The village of Ou Soum lies at the shores of Stung Atai Lake, an artificial, dammed lake in the Cardamom Mountain Massive. It's not more than a few houses to the right and left of one dirt road who spread out for a few kilometers. It's so small and new, that there is yet not even the obligatory buddhist temple.
At morning in a local's place, kind of an outdoor kitchen. Everything goes on the floor; the pot right contains rice, the one left water. I tried to get hot water for my coffee, but failed. The image shows very well the organization level of the rural Khmers (80% of the population). Image by Asienreisender, 2/2016
The place borders to the west to a larger piece of tropical rainforest. Following the road to Veal Veng northwards, one goes over roughly 25km through dense forest to the right and the left. The larger southern and eastern surroundings of Ou Soum have been largely and recently cleared of the forest. Signs of recent destruction like chared tree trunks, both fallen or still pointing in the air, are everywhere around. The cleared land now is getting occupied with banana plantations and pepper farms.
Human encroachment makes it's bloody way ever deeper into the remaining virgin forest. First comes arson, then a few shacks are built and crops are planted. This settlement seems to be very new, and it owes it's existence the Stung Atai dam which, after what I heared, is merely two years old. Probably the dirt road was built to give access to the dam and lake and is used now by squatters to claim their plot. There is another wooden village, which looks different to Ou Soum, at a northwestern shore of Stung Atai Lake. It's the only place between Ou Soum and Veal Veng.
The lake is a rich source of fish for the local's diet.
Stung Atai Lake
A great deal of the tropical rainforest and it's habitats have fallen victim to Stung Atai Dam, respectively the flooded area which is now the new lake. Now, as a second wave of destruction, human encroachment in the nature advances. Here has recently forest been cut and burned and a few very rough shacks have been built. The spot will be used now as plantation acreage. The lake provides fish in abundance. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2016
A new shack at the lake's shore. Image by Asienreisender, 2016
The villagers are not very welcoming to foreigners. Indifference is the foremost trait, underpinned by the usual dullness. It's hard to get food here. I couldn't get no lunch, no dinner, no breakfast next morning and not even hot water for the coffee I brought myself, and lived from cookies and peanuts. The iron reserve. I always claimed, Cambodia is a phantastic country for a strict diet.
Apparently the frequent theft does not stop even in this very remote place where everyone knows everyone else. The orange storage trunks with ice and drinks inside are locked to avoid self-service for free. Personally I had the impression that the locals tried to take advantage of me, in the guesthouse, in the shops, and particularly an intruding, fat Khmer who tried to sell me a motorbike trip to Koh Kong. Not for the money, he said (50 dollars; the normal taxi fare is about 5 dollars), no, for he just liked to help me.
The Tropical Rainforest at Ou Soum
Ou Soum and the lake own Stung Atai Dam their existence. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2016
There are not many hiking possibilities in Ou Soum's surroundings. One goes the main road up and down and has a look to the right and left. At one point the road splits, but to the east and the south both dirt roads lead merely through a larger deforested area. Westwards there is a bridge over a sidearm of the lake which leads into the rainforest. Walking there, one has not much of a view over the surroundings - one side is covered now by dense forest, on the other side occasionally the lake appears behind a seam of trees. Too much traffic here, also. Every few minutes a car, lorry or motorbike appears and whirls dust up.
Only at one point, not far west of the bridge, one has a possibility to go into the forest. A path has been hewn and people cut another part out of the forest. One reaches short after another sidearm of Stung Atai Lake. On the other side the virgin rainforest still touches the lake's shore. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2016