Siem Reap 3

13 11 2009

Thursday 12th November 2009

I am hoping that I have found about the only internet connection in Siem Reap that is working – and I have already tried quite a few – some that have failing power, others that start out ok and them die… we will see about this one…


Highway on a good moment traffic wise

The highway from Thailand to Saigon runs right through Siem Reap and travelling down it in a Tuk-Tuk as darkness falls is an experience we would rather not repeat. It wasn’t so much the busses, trucks, cars and motorbikes all sharing the road –we seem to have got used to that – it was the children riding pushbikes home from school amongst it all that terrified us. Speed variations of the traffic from 20 to 100 klm an hour means that there is constant overtaking on what is really a 2 lane highway and as I have said before that can mean anything up to 4 or 5 abreast at any given time. Quite a few of the motorbikes did not have taillights and the pushbikes have no lights at all – not even reflectors. children3There is a sort of cycle lane marked out towards the verge of the road but that is shared by motorbikes and Tuk-Tuks as they overtake one another. We would never allow our children to ride on such a road in the daylight let alone the dark.

VillageThen there is the amazing road practice of pulling from a side road straight onto a crossroad without stopping. Allow me to translate this to the familiar right hand drive (for Australians). Imagine you were coming from a minor road and wanted to turn right onto a highway – the method SthEast Asia would be thus: Don’t slow down too much as you come to the highway just turn hard right into the oncoming traffic even if at that moment it may be 2 or 3 abreast with bikes and cars.  children2Then having turned into the oncoming traffic slowly make your way through and across until you can merge with the lane going the same direction you want to go. The same happens when turning off a road across oncoming traffic to the opposite side. Instead of waiting in the middle of the road until oncoming traffic clears or stops and then turning across the lane to pull off, you pull early into the lane of oncoming traffic and move through the traffic, allowing it to narrowly avoid you to the right or the left until you are across the road and you can take your turnoff. I know it sounds unbelievable but this is not an exception – it’s the way it is done!Village

That brings me to why we were travelling down the Thai/ Vietnam highway. Today we headed out to a fascinating destination described in the tourist guff as a ‘floating village and a flooded forest’, about 45 minutes from Siem Reap. The village of Kompong Phhluk is built on soaring stilts about 7 metres high ensuring that the annual rise of Tonlé Sap lake does not threaten the scores of houses. Nearby is a flooded forest which is inundated every year when the lake rises to take the Mekong’s overflow.side street

So after a pleasant drive down the highway towards Phnom Penh we turned off down a track that would challenge the suspension of a trail bike and bounced and jolted along for 15 minutes or so until we came to a village where we hired a boat. From there we travelled through narrow weed choked canals surrounded by semi submerged bushes for half an hour until we came to Kompong Phhluk. Apart from the usual embarrassment we felt as rubbernecking tourists gawking into peoples homes and lives, the whole trip was absolutely enthralling. childrenWe stopped at one house where we were sold cold drinks and were then taken on by a smaller planked canoe-like local boat into the flooded forest. The boat was manoeuvred by a young woman using only a paddle in a seemingly effortless fashion. The place was enchantingly beautiful with sunlight playing on the reflected green of the trees in a silence only broken by the occasional bird song and lapping of water.forest2

The trip back began as we boarded our larger boat and motored back through a wonderland reminding us of pictures we have seen of the Florida Everglades. The sun was beginning to set across Tonlé Sap and the reflections were only disturbed by the occasional boat we passed, many of them returning to the village from fishing or collecting brushwood from the surrounding flooded land.boatforest




One response

13 11 2009

One can hardly believe that these sort of villages still exist, a real eye opener, wonder how our children would fare under such circumstances.

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