Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Cambodia - Day 1 Part 2

We stopped on the way to buy the tickets for the boat. Ten US$ per person! The first of our “Come-let’s-get-looted-on-our-holiday” experiences. But I suppose you don't feel so bad spending money in a country like Cambodia that desperately needs the money.

"Which places does the boat go to?” Jeeves asked the ticket counter guy.

The guy laughed. Yes, he actually guffawed in our faces! After exchanging confused and nervous smiles, we had almost decided that he had just insulted us. Suddenly we realised that he had not understood a word of what Jeeves had asked, and was merely hiding his embarrassment with his laughter! The child-like glee with which he went on laughing, was striking. Finally, he got another guy to play translator, and we were back on the bumpy tuk tuks on our way to the Tonle Sap lake.

We hopped aboard the boat, and it whirred towards the floating villages on the lake.

That's us in the boat. The smiles are fake. The lake was stinking.

The stench of (rotting?) fish was unbearable, but it started fading as the boat moved. There were life jackets in the boat. However, I secretly made a wish that I wouldn't have to use one! Just the thought of getting in the murky water with dead fish floating on it was enough to put me off. It was at this point that I saw two small boys bathing in the lake! They were frolicking in the water in the same way I did in my 'chlorinated-and-cleaned-twice-a-week' swimming pool. The stench, the dirty water and the dead fish did not seem to bother them at all, and I was filled with a sense of respect for these little inhabitants of the floating village.

Inhabitants of the floating village

I had read that the villages actually moved with the season. Somewhat like the way my family used to move to a new place every couple of years when I was young. And yet different. For these people, their family, their friends, their school, moved with them.

This hut was being pulled along on the water by a speedboat!

The lake even had a floating school!

The boatman took this photo for us.

One of the classics -- titled by the guys as 'Max giving birth to a hat'

"I'm ready to go next. I'm sick of my cap. I want a hat too!"

The boat came to a halt in the middle of the lake, and our boatman challenged the guys to take a dip in the water. Well, no one did (thankfully!) even after his repeated assurances that there were no crocodiles in the water. Crocodiles were probably his only point of concern and so he did not get why we had no plans to take a dip in the water!

Boatman: "You can dive here. No crocodiles."
We: "Errr... No thanks, dude."

The only action we had was when I took shots of three of the guys doing a boyband dance on the boat! That was hilarious!

"I want it that way."

Then we went to view the fish farm and the crocodile farm. The fish farm surprisingly had no fish, but there were other animals.

Komodo dragons



There was also a monkey on a hammock that almost snatched our itinerary from Chin’s hands! (Yeah, we got it back, but the tug-of-war between Chin and chimp was a treat to watch!)

The crocodiles were freaky! There were too many of them, they were scary, and they were all over the place!

Ro and Max were impressed by the crocs...

but I obviously wasn't...

On our way back, the boatman was singing a Khmer song, and I felt a sudden sense of peace and serenity. We passed the people living on the boats again, smiling and laughing as they did their work. I remembered something that a Singaporean friend had told me once. She'd said that she had always thought poor people were essentially unhappy people. But her views changed when she saw some photographs of poor Indians that her friend had brought back after a trip to India. She said that she was amazed to see the photos of people who were dirt-poor and yet, had the most amazing and genuine smiles on their faces.

Fishermen casting their nets

I remembered her words as I saw these poor-but-happy Cambodian people living their simple-but-enriched lives. Maybe the whole concept of poor-but-happy can only be understood in a place like India or Cambodia. Suddenly I felt this new appreciation for India, and I knew in my heart that the next time I visit India, I will see it differently.


  • Thanks for penning these wonderful memoirs of a memorable trip.

    By Blogger Ro, at 10:28 PM  

  • Your images were absent. How about sending me a snapshot of yourself.




    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 PM  

  • hi dear:

    yes, i totally agree with you that the poor are happy indeed in their own sense of time and life.

    anyway, we are grateful for our lives though.

    remain blessed.

    By Blogger MANJA BLESSINGS, at 1:28 AM  

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