This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Azure Vistas of Tonle Sap

Chong Kneas as the boat departed

After visiting Angkor (in the last posting), we decided to cross Tonle Sap to Battambang, rather than try to negotiate the flooded route from Siem Reap to the border, as we had heard horrific stories of people coming into town exposed in half sunken lorries, scorched in the sun, with their belongings drenched by flood waters, while tractors had to be used to pull them out of deep underwater 'pot' holes.

So we booked a place on the boat at one of the agencies in the main street and we duly ferried down to the terminal back at Chong Kneas beside the floating village we had visited the afternoon before.

After waiting half an hour for the boat to fill up and depart, we set off on one of the most fascinating and unexpected journeys of our entire trip, passing through the wetland shallows, out onto the lake and up tortuous wetland, river and canal routes on the other side, passing through a succession of extraordinary floating towns and villages which we would have never known existed.

Google map of Tonle Sap indicating the journey we will take

Video of our Crossing of Tonle Sap

Tonle Sap is the gall bladder of the Mekong. In the flooded monsoon season it fills as the river draining it into the Mekong reverses direction and it swells to fill the whole interior of Cambodia with flood lands.

So here, with as many images as possible packed in, because it is such an unusual trip, is a photo essay of the journey from Siem Reap to Battambang across Tonle Sap in the flood season as we made it in October 2006.

Images of the outer floating arm of Chong Kneas which we visited
in the previous posting as we pass it going out of the harbor

Heading out of the harbor

The boat stopped briefly at the harbour entrance

Looking back at the harbour

The boat enters a region of floating vegetation in the shallows

The channel the boats can pass through is marked by white rags

Coming to the open water in the distant cleft

Entering Tonle Sap proper

The lake is now so big one can't even see the land on the horizon

Chris and Christine crossing the open lake

The boat and its passengers

A chain of boats carrying firewood

The boat crosses the northern arm of Tonle Sap and re-enters the shallows

Approaching the first town in the distance

Images from the first town, whose houses are all floating just like Chong Kneas

The town has a large hall and a temple, both on tall piles

Approaching the temple

The boat stops to drop off parcels and passengers

The temple and a ceremonial boat

Shoppers crossing the harbor

We then head up the river to a second floating town

The odd large building is on tall piles but the rest are floating

The houses are varying from simple reed shacks ...

... to some quite dainty cottages with ornamented verandas

A floating village store seemingly supported only by bamboo logs

The wilderness is full of pelicans, white herons, small wetland bird and hawks

We come to a third floating village

A floating first-aid centre

Bamboo cranes for holding fishing nets line parts of the river bank
but in seeming disuse. Only one we saw actually had a net.

We approach a fourth floating town in the distance

Again this has a temple complex opposite it on tall piles

Floating villages and settlements continue as we pass up the river

We pass major communications stations all in the midst of the water

We stop for refreshments at this floating store and cafe

The lady cut us delicious pineapple but then poured local water all over it
so we had to clean it again with a little of our bottled water

There is a pig pen in the floating back yard

We then entered a narrow canal through the water weeds

A convoy of boats struggling past us in the shallows

At one point the boat became lost and stranded in the water hyacinth
trying to follow the white rags which indicated the channel through the shallows

The land then opened out into wetlands
to one side of the river with a narrow canal

We passed several more convoys of boats

There were more floating villages these ones for boat workmen

A laden boat of woven baskets

The small floating villages here were looking poverty stricken and destitute

although those that had sound boats sported TV antennae

Finally we reached the river course again

Brahmin cattle holdings lined the banks

At this point the river became full of people set net fishing.
Several of the women appeared to be wearing Muslim veils

There was an endless sea of fisher-folk - seemingly
far too many to have a good chance of a catch

Alongside the river embankments many areas were still flooded

At this point we pulled into the shore at a primitive pier some 11 kms out of Battambang, because they claimed the river was too high for us to pass under the bridges. We were loaded into minivans and shepherded into town by the hotel touts.

Parked at the wharf waiting for the minibus

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