It’s a miracle!
Or two miracles? One on top of the other! The lake, Tonle Sap. And the people that live on the lake.
Hang on, it’s only one. Science explains the lake. But it doesn’t explain the people on it. They are walking on water …
– Tonle Sap –
Check out the map. The Mekong River rushes from Tibet, through China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, all the way to the sea. When the snow melts and the monsoon rains, the Mekong bursts with water. So much water. It simply can’t gush into the sea fast enough!
So centuries ago, the Mekong fits itself with Tonle Sap. A river and a lake. Actually it is a pipe, a pond and a pump! The Mekong backs up into the Tonle Sap. And the Tonle Sap becomes a sponge and a sump! For 6 months.
The pipe of a river is 120 km long. Water flows uphill (!!) for 6 months and downhill for 6 months. And the sponge of a lake grows from 2,500 to 16,000 square meters. More than 6 times its size! Its waters rise to 14 meters, drop to 2 meters and then rise to 14 meters again.
Tonle Sap is a unique hydrological system. And in this ever changing world of water – people live!
– The People of Tonle Sap –
We visit the village of Kampong Khleang. Here, miraculously, about 8000 families live. We marvel at! We wonder how?
They figure it out. In 3 different ways:
• Some live in stilted houses; sometimes 14 meters high and dry and sometimes 2 meters low and wet.
• Some live on land for 6 months and float on water for 6 months.
• Some float on water all year round.
Most fish for 6 months and then farm for 6 months and then fish again for 6 months.
The impossible made possible. The unbearable made bearable. It’s a miracle! Period.
This map shows the Mekong River run through Cambodia. At the capital, Phnom Penh the Mekong is so full it backs up into the lake, Tonle Sap for 6 months!
Harry took these photos.
This first set of photos belongs to the community that lives in stilted houses all year round; sometimes high above the water and sometimes not.
This second set of photos belongs to the community that lives on land for 6 months and then floats on water for 6 months.
This third set of photos belongs to a community that floats all year round. They are Vietnamese and have no claim to land in Cambodia.
These last photos show how miraculously these communities get on with fishing and farming and then fishing again.