Water World in Tonlé Sap

If you are visiting Siem Reap, you should take a detour to Tonlé Sap lake and its floating villages. It is wonderful! Is it touristic? Yes, but nothing compared to the crowds of Angkor and the villages remain very authentic.

There are three main villages that can be visited from Siem Reap: Chong Khneas – is the closest to the city (and for that matter the most visited one). Kampong Phluk – further away, this village is known for its houses build on stilts to avoid the high tides in rain season. A few Cambodian families live there and work mostly as fishermen. Kampong Khleang – is the least visited village, only a few boats go there, the houses are also high stilts but the community living in Kampong Khleang is mostly Vietnamese.

We visited Kampong Phluk on a half day evening tour from Siem Reap to see the sunset on the lake. 

After about one hour driving we took a boat and made our way down the river towards the lake and quickly arrived into the village. What we saw there was surreal! The houses were so high on their wooden stilts, maybe somethin 10 to 13 meters! Navigating through the village, was amazing and felt like being in a completely different world… Kids were bathing in the river and waving to the boats passing by, splashing around, and those houses, one more impressive than the other, looked like they were coming out of a movie set. The sun was already low in the sky and the colours were beautiful…

As we got closer to the lake, we stopped at a mangrove forest. Some people got of the boat for a tour by rowing boat but we stayed on board and were brought to a floating bar. The view on the lake was pretty and even more with a cold beer in our hands…

It is something unique to think that during rain season the level of the lake can raise up to 7 meters (even 9 meters some years), which is why most of the villages around are either floating either built on stilts. About one million Cambodians depend directly on the lake in living. It plays a major role in the country.

We watched the sun go down from the boat and then headed back, passing through the village one more time. It was a few 4 or 5 tourist boats one behind another on the way back, but in truth the landscape was so fascinating that we didn’t even pay attention to other tourists… As for the locals, tourism is also a source of revenue for them as they charge an entrance fee to the village.

The next day we took a local boat in Chong Khneas to go to Battambang. There is 3 hours bus from Siem Reap, but we wanted to see more of Tonlé Sap and its incredible water world.

The boat took about 6 hours. We crossed the lake to reach a smaller river that lead to the city of Battambang. The crossing was interesting, we didn’t know if we would make it on the other side of the lake or not… the boat was definitely over charged with people and all luggage was on the roof, it felt like we were very heavy because the water was very close to our seats, and the boat pitched from left to right in a scary way. Sometimes the boat was heavier on one side making it lean dangerously over the water and a few people had to go seat on the other side in order to reach balance again. Let’s just say that we discussed a few time our emergency reflex in case the boat would flip over…

But apart from the few scares, we loved the boat ride, it was the best part of our stay in Battambang. We passed through so many villages where, every single kid got so excited to see us that they were waving endlessly and screaming “Hello, Helloooo!!”. We picked up local passengers, dropped them of in other villages… We saw school boats full of students, colourful houses, some that seemed to be on the verge of collapsing… we didn’t see the 6 hours pass by, the journey was captivating. 

However as we got closer to the city, we witnessed some poorer areas where people lived with literally nothing else than 4 wooden sticks planted in the ground and a piece of plastic for roof top which was heartbreaking. Also, once in the in the city, the level of pollutions became hard to look at with areas where plastic bags had entirely covered the ground…

We stayed 2 full days in Battambang which was a little too much. We did most of the must see in one day. On the bright side it gave us some extra time to plan the rest of our trip to Laos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: