Thursday, 5 September 2013

Journal - Kampong Phluk - Sunday 11 November 2012

I was so excited.   We were going to Kampong Phluk, another floating village on Tonle Sap lake.  We had to travel much further on the lake to reach the village.  Tracy had been invited to lunch by a local Cambodian, Sot.  It was his family house, and we were all going.   I was thrilled to be included.    Of course, we had to bring the food, as a local family could not be expected to feed all these foreigners!

We needed two tuk-tuks to carry us all.   It was about an hour and a half drive to the boat hiring place on the edge of the lake, and then half an hour by boat to the actual village.   The price for the boat had to be negotiated with the senior boat man, and he allocated a boat and driver to us.  

The men in our group were pleased that we had bargained successfully and got a good price.   But we soon realized that we were on the slowest boat as everyone else whizzed past us, and then we discovered that we had a time restriction and would have to leave Kampong Phluk as soon as we got there.   A few phone calls back to the manager were required and we had to pay more!!

The houses in this floating village were all on stilts, no houseboats here.   It was laid out just like a normal village.  There were main traffic routes, and then smaller side roads, and little alleyways.   Sot’s house had a side road out front, and an alleyway out back where the neighbours were much closer.  Both entrances had ladders down to the water.  The front one, had two additional landings on which animals were kept, a pigpen and a chicken coop.  

The house was fairly open plan, but with sections that could be divided by curtains, and there was one area that was more permanently enclosed, but I’m not sure what it was used for.  The floor inside was solid planking with a few gaps – not like our school house!  Outside on what I am calling the front, there was an area that was used for general living, with a couple of hammocks, and the kitchen.   The kitchen had a different flooring, which was more open to with lots of gaps to allow scraps and rubbish to fall through to the water below.

It was hard to differentiate, but I think there were 3 families living in the house.   There was a grandmother who had lived through the Pol Pot years, that Tracy was hoping to interview, but she was off at the Buddhist temple.    The Cambodian ladies got busy preparing the meal.  The foreigners weren’t allowed to get involved, so I busied myself taking photos of village life from the back door, and playing with the children.    

This is a photo of some of the neighbours. 

First course for lunch was raw shrimp from the lake and chilies.  The idea was to wrap a shrimp in a green leaf and pop it in your mouth!   I tried to find the smallest shrimp and the biggest leaf, and then declined anymore.   I thought it was too risky!   The chicken and rice that followed was more to my liking.

After lunch, we went by boat to a jetty area where all the Cambodians hang out on the weekends.   It was really strange, like the first stage of a big building, just the beams.  So people would perch on and hang off the beams, and dive into the water.  We weren’t that brave.  After all the village wasn’t that far away, and we were aware of what was being thrown into the water!

All too soon, it was time to make the boat trip back.   What chaos awaited us.   I hadn’t realized how many people were out on the lake, and all return to one central point, and then down one narrow track to the main road.  What a  traffic jam! Apparently there had been a major festival celebrated at Grandma’s Buddhist temple, and there were so many tourist buses blocking the way.  Just the traffic would have been nightmare enough, but add to that heat and dust, and there were some very unhappy people about!

We ran out of petrol on the way back, but this wasn’t the problem I thought it would be.  Someone appeared very quickly with petrol in a plastic container and sold us enough petrol to get home!  Apparently this is normal. 

The left over shrimps came home with us.  I was perturbed as they had sat in the sun for a large part of the time, and were covered in dust from the ride.   

When we got home, we were too exhausted to go out.   Had toast and peanut butter for dinner – definitely didn’t want the shrimps.   Claire would have been horrified.   She had calculated exactly how many slices we were allowed to eat each day, and we were most probably eating our breakfast!

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