• Tara B. Vasi

Day 4: Boat ride to the Floating Village, Fried Tarantulas, Fish Ice Cream Sandwich

We had to be on the road by 7:30am, which was late for us, so I got up before my roommate and started getting ready. I woke up with at least ten to fifteen bug bites around my ankle and figured at least one would give me malaria. The feeding frenzy must have happened while I was writing at the coffee shop near the pool the night before.

I had bought some tiger bond and that stuff is good to relieve the itch, but in the mean time my ankles were swollen like a woman in her third trimester.

After brushing my teeth and using the toilet, I went to blow my nose with the toilet paper roll that we kept sitting on the back of the toilet, and accidentally dropped the whole thing in the toilet bowl. Toilet paper is a hot commodity in these parts, and we didn’t have an extra roll, so I had to go down the windy staircase to reception for another.

We had mainly packed our things the night before, but gathered our belongings to switch hotels and locations. Today we were heading by bus to the countries capital city of Phnom Penh and along the way, stopping at the “Floating Village” in the second largest fresh water lake in the world, Tonle Sap Lake. The first is Lake Superior of the Great Lakes in the USA. The total bus ride was around 8 hours.

We all met for breakfast at the “buffet”.

It was a much different buffet then the complimentary buffet we were provided during the Yoga Retreat at the Aonang Fiore Resort in Krabi, Thailand. I tried to catch up on some writing, so sat at a table off to the side with my laptop. Briny and Louu joined me when they arrived for breakfast. I wasn’t hungry at that hour so I kindly asked the lady to hard boil me a few eggs and then grabbed a few bananas to take away. I opted for coffee and it came in a pot like drip coffee but definitely more resembled mud then rich caffeinated goodness.

I extended a dollar to the lady, who specially made the eggs for me, but she blushed and said no no no, but I said please please and tucked it in her apron tied around her waist.

I ran to the coffee shop down the street, Gloria Jeans, and grabbed a cappuccino, because otherwise I would not have been able to carry on with the day. Coffee usually come in one of two ways, Instant coffee packets (Super Rich), or espresso machine coffee cocktails like latte’s or cappuccinos. I usually opt for cappuccinos because it sounds more badass then a latte though I don’t really know the difference between them but Im pretty sure its in the composition of the milk in top.

I took a dramamine anticipating the boat ride later, but also anticipating my tendency for carsickness when I write or read or anything in the car and I had the urge to write my blog in the bus during the ridiculously long ride to the capital city.

We arrived at the “dock” and were told to use the “happy house” or bathroom now because we wouldn’t have another opportunity until we came back. The amoxicillin I got in Krabi that I was taking for my sickness definitely affected my stomach, I may even be slightly allergic?, so I took his recommendation as a blessing.

The boat was long and narrow and had two decks, an upper and a lower deck, and because it was so incredible hot the majority of the group opted for the shade except a few brave souls who I know burned there ass on the blue plastic top when they sat down.

A few of the boys were even more hungover today then they were yesterday at Angkor Wat and I tried not to judge them for not learning their lesson.

The boat had tires for bumpers and a crew of three. The boat did not move very fast, but that was probably because we had many passengers. The boat ride to the Stilted Village was about an hour and then another half hour to the Floating Village. Smaller boats zipped by us and were often operated by children.

The children would wave back if we waved to them, but the older men would not. The houses were essentially shacks on top of stilts, lifting the houses high because the water level changes drastically.

Half the year the tide is very low and the water is brown, and the other half the water is so high it sometimes even floods the homes. The water level was the highest in 2011 but has dropped significantly in the last few years because of global warming.

We visited with a woman and her family in the Stilted Village. Sochea knows her son and she has welcomed us into her home.

They don’t waste anything. If they don’t finish there rice with their meal, they place it out to dry and feed their chickens.

That’s Bryony. Apparently I have been spelling her name wrong. So American of me.

There were holes in the floor where you could see the water below and there were barely any walls so that you could see into your neighbors home in all directions. There were no bedrooms and while we were there we saw lizards and cockroaches roaming around on the floors.

There was an area for cooking, an area for washing, and a bathroom with just the bare minimum inside. There were a few hammocks and a few beds. We met the 85 year old grandmother who was a nun. It is very challenging for a woman to be a monk, so many of them become nuns instead. Her teeth were red and I asked what that was about. Apparently women over 35 casually chew leaves and nuts instead of tobacco and the nuts turn their teeth red.

When the water is very low you can walk or motor bike on the earth around the village, but when the water is high the motorbikes are put away and people travel just by boat. We watched as children played in the water across the street.

