On my way to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh I had the chance to stop and visit one very off the touristic route floating villages, in Tonse Lap lake. It is Kampong Khleang and so far the most unique and authentic Cambodian experience I have had.
I went out of the normal route to get to a flooded field, where I took a small boat to drive between the water streets that form some of the Cambodian floating villages.
People in this villages build their houses over hundreds of tall wood trunks, so during the wet season the water never reaches the house. They live in very basic conditions and most of them are fishermen.
Some of them have fish or crocodile farms just outside their house, in the water, that will sell in the market for a few dollars. Others have to spend all day in the lake, fishing tiny fishes and snakes, that will then be sold in the market for around $5 per kilo, in the best of the cases.
Now it is the dry season, so part of the village was not flooded, giving me the opportunity to have a walk in the only gravel street they have and see from inside how they live in Khleang.
When the fishermen come back to the village with their fishes and snakes, the women smoke them and put on the floor to dry. There are metres and metres of fish on the floor, and the smell is strong. Some barefoot children will pass by walking and, if there is any little fish on the road some centimetres away from the place they know that belongs to the fisherman, they will collect it, full of sand, and bring to their parents so they have something for dinner.
All children are very friendly. They love to see someone white speaking to them in English, and they love to wave and be waved.
Tourists are very rare in this village, so parents don’t force their children to beg when they see a foreigner.
They may not have shoes or use sandals 10 numbers bigger than their size, like the girl in the picture, but they have big hearts and smiles.
Today I have seen the other flip, I have visited Angkor Wat park. Tourists everywhere, children begging and trying to sell anything. That is not the Cambodia that I like, when the society has been spoiled by tourism.