Siem Reap lies on a small river which debouches into Tonle Sap, some 20 kms to the South. I had heard about the "Norias" or "Persian Wheels" which are used here for irrigation, but to my regret I couldn't find any here. I did see an elephant, however, busy crossing the river with a number of passengers on his back.
I decided to drive to Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and found a narrow trail along the river. I drove very slowly so I could see more and, as usual, enjoy the life along the waterside, where everything seems so much more lively.
||Fortunately, I came across numerous waterwheels, large wooden contraptions with scoops that are made to turn by the running water. A quartet of bamboo rods in turn scoop up the water and lifts it to the highest point of the circle, where it is poured into - but often next to - a long bamboo gutter. Although it is an ingenious system, it is far from perfect. More bamboo gutters carry the water to the farmfields, where a small fraction of the original amount may eventually arrive.|
The houses built on high poles and also the large number of boats suggest that the water level may be higher at times than right now. The Tonle Sap follows the monsoon regime and changes its height drastically during the rainy season and the flooding of the Mekong River. A large area along the banks floods at that time, but this apparent discomfort does not refrain the amphibious population from thriving, Even the smallest children paddle around in miniature boats of less than a meter length. That way they develop a sense of balance which would make anyone jealous who has ever tried to board a skiff. Fish are very abundant and are probably the main dietary staple. The smell of fish is as penetrating as that in Dutch fishing ports. Thousands of small fish are drying in the sun in flat baskets, while the bigger ones hang on drying lines. The riches of fish are most apparent in the dry season when the lake is smallest and fish are so closely packed that they can just be scooped up. This interior sea extends over a 100 kms!