Ton Le Sap Lake, the Mille Lacs of SE Asia

Trip Start Mar 18, 2011
Trip End Apr 15, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Monday, April 11, 2011

This morning we headed out on the good old tour bus- oh I haven't told you about these tour buses- They are all ornately decorated inside with curtains and fringe above all of the windows with ornate.  designs on the fabric. I have never seen anything like them.  We were taken to Ton Le Sap lake to see a floating fishing village.  This lake is very interesting in that in gets much larger in the rainy season and the river that feeds it reverses its flow.  Right now it is the dry season, we drove through miles of green land, which will be under water in a few months,  We saw lotus farms and rice paddies, all with water buffalo.  
We got on what is called a long tail boat, I think because the boat has it's propeller far off the back on a long metal framework as the water often gets shallow.  This keeps the prop from getting stuck in the sand, mostly.  When we got on there were two boys on the boat, I think their father was running the boat, and they were characters.  Ken was teasing them, they kept asking for dollars.  He told them he wanted a back massage.  After the boat got underway, they came up behind him and started giving him a back massage, with actual massage technique.  They were really pounding on him.  After about 10 minutes the boy asked for a dollar and Ken gave it to him.  Then they gave me a massage and it was amazingly good.  My back had been quite tight and tired from all of the bus and boat riding and I really loosened up.  A dollar well spent.  

 We saw people fishing with nets as we motored along. Then we got to an actual floating villi age.;  The houses were supported by bamboo which floats but has to be replaced every 5 years or so, apparently it stops floating after that.  There were also stores, a two story floating school and a floating basketball court.  The fisherman fish at night, the women clean and pack the fish early in the am and it is then transported to market for sale that day, as there is no refrigeration.  This lake provides something like 90% of all the fish consumed in Cambodia.

While we were sightseeing, several boats came up to our boat.  There was always a woman driving and small children in the boat.  As they approached the boat, the very young children reached into a container on the boat and pulled out boa constrictors which they held around their necks.  The woman, who I assume was their mother, then asked for money.  I think this was a fisherman's wife supplementing the income of her fisherman husband.  The kids appeared fairly healthy but the snakes didn't look too good.  Apparently they catch the snakes in the jungle.  Again, it is easy for us to be surprised by the poverty around us, but the people living in this village do not seem to be suffering.  They make a living and work hard and it is what they know.  The United States government has provided the village with fresh drinking water, which is a perpetual problem in this part of the world.

They do have a lot of dengue fever and malaria in this part of the world and the children are especially vulnerable.  While adults don't generally die from dengue fever, young children do.  The tour guide drove us by a children's hospital which is sponsored by a Swiss doctor.  He said there are several of these hospitals in Cambodia and they treat children free of charge.  The problem is that many of the people do not trust western medicine and wait too long to bring their sick children to the doctor.  When they do it is too late, thereby perpetuating their distrust in western medicine..  They have a 60% mortality rate among children under 6. 

On that depressing note, I will tell you that the remainder of the day was spent touring a facility that houses artisans that produce beautiful stone and wood carvings, handmade silk and silver plated object.  It was not the usual tourist junk, really nice stuff. They study the carvings at the various temples in developing their skill.  We spent our share of money. 

 We then went to yet another Asian buffet, this one was the best we went to, with everything you could imagine and some things you couldn't, plus, lasagna for the faint hearted. After lunch we went to the tourist market with all of the usual t-shirts etc.  I have become an excellent bargainer. The stall owners appreciate a good negotiating session and take no offense at low ball proposals.  I was usually able to get things for two or three dollars, which meant to me that they are paying pennies for this stuff.  I don't think they were losing money.  See, law school has paid off.  The woman I was shopping with is from Hawaii and she folded dollar bills into tuxedos.  The shop keepers loved them and would take a folded dollar bill in exchange for lots of things, where they didn't want the unfolded money.  She showed one woman how to fold them and was actually given something for free in exchange for the folding lesson.  Next time I go to Cambodia, I am taking my origami books.

We had the rest of the afternoon off and Ken and I went to their new National Museum.  Very well done and amazingly sophisticated for a country like Cambodia.  Everything was in several languages and there were various video screens with explanations of things.  The museum centered around the temples and the history of the area.  

We then spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the wonderful, very large pool at the Raffles hotel and feeling very spoiled. 
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