Water People and the Khmer Rouge

February 7, 2018

Our last day in Cambodia was focused on the lifestyles of the people that live on the shore or on boats of the largest lake in Southeast Asia, Tonle Sap. This huge body of water is either part of the Mekong River or an independent lake depending on your point of view. The lake is hugely effected by the monsoon season and flows from the Mekong. The lake level can change fifteen to twenty feet between the dry season and the monsoon. The people have made the necessary adaptions.

We visited a village of fishermen whose wives were drying and smoking tiny fish for eventual sale. Their houses are built on stilts and pilings in anticipation of the rising waters. We were able to drive on a road that will be under water during the rainy season. We were all amazed at the ingenuity in creating structures that would survive the annual flooding. These folks have few resources to support their families but manage.

Another group on the lake were the folks who live in houseboats that move to follow the fish and the lake levels. We drove by their village school at dismissal. Kids are kids everywhere. It was an eye opener.

Our last visit was to one of many memorials dedicated to the people who suffered and died at the hands of the murderous regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. Around a third of the Cambodian population was killed or staved to death by this group led by a monster name Pol Pot. We went to a memorial in Siem Reap that was the site of a prison during the time of Khmer Rouge. Some 10,000 people were murdered here. There are dozens of similar sights of atrocities all over Cambodia. The shrine with the skulls and bones of a few victims made the unthinkable real. I was not glad to go to this site, but it was necessary.

We finished the day around three and returned to the hotel to shower and prep for the flight home. We left for the airport at five for 7:30 flight. After an hour on the Tarmac waiting for the cargo door to be repaired, we flew to Bangkok. We spent 3 hours waiting for our Beijing 4 hour flight. We reached Beijing and disembarked onto the runway in below 0 degree weather. We then spent 7 hours on the Transit Lounge before our 11 hour flight back to LA. You can forget buying Great Wall red wine. Despite the awful wine, we made it through passport control, customs and a Lyft ride back to Jennifer’s in Altadena. Good to be back home.

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