With another early start, Jess and I were off to see the Floating Villages of Siem Reap. Driving through the country side, we got a bit of a taste of rural Cambodian life. Our tour guide explained that many hard working Cambodians get up at 3-4 am to start their day, fishing, farming, or building, but rest during the hottest part of the day, resuming work around 6 pm.
We first stopped at a lily farm. Our tour guide said that these flowers are sacred to Cambodians, and symbolize life. Rural Cambodian life is very transient, dependent on the rise and fall of water during the dry and wet seasons. Farmers come closer to the rivers and barays during the dry season, but seek higher ground during the monsoons.
The river was only a few feet deep when we visited. After a forty minute ride to the river, we got into a small boat that would take us further down the river to the floating village.
The houses are built on various floating material: the hulls of old boats, oil barrels, or bundles of sticks. As the level of the river rises from the 3-4 feet during the dry season up to 20 feet deep, the houses will rise with it.
Once in the floating village, we were delivered to a larger touring boat, that was essentially docked against the bottom of the lake, due to the shallow waters. There, we were given a beer and directed towards hammocks to enjoy the cool breeze coming off the lake.
We were served a traditional Cambodian meal, a soup called Tom Yum with sticky rice. After we ate, we were taking back up the river and into Siem Reap. Our guide briefly mentioned rain in the afternoon, to our surprise, so when we returned to the hotel for Wi-Fi, we discovered that rain was forecasted starting at 1 pm, through the night. While we had planned to visit a temple over an hour away from the city, riding in a tuk tuk in the rain did not sound pleasant, and renting a car and driver would have been out of our budget.
Instead, we got a car to take us to another, closer, group of temples, called the Roulous group. Compared to all we had seen, these temples were underwhelming, though two had active Buddhist monasteries at them, which were restoring and preserving them.
Back at the hotel, rain seemed to threaten, so we sat by the pool as long as we could, drinks in hand, napping and relaxing our sore and tired muscles from all the walking we had done. In a slow effort to move, we decided to grab dinner. As Cambodia had once been a French colony, french food had a strong presence. As one of our most expensive dinners, we savored our food as the flood gates finally opened, dumping rain and exposing leaks in the restaurant windows. Through a second glass of wine, the rain finally lightened up enough for us to don our ponchos and trek back to the hotel, fingers crossed the clouds would not dump again.