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Going into Day 3, we didn’t really need to rush like the day before. After having our usual breakfast, we headed to Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. This is the real gem of Cambodia as it accounts for 60% of the Cambodian’s protein intake.
The Tonlé Sap (meaning Large Fresh Water River but more commonly translated as Great Lake) is a combined lake and river system of huge importance to Cambodia. It is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hotspot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997. [Source]
We entered the lake through Chong Khneas, which is the nearest point from Siem Reap. Along the ride to Chong Khneas, we managed to get few glimpses of the local villages. The living condition there, needless to say, is far cry from what we have back home. Houses looked dilapidated and covered in mud as the flood had recently subsided. Most lower lands were however still flooded. Despite all these setbacks, those villagers seemed to be contented with what happened to them and their houses. As John explained, the flood has become an annual affair, so it’s not really a problem for them.
We were greeted by villagers living at Chong Khneas upon our arrival and they were quick to shove some souvenirs into our hands with the hope of earning a buck or two from us. We managed to smile helplessly as to be polite in refusing them.
The deafening sound from the boat’s engine did not help us at all. Poor John as he almost lost his voice when he tried to explain to us. Heh.
Majority people living in Tonle Sap are Cambodians although a small number of them are Vietnamese. According to John, Cambodians tend to build their houses nearer to the ground while Vietnamese prefer to be surrounded by water. And talking about water, it’s the same source they use for everyday lives; bath, cook, drink, and *ugh ugh* (you get what I mean). I’m sure this is not doing any better for humans, but it’s good for the whole ecosystem in Tonle Sap.
National and local observers often state that the Tonle Sap Lake is rapidly filling with sediment. However, recent long-term sedimentation studies show that net sedimentation within the lake proper has been in the range of 0.1-0.16 mm/year since ca. 5500 years before present (BP). Thus, there is no threat of the lake filling up with sediment. On the contrary, sediment is not a threat to the lake but an important part of its ecosystem, providing nutrients that drive the floodplain productivity. [Source]
After spending some time cruising on the lake, we stopped by a “tourist trap” located somewhere on Tonle Sap. There was basically nothing to see here except some crocodiles and a little girl with her pet… a snake!
We also sampled some mini prawns which tasted a little sweet and dipped with some kind of sour sauce.
We took some time to pose a bit too.
We left the “tourist trap” and returned to Chong Khneas. I managed to capture even more moments on our way back.
Kids in Tonle Sap are like adults. They mostly roam around Tonle Sap either swimming with a bunch of friends or walking on the higher grounds alone. And this is without the supervision from the parents!
More visual feast for your eyes…
We returned to Chong Khneas after an exhilarating boat ride. A visit to Tonle Sap serves as an eye-opener as most of the things we witnessed here can’t be seen elsewhere. However, apart from the meaningful visit, it saddens me on how the government look after their welfares. As some say, the rich will only get richer while the poor will only get poorer. I think I know what it means.
After visiting Tonle Sap, we shopped a while at old market to hunt for souvenirs before headed for lunch. This time, I was able to join them as I have fully recovered from my fever. Heh.
Next up… the most boring place in Siem Reap and Apsara dance show!