Floating Villages In Cambodia
If you find yourself in a village on the edge of Tonlé Sap in the middle of April, you’ll spot a strange and wonderful sight. Here, near Siam Rep, the houses literally float on the rising waters, with no mooring or stilts. You’ll discover that whole villages move with the seasons.
Many of the houses on Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and part of the mighty Mekong river system, sit 15 feet above ground. Most of the year they are on stilts above the shallow lake. But as the waters rise during the monsoon, each house will actually float on the water. There are up to 80,000 people who live on the water in 170 floating villages.
The locals live mostly off fishing. In fact, you might spot that the Buddhist fishermen often don’t kill the fish they catch, preferring to let them die after being removed from the water. Later they take a trip to the Buddhist shrines to atone for their sins. It’s a deeply spiritual place.
There are many floating villages for you to visit, although some are not open to the public. Chong Kneas is one of the most accessible, sitting at the mouth of the Siem Reap River. It’s a tourist-friendly town and you’ll find local children will swim up to your boat to sell you knick-knacks. To avoid excessive charging from a private port authority, it’s suggested you take a tour with a travel company. These will have pre-negotiated prices and routes, so you get the best deal.
Another great village to see is Kampong Phluk. The second most popular destination, it has a more authentic feel than Chong Kneas. It’s a great way for you to see the genuine style of floating village. The local boat service is also managed by a private company, so we suggest booking in advance.
For the most authentic floating village experience, head to Kampong Khleang. It’s still close enough to Siem Reap to be a good day trip, but as it’s more remote you’ll find it less busy. It has a more genuine and less commercialised feel to it. Around 1,800 families call the village home and you’ll be delighted by the vista of stilt houses as far as the eye can see. You can even find floating schools, churches and hospitals.
As you explore Khampon Khleang, you’ll see the village moves along the swollen river according to the seasons, and even sits in the middle of Tonlé Sap lake during the dry season. It’s a unique and fascinating part of this amazing country.
Whichever destination you choose, you’re guaranteed an incredible trip. The floating villages of Cambodia are the perfect chance to take in the stunning beauty of Tonlé Sap and its villagers’ intriguing way of life on the water.