The family on this, approximately 25 long by four feet wide boat, are fishing the Tonle Than, the Mekong river in Cambodia. They fish from early morning to dark daily. They will find a, hopefully safe, place to tie up for the night. The boat is their home, their only home. The eat, sleep, cook, make love, give birth and die there. The only time they touch land is to sell their fish. In some places buyers come to the river. There are many such boats on the Mekong, in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Sometimes a government tries to take them from the river, but they return.
They have no car, motorbike, bicycle, television, radio. Their light is a candle. Their cooking fuel is charcoal, their motive power is muscle. When they get sick, they get well, or they die. Children fall overboard and are lost to the river. The river gives and the river takes away. And yet, sometimes, they smile.
Governments, most notably China have plans to harness the entire river for hydro power. They will also begin dredging long stretches to increase the size of ships that can navigate to Yunnan Province. This will disrupt perhaps the most productive river fishery in the world. And it will threaten, if not end, the life of the boat people of the Mekong. The great hunger of China for power and resources touches all who live in SE Asia. The poorest, Laos and Cambodia, have no chance of standing up to the wealth and power of The Middle Kingdom, China.
We are so thankful to have seen life on the Mekong before it disappears. Our tandem bicycle travels there were not without challenges, but oh, so worthwhile.
Life on the Mekong is profound tactile and immediate. Can you say that for the place where you live? The vitality of their daily experience of living, compensates for the lack of comfort and possessions.
Where do you live?
For more about Asia from the seat of a tandem bicycle; from Chengdu, China across Tibet to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, click on the link: In Search of Shangri-la