We had a very special day visiting the amazing and surreal village of Kampong Phluck.
We travelled by boat towards Asia’s largest fresh water lake, Tonle Sap, on the way seeing young men and boys fishing in the muddy canal waters. Two women and their babies came on to our boat, with bags of raw meat to sell direct to the villagers of Kampong Phluck. We were asked first if it was okay, because these young women could not afford to pay for their own boat.
The canal was long and gradually widened as the flood waters merged the land into a vast lake, tree tops like floating bushes. How the boat driver knew where the canal route was I don’t know, but he steered us safely.
Eventually we came out into what looked like an open sea, no sign of any land ahead, only the odd fishing boat in the far distance and a lady selling refreshments from her canoe. I bought chopped mango for us and 25 packets of small biscuits to give out to the village children. We turned back towards the flooded landscape and came to a small cafe on stilts at the edge of the lake, where a picnic lunch was waiting for us.
A Cambodian lady at the cafe offered us a canoe ride into the village, where motor boats couldn’t go. Carefully we climbed down onto a very shallow canoe and sat crossed legged as we were steered through the flooded forest. Our boat woman knew her way and zig zagged our small vessel through the roots and trees smoothly to the Village of Kampong Phluck.
As we approached children appeared climbing out of their homes, scrambling down ladders, towards us skipping on to boats or swimming amongst the stilt poles, eagerly awaiting their treats.
All houses were high up on 6 metre stilts to avoid the monsoon flooding. In the rainy season it appears like a floating village, in the dry season dwellings are perched precariously on skeletal poles high above dry land.
The people are very poor and their daily lives focus on survival. All food other than fish and the few leaves grown in floating ‘nurseries’ had to come from the market on the mainland, one hour up the canal on a motor boat.
It was astonishing to see how the people lived and coped with family life, existing on so little in such difficult conditions. It was a very humbling insight into the lives of cheerful but vulnerable people.