Life on the Water: Kampong Phluk, Cambodia

Life on the Water: Kampong Phluk, Cambodia

village of Kampong Phluk, built out on a floodplain and home
to around 5,000 people, is a surreal sight in Cambodia’s dry
season. Metal shacks and basic houses perch six metres above
ground, their wooden stilts naked and exposed. Fishing baskets hang
redundant in mid-air. Flashes of rainbow laundry hang from walls of
corrugated rust.

A church, marked only by its scarlet cross, stands as a beacon
of hope. Slim tail boats are parked in front of houses, like cars
in a driveway, ready to carry the residents to floating schools,
community centres and temples.

Though the population here is mostly made up of fishing
families, recent years of depleted stocks mean that many fishermen
have had to shift careers, either turning to farming or steering
the tourist boats through the waterways to supplement their

Our boat moves on through these people’s up-and-down lives, a
world away from our own. A woman cleans the fishing nets, getting
them ready for the following day. Further along the bank, another
child jumps over a rope, kicking up dust as she skips. A group of
friends dribble a makeshift ball around the stilts.

From the brown water below us, a swimming teenager grins as we
pass. This is their normal. We’re the last ones out as the light
fades, the other tourists long gone in search of the sunset.

With less of an audience, the banter starts. Boat owners spray
each other with the muddy water, Khmer jokes fly between water and
bank. The kids play on. Nobody has much here, but nobody’s sad.
Nobody’s complaining. Suddenly, we’re uncomfortable being
comfortable. All we can think of is how easy we have it. How
pampered are our lives? How little does the world owe us? How lucky
are we?

@lorenzodifrancesco |

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