Monday, September 12, 2011

Waterworld

Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.  During the dry season, it's only about one meter deep and 2700 square kilometers, and it drains south into the Tonle Sap River and from there into the Mekong River.  During the wet season (when we were visiting), the Tonle Sap River reverses its flow and the lake expands to as much as nine meters deep and 16,000 square kilometers wide, creating huge floodplains and supporting a massive fish breeding ground.
The lake.  It is brown.
Many ethnic Vietnamese people live on the Tonle Sap in floating villages that move according to the flow of the rivers and lake.  An extremely overpriced boat tour captained by a teenager got us up close to ramshackle homes, weathered fishermen, and naked, smiling children.  The poverty was striking, and so was the contrast between our lives in New York City and the lives of the people here on the water.
This was our captain.
He was 15, but (probably because of stunting caused by malnutrition) was about the size of a ten year old.
Floating houses can be floated up- or down-river, depending on the height of the water.
Some of them were more fixed up than others.
Houses built on stilts line the river, accommodating the huge fluctuations in depth

Whoops.

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