The crazy hive of activity across the Mekong River takes my breath away … Wow.

A chorus of – put-put-put – soothing boat engines as I count nearly 100 saipans dotting the wide waters – puffing smoke as engines struggle upriver while numerous others sit with excited folks pulling-in fishing nets.

Dozens of fishing boats on wide Mekong River at Kampong Cham in Cambodia

Dozens of fishing boats on the wide Mekong River at Kampong Cham in Cambodia.

According to a local, it’s the best season to fish.

From my riverside balcony on the guesthouse third-floor, I watch this addictive river scene in the shade of a sweltering day. Drinking beer. Motoring boats. Nets pulled in. Boats returning to the floating fishing village on the far riverbank. Then again the spluttering boats go out to cast net, and haul. From sunrise to sunset this fishing frenzy continues.

Kampong Cham lighthouse and fishing boats on Mekong River Cambodia

Symbol of the modern city. The old watch-tower on the far bank is a relic from French colonial times when the city was a important trading port on the Mekong, exporting rubber from nearby plantations.

I am watching this in the Mekong riverside city of Kampong Cham – “port of the Chams”. And it is the Chams who are doing most of the fishing.

Cambodian fishing boat on Mekong River viewed from above

Within the majority Khmer population of Cambodia are the Chams. This ethnic group – like other cultures here over 1000 years ago were originally Hindu, but later instead of converting to Buddhism they turned to Islam.

Street photo of Cham Muslims in kiosk shop Cambodia black and white photo

Local shop next to the mosque

Today Buddhism accounts for 95% of Cambodia’s population. But of the 150,000+ Muslims, roughly 80% belong to the Cham ethnic group. Some Chams follow traditional Sunni Islam, while others are Fojihed Muslims who adhere to a Cham interpretation of the religion including belief of the supernatural and magical powers.

Interior photo of Islamic Cham mosque in Cambodia

Interior of Cham village mosque.

After an entire afternoon – and the next morning – of watching this panorama of fishing action, I knew it was time to get my legs working and exercise my way across to the far river bank to visit the Cham fishing village from where all the activity stemmed.

Monotone photo of silhouetted fishing boats on misty Mekong River in Cambodia

Weird. Morning mist shrouded the river of fishing boats for a couple of hours before being burnt off to reveal another baking day.

It was a very hot walk across the mighty bridge. Dusty along the village dirt trails. Lots of Hello-Hello-s. Locals surprised that a foreigner would bother to visit them.

Portrait photo of young Cambodian girl against sunset and Mekong River

I stopped and took some snaps. Visited a mosque. Hung-out with crazy kids on the river bank. Accepted a ride in a fishing boat back across the river to the city as dusk set across the Mekong.

Photo of woman at Mekong River around dusk sun hitting her scarf and orange river glow

On route to the return to Kampong Cham by boat

Travels in Cambodia – 2014

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