Deaftravel Image logo
Travel Stories
Travel Advice
Sign Language
World Events
World Directory
Contact Us
Deaftravel Text Logo
  You are here: Home > Travel Stories > Asia

Travel Story by James Merry

  A trip down the Tonle Sap

Boat people

We woke up at 5am on the dot to catch the only direct morning boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. As soon as I put my hearing aids in I could hear the local cockerels crowing. It pleased me to imagine how annoying it must be for hearing people who can hear everything and in their sleep too. Ha!

We quickly showered and sorted our bags before taking them down to the lobby to wait for our free ride to the boat. We were heading for Phnom Penh a day ahead of schedule because we decided to drop the boat trip to Battambang. Having explored the lake the other evening, it hit us that we weren't entirely confident in the safety of the rickety wooden boats that the locals use. Having researched it a bit more, we found that getting a bigger faster boat would result in a large wash, which would damage the fragile ecosystem along the riverbank, and annoy the local people who live in houseboats. So taking all that into consideration we decided to get the tourist speedboat down the massive Tonle Sap Lake to Phnom Penh instead. Apparently the scenery is less spectacular than what we would have seen had we gone to Battambang, but it was still stunning, and hopefully we annoyed fewer boat people along the way. The lake is huge like an inland freshwater sea, and it was a 6-hour journey.

A small truck came to pick up the people waiting to go to Battambang, of which there were quite a few. They looked like they were very much the hard-core travelling in-crowd. Some of them smelled a bit! However, we were led past the big truck to a man with a little motodop. He then also went to pick up another couple from another hotel. Four of us in the back of the little motodop with our big backpacks was quite a squeeze! The other couple were northern European, probably Dutch if I were to hazard a guess. They weren't very talkative. We drove all the way back down to Phnom Krom to catch our boat, which took about 40 minutes.

It was quite a balancing act to carry our baggage and keep our footing as we walked across the wooden planks to board the boat, whilst simultaneously presenting our boat tickets for inspection as well as fending off a mighty horde of unwanted-snack hawkers as well! We made it though, with plenty of time to spare.

Inside the boat it was dark, cramped and slightly manky. Most people chose to sit on the roof. We chose to sit inside because Sally was a bit scared at the absence of handrails, and I didnít want to sit out all day in the hot sun. Through the dirty, half-opaque windows I could see the boat to Battambang leave and felt mixed emotions in that we wouldn't be going with them, but also excited to be heading to Phnom Penh. On a speedboat too!

As our boat departed we went through the same Vietnamese floating village that we toured the previous night, only this time we could see it in daylight. It was a very resourceful place too. I could see the school boat, the basketball court boat, the restaurant boat, and the big boat we had visited, which had crocodiles and some piranhas, and even a fish museum on it. After the village, our speedboat then sped out across the vast open waters of Lake Tonle Sap. It wasn't as boring as I was afraid it might have been. But the windows weren't so good for seeing the views and scenery, so I went and stood outside on the bow for half an hour and got sunburnt in no time at all. I could see the tops of trees poking out from beneath the water, fishing boats here and there, and more floating villages.

After about 3 hours we passed a twin speedboat heading in the direction that we had come from. We stopped and waved at each other before moving on our way again. After that, the lake gradually became narrower and turned into a wide river. As we approached Phnom Penh we could see more buildings on either side of the river, including the occasional wat, and mosque. Eventually we passed under the Japanese Bridge. The river traffic increased dramatically and suddenly we were in the centre of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

As the boat docked, a crowd of overeager motodup drivers all clamouring for our custom, accosted us. It got quite hairy and I nearly fell into the river a few times, as I struggled to carry my luggage off the boat and negotiate my way through a vigorously jostling crowd back onto dry land. Sally, on the other hand, had rather cunningly tricked a motodop driver into carrying her luggage off the boat for her and then abandoned him.

Having fended off the attentions of all those motodop drivers, we then realised that, actually, we did need a motodop driver after all, so as to find our hotel. It is not a problem to find motodop driver in Phnom Penh though. One only needs to look a bit foreign and suddenly every driver in a 20-mile radius converges on you, smiling and waving at you, as though you've just walked into an episode of Cheers. It is annoying to be harassed like this, but to be fair I've seen tourists harassed far more aggressively in China. And in Cambodia you usually only need to say no once and they'll leave you alone politely with a smile.

The Cozyna Hotel is located on the riverfront along the Sisowath Quay, which seems to double up as the main tourist rip-off drag and as a very grand, beautiful riverside promenade. You can see where the Tonle Sap meets the Mekong here, and the rivers look so wide that at times it feels like being at the seaside. As grand as the vista is, you can also see some real poverty here, right in front of our hotel. It made me realise how different it is, to be born in a prosperous country, in a politically stable time.

For some reason we were both completely exhausted. I think we were templed-out by the previous three days at Angkor Wat. We crashed into bed and lost consciousness.

Click on photo to enlarge

Tonle Sap  Boat ticket  Sisowath Quay panorama

Date Submitted: 27 Feb 2008

Go Back  | Return to Map


 © Copyright 2006 - Deaftravel Site Developed by  Site Developed by  
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel