all dressed up in their Sunday best whilst others simply seemed to have no ‘best’ but they all seemed to be enjoying the day.
For me and Liz, the children were the absolute best, in particular a young girl who tried out her conversational English with Liz and then a bit further up, a couple of lads playing football allowed me to have a kick around with them. I think I taught them a couple of tricks or two from the ‘beautiful game’ as it is played in Engerland but perhaps I only taught them not to give their ball to an old guy to make a fool of himself with. Then later as we were later travelling along onboard our boat we passed a little lad who seemed quite distraught and was weeping away with just his shirt on and yet he was peeing at the same time – he was just a picture of misery – top class act eh!
After our visit of the village it was time to get back onto our small craft and off to Tonle Sap proper. Once on the lake they take you to a small floating cafe to stop for a while and here there were photos on the walls showing just how high the waters come when the rains come to town. In the village we had visited the street we walked down would no longer be there, it would simply become a waterway showing just why the houses’ stilts are as high as they are. Even now, far from its highest, the lake is still pretty impressive and looks like an inland sea. You cannot actually see the other side you simply trust that it is somewhere out there. It being the start of the rainy season you could see the clouds beginning to gather and although the trip was advertised as the Sunset tour, there would be no sunset seen tonight it was just far too dark and dismal and brooding … seriously brooding. Whenever it was going to hit it would hit hard, very hard. So we started off back just as the initial spatters started to rain down.
As we went home we passed the village once more and imagined how they would be celebrating, to us it was just rain, to them it was the annual release of abundance, of life. We returned to the safety of the minibus and our driver had to keep his wits about him as our vehicle was having trouble keeping traction on what was becoming a very muddy track. On our journey back we got chatting to a really nice Swiss-German family, the son of whom had studied in England and it was really disappointing to hear his tale of how he had been beaten up simply because he was from a different country. He seemed such a cool guy and yet ignorant people back home had been violent towards him. It was all so very wrong and saddened me so much that we were here having to apologise for our countrymen and their stupidity.
Once back in Siem Reap we had a bit of a change for our nightly meal in that we had pasta and very nice it was too. It would be another big day tomorrow as we would be leaving Cambodia to go back to Thailand so, with this in mind, we dare not stay out too late. However, once back at our hotel we were a bit worried to find out that the hotel might have lost our washing and it seemed they could not get in touch with the person who had signed it into the laundry! We ended up having to arrange to have an extra early call so we could find out what was going on and get packed with whatever we had left – Gulp!