Sihanoukville is a coastal city in Cambodia. It's the third largest after Siem Reap and the capital Phnom Penh. Just like so many other cities in the country, it is full of small villages where people live in wooden shacks. Just beside the road, only a few meters from the beach, I found this group of houses.Read More
Southeast Asia is known for its lengthy rainy seasons. And when it rains, it RAINS. During the monsoon season, water pours for about half an hour at a time, but the volume is enough to flood everything. Days usually start with a beautiful blue sky, the suddenly turns to an apocalyptic gray. You barely have time to find shelter and hell breaks loose.Read More
Siem Reap is probably the most touristic city in Cambodia. There are several markets with little trinkets and cheap t-shirts where foreigners flock to get souvenirs. This is not one of them. This is an authentic Cambodian market, off the tourist path, where no one speaks English and all you can get are groceries and a hair cut.Read More
Cambodia is experiencing the worst drought in several decades. The water levels are so low that you can stand in the middle of the Siem Reap river with water at your knees.
During my visit, I had the chance to go to Chong Khneas, the closest and more tourist friendly water village in the Siem Reap area. I knew about the drought and didn't know what to expect once I got there.
Chong Khneas is located at the spot where the Siem Reap river merges into the Tonlé Sap lake. The area is known as a floodplain, as its size is reduced during dry season and floods back during rainy season. This place has been an important source of food for people in the area dating all the way back to the Angkorean civilization.
As a tourist destination, this place is packed with tour boats that charge $20 USD per person for a one hour tour of the village. They leave from the river and take around 20 minutes to arrive to the lake, where the village is.
A few thousand people live in Chong Khneas, although many have left because of the drought. Despite of what some may think, the structures actually float on the water and are not on stilts.
The city that floats has schools, shops and even a gas station. I was warned about the boat driver taking us to an orphanage and making us buy overpriced food for the children from their own shop. I still don't know if it's really a scam, as you may read online, but I feel safer donating through NGOs and other similar organizations. With so many children working in the area, my assumption was that these donations don't help keep kids in school and fed and I wouldn't be surprised if the food we buy goes straight back to the shelves to be sold to the next tourist. Here is a list of genuine ways to donate to these people.
The process of actually catching fish is simple, but the aftermath takes much more time and effort. Because of the drop in the water level, the Tonlé sap naturally carries away thousands of fish. The fishermen simply place cone-shaped nets into the water from their floating houses and then lift the net as soon as seconds later. - Wikipedia
Machu Picchu, Tenochtitlán, Heracleion. The list of lost cities found in jungles, deserts or under the sea by modern archaeologists goes on. Once myths, now part of history. El Dorado, Atlantis, Z and many others still fuel the imagination of dreamers who hope to one day stumble upon ruins.
The city of Angkor was never lost, per se, but so much of it's history has been forgotten that it's almost as it has. The Khmer Empire was the greatest on earth and to this day parts of it are still being unearthed.
Capital of the great Khmer Empire in the 12th century, Angkor must have been a magnificent place to be in it's time. With a population estimated at the time of more than a million people, it's total area was greater than today's Paris and has more stones than all structures in Egypt combined.
In Angkor (word that stands for capital in sanskrit) we find the symbol of Cambodia, pictured in the country's national flag, the Angkor Wat (Temple City or Pagoda City).
The Angkor Wat was the first temple I visited during my stay in large complex. It's the largest religious monument in the world covering 162.6 hectares of land and was built by Suryavarman II in dedication to the Hindu god Vishnu, the guy that unified the empire.
Cambodia is HOT and HUMID. I can't stress more these two words more without waking up the neighbors. Go early and take tons of water. I mean at least 3 liters per person. There will be vendors selling you stuff everywhere. Water is one dollar.
Here is a map so you can better understand the place.
It is truly a breathtaking experience to visit Angkor Wat. So much raw history right in front of your eyes and still so much to be uncovered.
What's next? Machu Picchu, Tenochtitlán, Heracleion? Maybe. If I'm lucky I might stumble upon Atlantis too.