Monday, 14 April 2014

Floating In Cambodia

Floating village houses  in Kampong Phluk, Tonle Sap, Cambodia

Some of the best moments on my Indochine trip last December was spent on a boat. Apart from the slow cruise down the Mekong River, a river that spans 5 countries, the one truly memorable day was the morning at a floating village called Kampong Phluk on Tonle Sap.

Tonle Sap is such a big lake, you will think you are looking at an ocean when you are floating in it on an aimless boat whiling the afternoon away.This lake is unusual in that it flows in opposite directions during the different seasons. As a result, the lake expands and shrinks dramatically depending on the time of the year.

In the dry season, the tide on its tributary is so low that no boat can pass. Once the wet season arrives however, the stilts disappear and the houses look like they float on water; the lake swells so much that it floods the surrounding forests and fields, providing a great breeding ground for fishes. 

Fishing traps underneath a floating house

In 1997, Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia and an ecological hotspot was designated as a UNESCO biosphere.

Lady harvesting shrimps from nets on boat

As one might expect, Kumpung Phluk's economy is based primary on fishing, in particular shrimp harvesting.

Vertical Hydroponics Garden

A floating store or boat selling household goods

Accessible only by boats, villagers try to be as self sustaining as possible, growing their own vegetables in hydroponic gardens, making pig pens out of old boats and of course, farming fishes and other available sea lives. For all other goods, they rely on floating stores of wares and fruits, meats and rice.

Town Hall



A cluster of three villages of houses on stilt, Kumpung Phluk is built on a floodplain about 16km off Siem Reap. The villagers are mainly Khmers and there are about 3000 of them. 

A child, barely 6 years old, rowing a boat

Returning from School

On a House Boat

That morning though, I think I barely saw 300 of them, mostly women and children. I still see them, barely out of baby-hood, precariously but deftly moving from boats to boats; the women performing back breaking chores, their children at their shoulders as they rowed and carried, cooked and gathered.

The lady rowing my boat

Kumpung Phluk's growing popularity for tourists nonetheless meant new job opportunities. We lunched at a nice restaurant waited by locals who could speak English, walked through the flooded forest on sturdy board walk built by carpenters and rode on small sampans through the mangrove paddled by the young mothers.

Mangrove forest as we drift in and out the trees on our small boats

And even though I do not envy them their lives, my half hour on that slow boat, weaving through the trees and watching the dancing lights, did make me wonder if I would like a life like this. 

Perhaps only as a passing ship....

What about you, my friends, will you like it?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

My Trip Away

Siem Reap,Cambodia -En route to Kampung Pluk Fishing Village

It was a trip I had planned since August last year. I did not know then that this was to be a trip of farewells. 

Luang Prabang, Laos- Village Near Kuang Si Waterfall

For some of you, my absence might have appeared like some sort of a goodbye here as well. Really, I was just coping with what I thought were the endings and thus new beginnings. 

Luang Prabang, Laos- A Monk School

The Dalai Lama once said "No beginning, no ending". 

Perhaps there was no need for goodbyes,  just a new way of saying hello. Or maybe some endings are necessary so that we may lay a firmer foundation for a fresh start.

Pak Ou Cave- Along the Mekong River

Whatever it is, I am blessed with many friends who wondered when I wandered. 

Dear friends, you make coming home sweet.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Day 412- Worn Shoes

I have a pair of ballet shoes that look like they are 100. 

But in them, 

you can still hear the music

and see the grace

feel their passion. 

So I kept them, this pair of shoes. 

Worn, empty but more significant than ever before. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Day 412- Elevating The Mundane

Mundane is when you start having to worry about laundry. 

But it does not mean there is no art involved

or meaning

or the celebrating of genius. 

Laundry day at the abandoned house is every bit art, meaning and genius as it is ordinary.

With the brilliant yet simple contraption made by my friend Remcodrying on the retractable rack are moments of marvel at its inventiveness and engineering prowess, the precision of each solder. 

Now do you see Remco's milk carrier right beneath the drying rack? That is to be my bottle garden of natural dyes. There will be little babies of dahlias and french marigold, rosemary and hibiscus. What is there not to love I ask, of this everyday object,  right down to every rusty bits. 

Finally, there's the tub, a gift from my friend Eva. A lotus pond in the making perhaps? But for now, it makes the chore of washing one of smiles and nostalgia for it reminds me  of all the times I have the pleasure of spending with her. 

Here's a thank you to my friends, for making washing day at the abandoned house  a really special day.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Day 411- She's Here!

As a matter of fact, she's been there sitting in a little corner at my office since Monday, 11 November 2013.

She came snugly packed in this box

which was in turn secured in this one.

Now tell me, how can anyone not be excited when you see such a huge box delivered to your doorstep?

I saw her back first with the half hidden OM tattoo.

Then, that by now familiar smile.

I carefully fixed her on the stand as I was instructed to do

and I turned her this way and that.

I played with her hair a lot as I am wont to do with my own. 

Hers was much softer though and lovely to the touch.

And I marvelled at her apron 

which looked so like mine.

She has paint stains everywhere

and she is really messy when she works. 

So like me that way

and many,


other ways. 

From that bowl of threads

to my pair of straw slippers from Japan,

the view outside,

and the blue bird in her hand,

they are all my stories re- told  in such magnificent yet precise ways.

So here she is, Ren,

a very happy pair of us.

Saying a big thank you

heartfelt and afar.

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