This was one of the most rewarding days on this adventure. An 8a.m. start saw us board our boat, complete with packed lunch, for the 9 hour trip down river to Siam Reap. This was a welcome break from road travel and promised to give us an insight to the completely different lifestyle of those living along the banks of, or on, the river.The river is basically divided into three, the upper section where the villages are static and the population farm rice,
sugar kapok whilst on the water there is a healthy fishing industry and boatloads of firewood, going up river from the lake, or bamboo going down river are to be seen depending on the season. There are no bridges and a variety of ferries operate along the way.The middle section is the flood plain. There are no permanent villages here and people come and farm rice, jute and vegetables as and when the weather permits. In the dry season, whilst we were travelling, the river becomes extremely narrow with banks of shrubs, reeds and grass, but lower down it becomes degraded swamp forest. There are quit a number of rare birds in this area. One then moves down, past the Wat Chheu Khmao (the black wood pagoda) Here we encounterd a village where a crocodile had escaped from the farm and all the inhabitants were engaged in trying to locate it. Apparently crocs reared in farms have no concept of hunting and die of starvation very quickly. After this excitement we continued towards the Tonle Sap great lake where the flood water rise up to 10 metres. This is a world of of fishing and floating villages, housing not only Khmer but Vietnamese, Chams and Chinese. There are about 150 different types of fishing tackle used in the area, from the huge raft-mounted lift nets (chhnuk) to line with a hook and cormorant feather. The Prek Toal sanctuary, an area of flooded forest is the most important breeding site for large water birds in Southeast Asia.
We finally crossed the corner of the Tonle Sap and headed up river to the landing pier to disembark and finish our journey, by way of a twenty minute bus ride, to Siem Reap.