We headed to the floating village. There was a Vietnamese language school and a floating supermarket. You could see into everyones home, so at one point I saw a woman anther baby on a hammock, but the mother was on a phone. It was very confusing. I asked Sochea if they had electricity and he said that some of the people had solar panels or used car batteries or generators to generate electricity.

The people in the floating village are more poor then the people in the Stilted Village, but living in a stilted home is just the Cambodian way of life. The people that live in the mainland typically have more money, but not that much more. It all depends on what they do for work, and the people that live on the water are the fisherman that provide fish for the whole area. Some of the floating houses had to be moved when the water got too low because the home did not sit level was so inhabitable.

Cambodian people typically live in the same village their entire life, though some people move to Thailand where they can make a little more money to send home to their families.

We drove all the way to the lake and the driver pointed towards the horizon and noted that you could not see the other side. Cambodia families were in boats eating lunch and Sochea said they often pack picnic lunches and come to lake for fun.

The floating village wasn’t exactly what I expected. I expected more of a New Jersey Shore Boat Tie up party, but with less boob and alcohol.

On the boat ride back to the dock, I took a good old fashioned, I’m flying Jack, I’m Flying, photo then I sat on the helm of the boat and closed my eyes so that I could take it all in.

Check out that wing span.

These people had virtually no money, but they were so incredibly happy. Did they know how life was in the USA? The Cambodia people didn’t go to yoga in the AM, didn’t just swing through a Starbucks for a coffee, or make up a salad at a Whole Foods Salad bar. They didn’t go to the movies, or concerts, or fly to other countries to learn about different cultures. The fact that they had a phone with the internet was huge for them.

The pace of life is so different the USA and it makes you extremely grateful for the life we have been BORN into. Though its safe to say that some American people lack the gratitude for all that we have in comparison.

We stopped for lunch at the Prey Pros River.

The rest stop was originally the home a husband and wife, but because so many people traveling through knocked other door asking to use the restroom, the wife encouraged the husband to build a rest area and restaurant for the travelers.

We ate in a little hut on the river. At the end of the row of huts there were water buffalo grazing in the marsh land.

The hungover boys couldn’t eat lunch and I offered them all a boat load of sympathy and a pepto bismo.

We rode for another few hours and stopped at another rest area where they sold fried tarantulas. A few of the people in the group tried a leg, but I fully passed, because I love spiders and eating them seemed wrong. Here are some photos of other disgusting things they were selling at the market.

The last photo is of the tarantulas.

Sochea told us not to engage with the children, especially the ones selling things, because they often worked almost like slaves for men who would take all the profit from anything they sold. I did not “engage” but I did give an extra dirty one a lollipop and he lit up with joy.

We knew when we were getting close to the city because traffic increased. There are no real lanes and everyone just goes where they want when they want. There are traffic lights that count down the time you have to wait and most everyone goes when it gets to 3 or 2. The city of Phnom Penh was WAY different from Siem Reap. I’d say its more similar to Bangkok in the way that there are TONS of people and high hotels and other buildings. No one seemed to have road rage. It was just organized chaos and everyone seemed ok with it.

We finally arrive at our destination, Hotel G- Eleven. I am assigned my own room and its located up three flights of stairs. 146 VIP. The room has one massive bed that is comprised of a queen bed and a double bed and I decided I was going to starfish the hell out of it.

The bathroom didn’t have a shower, but instead a large tub and I wasn’t sure how that was going to work, because I definitely was not going to get into that thing for a bath.

We pretty much dropped our stuff in our room and met back at reception for a walk and dinner. We walked by the Royal Palace and along the Mekong river.

There were tons of people out, picnicking and selling food out of their tuk tuks. At first I was thinking, what day of the week is this? It must be a weekend, and then realized it was Thursday and this is how the city center is EVERY NIGHT.

We went to dinner and everyone was so tired we barely spoke to each other, except to discuss that I should not get a massage and walk home by myself that night. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a store for water. I was eying this Fish shaped ice cream sandwich with Strawberry jam inside but decided I was too full and maybe id get it tomorrow. I walked towards the cue (the Brits are really having an effect on me) and stood there like a turd, and then said, EFF it, there might not be a tomorrow and went back to get my fish ice cream sandwich.

It started to rain lightly and then turned to down pour. All of the vendors quickly packed up their things. I walked back to the hotel, though some people ran. I savored each bite of my delicious desert and did not give one hoot about the fact that I was completely drenched.


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