Slow Boat To Tonlé Sap

In my recent post on Angkor Wat, I mentioned about exploring the rest of Cambodia. One of the best ways to see the heart of this beautiful country is to take a boat from the capital Phnom Penh to the northern city of Siem Reap.

The fascinating journey took me through the mighty Tonle Sap, South-East Asia’s biggest freshwater lake.  Uniquely, this lake will swell and shrink according to the seasons. During the dry period between November and May, it drains back into the Mekong River.

During the monsoon, the river reverses its flow and swells the lake by five-fold to around 16,000 sq km. The surrounding plains are flooded but the riverside communities have adapted to it, as they have for thousands of years. So to embark on this vovage one needs to go with the flow, literally. Now is the time!

Riverside Mosque

Riverside Mosque

My voyage begins at Phnom Penh. A majestic white mosque comes into view as the boat chugs its way.

River Life

River Life

Villages lined the long river and many are accessible only by boat.

Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve

Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve

The annual flooding changes the landscape and supports a diverse but delicate eco-system. Endangered wildlife such as birds, otters, crocodiles, turtles and other animals can be seen on the mangroves.

Father & Son Team

Father & Son Team

With a little help, it’s time to fish. Fishing for sustenance and livelihood is a primary activity during this period.

In The Middle Of Tonle Sap

In The Middle Of Tonle Sap

Dead center in the lake, the atmosphere is almost eerie. It is like being in the middle of the ocean with no coastline visible except the water is almost still here.

Reaching Siem Reap

Reaching Siem Reap

Near Siem Reap (and Angkor Wat), there is a lot of traffic again. Boats zig-zag in our path and locals jump between boats casually.

Satellite View Of Tonle Sap:

View larger map

All pictures photographed with the Olympus E-3 by & © TV Smith

Coming soon: Bus Ride From Phnom Penh To Saigon!

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