We floated through the murky waters across the Tonle Sap Lake and down the Sangker River; our shallow boat slowing, lessening the wake, as we approached the floating villages. I learned that how high up the hill one is able to build and how tall the stilts lift a house are a few signs of status; however, most of the houses weren’t on the riverbed but floating on the river. Their floating one-room homes tethered together by scraps, a corrugated tin roof to shield the sun and if they were lucky walls enclosed by straw woven together.
I was astonished after passing several of these “communities”, each living in conditions that were unimaginable. It didn’t take long on the eight-hour boat journey from Siem Reap to Battambang, Cambodia to realize the floating homes and villages we passed were the poorest of the poor in the region. I’d seen poverty-ridden communities all through South Africa and India but somehow people living on the river susceptible to floods and other evils of the river made my head spin. I felt fortunate to only be passing through, merely an observer of their daily life.