A mother breast feeding a newly born child while paddling her way towards a boat carrying tourists. Once she reached the side of the boat, she will call the attention of everyone and signal to her sleeping baby.
Then there was this small girl inside a metal tub floating in the lake while bravely holding a live snake. She will play with the snake as if it just an ordinary rope. While on the other side, a young boy started dancing and making funny faces.
They move closer to any incoming tourist boats. They fight their way with each other to secure the best spot never minding the danger of the waters. All they wanted is for you to take notice and give them a dollar.
Is this the kind of tourism in South East Asia that we are promoting and looking for?
I feel confused. I feel sad. I am in awe while sitting at the boat and watching all this baffling action takes place. I was told that visiting this community is one of the “must do” in Siem Reap and but this is not what I expected.
I don’t blame them; I know they needed to earn money for their families but sometimes there has to be a line drawn between tourism and just plain exploitation.
They don’t move inland even if the water increases beyond safety level. Instead, they move within the premise of the river, relocating their homes and their lives depending on the condition of the tides.
Setting aside the confounding aspect of tourism associated with this floating village, in a way it is surprising to see how this community in water flourished- they have shops, church and most importantly, school.
Seeing these kids paddling on their own toward home after their school session is very inspiring, a proof of how important education is for them and I truly, truly hope that all their significant effort will lead to a better future.
After an hour, the tour is completed and time to head back to the ferry terminal. Our boat made a brief turn towards the open sea, how I wish I could stay longer and stare at this view.