With a lazy start to what would become a rather eventful day it was a perfect start after the other early mornings thus far. A nice stroll into town via the heel toe express allowed us to take in the sights and smells,which make this place special in its own right. A locks and bagel, ham sandwich, coke, long black, and topped off with the LARGEST macaroon in Asia was a great meal to start the day.
Later we gathered to meet our bus to the next adventure 4-wheel ride (quad bike) through the villages and rice fields, that explains the fast. We met at the venue and got the safety briefing (hard to believe with all the sights we have seen). The ride started like any other 4x4 ride and vastly reality hit us on the face and we saw the Cambodian life just outside our flat. Every passing school kid we saw just grinned and waved hello and goodbye to this foreigner that seemingly and really left them in the dust. Dirt road after dirt road and shanty after shack all our worries and troubles seemed so small in these moments. The tour was put on by Cambodians, and obviously took the same route every time. As soon as the kids would hear the bikes they would run to the streets and wave.
Soon we arrived at a temple, while we wanted to explore more temples, we took ourselves out to the reality outside the walls. We smiled and took pictures of the locals, while sharing their daily struggles that were not so small to our first world dramas. Do they really have the secret to life? There is no measuring contest, no "keeping up with the Jones'," I am not sure about you, but that sounds pretty good.
We went along to a rice paddy that had its own water buffalo cow and she too was as happy as a pig in slop. The ducks scrambled around splashing here and there, while the baby calf in the next paddy nursed its mother with tail a wagging. Time seemed so still and frozen back in time about 100 years ago with the simplistic life all around. Hopping back on the bikes we flew though field after field throwing dust into the wind. With every bump and turn came a ooh and a wee! After a bit we traveled back to the base and washed off the dust, and a shower was much needed back at the flat.
We strolled though town after a quick rinse off to find this amazing Cambodian/coconut dish to die for. I actually wanted to lick the bowl, but decided against it. Pondering after the ride and the sights we thought more about the future and where we would be. As the meal ended we readied ourselves for the "floating village adventure. We met with the guide and he drove us 1.5 hours out of the city to the 3 square mile lake. Along the way the sights of the boney cows and the brown grass left you wondering and pondering life further. Along the way we drove down this narrow highway (a one lane road) that was eye opening as you would see piled trash on the side of the road while seeing shacks with people laying out tarps on the already crowded road to dry their freshly harvested rice. The houses were shacks with bamboo floors, but the people were happy and full of life in the what seemed like so far back in time. Wooden ladders climbed up to each house some steeper than others.
As we arrived to the lake there was evidence of how aggressive the monsoon season is with the houses on stilts taller than most two and three story houses. The faces of the people headed down river to greater waters much like the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. The stares some with wonder and others with what seemed like hatred for being here in their land. Some boats filled to the brim with fish, shells, or other forms of food such as rice. They were headed to sell at the local market or dinner that night. Each fisherman and woman tired from their early morning and I am sure with no tea breaks during the day, they lay sleeping on their harvest.
Some of the houses on stilts had children that were smiling and laughing, while other children work to help their parents tend the crops, prepare food, or even wash the dishes. Similar chores we all complained about doing are all just part of survival for most of these kids.
The crops along the river were as tall as the cotton in August and as full as the rice fields look across the delta in the south. Every farmer had his own form of irrigation system and form of farm house along the river. Their only fertilizer is the monsoon season. As fast as the waters flood,the bare fertile ground is planted by each farmer. While their fields are not as manicured as we are used to seeing, every row is well manicured and taken care of like it was their prize possession. Both coming from an agriculture state that is the worlds largest producer of rice, it is a joy to see the many different ways it is grown.
Coming to the mouth of the river you are struck by the massive size of the lake ahead. The home of the floating houses. There is a cluster here and there with each cluster having its own community. You see a lady washing up her dishes to prepare the dinner out of the shallow lake water and a boat going from house to house delivering ice to cool down the Fishermans catch of the day. You look around and it reminds you of that movie Water World and how a village can survive afloat.
As the sun was setting it was a sign for us to head back up channel to the village on stilts. Going back up stream was just as impactful as the ride down, but this time you got a second glimpse into their simple and rather humble lives. Each child still had a smile bigger than the sea and each adult showed a sigh of relief the day was ending and they had provided or they would fish another day in hopes. Pulling into the village from our trip, the kids ran out to sell what they had made or what they were given to sell, but we had candy to share. Quickly they went from little hustlers back to kids just wanting candy, as most were thankful as others were greedy. There was one little girl that stood afar at a stare, and we couldn't help but to go over. After we gave her some candy she seemed to be the most grateful of all, as she reminded both of us how we were raised just the same to be kind, and thankful not to be running and demanding.
You can not help to take a bit away from this river ride as we both leave changed and thank God for what he has given us, and for the humble parents we were blessed to have. So say a little prayer for that village as when the monsoon season comes they will start the circle of life over again, but the dry season will last two more months and the lake will drop further.