The rainy season is well in progress so the paddy fields were green and bursting with life as we left the highway and headed along the earth road to Maichrey.
Maichrey Channel in the rainy season
Not much more than a dry season ditch until a couple of years ago when a deeper channel was dredged for the fishermen and the few tourist boats that launch from Maichrey.
Vic & Ruth with Alistair in the Maichrey Channel
At this time of year when the Lake is near its lowest, you can drive most of the way along a sandy track to the pagoda that in a few months will become an isolated island, surrounded by floating houses that have moved inland from the open water.
Vic & Ruth Sally’s seventy-year old parents and Reuben and Karyn, Dean’s friends from New Zealand were the perfect guests, pumping up the kayaks and helping with the launch. And they knew how to paddle.
Peace at last away from the cacophony of pre-election Siem Reap, where the political parties are fighting a proxy election judged by the decibels their loud speakers can blast. We weren’t in the Core Bird Reserve but still a couple of parakeets screeched past, a kingfisher sped from branch to branch and a bittern kept us company. Best of all and rare for July, seven Lesser Adjutants slowly circled the floating house where we had lunch.
The Tonle Sap Lake and in fact most of Indochina’s waterways are clogged by the invasive water hyacinth including the channel where we were kayaking. Alistair and I had waited until a long tail propeller had minced a path through the weed when we recce’d the trip last week. Today we’d arranged for a boat to wait where the plants were thickest so that he could carve a path through which the kayaks would follow.
A floating house being towed to the Maichrey Pagoda as the Lake rises with child on the back (below)
A khmer kid posing for the camera
A few hundred meters past this obstacle the channel or what must be the Puok River, which flows from Phnom Kulen opens out into an estuary of the Tonle Sap Lake. The floating houses that migrate to the pagoda as the water rises were moored along the shore along with the armada of attendant structures including fish and crocodile cages, floating pig pens, chicken coops, log houses, spirit houses and even floating gardens.
We passed by a floating school supported by the Mission of Mercy with signs not to feed the children or similar and the distinctive Vietnamese house boats with their curved roofs usually adorned by a TV mast, which serve as mobile grocery stores to the village, until we reached our destination a more substantial floating house that was now a restaurant.
There was the option to continue onto the open lake after lunch but with a couple of beers and a Blue Pumpkin lunch consumed we took the easy option and let Mr Bo steer the return route with our kayaks loaded onto his motor boat.