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Published: September 5th 2007
The torrential rain last night had created a small lake outside our bedroom window and the local frog population had moved in keeping us awake all night with their load croaking. During the morning the local children came to paddle in the filthy muddy water squealing with delight as they played.
We visited the local market in Siem Reap to buy tomatoes and couldn't quite believe what we saw. In the oppresive heat and semi darkness were pigs heads, disgusting looking offal and chunks of fatty meat all crawling with flies. The smell was foul. Moving onto the vegetable section was not much better, most of the produce was in a worse state than stuff I throw away at home!
Back in our room we struggled with a 2 inch pen knife to make cheese slice and tomato baguettes,something we would be really glad about later.
We jumped in a tuk tuk to visit the floating village on Tonle Sap Lake. As we sped along the suberbs of Siem Reap we began to see just how poor these people are. One room flimsy houses built on stilts on the river bank with the occasional water pump outside, no
sign of any sanitation.
As we got closer to the lake it got worse, these houses had no fresh water pumps and were even more flimsy. Several occupants lay around on the floorboards on reed matting, the luckier ones in hammocks. Several times we saw people de-lousing each other. As the large tour coaches sped past our tuk tuk, clouds of dust covered the occupants and their homes. I couldn't help thinking that to travel there by coach was so unfair. Even sat in out tuk-tuk I felt uncomfortable as they watched us pass by but at least we weren't covering them with dust and dirt.
We transfered onto a taxi boat and unbelievably conditions got even worse. All these poor people could do was sit and watch us 'rich' Europeans sail by. Our guide, a 10 year old boy, pointed out a floating school, a basketball pitch and a church. Apart from this there was no sign of any recreation, not even any where they could walk really. The river and lake water was a thick muddy brown colour and it was obvious this was their drinking water, washing water and toilet.
We arrived at the
Market in Siem Reap
The air was rancid and the heat oppresive. Flies crawled around on the pigs heads
floating restaurant, our little guide seemed very proud of it. I wasn't so sure. We decided we would eat our precious baguettes in the tuk tuk on the way back to town and forgo a meal here! As we wandered around, we were glad of this decision as I saw the restaurants plates being washed in a stagnant part of the lake along side the crocodile farm.
We got back on our boat and carried on sailing by the floating houses.
We'd read about the floating village being a bit of a tourist trap so I had expected everything to be false. There was nothing false about this, just some organisation selling tickets to make a quick buck with no consideration for the feelings of the people trapped in these terrible conditions. There were hundreds of families living in these houses, our little guide told us that a lot were Vietnamise people but he wasn't able to explain why they were here in Cambodia.
When we got back in our tuk-tuk I'm ashamed to say I felt a sense of relief to be leaving it all behind. I'd given all our spare change to our guide to 'help
Inside the Market
The More Touristy bit
his school' as he said but it was just a drop in the ocean, there was so much poverty. It would be nice to think that some of the 20 dollars we'd each paid for our tickets would go to the people who needed it but sadly I doubt it did.
On our way back to town it began to pour with rain, the tuk-tuk driver stopped and let down the canvas sides to keep us dry, then donned a huge poncho himself and we were on our way again. The local people seemed oblivious to the rain and carried on their day to day life.
The rain carried on throughout the afternoon. During our evening meal two little girls came begging us to buy roses, they were dressed in only pyjamas and were wet to the skin, their bare feet paddling in the gutter. We gave them a dollar each and were rewarded with huge smiles and bows.
We finished the evening by getting chatting to two fun guys from Australia. Toby was from Melbourne but Simon was originally from Carlton in Nottingham, (where Wendy my sister lives). It’s a small world!
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