Tonle Sap Lake Cruise and the Floating Villages
In November 2017, I took a short break to travel up to Siem Reap in Cambodia. I had heard that the Tonle Sap Cruise on the Mekong was one of the things to do. After landing in Siem Reap and checking into the hotel, I made my way to the boats. I paid the US$26 to get my ticket, expecting that I would share a seat with several other people on a boat. I discovered that the $26 got me the whole boat and driver to myself! My pilot was a young Khmer woman with her child, who was taking in his surroundings like it was another day in life.
The weather on the day was somewhat inclement. It was sunny at the time that I boarded.
This is a true Asian experience. The boat would seat 12 people comfortably. There were a couple of life vests on the seats that probably wouldn’t offer much safety in the event of the boat capsizing. The seats were wet (fortunately, I was carrying a towel with me and wiped them down).
We made our 30 minute ride to the launch point for the flooded forest and the floating village. We passed several boats along the way, and were in turn, passed by several other. As we arrived at the launch point, the heavens opened up and it bucketed down. Traffic came to a halt on the river as we waited for the storm to pass. 20 minutes later, it was business as usual.
I met a young American woman, Ashley, and we shared a small boat that took us through the flooded forest and the floating village. The weather had cleared for the time, though it did drizzle very lightly as we gently cruised through the forest. As we made our way back to the launch point, I boarded my boat that took me further out to the Sonle Tap lake. I made it there at sunset. After briefly circling a few boats there, we turned to head back.
Another storm approached. The sun had set at this stage and it was beginning to get dark fast. My pilot lifted her child and placed him on one of the seats. She didn’t bother putting a life jacket on him. She pulled the side tarps down to shield us from the weather as the rain began to get heavier.
Very soon, it was pouring. The tarps didn’t do much in the way of shield us from getting wet.
As we made our way further along the river, I realized that my boat did not have any lights, and very soon, it was pitch dark. The only light came from the occasional lightning bolt, and other boats that passed us by. My pilot found her spot behind one of the other boats that had lights, and followed it, getting us safely back to where we started from.
In spite of what may have seemed like a hair raising experience, I was surprisingly calm throughout my boat ride. I was completely soaked when I disembarked from my boat, but completely relaxed with a great sense of calm within me.
Every time I visit remote parts of Asia, it gives me a great sense of gratitude for the things that I have in life.