Kampong Phluk, November 2015. The fascinating floating village of Kampong Phluk lies deep in the countryside of Siem Reap province, just a few hours outside the city. A sprawling community of three thousand people, many are fishermen, while those living a little further out farm for a living. Taking a day tour through a city agency, we set off in our minibus, got dumped off in the middle of rural nowhere, then followed our guide on foot to a waiting riverboat. Chugging across the murky brown water, we soon reached the village, an amazing stretch of stilted homes set at about nine meters above water level.
Kampong Phluk, November 2015. Passing many wooden homes and a village school, our first stop came at the community temple where we were able to jump off, look around and meet some of the locals. There were lots of kids milling about, along with a few opportunistic teachers who followed us around with heartfelt pleas to buy schoolbooks, pens and other stationery. The children were adorable, all shy, wide-eyed and polite, albeit a little sad looking. Our guide told us that although they did receive an education of sorts, the majority of Kampong Phluk kids focus on learning how to handle boats, fix nets and progress in the skills of carpentry.
Kampong Phluk, November 2015. The village’s dustbowl of a main street felt like something out of a wild-west movie, albeit some warped Asian version where there were no saloons and the locals laid out mats of freshly caught shrimp to dry out in the sun. It was so quiet, our guide told us, because most people were on the river working on their boats, or fishing further out at the nearby lake. All of which meant we were able to stroll down the street with ease, admiring the stilted wooden houses as a gaggle of children shot across the road with a rickety old bike.
Kampong Phluk, November 2015. During my walk down Main Street, these guys caught my attention sitting at the foot of the ladder that led up to their humble abode. The air was a little smoky from a nearby pile of burning rubbish, which is how the locals handle the problem of garbage control. The man was so serious-looking I was half expecting him to reprimand me for taking their picture. But as I gave him a thank you smile, he returned the gesture with a somber nod of his own before rising and heading up the ladder with his little one.
Floating Mangrove Forest, November 2015. Beyond the village lies the wide expanse of Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. There’s also an amazing floating forest, which you can be chauffeured through in a canoe for a five Dollar fee. It only takes fifteen minutes, but the trip is highly atmospheric and perfectly peaceful, not a sound to be heard but the paddles sloshing through the water as you glide among the gnarled trees, beams of sunlight slanting through the green canopy above.