Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Boat Journey from Battambang to Siem Reap

I've always loved boat journeys: something about the slower pace (you can guess what sorts of boats I prefer) and the moochy passage of time where you and your companions are gradually transposed from place to place; the chance to absorb the view and arrive more incrementally somewhere. This was just such a journey; seven hours to get to Siem Reap along the Sangker River and across Lake Tonle Sap. This lake is a natural flood barrier for the Mekong, absorbing its vast extra water volumes in the wet season and increasing in depth from 2m in the dry season to 10 metres and area from 2500-3000 sq km to 10-16000 sq km.

Our vessel was a simple fibreglass boat, possibly not meeting Western safety standards (didn't see any life jackets for instance) with an outboard motor with a long shaft before the prop-i.e.~3 metres. We were happy with our for'ad seats as the motor was very noisy.

We began in Battambang with maybe 50:50 local:tourist but by the end after picking up and dropping off along the way, the proportion was more like 80:20 local:tourist.

At first we journeyed along a fairly narrow river which eventually joined the Lake and passed floating villages until docking nearly at Siem Reap, which was finally reached by a 13 km tuk tuk ride. Along the way we saw close up how people live by, on and in the river, getting an up close and personal view of their daily lives. The photos speak for themselves really, so here's a snapshot of the trip.

You can see the rubbish, of which there is a lot. You have to wonder about the longer term outcomes of eating fish subject to this sort of pollution. Plastic bags are a scourge in Cambodia.

Not much freeboard here!

The toss

The landing

An idea of the volume of rubbish in some areas!

After seeing a few of these, we decided they were net lifters?

We picked up and dropped off lots of people along our way.

One of our two boatmen

Man at a floating shop

Teenagers gunning the motor, the same the world over!

Some were more gentle in their approach!

Some people went to lengths to decorate their homes

This reminded me of Van Gogh's fishing boats painting


  1. Great photos! The one you said you decided were net lifters - we saw many of these in operation in Kerala in India, and they are referred to there as "Chinese fishing nets". My husband got to help raise/lower one (the tourists like doing it, and the men whose nets they are think it's funny to get the tourists to do their work for them, so it's a win-win!).

    We also saw these all over Vietnam where they are decidedly NOT called Chinese fishing nets, because of the long-standing dislike between the Vietnamese and the Chinese. Not sure what they would call them in Cambodia!

    1. Thanks Amy! Sounds like Tom Sawyer painting the fence! They could probably get tourists to pay to have a go! We didn't see any in operation. Perhaps they are used more seasonally? I think the large volumes of fish are later in the wet season. Apparently they don't fish much between June and October, during spawning to allow the fish stocks to regenerate.


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