VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Siem Reap, Cambodia–As I flow through the town of Siem Reap, Cambodia, I am slow moving and bucolic-looking most of the year, with green parks and benches for people to sit and watch me flow by. But sometimes during rainy season I overflow and flood nearby buildings and roads. Along both sides of my banks there are old collapsing wooden houses hanging precariously over the water. These are currently being torn down in order to clean my body, while the local inhabitants will be relocated to rice fields nearby.
Here in the heart of busy, bustling, Bangkok, I am an urban working river with constant traffic of long heavily laden cargo barges pulled by tug-boats chugging slowly upriver. Speedy water taxies (known as longtails) zip across my spine from dock to dock. Wooden sampans speak of days gone by. Every day jam-packed ferries transport thousands of passengers including school children, commuters, monks, visitors, and families.
Maenam Ping, Chiang Mai, Thailand–On the night of the twelfth lunar month during the full moon at the end of the rainy season, communities gather along my banks to pay homage to me, and my water spirits. They thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha (พระแม่คงคา), which is the Thai form of Ganga, the Hindu goddess of the holy Ganges River, India. It is also a way to beg forgiveness for polluting and abusing me during the past year.