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It’s one of the strangest events in nature.

During the dry season, the Mekong River flows south to the South China Sea. But at the end of October, the Mekong collects melted water from the Himalayas as well as heavy monsoon rains from five countries and swells massively. The extra volume actually forces the Mekong to reverse its course and flow upstream!

Near Siem Reap, the Tonlé Sap Lake absorbs the extra water, growing from approximately one meter deep with an area of 2700-square kilometers (1677-square miles) to nine meters deep and 16,000-square kilometers (9941 square miles)!

As you might imagine, this event drastically changes the landscape of the surrounding communities. Villages – homes, schools, stores – are built on stilts to accommodate the floodwaters. Some homes appear to be equipped to actually float. Why would people live under these conditions? Fish… and lots of them. In fact, the Tonlé Sap is one of the world’s largest freshwater fisheries. For many poor Cambodians, fish and fish paste are the only proteins in their diet.

Today we took a longboat to the “floating village” of Kampong Phluk and the Flooded Forest. It’s the beginning of the wet season, so the waters have not yet risen.  Even so, everything is done by boat.

From Nathan: The floating village was not really floating, because the houses were on stilts. The houses were very high up to be protected from the high waters. My favorite part of the boat ride was when I got to drive. I was reluctant at first, but then I wanted to keep driving. Unfortunately, on the way back, Dad broke the boat, but the driver fixed it.

Technically, the string controlling the steering snapped. I don’t think that Neerav was to blame; he was simply driving when it happened. No worries. We made it back safely.