Siem Reap: Tonle Sap Lake.
After watching the sun rise of Angkor, what do you think we did? Go back home and fall back into bed? WRONG. No, like good tourists, we had something else booked post-Angkor, so rather than the aforementioned bed option, we headed to a cafe next to our hotel and drank cup after cup of instant Nescafe, a coffee-like substance that apparently contains caffeine, which is all I was really after--like pretty much everything else in Cambodia, it only cost one dollar--and then regrouped with our guide a few hours later to go of to Tonle Sap (aka "Great") Lake.
Why go to a great lake? Not just to see the lake, of course. No, having seen Lake Superior multiple times, it takes more than just another big lake to impress me: it takes a big lake with people LIVING ON IT. More specifically, people I could go stare at/take pictures of while thinking, "Look at these crazy people--the live ON a lake!" Did I feel bad while driving down very bad roads for an hour to go stare at really poor people living on a lake? At first. But only a little. I mean, after all, I figured they could use the money. Because, really, when you live on a lake, you don't have a lot of career options. You can be a fisherman and ... a fisherman's wife, I guess. So really, I thought I was probably helping them out by going to stare at them and take pictures.
Of course, when we actually got there--hordes of tourists had already arrived, of course--and found out how much we had to pay per person to be ferried around in a crappy little boat, I was a little less pleased about the entire situation. I can't remember exactly how much they made us each pay--it was a while ago, at this point--but I remember thinking it was a lot. Like 15 US Dollars or something. And when you're in a country where everything costs a dollar, that's a hell of a lot of money. More than I would normally be willing to pay to go stare at poor people living on a lake. But of after driving all that way out there, we couldn't really say no--well, we could, but I don't think anyone was looking forward to the hour ride back to Siem Reap down the dirt "road" we had come in on, especially considering the "shocks" on our van--so we paid our money and got taken for a ride.
All that being said, it was actually pretty cool. Was it $15 of my not-very-hard-earned money cool? Possibly. Well, possibly to probably. After all, in the US, you can't go gawk at poor people living on boats, no matter HOW much you pay. (Plus, in the areas of the country where I imagine people living on boats--I'm thinking the South and swamps--you have to worry about getting winged with a shotgun.) Plus, while we had seen people living on the water in Halong Bay, this was slightly different: in Halong Bay, people were living in tiny little communities in houses that were clearly primarily boats; on Tonle Sap lake, people were living in houses that just happened to float, as you can see in the following picture.
(Side note: That green plant-stuff was everywhere around the village. It seemed to only grow in places where the water was very calm, which it definitely was around the village due to, I presume, two things: the amount of houses/boats, and their proximity to the shore. Once you got out into the actual open water of the lake, the plants disappeared. And if you're wondering why they live right next the shore but on the water, I have one word for you: flooding.)
Women hard at work doing ... whatever it is women there do. Something with fish, possibly? Well, that or laundry. That's only partially a joke, as you will see shortly:
If you think this looks like a school, guess what? For once, you're right: it is a school. A FLOATING school. (To be fair, Halong Bay also had floating schools. Just not such schooly-looking ones.) How much cooler would school have been as a kid if your school actually floated? Way cooler, obviously. And much safer in a flood to boot ....
See? Laundry. I don't know if we came on laundry day or what, but there was laundry everywhere. And since it made for colorful pictures, I have a lot of snaps of said laundry. I kept hoping they had some way of doing their laundry other than dunking it in the lake, since--while I did see much laundry--I did not see a lot in the way of septic systems. Which is something the Halong Bay houses definitely had ...
What do you do for recess when you go to a floating school? Go play on a floating basketball court, natch. Already, the kids I saw playing here were more fundamentally sound than 95% of NBA players. And really, that's not saying a lot:
More laundry. Some of that looks like it might need to be washed again. I'm just saying:
I think this counts as taking a stroll around the neighborhood:
For all you men out there, you think it's bad when your wife wants you to rearrange the furniture? Check out this poor guy. "I think our house would look better over there. Oh no, wait. Over there. But maybe if you turn it the other way? Actually, maybe it was better where it was ...."
Apparently I have a laundry obsession. Unfortunately, I never took a psych class in college, so I have no idea what that might mean:
My favorite part about this picture is the fact that one kid is using an old plastic jug for a life preserver. I wonder if this counts as recycling?
I like this picture:
A beefcake photo for those with a predilection for in-shape subsistence fishermen. I'm sure there's a website somewhere for you ....
Another photo I like. The laundry is coincidental, I swear:
Some slice-of-life photos, for those of you who don't want to go to Siem Reap (which you should) and drive an hour out of town and pay $15 (or whatever) to stare at poor people and so will never see the floating village of Tonle Sap Lake. I'm sure there are many of you out there. Go figure:
One plus of living on a lake: You can totally jump off your roof. And not in a suicidal/cry for help type way either, but just for the hell of it ...
I think this is the local mansion. Maybe:
More eye boats. The better to see you with, my dearies:
It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out why all the boats had water tubes like this hanging over the side. (Did I mention I work with computers all day, ever?) For those of you who also work with computers, I will give you a hint: water cools engines ...
I love this picture because it is so overly dramatic. These guys are heading to the open water--you can see all the green plants disappear suddenly. Where they are going, I have no idea .. based on the standing guy's pose, I'd say across the Delaware to fight the Hessians. I'd be wrong, but that's what I'd say ...
If you see this kid, float the other way. Sure, he looks cute now, but just wait until he latches on to the side of your boat like a lamprey and won't let go until you give him money. Luckily, I took this picture while he wasn't looking, thus avoiding the boat-latch. The people in the boat next to us, however, were not so lucky:
Our next event is the boat-pulling competition, ladies and gentleman. Boat pulling!
The Cambodian flag, for those of you who haven't seen it:
And with that, we made our way back to Bangkok, to spend not one but two nights. And if you think I didn't sing that song approximately 5,000 times when I was there, you'd be wrong. Ask Holly if you don't believe me.
One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble ....
Previously, on my vacation:
- Siem Reap: Angkor at Dawn.
- Siem Reap: The Angkor Temples.
- Ang Thong Marine Park.
- Koh Samui.
- Tay Ninh: The Cao Dai Temple.
- The Cu Chi Tunnels.
- The Mekong Delta.
- Saigon: the Random.
- Saigon: Reunification Hall.
- Saigon: the War Museum.
- Saigon: the Streets.
- Hoi An: The River.
- Hoi An: My Son.
- Hoi An: the People.
- Hoi An: the Streets.
- Hue: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hue: the River.
- Hue: the Imperial Tombs.
- Hue: the Imperial Palace.
- Hue: the Streets.
- Halong Bay: the Videos.
- Halong Bay.
- Hanoi: the Random.
- Hanoi: Water Puppets.
- Hanoi: the "Hilton."
- Hanoi: the People.
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hanoi: the Streets.