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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Siem Reap Diaries: Floating Village

In general, going around the temples for an "x" number of days can be exhausting and almost a chore. This is what most people know as temple-fatigue.  Some of you may feel the need to see other sights in order to break the seeming monotony of these spiritual monuments. On our last day in Siem Reap, after having reached the ceiling of our temple visit, we decided to visit Chong Kneas, a floating village on the famous Tonle Sap Lake. It is an interesting day trip that may change your own perspective on what it means to have a simple life. Or Maybe Not. 

I must warn you though that this "tour" may feel like an annoying "tourist trap". No one told us that before you actually enter this village, you will need to pay $20 per person (and that includes the one-hour boat ride). We were expecting this trip to be cheaper but we thought wrong. We left most of our money in the hotel room but it was a good thing we brought enough to pay for the entrance fee. The twenty-dollar fee was pretty high, even in western standards.

After passing scenic rice fields and miles of dirt roads, we arrived in our destination with much anticipation. We were given one whole boat just for me and my sister. The driver of our boat was a young lady, who almost never uttered a single syllable during the duration of our trip. She only nodded and smiled every time I asked her something. 

For one hour, the boat will take you around the floating villages that show you a different side of Siem Reap. I was impressed to see that each house literally had everything you could imagine-- from pans to chicken and pigs. It was a thriving community and each of them had a role to play.  I could not believe that this was the way of life for the people here. Poverty is not new to someone living in the Philippines but I had never seen a floating village like this up close.  I had so many questions in my head like "Are they happy here? Do they have a sewage system? After visiting the city, do they still come back to this way of life? 

Across from where I am standing is the village's school. I heard a lot of people being scammed when they visited orphan kids here but we never had that experience. Those people were asked to buy a sack of rice worth $50. 

At the end of your trip, you are brought to another place where you can see crocodiles and buy souvenirs. They even serve food here. Some people may feel like this is another tourist trap (I read a lot of complaints on TripAdvisor). From my end though, tourists come here to help the people of Cambodia. Tourism always provides jobs and creates awareness. If you don't want to be generous, then it's up to you. No one is forcing you to give or buy anything.

Who wants to try this energy drink? Spiked with Cobra and Scorpion.

Life has so many facets and this is only one of them. Poverty is a reality and I do hope they get the help they need from the government. If there was something important that I learned from this trip, the people of Cambodia have the same resilience as Filipinos. They know how to adapt and survive. I would like to express that I have more respect for a community that takes pride in having a simple life. There is a certain detachment from the modern world that makes people more content. Perhaps, learning to simplify some aspects of our life may be an ingredient to what could be elusive for most people - happiness.  It could be true that the less we have, the happier we become.

So, is this place still worth visiting or not? Well, it is not on my must-visit destinations but seeing this corner of the world might be an eye opener. Just be prepared to pay a few bucks and be smart about not falling into those traps.


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