Thursday, July 4, 2013

What to Do in Cambodia, Tonlé Sap Lake

Hanoi, Vietnam -- (SBWIRE) -- 07/03/2013 -- The Tonlé Sap, Cambodia, is the name given to both the largest Lake in Asia and the river that feeds into the Mekong at Phnom Penh. The name actually means large fresh water river but is more often than not, translated as Great Lake. The truth is, it is a combination of a lake and river system. It is as complicated as a waterway could be in many ways. Such is the difference here between the dry and the wet seasons, that the lake swells beyond all recognition as the flood waters pour in. Throughout the dry season it covers and area of just over one thousand square miles and has a depth of only about 4 feet. However during the monsoon, it rises to an incredible 30 feet and covers an area of over 6,000 square miles.

As it floods, the contents of this mineral rich water is deposited over a huge area, bringing the nutrients and irrigation that feeds an enormous number of people. Large areas of this part of Cambodia are taken up by rice farming. The farmers work in traditional ways that have remained unchanged for centuries. The rice here is of exceptional quality and although conditions are sparse, the way of life is secure.

The other quality of this waterway that makes it unique, is the fact that the directional flow of water in the Tonlé Sap River changes direction. The mighty Mekong River that feeds the lake, gathers monsoon water in huge quantities as it makes its way through the Himalayas and the countries of China, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, on its way into Cambodia. As this immense amount of water converges with the Tonlé Sap it forces the river to change direction. The River actually flows upstream away from the sea. As the Mekong subsides in the dry season the position is reversed and the Tonlé Sap flows in its normal direction emptying into the Mekong.

The amount and quality of fresh water fish in the lake is extremely good and fishermen here make a living, again, in a traditional way. The famous Tonlé Sap lake floating village here is kept fed by the activities of the fisherfolk. These villages are amazing places. Houses, shops, schools, temples, police stations and even basketball courts are built on rafts and boats. At different times of the year they simply move to a more suitable location on the lake.

Boat trips around the lake run from near Siem Reap. Such is the movable nature of things, the piers are 4 miles from the lake in the dry season and right at the waters edge in the wet. It is a remarkable place, completely unique and fascinating in every detail. The Tonlé Sap is a truly remarkable place.

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