The Mekong and the Tonle Sap Lie Between Us

Phnom Penh is a city of contrasts so great that it shocks many first-time visitors.

They expect the poverty. They don’t expect the wealth: the line of luxury SUVs and sports cars outside the gym; the cost of a cup of coffee; the fancy nightclubs and high-rise apartments. All of this sits in juxtaposition to the children begging at traffic lights, the sex workers hungry but giggling at the doors of city bars and the many, many crumbling buildings.

A city of contrasts.

And just a ten-minute ferry crossing from the capital’s chaotic tourist centre lies another great contrast: the banks of rural Kandal Province.

It’s a short journey in which the Tonle Sap river meets the mighty Mekong and time seems to step backwards. People live along the banks in rickety boats or tin houses, with rubble and rubbish littering the shore.

Fried-chicken and sweet stalls line a short walk to total countryside: a beautiful rural monastery, rice fields,  and a slower pace of life. This is a snapshot of the poverty and treasures at the other side.

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