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Feedback from Cambodia No.2

2011.09.11

Previous issue was written about woodlands “Satoyama” in Cambodia, on the other hands, life on the water is a typical life style in Cambodia to be introduced.

Cambodia has Southeast Asian largest lake “Tonle Sap.”
Just because the rainy season came, the lake water was reserved abundantly. Since it was scheduled to move on to capital city Phnom Penh from Siem Reap where the ruins of Angkor were, we decided to take a boat ride operated only in rainy season.
There were many people living on the water at the port area of Siem Reap. The stilted houses with too long legs for the dry season, lined up there.
The house was on the lake, so literally they were living on the water. Their basic transportation was by boat. But also some houses close to harbors were connected each other through piers.
After 30 minutes on board, the land was far away, and after an hour, the boat was completely in the middle of the lake. Unlike the sea, there were many green spots of water hyacinths floating on. Making baskets, bags, and other crafts by stems of water hyacinths is popular in Cambodia.

Land-like landscape had emerged in front after three-hour boat trip.
The lake, by narrowing its width, changed to be a river. Place by place, the landscape constantly contained silt houses lining up on the river-like lake.
Palm trees that looked out on the water with houses indicated that the land would be there in the dry season.
Small boats of shrimp fishing were floating around our boat. They waved their hands as usual.
Their smiles were bald and sturdy, including a lot of kids.
Not only houses, but also schools were on the water. Guessing from temples also on the water, there must be hospitals and public offices.

Wikipedia said that 60% of the protein intake of Cambodian consists of more than 600 freshwater fish species living in Tonle Sap.
Environment, which has extreme difference of the amount of water between in rainy and dry season, nurtured a unique ecosystem, with which good fishing site have developed. As predecessors noticed it, they had built up rational system of their lives.
Guessing from a big tower standing for, life in Cambodia is never primitive but life has continued to be passed down from generation to generation by manipulating modern amenity like TV or mobile phones.

We arrived at the port of Phnom Penh after six–hour boat ride excursion.
A quiet moment on the lake contrasted striking noise of crowd. Phnom Penh, still reminded simple rural life, appeared quite big city after all.

Yukio Ohashi

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