Our next big adventure in Siem Reap happened two days later. We booked a tour through a local company so we could see some of the countryside and another one of the cool attractions in Siem Reap – the flooded forest. FINALLY, there is an upside to visiting this part of the world in rainy season: you can’t see the flooded forest in the dry season! We took a trusty tuk tuk to our riverboat stop, a trip that was bumpy but fun cause we drove through some small towns and saw what Cambodia was like for the people who lived there. It seemed like a simple but happy place – the people were just as curious about us as we were about them. I even caught a monk snapping pictures of me on his cellphone in a temple we visited as I was snapping pictures of his beautiful temple! I laughed when I saw him doing this, and obliged in a few photos 😛
Our little tuk tuk ride came to an end at the mouth of a very dirty river where we boarded a noisy little boat and took off to see the “floating” town that was built on stilts to accommodate for the rising of the Tonle Sap river and lake that annually floods the surrounding area, turning their neighbourhood into a floodplain. It was so surreal to see these rickety looking houses and community buildings towering high above us as we boated through the water below – it reminded me of some kind of surreal post apocalyptic place where the homes were rebuilt from leftoverscraps and whatever was floating by.
The water levelled off closer to the lake, and we caught a glimpse of the flooded forest around us. It was magical – all the twisted trees poking out of the water. We boarded a small long tail boat and glided soundlessly though the forest. One of the ladies I was travelling with was deathly afraid of the water spiders climbing everywhere in the trees and on our boat, we thought at one point for sure we were going to tip and fall in the water! Steph eventually just cowered at the front of the boat as we turned a corner and made our way back, making sure to tip our Cambodian boat lady for the trouble!
Our tour ended in one of the floating villages, where we were shown a school and encouraged to purchase pencils and school books for the children. From the well-rehearsed way this operation was run (children lining up to grab at the books and pencils, handing them back to their mothers for repackaging, the open and sharpened panicles in the packages i “bought”) I could tell that the money was not going directly to the school or where we thought it was, but I had to give kudos to these enterprising Cambodians who had found a way to tug on our heartstrings and open our wallets to them. I enjoyed spending time with the lil Cambodian kids anyhow, and had my encounter with the monk at the beautiful temple in the town, built high on the hank of the flooding river.
Siem Reap was a really worthwhile place to check out. It wasn’t as cheap as I thought (except for accommodation which was $5 in our very clean dorm room) but the food and attractions were excellent so I didn’t mind paying. The little town was easy to navigate by foot and there was lots of shopping and cute little massage places to keep us occupied in our downtime. The overly enthusiastic hawkers and beggars littering the street were more persistent than the ones I encountered in Thailand, but the county has no social safety net and these people have to do whatever they can to survive. I tried not to give into the children who were begin.asking for money or meals on the streets, as it’s a well-documented fact that parents keep their children out of school to work on the streets. Don’t support child labor! Give your money to a local NGO instead, which is what we did.
My four nights in Siem Reap flew past and before i knew it I was on a night bus from hell to Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia. Epic trip, indeed.
- Flooded Forests and Floating Towns (fearlessadventure.wordpress.com)
- Floating Village of Kompong Khleang (ltomkiw.wordpress.com)
- Experience fantastic by boat: Battambang to Siem Reap Angkor (sangkervilla.com)
- Travel beyond Siem Reap (ttrweekly.com)