Sunday, March 3, 2013

Citadel of the Women and a Floating Village

The temple Banteay Srei translates as "Citadel of the Women" and the legend is that the detailed, intricate pink sandstone carvings must have been made by women because they are too fine for the hand of any man.  Whatever the origin of the carvings, they are considered among the finest on earth and are certainly captivating.  That they have withstood the ravages of time for over one thousand years is incredible. 


We left Banteay Srei for the fishing village of Kampong Kleang on the northeast shore of Tonle Sap Lake.  Sky, our guide, explained that there are really two types of dwellings in the village, "floated" and "floating".  Floated structures are erected atop towering bamboo poles and look like something from a science fiction movie set.  In rainy season, the river rises to the base of the dwellings, hence the term "floated".  By contrast, floating dwellings actually float year-round on Tonle Sap, clustered together and anchored to bamboo poles wedged into the muddy bottom of the lake.  There is even a floating grocery store of sorts stocked with staple goods.  

Floated Village
A fish trap

                                           Fishermen with casting nets lines the banks

The river is everything to the people who live here and fishing is their way of life.  The poverty is obvious--no running water, no sanitation system--and tourism is just beginning to poke its way into the community.  I expect that its otherworldly charm will soon be discovered and they'll plop open a restaurant, a bar, and a souvenir shop hawking T-shirts and trinkets.  For now, though, a journey to Kampong Kleang feels like a journey into the past and a totally different way of life. 

                                               The Floating Village comes into view

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