Well, I am glad the world didn’t end, as we’ve been having so much fun since the 21 Dec and have had some fantastic experiences out in the countryside of Cambodia since.
Tonle Sap, the heartbeat of Cambodia as the locals call it, accommodates many communities that relies on the lake for its water and food source. Due to the flooding during the wet season, these communities build their houses on tall stilts to protect them from the rising waters.
With 20,000 residents, Kampong Khleang is the largest of these communities, located around 45 minutes from Siem Reap on the shores of Tonle Sap. Few visitors come this far, many preferring the shorter drive to Kampong Knea and Kampong Phluk, however those who do make it here will be met with friendly locals, cheeky children and a genuine Kampong experience.
Arriving in the morning at 9am on a Sunday, we were greeted with street full of children waving their ‘hellos’ and chasing our tuk tuk. I couldn’t help but join in a game of tag (no really, I couldn’t help not to. It was more forced upon me when three of the girls started to tag me at random), and watched as one of the household prepared a wedding which the entire community was invited to.
Wherever I went, I was waved and smiled at, and my attempt to greet and farewell in Khmer attracted amused laughter from the elders of the villages.
I could see the community was poor, and the street littered with rubbish, however I could also see that those who live here were happy, as they had all they needed to live and survive.
And the children, although only having a couple of balls and a home made skipping rope to play with, seemed far happier than any children I’ve seen back at home.
Tonle Sap lake provides the locals with water and food. During the wet season, there are abundance of fish which they dry to keep for the dry season. There is a monastery run school across the lake for the children and a small makeshift volleyball court for sport.
And during my entire visit, not once did they make me feel like the outsider, nor like just another tourist. While I do wish more people would visit this community to provide them with supplement income from tourism, I hope that those who visit will treat the residents with respect, and that their carefree ways will never change.