History has it that human civilizations across the world flourished alongside rivers and other water resources. For centuries people lived in the immediate vicinity of rivers as they were drinking water sources and provided adequate water for irrigation and other purposes. Forget the bygone era, even now cities and housing colonies are coming up near commercially-viable and sustainable water bodies.
Besides people residing on the shores of the water bodies, there are also communities in various parts of the world who live on water. These clusters of abodes on inland rivers or lakes are known as floating villages or boat communities. Ethnic and occupational factors contributed to the spouting of floating villages in different corners of the world and presently they are sought-after tourist centres. Let’s take a ringside view of some of the engrossing floating villages that can take your breath away.
1. Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Scores of floating villages dot the Tonle Sap Lake, which is one of the freshwater lakes in Cambodia. The number of villages changes in accordance with the size of the lake, which fluctuates each season. During the monsoon season, Tonle Sap covers an area of 31,000 sq km. It is the largest freshwater lake in Asia and largest freshwater floodplain in the world. As many as 170 floating villages can be found on the lake with houses resting on long stilts. The Tonle Sap Lake found place on the United Nation’s Biosphere list in 1997.
2. Mogen, Thailand
Mogens, who are sea gypsies living in boats on the water bodies surrounding Southeast Asia, caught world’s eye following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. These nomads, who lead a simple life, live on the waters hugging the coasts of Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Borneo. They follow unique customs and traditions and speak a different dialect. Some historians believe that Mogens originated in Indonesia and others that they belong to India. The Thai government changed this nomadic community’s name to Thai Mai as part of its efforts to give Thai citizenship to these gypsies.
3. Uros, Peru
The people of Uros live on Lake Titicaca in Peru, a country in South America. They live on floating isles made of totora, a special reed found only in this region. Though they lead a traditional lifestyle, their homes boast of modern amenities including television and radio. It is believed that the Uros community was in existence much before the Incas conquered land in the region. It also believed that the community was forced to live on floating isles to escape the attacks unleashed by the all-conquering Incas. The people of Uros make a living out of a fishing and tourism.
The Day-asan floating village, which has houses built on wooden stilts above water, is in the Surigao city of Philippines. Day-asan, known by the sobriquet ‘Little Venice of Surigao City’, is an important fishing hamlet in Philippines and nearly 1,800 people are living in this floating housing colony. The houses are built on wooden stilts or rocks, and the village also has ‘purok centers’, which are used for public gatherings.
5. Ha-Long Bay
Ha-Long is a floating village comprising four fishing hamlets of Vietnam. The village got its name from Ha-Long, a dragon, which according to local folklore protected sea from invaders. The Ha-Long Bay was once a fish market and later it became a floating village. As many as 1,600 people are living in four fishing hamlets such as Cua Van, Ba Hang, Cong Tau and Vong Vien, which are part of the Ha-Long Bay, and their main stay is income from fishing and marine aquaculture. UNESCO has given the World Heritage Site tag to the Ha-Long Bay after taking note of its rich cultural significance.
The members of the Tofinu tribe live in the floating village of Ganvie in the West African nation of Benin. The village came into existence in the 16th century and more than 20,000 people reside in the stilt houses of the hamlet. The floating colony has school, hospital, shops and a hotel to accommodate tourists. Kayak is the main mode of transportation of the residents and they sell fish, fruits and vegetables for a living. Ganvie, known as the ‘Venice of Africa’, is the largest lake village in Africa.