Lake Tonle Sap is only a short drive from Siem Riep. A small ten-seater long boat takes us from the edge of a canal all the way into the lake and onto a bigger boat (the Tara) for sunset dinner and drinks. It sounds all very contrived but the execution of this adventure is quite good.
I sit on the front of the small boat allowing a cool wind blowing in my face and the sights of floating villages all around. These villages are home to stateless Vietnamese people. There’s a history on Wikipedia that explains the circumstances of how this group of people ended up on the lake. So I’m not going to focus on that. There are also Khmer villages on the lake but we don’t go to those on this trip.
Everything we do on land, they do on the water. From growing vegetables and chickens to going to school. From playing pool or snooker in a bar to selling goods in shops. You name it, the residents of the floating village do it. The children even paddle their boats home from school. Some day dreaming. Some taking responsibility for younger siblings. And others bouncing their boats in the waves.
Out on the lake proper we take in the first colours of sunset. It’s always stunning to watch the lowering of the sun reflect on a large body of water. And it’s so peaceful to sit here after the hustle and bustle of Siem Riep town. Drinks and food are provided on the big boat. It’s nestled between the tree tops with a stunning view to the west and south. Our small group sit together sharing a meal, talking about our various experiences. What more could anyone ask for. With the setting of the sun light bulbs start to turn on at the houses around us. Bare yellow bulbs both attract bugs and shimmer prettily on the black water. I feel sad to leave the big boat (but happy to get a reprieve from the mosquitoes).
Slowly and in darkness we return to the bus. I dangle my legs over the side (but not into the water), wishing we could just do this all night long – potter around the black lake with stars shining above.