because we finished the small tour of angkor wat earlier than planned, sokha recommended we visit floating village, NOT to be confused with the floating markets of bangkok. i made that mistake and i was in store for a real eye opener, but one that was the most emotional of the trip so far.
along the way i had a chance to jump out and visit one of the many rice fields outside siem reap. top left is a walkway to a worker's home in the background. his home consisted of a few shirts hanging on a stick, a propane tank to heat water, firewood, one blanket and various pots and pans. that's it. bottom left is a group of kids trying to sell beer/soda/water to us.
approximately 5,800 residents live on houseboats along the waterway on the tonle sap lake, which connects to the mekong river originating in the himalayas. this village is among the poorest housing projects in all of SE asia, in that locals struggle to obtain the bare necessities to live. the many who can't afford clean water simply drink from the muddy lake. food, clothes, school for children - all of these are no guarantee here, so it's a triumph of the human spirit that this community can maintain such a richness of life with so little.
here's where we boarded our long boat to cruise along the floating village, and the young chap in the hat is our guide net. net is only 17 and is the youngest of 8 children, all of whom live in the village. it's hard to believe, but he makes $20/month working the boats everyday and uses virtually all of the income to afford morning classes (which include english) in siem reap. bottom left is his plaintive-looking school and opposite that are typical of the houses along the waterway...
the boat takes us out to a floating fish market, restaurant and crocodile farm that lie about 40 minutes from the harbor. on the way there, a boat carrying a middle-aged woman and a girl of no more than 8 sidles up next to us, then out jumps the girl onto our boat! at first i thought we were under siege pirates of the caribbean-style, but she was selling coke and various fruit in hopes of obtaining any additional income. it's really heartbreaking to see how little they have and it really puts things into perspective back home. i know it's difficult to compare because we're in totally different situations, but when you're actually confronted with it, it's a terribly sobering thought. how can one not be mindful of just how wasteful of a country we are and how much excess we actually have?