Tonlé Sap Lake

We visited the fisherman’s villages on Tonlé Sap lake yesterday. Tonlé Sap is:

Tonlé Sap (Khmer: ទន្លេសាប IPA: [tunleː saːp], literally large river (tonle); fresh, not salty (sap), commonly translated to ‘great lake’) refers to a seasonally inundated freshwater lake, the Tonlé Sap Lake and an attached river, the 120 km (75 mi) long Tonlé Sap River, that connects the lake to the Mekong River.[1

Due to it being the dry season, we weren’t able to see the houseboat villages but we were able to see the stilt systems that are erected under the houses along the banks each to raise them up enough to remain above the high water line. These houses are permanent whereas the houseboats come and go during the fishing season.

We took tour boats to see the villages and then arrived at a floating barge where we switched to smaller canoe type boats to take a tour through the mangrove forest.

Most of the large tour boats were operated by men whilst all of the smaller, single paddle canoe type boats had female paddlers.

The mangrove tour took us past many women selling snacks and drinks out of their canoes and ended at a floating restaurant where we climbed back aboard our tour boat to go watch the sunset. It amazes me how the villagers have established an entire tourist trap operation out on the water in tiny boats!

The lake is very muddy from the silty bottom, apparently it is this sediment that makes it great for fish. But, clean water is a problem for the villagers and many of them get sick from using it for drinking and washing dishes. Access to clean water is problem out there.

This first series of photos is of the mangrove forest tour.

Women brought their children along to work with themThis is the “dock” where we switched from the tour boat to the mangrove canoePanos and I on our canoeThis little girl was waving at us as we passed by her canoe. Her mother was selling drinks and snacks alongside the path we took through the mangrovesThis was the floating restaurant where we swapped back into out tour boat. These are some

Of the tour boat operators, taking a snackThese are the mangrove tour boats. We sat on the reed mats behind the women. Most of whom sat and paddled, which looked terrifically inefficient. A few of them kneeled, they paddled much better from that position. But, everyone managed to get their boats through the forest and there wasn’t any great rush for the whole thing so I guess efficiency didn’t really matter much.

Below are photos of the tour boats and the stilt houses. People wash clothes, dishes and themselves in this water, in addition, they toilet and fish in it. I am thankful for hot and cold running water in my life.

The boat engine is interesting. The steering mechanism consists of ropes on pulleys that connect to the propeller.Us on our tour boat. The bunch of bananas threw me off a bit as bananas on boats are superstitious bad luck in the US. Apparently they have something to do with the Chinese New Year holiday that is fast approaching.

These final photos are of the sun setting over the lake.

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