When a lake is your home, Tonlé Sap

There is water and vegetation everywhere the eye can see. The boat moves further and further into the heart of Tonlé Sap Lake towards the floating villages carrying with it our curiosity for life on water and flashbacks of the troubled Vietnamese and Cambodian history.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Tonlé Sap lake is definitely special; it is not only the largest fresh water in South East Asia with a flow changing its direction twice a year but is also home to many ethnic Vietnamese and Cham communities living in floating villages around the lake. More than 3 million people live around the bank of the lake 90% of which earn their living through fish catching and agriculture. Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The village we are in is home to 1,280 people most of which live under the poverty limit. The floating houses are small usually with one or two rooms. Three rooms are an exception. Bamboo pillars support the floating houses and make it easy for the house to be moved from one area to another during the rainy season.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

There is a sense of community in the floating villages. You can find the usual Asian floating markets with boats going from one house to the other carrying all types of supplies for the people in the floating houses, small floating shops, floating Catholic church, floating school and some bigger platforms with serving tables and snacks for the tourists. Although some floating houses are connected to electricity most of them have no electricity and use power batteries. You can even find floating platforms to charge batteries.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

People on the lake usually don’t pay taxes and eat what they can catch or grow. Crocodile and fish industry is developing as the people raise them around the floating houses to make money to survive. Tourist scams are also a way of making money.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The water in the lake is used for drinking and cooking as well as for washing or sewage. Bottled water is a luxury.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Life expectancy on the lake is short; 54 years or so. There is no doctor in the floating villages and only very limite medical care. Child birth is high but more than 12% of the children die before the age of 5 and many of them drown afterwards on their way to school when their small row boats capsize.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Moving to the city is hard if not close to impossible since this people lack money or even citizenship to allow them to be properly integrated into society. Most of the people in the floating villages are stateless Vietnamese with no papers to account for their names or their origins. Targets of mass genocide during the Khmer Republic and Khmer Rouge governments like so many other Cambodian people, expelled from the country in the 1970s just to later return to a home that no longer had room for them, the story of the people around the Tonlé Sap Lake is not an easy one.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Sitting on the terrace of one of the floating houses tasting for the first time snake soup two small boys approach us to show off with their plastic toy guns. Innocent, playful and full of life just like the kids back home. Just that these ones live on small boat houses, learn how to row a boat before learning how to write, have no drinkable water or medical care, have crocodiles as house pets and are destined to live a nomad life floating on water.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

As our boat takes us into the sunset to Siem Reap leaving behind the floating villages we carry with us the small happy faces of the two little boys. We repeat in our minds that less is more, we dream of better times for these kids and pray for the lake to keep them safe and their inner happiness to provide shelter in the darkest of the storms.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

More picture from Cambodia on our Facebook page.

More on the history of the Vietnamese Cambodian people in this touching article Hope Floats.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The voice of Boracay – Ferns Tosco

Do you guys know where and what Boracay is?  Well we admit we knew nothing about Boracay until we decided to embark this September on a journey through Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.  Boracay is a small island in the Philippines; so small that its area is of 10.32 km2.  Still, it holds over 350 beach resorts, the best beaches and sunsets we have seen and some of the most amazing people we’ve met by now.

We arrived in Boracay on a Monday morning on a boat from the island of Caticlan following two flights in a row from Denpasar (Bali) to Manila and from Manila to Caticlan.  Once in the small Caticlan airport we booked a fast transfer to our hotel in Boracay.  Maria Torres (a Spanish name for a true Filipino lady) carried as fast as the wind from the airport to the boat that would take us to the beautiful Island of Boracay and than further to our hotel.

 
How does one fall in love with an island it barely knew before?  Well, here comes the subject of this post.  Because this is not a typical post about a location, what to see and what to do or not do; this post is about a beautiful singer we met during our trip that made this Island stick forever in our hearts.  
We found Ferns Tosco in our first night in Boracay.  Wandering on the beach near Beach Station 2 we could hear some live music coming from one of the beach bars. And we figure why not sit down, have a drink and enjoy the music of this amazing girl.
 
It ended up being a memorable night, with great music and good food.  At the end we couldn’t help it and we just had to meet Ferns and buy her album. We were surprised to meet this warm young girl, with big eyes and even a bigger smile, happy to chat with us.

We spent four blissful nights in the company of Ferns Tosco and the Bom Bom Bar talented singers and band members with a combination of Filipino music, Reggae music, oldies but goldies, modern tunes.  We sang along with these guys like we never sang before, we danced on their music in that way…you know…like no one is watching and we made good friends with their tunes on the background.
 
We will for sure never forget that feeling when you have your feet in the sand, a San Miguel beer in your hand, palm trees around you and you just sing “I want to go back to the Island called Boracay…there’s a place that I can call home…
 
For a detailed story about Ferns and how her album was born just click the link below – it’s worth it
 
We say thank you Ferns for sharing with us your love for Boracay and we look forrward to meeting you again in Europe or in the Island, wherever our feet will carry us first…
As for you guys if you became just a little bit curious about this Boracay Island that Ferns is singing so frenetically about stay tuned for our next post where we unveil some tips on how to get there, what to do/not to do, what to expect and what to experience.