Tonlé Sap—“The Great Lake”—is the largest freshwater lake in S.E. Asia. It’s also a UNESCO biosphere, which aids in conserving its biological and cultural diversity. Thanks to the Mekong River, the lake has huge seasonal depth variations, around 30 feet (9 meters). It is said, during the wet season you can go onto the middle of the lake and not see anything around you. “Might as well be an ocean!” our guide exclaimed. However, during the dry season, when the lake is shrunk way, way down, the water is merely chest high and land a rock toss away. In addition to its dramatic depth changes, the lake is also unique because of its people. Tonlé Sap is a major food source for S.E. Asia. It supplies much of the region’s fish oils, for instance. It is because of that many people work on the lake and thusly, live on the lake.
Welcome to Kompong Phluk floating village! The lake shrinks down during the dry season creating some 16,000 square kilometers of land. If you were a fisherman and had a house along the shoreline during the wet season, the dry season would mean you’re far from it, and from the day’s catch, too. In order to roll with nature’s punches more easily, the people literally built towns on the lake. The Kompong Phluk villagers, who are mostly Vietnamese, live their lives moving, chasing not only the fish, but the water, too. People live their whole lives on the water. Furthermore, these floating villages (there are many scattered around the lake) have everything. Schools, grocery stores, bars and restaurants and slaughterhouses, too, can all be found on the water nestled to the tops of tall trees.
Hope you enjoy the pictures! Ashley snapped a lot of ‘em. There were too many good ones to choose from so we put a lot in a slide show at the end. We took a small time-lapse, too.