Leaving Siem Reap

17 11 2009

Monday 16th November 2009

Our new granddaughter Lisa

Sunday’s sermon from St Johns was all but downloaded onto the foyer internet computer at our hotel when the bus arrived to take us to the boat for Phnom Penh at 6.15 am. Hopefully someone in Cambodia will be curious enough to listen to a word preached in Launceston yesterday 🙂

Did I say bus? Actually it was an 11 seat van of indeterminate make and vintage which in Oz would only be licenced for 9 passengers. Maree and I were fortunate enough to sit in the front because by the time we picked everyone else up we had 14 passengers plus a great deal of baggage.

...and we were mostly heavyweights!

There were no gauges working on the dash board to indicate how the engine may have been coping with the load but Maree, sitting over the engine cover was convinced it was running very hot!

Surprisingly we made it to the boat by 7 am already feeling quite warm and headed off by quarter to eight down Tonlé Sap to Phnom Penh.

Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world, supporting over 3 million people and providing over 75% of Cambodia’s annual inland fish catch and 60% of Cambodians’ protein intake. It is an extraordinary and fascinating waterway with an annual divergence in size from 2,700 to 16,000 square km and well worth reading a bit about and seeing some more photos here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonlé_Sap

The whole trip took 5 ½ hours and we passed an amazing diversity of life on the lake and waterways. The boat left from the floating village of Chong Kneas and soon passed out into a wide stretch of water where the only thing we could see for a couple of hours was tiny floating islands of some sort of water lily and the occasional sight of locals busily pulling lines or checking nets. Our gaze was drawn across the smooth grey blue expanse of the lake which stretched out until it melded in a haze of cloud and sky broken only by the dots of distant fishing boats. The ride was very smooth with only the lightest of breeze to disturb the water. In fact we have not experienced more than a knot or two of wind for weeks. Siem Reap is particularly sheltered from the coast by the Cardamom mountains to the south, Thailand to the west, Laos to the north and Vietnam to the East.

About half way into the trip the lake narrowed down and we moved sometimes into narrower waterways which brought us close to land and habitation and sometimes back out into wider regions where we could see islands of vegetation, shelters, houses, fish-traps, nets and boats stretching into the distance. But everywhere the life of the lake revolved around people fishing.

Maree, who does not like boats, graciously endured the mode of transport for my sake but also appreciated the amazing divergence of life on the lake. We managed to score an area of the cabin which was spacious, air conditioned and comfortable. And Maree in her inimitable way attracted the friendship of a six year old with huge brown eyes who managed to keep her busy for much of the trip.

Frogs anyone? Footpath vendor in Phnom Penh

Slowly the housing on the river banks became more crowded until we found ourselves in the bustling city of Phnom Penh. The most challenging part of travel anywhere here is the point of arrival and departure where everyone wants to sell you drinks, food, transport or assistance. So we fought through the stressful arrival with the inevitable clamouring competition for, “Tuk-Tuk sir/madam… (We do not care if we never hear that phrase again!) Taxi sir…I carry your bags madam…”, refusing everything until we got to the back of the crowd where the offers are only marginally less strident, and chose a Tuk-Tuk driver who was less pushy.

Proud Parents Ben & Tori.

We must add that although we find the constant soliciting extremely tiring we understand that some of these drivers may get no more than one ride a day and that can pay as little as a $1 so they do need the business and on the whole they are very cheerful and polite.




4 responses

17 11 2009

You are certainly seeing a diverse style of living life will never be the same again after this trip…love mum

17 11 2009
Rosemary Brain

I’ve just had my daily dose of “The Hesketh Travels” It all sounds wonderful…
Blessings Rosemary

17 11 2009
Roger and Maree

…sounds medicinal! It most likely needs to be taken with a spoonful of sugar. Thanks for the encouragement,
Roger and Maree

20 11 2009
Joseph and Rachel

Glad to see that you all made it safely to PP. Sounds like the boat ride wasn’t too bad. I may have to give it a try sometime (without Rachel I am afraid). Thank you again for your kindness while you were with us here in Siem Reap. We really enjoyed the visits, your message on Sunday, and everything in between. According to Sokhom, the situation with his house resolved itself (apparently your presence and ours on Sunday AM convinced the authorities that they didn’t want to mess with us. 🙂

I am sorry about not giving you my email address. I didn’t realize that you were only seeing our blog page. Contact info is on the main page at jweyel.org.

God Bless,

Joseph Weyel

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